NYU Black Renaissance Noire Winter 2014 - Page 42

The Musical Legacy of Amiri Baraka: By KOFI NATAMBU Leroi Jones has learned — and this has been very rare in jazz criticism — to write about music as an artist.” — Nat Hentoff, Jazz & Pop magazine, 1966 “ … Negro music is essentially the expression of an attitude, or a collection of attitudes, about the world, and only secondarily an attitude about the way music is made…Usually the critic’s commitment was first to his appreciation of the music rather than to his understanding of the attitude that produced it. This difference meant that the potential critic of Jazz had only to appreciate the music, or what he thought was the music, and that he did not need to understand or even be concerned with the attitudes which produced it… The major flaw in this approach to Negro music is that it strips the music too ingenuously of its social and cultural intent. It seeks to define Jazz as an art (or a folk art) that has come out of no intelligent body of socio-cultural philosophy…” — Leroi Jones, “Jazz and the White Critic,” Downbeat Magazine, 1963. (later reprinted in his book of critical essays and reviews Black Music (William Morrow & Co. 1968)) “Jazz and the White Critic” was a challenge to jazz writers of all backgrounds to reckon with the lived experience of black Americans and to consider how this experience had been embedded in the notes, tones, and rhythms of the music.”  40 — John Gennari, Blowin’ Hot and Cool: Jazz and its Critics (University of Chicago Press, 2006) This essay is dedicated to the memory and eternal presence of Amiri Baraka/Leroi Jones (1934-2014) who was not only a great artist, mentor, friend, colleague, and comrade but also — like he was for so many others around the world — a towering influence on my art and life. PHOTOGRAPH BY FRANCESCO TRUONO. AVAILABLE AT HTTPS://WWW.FLICKR.COM/PHOTOS/FRANCESCOTRUONO/1714175909/IN/PHOTOSTREAM/ UNDER A CREATIVE COMMONS ATTRIBUTION 2.0. FULL HTTP://CREATIVECOMMONS.ORG/LICENSES/BY-NC-ND/2.0/ The Modern Jazz Critic As Cultural Historian, Creative Artist, Social Theorist, And Philosophical Visionary