Avant-garde Jazz: Resisting European Cultural Domination
Written by LIZ on August 21, 2020
Avant-garde jazz is a style of jazz that originated in the 1950s, rejecting the conventions of bebop and post-bop (other jazz styles). This style aimed to further blur the lines between written and improvised music. This movement towards a more spontaneous music came as a reaction to commercialism and European classical musical ideals.
White music critics of the time maintained that African-American folk and jazz could be transformed into music of “formal high culture” through its integration into European classical music. Black artists were praised for developing their music in a manner that adopted elements of African-American folk and jazz within a European classical framework that was easily digestible by a white audience. The elements of music-making that critics of the time sought to control, elements that thrive on “unleashed passion,” were hallmarks of the 1960s avant-garde movement.
Avant-garde music is typically not listened to in the mainstream because that isn’t the intended purpose of the music. Musical experimentation is a means of directing the aesthetics and ideas of music in the future. The avant-garde jazz movement of the 1960s was important in maintaining the identity of Black music as well as its cultural autonomy.
— Isaiah (Jazz Director)
Pioneers of avant-garde jazz
- Unit Structures — Cecil Taylor
- Sightsong — Muhal Richard Abrams
- Tutankhamun– Art Ensemble of Chicago
- A Monastic Trio — Alice Coltrane
- Thembi — Pharoah Sanders
Contemporary avant-garde jazz
- on the tender spot of every calloused moment — Ambroise Akinmusire
- Ocean Bridges — Archie Shepp, Raw Poetic, and Damu the Fudgemunk
- Just Don’t Die — Daniel Carter
- Oblations and Blessings — David S. Ware Quartet
- EarthSeed — Nicole Mitchell and Lisa E. Harris
- Tommy Lee Lott (2001). The 1960s Avant-Garde Movement in Jazz, Social Identities, 7:2, 165-177, DOI: 10.10S0/13504630120065266