October 2004 Archives

There's a new book out called "Hip: The History," by New York Times writer John Leland.  It sounds fascinating, but if you want to witness the pure essence of hip, watch the DVD of "Jazz on a Summer's Day," Bert Stern's documentary about the 1958 Newport Jazz Festival.

"Documentary" is the wrong word, because this is a visual poem, as hip in its way as a solo by Dizzy Gillespie or a poem by Frank O'Hara.

Like all crucial words, hip is hard to define. Rooted in African-American musical culture, especially jazz, hip is also white, though not in the crude heavy-handed way of Norman Mailer's bone-headed essay, "The White Negro." Hip is in eclipse today, because it is neither crude (like most pop music) or heavy-handed (like most "serious" commentary on pop music).

The word hip originated in West Africa: "hepi" or "hipi" is Wolof for "to open your eyes." And Stern's wide-open camera eye gives us amazing close-ups of Jimmy Giuffre, Thelonious Monk, Anita O'Day, Sonny Stitt, Gerry Mulligan, Dinah Washington, Big Maybelle, Chuck Berry, Chico Hamilton, Louis Armstrong, and Mahalia Jackson.

Great artists, all. But great artists need great audiences, and what is most amazing about this film is its portrait of the crowd. Newport was no paradise - Stern himself described it as bringing not-rich New Yorkers, black and white, into a rich white enclave. Unlike the revelers at Woodstock eleven years later, this crowd did not fancy itself a utopian community. They just dug the music. But the way they dug it had a rare and magical beauty, and I for one am glad Stern was there to capture it.

October 24, 2004 12:16 PM |


Me Elsewhere


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About Last Night
Terry Teachout on the arts in New York City
Artful Manager
Andrew Taylor on the business of arts & culture
blog riley
rock culture approximately
critical difference
Laura Collins-Hughes on arts, culture and coverage
Richard Kessler on arts education
Douglas McLennan's blog
Dog Days
Dalouge Smith advocates for the Arts
Art from the American Outback
Life's a Pitch
For immediate release: the arts are marketable
Mind the Gap
No genre is the new genre
Performance Monkey
David Jays on theatre and dance
Plain English
Paul Levy measures the Angles
Real Clear Arts
Judith H. Dobrzynski on Culture
Rockwell Matters
John Rockwell on the arts
Straight Up |
Jan Herman - arts, media & culture with 'tude

Foot in Mouth
Apollinaire Scherr talks about dance
Seeing Things
Tobi Tobias on dance et al...

Jazz Beyond Jazz
Howard Mandel's freelance Urban Improvisation
Focus on New Orleans. Jazz and Other Sounds
Doug Ramsey on Jazz and other matters...

Out There
Jeff Weinstein's Cultural Mixology
Serious Popcorn
Martha Bayles on Film...

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Fresh ideas on building arts communities
The Future of Classical Music?
Greg Sandow performs a book-in-progress
On the Record
Exploring Orchestras w/ Henry Fogel
Harvey Sachs on music, and various digressions
Bruce Brubaker on all things Piano
Kyle Gann on music after the fact
Greg Sandow on the future of Classical Music
Slipped Disc
Norman Lebrecht on Shifting Sound Worlds

Jerome Weeks on Books
Quick Study
Scott McLemee on books, ideas & trash-culture ephemera

Drama Queen
Wendy Rosenfield: covering drama, onstage and off
lies like truth
Chloe Veltman on how culture will save the world

Aesthetic Grounds
Public Art, Public Space
Another Bouncing Ball
Regina Hackett takes her Art To Go
John Perreault's art diary
Lee Rosenbaum's Cultural Commentary
Modern Art Notes
Tyler Green's modern & contemporary art blog
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