Monday, April 15, 2013

Jazz Appreciation Month

In Cortez’s poem, “How Long Has Trane Been Gone,” blues and jazz are referred to as the forgotten black music. With April being Jazz Appreciation Month and my recent visit to New Orleans, it seems appropriate to reflect on the history and art of jazz.

Standing as one of the oldest neighborhoods of free black people, Treme is considered the birthplace of African inspired music. It was one of the first racially mixed areas of New Orleans where African, Creole, and Native American cultures combined to form the city’s unique identity. Brass band music started as a way for slaves to spend time together and celebrate African music traditions. In the late 1800’s jazz was formed within the working-class neighborhoods of New Orleans. It combined African tribal sounds with European melodies, ragtime, church songs and military marches. The use of call-and-response stands today as one of the fundamental African influences of jazz and R&B.
Ladysmith Black, a South African tribal band, sings traditional call-and-response music, the type that influences jazz. Buddy Bolden, one of the most well-known black ragtime musicians, was a great part of the formation of jazz in New Orleans. His music demonstrates call-and-response as well as improvisation. The combination of marching and tribal music also helped to form parading in black New Orleans culture. At funerals and celebrations, second line parade brass bands represent the music traditions of the city. Jazz funerals are something that we briefly discussed in class, but are an amazing phenomenon in the South. If anyone watched the HBO series Treme, then you have seen Jazz funerals, if not, it is worth taking a look-

Cortez’s poem reflects on the remembrance of black music. She argues that music has had a profound affect on black culture- that it’s “trying to make a better tomorrow”- but is only remembered now to “dance, fuck and cry.” She fears that the African American tradition and soul put into jazz and blues is missing from music and listeners today. She asks, “What do you care about history- Black History and John Coltrane.” While reflecting on Jazz Appreciation Month it is important to appreciate the history preserved in music, looking at jazz alone there is a rich story behind its creation. Using Coltrane, a black saxophonist, as a symbol for the struggle and strength behind black music, Cortez asserts that the true meaning of this music has been forgotten.   

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