“The Reason I Play the Way I do Is”

Jazzmen, Emotion, and Creating in Jazz

Authored by: Nichole Rustin-Paschal

The Routledge Companion to Jazz Studies

Print publication date:  December  2018
Online publication date:  December  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138231160
eBook ISBN: 9781315315805
Adobe ISBN:


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What have emotions to do with jazz? Well, it seems everything. Despite the prevalence of the trope of emotion in jazz, however, little effort has been made to parse through how it has been used in the culture. The emotions have served as a critical and aesthetic shortcut for language capable of capturing the uniqueness of jazz as music, a culture, and a political worldview. Emotional accessibility has framed the quality of the musician communicating through his chosen instrument, that instrument a conduit of feeling improvised into sound in the moment. Jazzmen, those who have aligned their whole lives with the music, have used the language of emotion to categorize musicians, to frame acceptable music behaviors, and to grade musicians’ expressivity. In this essay I explore these ideas through discussion of Hazel Scott, Lena Horne, Charles Mingus, and Jimmy Guiffre.

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