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Good MusicWhat It Is and Who Gets to Decide$
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John J. Sheinbaum

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780226593241

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: September 2019

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226593418.001.0001

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Heroic: “Classic” Jazz and Musical Dialogues

Heroic: “Classic” Jazz and Musical Dialogues

(p.153) 5 Heroic: “Classic” Jazz and Musical Dialogues
Good Music

John J. Sheinbaum

University of Chicago Press

This chapter explores a binary opposition that ranges across the history of jazz reception. Whether to denigrate jazz or to praise it, familiar discourse hinges on conceiving jazz as a music of difference, often against a baseline of expectations grounded in classical music. Such a view focuses on aspects of performance, particularly in-the-moment improvisatory choices that would not be captured in a fixed score, and cultural assumptions surrounding performers. At the same time, a contrasting perspective paradoxically finds jazz’s value in its potential correspondences with classical music, especially the notion of the singular hero. In landmark works such as Gunther Schuller’s Early Jazz, no matter how different jazz is said to be from classical music, classical music remains a baseline for what counts as good music. Rather than highlighting one side or the other of this opposition, close consideration of influential recordings by Louis Armstrong (“Hotter than That,” “West End Blues”), Charlie Parker (“Crazeology”), and Miles Davis (“So What”) suggests that defining examples of “classic” jazz construct not a thinly coherent definition of the style but, rather, a complex dialogic field in which fundamental contrasts and play with seeming points of tension lie at the core.

Keywords:   Louis Armstrong, classical music, Miles Davis, dialogic, difference, hero, jazz, good music, Charlie Parker, Gunther Schuller

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