Is Jazz Dead?

Here is a critical review of a book that I haven’t yet read. The review rightly touches on several meta-issues in Jazz but whatever insights Duncan Heining’s review offers and whatever perhaps legitimate criticisms he levels against the target author, Heining’s political sociology itself comes over as a sophomorish off-the-peg conceptual apparatus so characteristic of circles where there is no genuine philosophical culture.

While Nicholson does attempt to link what he sees as the cultural conservatism of Marsalis et al with the political conservatism of Reagan and Bush, he fails to analyze the processes involved or their political implications and consequences. On the one hand, he appears to suggest that the repositioning of jazz within American culture is a radically inspired move, setting this against an America where the right was in the ascendancy. On the other, he sees the way in which this has been achieved as having consequences for the music, which have stifled innovation and restricted opportunity for many US musicians. Yet, Marsalis-Murray-Crouch achieved their goal of moving jazz to the centre of American mainstream culture not merely by linking it with the high culture of classical music and dance. They did so by turning it into a commodity, both in its traditional economic and Marxian senses.