Ellison on the relationship between Traditional and Modern Jazz (Bebop)

Thelonious Monk @ Minton’s Playhouse, ca. 1947

Usually music gives resonance to memory (and Minton’s was a hotbed of [traditional, S.H.] jazz), but not the music then in the making here. It was itself a texture of fragments, repetitive, nervous, not fully formed; its melodic lines underground, secret and taunting; its riffs jeering [,] … its timbres flat or shrill, with a minimum of thrilling vibrato. Its rhythms were out of stride and seemingly arbitrary … . And in it the steady flow of memory … summed up by the traditional jazz beat and blues mood seemed swept like a great river from its old, deep bed.

Ralph Ellison: „The Golden Age, Time Past“, 1959*

* In: Callahan, John F. (Hg.): The Collected Essays of Ralph Ellison, New York 1995, S. 240


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