“Jazz, the critic Stanley Crouch wrote in 1995, “is democracy in sound.”
It is, he continued, “the highest American musical form because it is the most comprehensive, possessing an epic frame of emotional and intellectual reference, sensual clarity and spiritual radiance.”
Essentially, Crouch was suggesting that, through jazz, we witness a few or many people doing a few or many things at once, clashing and combatting with one another in pursuit of a single goal—to make compelling music. The process suggests a political protest or a congressional session or even the “American experiment” at large, an energized mess with a unifying mission.
But all this talk of jazznocracy, of how brass horns and upright acoustic basses reflect the national struggle, can seem pretty weak in 2016. When there are epidemics of police brutality, legislated transphobia, and economic disparity, and when a red-faced hatemonger leads presidential polls, what exactly does jazz have to say about now?“