Jazz critic and memoirist Nate Chinen recently wrote in the New York Times about the influence of bloggers on the development of a revised history of jazz. Reacting to Branford Marsalis's opinion, cited in the Chinen's piece, that after the Vietnam war, jazz went into a period of decline bordering on disappearance, musician bloggers contributed to a remarkable, and remarkably rapid, cataloguing of nearly-forgotten musical gems, providing a swift, strong, and loud counterpoint to Marsalis' claim.
Chinen recounts the process of revision as follows: jazz trumpeter Dave Douglas reported on his blog about the impact that reading Philip Jenkins's Decade of Nightmares: The End of the Sixties and the Making of Eighties America had on him. The book made him think that the eruption and expansion of conservatism beginning in the middle of the 1970s might have short-changed the history of jazz and he called for a "new jazz history that would acknowledge a 'generation of multiplicity,' beginning in 1974 and stretching to the end of the cold war." (Times, Dec. 6, 2006, B10 ) In time, musician bloggers responded and different sites began to compile a veritable treasure trove of recordings, jointly documenting and demonstrating the multiplicity Douglas called for.
How this all happened, and happened so rapidly, speaks to the power of the Internet to resurrect, celebrate, and share histories and counter-histories. But it also speaks to the power of jazz itself, that beautifully interdisciplinary and collaborative original American musical genre. Both as metaphor and reality, jazz embodies the power of playing together, with and through the inspiration of others, building a world of rich plurality filled with singular voices out of sound and image and sometimes word and the amplitude created through their interweaving.
I visited some of the sites Chinen mentioned in his piece. At Destination: Out I discovered an article and some tracks by trumpeter Bill Dixon from his Considerations I: 1972-76 album. "Long Alone Song" managed to make me feel his playing as the musical embodiment of thinking itself. A solo piece, it had an uncanny ability to sound full even in the quietest moments. Listening to it was like listening to the space between things and as I did I realized another insight in between the lines of Chinen's essay.