Jazz and Freedom

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Duke Ellington had this to say about jazz and freedom:

“Put it this way: Jazz is a good barometer of freedom… In its beginnings, the United States of America spawned certain ideals of freedom and independence through which, eventually, jazz was evolved, and the music is so free that many people say it is the only unhampered, unhindered expression of complete freedom yet produced in this country.”

There is independent evidence for the truth of Ellington’s remarks, and it is to be found in how the Soviet Union treated jazz and jazz musicians. Here is a 1983 book review of a scholarly book on this subject. A few quotes:

“Until Stalin’s cultural clampdown in the late 1920’s, jazz was both popular and officially tolerated,…As laws were passed authorizing fines or imprisonment for anyone caught playing foreign jazz or importing records, sides were drawn for an ideological debate on the nature of jazz (degenerate bourgeois or wholesome proletarian?) which, under various guises, was to be revived again and again over the next five decades. “

“Since the 20’s, the status of jazz has been one measure of the tolerance or rigidity of the Soviet authorities. Predictably, that status dropped during the purges, rose during World War II and fell to an all-time low during the rabid cultural backlash at the beginning of the cold war; then, American music being considered part of a capitalist plot to take over the world, public use of the word dzhaz was forbidden, saxophones were confiscated and hundreds of musicians were sent to concentration camps. “

1:51 pm on October 11, 2012