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Black Jazz in the Digital Age

Greg Tate

Published: 2007-05-03

Originally presented as a keynote address at the 2006 Guelph Jazz Festival and Colloquium, this personal essay explores the author's past and present in jazz and asks important questions about jazz's future as a relevant Black music. Exactly what information did African American genius, living under American apartheid, bring to the formation of jazz that jazz is losing or has lost access to today? Even more pointedly, what will jazz lose if it loses contact, loses the call and response conversation it used to enjoy with Black working class humanity and that group's racialized self-consiousness and ritualized cultural practices? There is, of course, further the question of whether we err on the side of novelty by thinking of jazz in teleological, futurological terms, of thinking of jazz as in need of a newer post-modern post-Black destination point.

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Improvisation is, simply put, being and living this very moment. No one can hide in music, and improvising in music is to be truly in this very moment and being completely yourself, with all your qualities and faults. It is probably the most honest state for a human being to be in.

– John McLaughlin in an interview with Daniel Fischlin.