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The Gig: Dirrty Jazz

“That’s how music should sound,” opines Dizzy Gillespie just 22 seconds into Back to Basics, the new RCA album by Christina Aguilera. It’s a gracious endorsement, except of course for the fact that Dizzy died in 1993, when Christina was all of 12 years old, and he uttered the words with something else in mind. Not that it matters much: There’s no mention of Gillespie in the glossy Back to Basics booklet, nor any acknowledgment that he’s been drafted into pop’s latest campaign to bask in the prestige of jazz’s golden age.

Yet Aguilera wants us to know how sincere she is about honoring people like Diz. “The jazz makers and the groundbreakers, they gave so much of themselves in dedication,” she marvels, alluding to a “higher generation” in a way that doesn’t seem to imply narcotics. On the album’s title track, she promises to “rewind to another time, when the originators, innovators were alive,” and urges, in an unreasonably catchy chorus:

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Originally Published
Nate Chinen

Nate Chinen

Nate Chinen is the director of editorial content for WBGO and a longtime contributor to JazzTimes, which published 125 installments of his column “The Gig” between 2004 and 2017. For 12 years, he was a critic for The New York Times; prior to that, he wrote about jazz for the Village Voice, the Philadelphia City Paper, and several other publications. He is the author of Playing Changes: Jazz for the New Century (2018) and the co-author of George Wein’s autobiography Myself Among Others: A Life in Music (2003).