If jazz were hip hop, (and it’s a common enough metaphor) it would be roughly 1935, and we’d be in the middle of the swing era. Charlie Parker would be a teenager in Kansas City, Miles Davis a nine-year-old in East St. Louis. John Coltrane wouldn’t be jamming with Thelonious Monk at the Five Spot for another twenty years. Bebop, modal, free and fusion would all be things of the future. All this should be reassuring to those of us who worry that hip hop peaked in 1988 and has increasingly been on some bullshit ever since — as should the fact that critics were pronouncing jazz dead as early as the 1930s. None of this is reassuring in the least, of course. But it should be.
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