Skip to Content

UBC Colloquium 2012: Jazz, Race & Politics

Saturday, June 23, 2012 – 10am to 4pm
Keynote Address at 10am with Nicole Mitchell
All talks and panels are FREE and open to the public.
UBC Robson Square, 800 Robson Street, Room C-440 (enter near the rink at the foot of the Art Gallery steps.)

Since 2007, the Improvisation, Community and Social Practice research initiative has hosted a yearly colloquium in Vancouver in collaboration with Coastal Jazz: Comin’ Out Swingin’ – Improvisation and Sexuality (2007), Power Play – Improvisation and Sport (2009), Sound Lines – Improvisation, Text and Media (2010), and Shift, Mix, Blur – Improvising Across Boundaries (2011). Featured speakers have included Matana Roberts, Sherrie Tucker, Marilyn Lerner, Paul Steinberg, François Houle, Barry Guy, Michel Gagné, Wayde Compton and Taylor Ho Bynum.

For a full schedule and more information about the presentations, please visit this link.

This year, ICaSP and Coastal Jazz will host a colloquium on Jazz, Race and Politics on Saturday, June 23, 2012, at UBC Robson Square, during the free opening weekend of the Vancouver International Jazz Festival. Presenters will include Nicole Mitchell, Billy Hart, Billy Harper, and Ajay Heble. There will be a series of keynote presentations and panels, at which musicians, academics and community members will discuss the complex and compelling relationships between improvised music and its cultural and social contexts. How do concepts of racial or cultural background impact the performance and the history of jazz? Can improvisation offer a means of speaking truth to power? How do our perceptions and preconceptions of race, of ethnicity, of foreignness, or of multiculturalism affect the reception and the impact of this music? How might jazz educate its listeners about cultural difference?

Somehow, in our diverse and multicultural world, race persists – both as a way of understanding our historical and cultural identities, and as a provocation that throws accepted and acceptable notions of who we are into question. The feeling of belonging to a distinctive community that accompanies our racial, cultural and ethnic senses of self can often, still, be accompanied by uncomfortable feelings of exclusion, of difference, of alienation: of not necessarily, in fact, belonging in the ways we imagine ourselves doing. When saxophonist Rahsaan Roland Kirk famously and notoriously called jazz "Black Classical Music," he not only evoked the music's proud African-American lineage, but also offered a provocation to listeners to reconsider how and where we draw cultural and social boundaries around the music we hear and make. Who decides and who legitimates our claims on history and identity? How does the rich and culturally-mixed heritage of jazz – a music renowned for assimilating, improvising and blurring its parts and sources – invite us to reconsider how we assume our various allegiances, solidarities and shared values? How can jazz, as a racially-inflected music even today, present both players and listeners with new ways of understanding our sense of community, of community in difference? This one-day colloquium will offer participants and members of the listening public an opportunity to address some of these challenges, and to think and talk collaboratively about what possibilities this music offers for the future.

There is a curious yet enormously fruitful duality in the way that improvisation plays on our expectations and perspectives.

– Tracey Nicholls