Where the Dark and the Light Folks Meet tackles a controversial question: Is jazz the product of an insulated African-American environment, shut off from the rest of society by strictures of segregation and discrimination, or is it more properly understood as the juncture of a wide variety of influences under the broader umbrella of American culture? This book does not question that jazz was created and largely driven by African Americans, but rather posits that black culture has been more open to outside influences than most commentators are likely to admit. The majority of jazz writers, past and present, have embraced an exclusionary viewpoint.
Where the Dark and the Light Folks Meet begins by looking at many of these writers, from the birth of jazz history up to the present day, to see how and why their views have strayed from the historical record. This book challenges many widely held beliefs regarding the history and nature of jazz in an attempt to free jazz of the socio-political baggage that has so encumbered it. The result is a truer appreciation of the music and a greater understanding of the positive influence racial interaction and jazz music have had on each other.
Sandke, Randall. Where the dark and the light folks meet: race and the mythology, politics, and business of jazz. Scarecrow, 2010. 277p bibl index afp (Studies in jazz, 60); ISBN 9780810866522. Reviewed in 2010aug CHOICE.
A long-time jazz player and writer, Sandke here broaches a troublesome area of jazz, not to mention American life--race. Other volumes have addressed this delicate topic, including Gene Lees's anecdotal Cats of Any Color (CH, Jun'95, 32-5563) and Charles Gerard's Jazz in Black and White (CH, Oct'98, 36-0869). Sandke takes a strong position on issues ranging from the political agendas of many jazz historians (from the early days to the present) to the more recent narrow redefinitions of jazz, largely by the more conservative (and influential) wing of jazz represented by Wynton Marsalis and writer Stanley Crouch. And, he asks, what myths continue to cloud understanding of jazz? Does the fact that jazz sprang from a black environment make white jazz musicians "inauthentic"? Sandke also explores who the winners and losers have been in the business of jazz, and who the audience has been. In contrast to some works about race and jazz, Sandke's is thoroughly researched and documented. He loves the music deeply and is frustrated that it may be compromised by politics, internal and external. His positions will likely draw fire--and praise. This is an important addition to the literature of jazz.
Summing Up: Essential. All readers. -- K. R. Dietrich, Ripon College
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