Session 3 – Ensembles

Friday 2 September – 13.15-14.30 (Blue Note)
Chair: Barbara Bleij

Kristin McGee – Remixing Jazz Culture: Dutch Crossover Jazz Collectivities and Hybrid Economies in the Late-Capitalist Era

The role of digital producers occupies an increasingly prominent place in the sphere of crossover, mediated popular musics. Recently, crossover jazz has profited from fruitful collaborations between a broad array of music participants including deejays, vee-jay’s, event organizers, digital producers, interactive fans and jazz instrumentalists. These fluid collaborations depend upon both live dance culture and the highly-mediated world of domestic digital networks and remix technologies.

Today’s younger generation, guided by open source music technologies, seeks to remix culture in variegated modes, artfully exemplified by the mashup phenomena, the act of juxtaposing mass-mediated popular texts with more subcultural musical styles. Simultaneously, the renewed interactivity of crossover European jazz collectivities betrays a growing interest by participants and producers to disrupt normative expectations for live music engagements.

In 2010, for example, the Dutch crossover jazz collectivity, Kyteman, a hip-hop, soul, jazz group led by jazz trumpeter, Colin Bender, won the Dutch Pop Prize for best popular music act. This collectivity sometimes features thirty musicians on stage, with a revolving line-up of MCs, deejays, instrumentalists, and symphonic musicians. Online remixers enlist the group’s work to actively participate in the collective, prompting vernacular music scholars to incorporate Lawrence Lessig’s manifesto for contemporary culture as musical texts are remixed, mashed-up and re-cast into public forums for further manipulation. The impact of social networks like Facebook in promoting this group further challenges traditional music industry structures and ultimately facilitates more interactive engagements for music fans as participants.

This paper investigates some of the Netherlands’ most innovate and interactive crossover jazz collectives, assessing their impact upon dance culture, upon traditional jazz culture, and upon popular culture. By highlighting the fluid nature of translocal collectivities, I illuminate how cultural distinction accrues to collectivities as they engender intermedial, musical activity. In particular, I query the activities and musical performances of Kyteman and other organizations active within Utrecht and Amsterdam to highlight the intersections between public culture, digital media, and crossover jazz collectivities as they transform twenty first century European hybrid cultures and musical values in the late-capitalist era.

Rashida K. Braggs – Remaking the Jazz Nation: The Making of Universal Jazz in Kenny Clarke’s Big Band

In 1961, Jazz is Universal transformed the face of jazz. It was the first album by the Clarke Boland Big Band (CBBB), which collected 13 musicians from 7 countries to record in Germany. The CBBB was the epitome of racial and national collaboration in jazz production; moreover, it was recognized by critics as one of the top swing bands in the world.

The CBBB was the brainchild of Belgian composer/pianist Francy Boland and African American drummer Kenny Clarke. Driven overseas by racism in the U.S. and seduced by his experiences as a soldier in WWII Europe, Clarke immigrated to France in 1956. As house drummer for the Blue Note club, the most represented drummer in Vogue records, and founder of a drumming school, Kenny Clarke raised the level of play in France; with his subsequent work in the CBBB, he moved beyond “passing along” skill to creating a bold sound born out of multinational collaboration. Clarke and the CBBB challenged authenticity claims that jazz was “black music” and that the best jazz was “made in America.” As Clarke claimed, their jazz was “proof positive that there are as good musicians in Europe as there are in the States.”

In this presentation, I explore the transformation that Kenny Clarke and the CBBB prompted, as through their music they confronted who could play good jazz and from where it could originate. I argue that they challenge nationalism on two fronts: Their positioning of jazz as universal adds an alternate voice to the separatist ideologies of black nationalism in 1960s and 1970s U.S. Additionally, they counter concurrent American government claims on jazz as a political tool for spreading democracy.

Robert Adlington – A Union of Egoists: Provo, Anarchy and the Instant Composers Pool

The historian Hans Righart has written that, “in the Netherlands, May ’68 had already taken place in June 1966.” In that month, riots broke out on the streets of Amsterdam, following months of protests and street activism by the anarchist group Provo. The riots inspired Willem Breuker to write his Litanie voor de 14e juni, now regarded as the breakthrough moment for Dutch improvised music. Shortly after, Breuker joined the Misha Mengelberg Quartet, spurring a change of direction for the group which was to lead to the creation of the Instant Composers Pool the following year. Despite this close conjuncture between Provo and the ICP, however, the Pool’s musicians were reluctant to admit a connection between their musical practice and the era’s pursuit of “freedom”. Early ICP performances comprehensively rejected the fashionable ethos of harmonious collectivity and unalloyed spontaneity typical of new free improvisation groups such as AMM and MEV, being characterised instead by conflict and aggressive individualism.

Yet closer examination of Provo’s conception of anarchism reveals a marked congruency of concerns. Provo founder Roel van Duyn distanced himself from the collectivist tendencies of Dutch anarchist tradition, giving attention instead to the “individualist” anarchism of Max Stirner, which envisaged a “war of all against all”, punctuated by temporary truces between individuals (“unions of egoists”). In this paper, I propose that it was left to the Instant Composers Pool to pursue the consequences in practice of a philosophy that Provo merely hypothesised about.

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