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The Contradictions of Jazz by Paul Rinzler

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Rinzler explores “four pairs of opposites in jazz; individualism and interconnectedness, assertion and openness, freedom and responsibility, and creativity and tradition.” He examines each of them in detail in a separate chapter and then discusses how they are opposed. His discussion of the different ways that opposites can be related; mutual exclusion, inverse proportion, gradation, propagation, perspective, dynamic tension, and juxtaposition, was new to me, is well employed, and is of value in thinking about not only the aesthetics of jazz, but other subjects.

The author is an academic and a pianist. His references to his musical experience here are largely apropos and illustrative of his points; but the emphasis is by far on academic constructs. His use of them and his arguments are very thoroughly and successfully made, but in a writing style that is structured in lengthy sentences and paragraphs that can cause the reader’s attention to wane. Despite this caveat, the book makes an important contribution to jazz aesthetics that is well worthy of consideration from those with a serious interest in the music.

Originally Published