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John Comerford on 'Icons Among Us: Jazz in the Present Tense'

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  • JT: It seems as though even if the issues of civil rights and integration were as prevalent today as they were then, the difference in the actual music would still irk traditionalists (unless a swing feel is somehow inextricably linked to the fight for civil rights, in which case, perhaps the differences never would have come about). Musicians tend to look at the history of jazz as series of innovations of purely musical conventions. Does socio political context play a large role in the evolution of the music?

    JC: I think that’s one of the key questions this social discussion has been pivoting on. Don’t you think the world we live in impacts how we express ourselves? Many of the players that we’ve encountered on this journey – that’s seven years of filming, plus our own personal interests in the music – either actively or through their own life-paths have channeled their own unique rhythms within the culture. That, inevitably, to quote pianist Jovino Santos Neto, “is reflected in the music.”

  • JT: If social context is relevant, then isn’t it necessary to consider other extra-musical factors? For example, sheer practicality: the reason certain veins and styles of jazz arise and thrive is that there is a market for them. Doesn’t the fact that responsible, intelligent musicians have to work trump any case for preserving the sanctity of traditional jazz?

    JC: You are opening a pretty big can ‘o’ Pandora. We all gotta eat and we all gotta dream.

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