Fire Music

Lincoln Center Thaws Its Cold War on Jazz Activism

"Maybe [we] can get William Parker into Lincoln Center," says Shepp. "This music is political by its very nature. The first music we [African Americans] created was a protest music that recanted slavery and spoke for liberation and freedom, and it always has." Many musicians disagree with Shepp's argument that jazz inherently "concerns freedom," but share in his frustration that "Wynton and company will never engage anything outside the area of culture, anything that's considered dangerous, like jobs, like breaking down racist barriers."

Poet Amiri Baraka: percussion can still confront you.
photo: Jimmy Katz
Poet Amiri Baraka: percussion can still confront you.

"That's why guys like Marsalis are put in the positions they are," Shepp says. "Not to see that things get better, but to see that things don't change."

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