Black Music compiles the writing of Amiri Baraka (as LeRoi Jones) covering the burgeoning free jazz scene between 1959-1967 in publications such as Down Beat and Kulchur. Originally published in 1968, this AkashiClassics: Renegade Reprint Series reissue includes a new introduction and recent interview with Amiri Baraka. The book is a landmark corpus of jazz writing, following the careers of innovators John Coltrane, Ornette Coleman, Cecil Taylor, Sun-Ra, Archie Shepp, Sonny Murray, Don Cherry, Albert Ayler, Bobby Bradford, Milford Graves, and many others.
What is most striking about this collection is Baraka's locating of aesthetic innovations in jazz forms—the "harmolodic" orchestration of Coleman, the chord-painting of Coltrane, the New Orleans second-line overblowing of Ayler—within the political economy of black music, its tension with the commercial world, and the rich lineage of struggle and human experience in Black America. The performances chronicled in the book, the record reviews, and interviews reflect the free jazz commitment to total freedom on both the social and artistic fronts. Baraka's style avoids the esoteric or purely academic critical approach that was very popular among (predominantly European) critics of the avant-garde in the 1960s:
"Another hopeless flaw in a great deal of the writing about jazz that has been done over the years is that in most cases the writers, the jazz critics, have been anything but intellectuals (in the most complete sense of that word). Most jazz critics began as hobbyists or boyishly brash members of the American petit bourgeoisie, whose only claim to any understanding about the music was that they knew it was different; or else they had once been brave enough to make a trip into a Negro slum to hear their favorite instrumentalist defame Western musical tradition...The blues and jazz aesthetic, to be fully understood, must be seen in as nearly its complete human context as possible. People made bebop. The question the critic must ask is: why?"
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LeROI JONES (now known as Amiri Baraka) is the author of numerous books of poetry, fiction, and nonfiction. He was named Poet Laureate of New Jersey by the New Jersey Commission on Humanities, from 2002-2004. His recent short story collection, Tales of the Out & the Gone, was a New York Times Editors' Choice and won a 2008 PEN/Beyond Margins Award. His 1960s essay collection Home was recently reissued by Akashic Books. He lives in Newark, New Jersey.
THIS POST WRITTEN BY STAR AKASHIC INTERN JASON HUETTNER!