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Uptown Conversation: The New Jazz Studies by Edited by Robert G. O’Meally, Brent Hayes Edwards and Farah Jasmine Griffin

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Conversations about jazz usually resemble sports fanatics keeping tabs on athletes, statistics and historic moments. Rarely do conventional jazz heads discuss the music as a multifaceted culture that touches other disciplines and how it impacts contemporary life. But when those more engrossing dialogues do arise, the results can be enlightening, provocative and inspiring.

Such is the case when Columbia University’s Jazz Studies program hosts its panel discussions, in which some of the music’s brightest scholars explore deep into the jazz canon, far beyond the music. Spearheaded by the jazz studies director and literature professor Robert O’Meally, the program has hosted well-received symposiums, tackled issues ranging from racial and sexual politics in jazz to how the music informs visual arts, dance and film.

This collection of erudite essays aptly captures the spirit of those conversations. From “The Man,” John Szwed’s deep yet sympathetic exploration into the public persona of Miles Davis, to “Beneath the Underground: Exploring New Currents in Jazz,” Robin D.G. Kelley’s smart observations on jazz’s increasing flirtations with DJ culture, this must-have tome ups the ante on jazz banter.