The Antioch Review: Special JAZZ Issue
Since 1941 Antioch University has published this quarterly literature journal. Typical issues include essays, short stories, poems, book reviews and articles about literature. Cartoons are often featured and there's an annual fiction issue.
The Review has rarely included jazz as a theme, a terrific exception being Gary Giddins' Spring, 1998 essay on Coleman Hawkins. Why now? Among the reasons cited by editor Robert Fogarty are the music's growing cultural respectability, its development into "our national anthem" and this year's Duke Ellington centennial.
This special issue contains fifteen articles and essays. Given the journal's traditional focus it's no surprise that many of these address the intersection of music and literature, including some of our greatest writers - Ralph Ellison, Richard Wright, Claude McKay, Hart Crane and Jack Kerouac. Articles on the latter two writers treat an intriguing topic - their attempts to use a "jazz approach" to writing.
For me the real creative gem of this issue is Ishmael Reed's "The C Above High C". This two act play takes as its starting point Louis Armstrong's 1957 criticism of President Eisenhower's inaction on civil rights. It's a great mixture of humor and political satire, including Armstrong, two of his wives, Eisenhower, his mistress, the first lady and J. Edgar Hoover. The issue's most important essay is "Where's the Jazz Audience?" by jazz programmer and journalist Willard Jenkins. Presenting data from a 1982 NEA survey in which 43 million Americans stated that they like jazz, Jenkins examines the roles of listeners, radio programmers, publications and artists in working to realize the potential of such a trend. This eight page article should be widely disseminated, discussed, debated and used as a starting point for action.
Other articles and essays are saxophonist Erica Kaplan's wonderful profile of Melba Liston, Michael Woods' reflections on Miles Davis and Bill Evans, Gerald Early's thoughts on Coltrane's status as icon, Patricia Willard's "Dance, the Unsung Element in Ellingtonia" and very personal pieces on the dynamics of drumming and poetry and "An Evening at the Blackstone" with Clark Terry, Louis Bellson and Red Holloway. Melinda Kanner presents an excellent guide to nineteen recent books on jazz.
Readers who are not used to academic-style journal articles may find the ones on literature and Martha Bayles' "What's Wrong with Being Classical?" pretty tough going. But if you persevere each of these articles has interesting information and insights. Like a record sampler, there's something (many things, actually) here for everyone. I also think Antioch should be applauded for bringing us authors other than the familiar names of the big jazz publications
Available from The Antioch Review, P.O. Box 148, Yellow Springs, Ohio 45387; phone 937-767-6389.