Blue Nippon: Authenticating Jazz in Japan by E. Taylor Atkins

By E. Taylor Atkins

Japan’s jazz community—both musicians and audience—has been begrudgingly famous within the usa for its expertise, wisdom, and point of appreciation. Underpinning this tentative admiration, even if, has been a tacit contract that, for cultural purposes, jap jazz “can’t swing.” In Blue Nippon E. Taylor Atkins exhibits how, surprisingly, Japan’s personal angle towards jazz is based in this comparable ambivalence approximately its authenticity. Engagingly instructed during the voices of many musicians, Blue Nippon explores the genuine and bonafide nature of eastern jazz. Atkins friends into Twenties dancehalls to envision the japanese Jazz Age and exhibit the origins of city modernism with its new set of social mores, gender kinfolk, and purchaser practices. He indicates how the interwar jazz interval then grew to become a troubling image of Japan’s intimacy with the West—but how, even through the Pacific warfare, the roots of jazz had taken carry too deeply for the “total jazz ban” that a few nationalists wanted. whereas the allied career was once a setback within the look for an indigenous jazz sound, jap musicians back sought American validation. Atkins closes out his cultural heritage with an exam of the modern jazz scene that rose up out of Japan’s outstanding financial prominence within the Nineteen Sixties and Seventies yet then leveled off by means of the Nineteen Nineties, as tensions over authenticity and identification persisted.With its depiction of jazz as a remodeling worldwide phenomenon, Blue Nippon will make stress-free interpreting not just for jazz lovers world wide but additionally for ethnomusicologists, and scholars of cultural stories, Asian experiences, and modernism.

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Many Western critics complain of non-Western artists ‘‘selling out’’ their traditions, while applauding the ‘‘creative choices’’ exercised by artists such as Paul Simon or Peter Gabriel, who appropriate (and copyright) non-Western musics. ’ ’’ Designer Yamamoto Y¯oji at first embraced but later resisted the ‘‘orientalist’’ expectations of Western fashion mavens: ‘‘There is no nationality in my clothes. . My clothes shouldn’t have any nation. ’ ’’ In response to Kawakubo Rei’s challenging early-eighties designs, many European fashion critics tried to 30 Blue Nippon make sense of her work through reductive inferences about the influence of Zen aesthetics.

If you (Japanese) don’t start from this, you’ll never create original work. ∞ A similar response met saxophonist Branford Marsalis nearly two decades later when he made the following remark in the December 1993 issue of Playboy, in reply to a query regarding his band’s popularity in Japan: The Japanese, for whatever reason, are astute in terms of [jazz’s] history and legacy. Unlike many other people, they have identified jazz as part of the American experience. But I don’t think they understand it most times, especially at my shows.

I have no evidence to suggest that Japan’s jazz community has ever been anywhere near this formal in structure, but there clearly are band apprenticeships and hierarchies of musicians and aficionados based on age, ability, and experience. Some have found them to be so formal and powerful as to be su√ocating. Hinata Toshifumi, a keyboardist and enormously successful composer of television and film music, claimed that the dominance of this ‘‘apprentice system’’ (coupled with a general feeling that nonblacks cannot play jazz authentically anyway) was behind his decision to get out of jazz.

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