By John Ephland
Jazz has always had an interest in the world beyond its borders. Consider the early work of trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie and his cross-fertilizing with Afro-Cuban music of the 1940s, or, later, pianist Dave Brubeck’s mix of jazz with Japanese and Euro-Asian and Middle Eastern musics, as well as composer/bandleader Duke Ellington’s far-reaching suites of music from Africa, Latin America and the Far East.
Jazz continued to incorporate non-Western musical traditions when other artists started using the musical elements of India, such as flutist Paul Horn’s recordings inside the Taj Mahal, or when the “world music” groups Oregon and John McLaughlin’s Shakti, whose musics are primarily jazz-based, incorporated tablas, intricate rhythms and raga forms.
The Art Ensemble of Chicago was an early pioneer in merging African and jazz forms. Later developments included such artists as saxophonist/composer John Zorn’s explorations of Jewish culture with his band Masada and beyond, inspiring a whole other group of jazz musicians such as keyboardist John Medeski (recording with the African musician Salif Keita), guitarist Mark Ribot and bassist Anthony Coleman. Trumpeter Dave Douglas was inspired to incorporate Balkan influences, while the Asian-American Jazz Orchestra emerged as a leading proponent of the convergence of jazz and Asian musical forms.
As the world continued to shrink, globally, the impact of other musical traditions was felt in jazz, providing ripe fodder for future explorations, proving that jazz is, indeed, a world music.Previous Next