Chapter Overview

In this chapter, a few landmark musicians navigate the complicated position of "jazz composer" in the 1950s. One is Thelonious Monk, whose music began in the 1940s and reached a broad audience a decade later, and who combined a modernist vision of dissonance and rhythmic displacement with jazz (including stride) and popular song. Another is Charles Mingus, whose complex synthesis of his cultural experiences defies easy categorization in racial or musical terms. His ambitious notated compositions seem aimed at a fusion of jazz with the European art tradition, while at the same time (and often in the same pieces) he evokes a black vernacular idiom that, as with "soul jazz," identifies jazz firmly with African American traditions. George Russell became not only a gifted composer, but also one of jazz's first theorists, and incorporates a dissonant language drawn from improvisation (the "Lydian Chromatic Construct") into his pieces. Finally, Gil Evans from Canada brings a new flexibility to jazz orchestration and a cultural ambition that pulls jazz into new orbits.

Chapter 13 Jukebox