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The Negro Aesthetic of Jazz

Jazz has always been a hybrid. A mix of African, European, Caribbean and Afro-Hispanic elements. But the distinct results of that mix, which distinguished jazz as one of the new arts of the 20th century, are now under assault by those who would love to make jazz no more than an “improvised music” free of definition. They would like to remove those elements that are essential to jazz and that came from the Negro. Troublesome person, that Negro.

Through the creation of blues and swing, the Negro discovered two invaluable things. In the blues it was framing a melodic line within a form of three chords that added a new feeling to Western music and inspired endless variations. In swing it was a unique way of phrasing that provided an equally singular pulsation. These two innovations were neither African nor European nor Asian nor Australian nor Latin or South American; they were Negro American.

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