Freedom Sounds: Civil Rights Call Out to Jazz and Africa
Hardcover; 416 pages
Oxford University Press
This is a long overdue overview of the complex and often contentious subject of jazz and race in Americaa landmark academic work that peeks into the Pandora's box that has sat conspicuously unopened in jazz history classrooms for too many years. Monson examines many areas in which race and racism have played important roles in the development of the music: the economic inequities stemming from segregationist Jim Crow policies; discriminatory practices in the music industry; governmental employment of musicians in ambassadorial roles for State Department tours; the effect of African independence movements on AfroAmerican consciousness; jazz musicians as spokespersons and fund raisers for the civil rights movement; political consciousness and spirituality in the advancement of the avant-garde; and finally, the intensely controversial subject of reverse racism and the question of colorblindness in jazz.
Painstakingly researched and meticulously footnoted, the text should serve as a springboard for much needed future analysis of the important questions it raises. And they are many; for despite its broad scope the book is far from comprehensive, limited largely by its self-imposed parameters. Monson has chosen to bound her research within the years 1950 to 1967, ignoring the all- important decade that followed, during which some of the most significant aspects of the civil rights movementAfrocentrism, self-determination and collectivismwere put into widespread practice, as exemplified by Strata East Records and the Black Artists Group collective. But, the book's most glaring omission is its failure to cite Martin Luther King's speech, "Humanity and the Importance of Jazz , in which he asserts, "Much of the power of our Freedom Movement in the United States has come from this music, thus eloquently proclaiming the point Monson's book strives so hard to make.