Since its beginning, the sounds of American jazz have echoed from Paris to Stockholm, Cape Town to Calcutta, Sydney to Tokyo and Brazil to Havana.
Why is it then, asks E. Taylor Atkins in Jazz Planet (University Press of Mississippi), that “With a handful of exceptions, American jazz historiography has consistently failed to look overseas for jams of consequence?”
In Jazz Planet, Atkins questions this “nationalistic bias” and starts a movement to right the wrong. His book, a collection of essays by 13 writers, is dedicated completely to examining “the spread and evolution of jazz into cultures around the globe.”
Music of individual freedom and self-expression, the cultures of the world react differently to jazz. However, every day, in jazz clubs from Beijing to Paris, the American songbook is presented. Atkins reveals jazz as a globalizing force. Every Russian boy coping a Sonny Rollins solo is not only learning a master artist’s handiwork, but is learning how to be American.
Jazz is therefore lodged right in the middle of the raging globalization debate. Does jazz bring about social revolution and democracy, or does it contradict its beginnings? Has jazz, rooted in African-American cultural preservation, become an agent for colonialization, stunting national identity?
Read Jazz Planet and make up your own mind.
In 2003, in addition to editing Jazz Planet, E. Taylor Atkins, associate professor of history at Northern Illinois University, authored the award winning book Blue Nippon: Authenticating Jazz in Japan. Jazz Planet is available in hardback for $46 and in paperback for $18.
More information can be found at the University Press of Mississippi’s Web site.Originally Published