How does the jazz of Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Fats Waller, Billie Holiday, and Charlie Parker fit into the great tradition of the modern arts between 1920 and 1950? In Jazz Modernism, one of our finest cultural historians provides the answer.
Alfred Appel, author of The Annotated Lolita ("superb . . . full of vigor, gems, and stratagems"--Vladimir Nabokov), compares the layering of sex, vitality, and the vernacular in jazz with the paper collages of Picasso, and the vital mix of high and low culture found in Joyce. He shows how the musical construct of jazz was pared down by the masters as sculpture was in Calder's hands or prose in Hemingway's. He makes clear how Armstrong and Waller tore apart and rebuilt Tin Pan Alley material in the way that modernists in the visual arts arrived at wood assemblage and scrap-metal sculpture. He enables us to see that Ellington's "jungle" style was as un-primitive as Brancusi's self-conscious Africanesque sculpture. And along the way, he "recalls" live jazz perform-ances during the 1950s by Armstrong and John Coltrane, among others, and the night Charlie Parker played to a visibly thrilled Igor Stravinsky at Birdland.
Making connections as illuminating as they are unexpected, Alfred Appel gives us a brilliant new way of understanding jazz.
About Alfred Appel Jr.
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Published September 17, 2002
Arts & Photography, Education & Reference.