Many audiophiles describe jazz as the one true form of American music. Arising out of the syncopated rhythms of African music, Cajun songs, and Ragtime, jazz evolved in many scenes throughout the country. The Young Lions jazz movement in New Orleans spread up the Mississippi in the northern Migration. Missouri communities such as St. Louis and Sedalia became jazz centers, while Count Basie led a revolution in Kansas City. Chicago became a center of freewheeling jazz in the 1920s with the efforts of Jelly Roll Morton, King Oliver, and Louis Armstrong, while classic jazz and swing took root in New York City in the '30s and '40s behind Duke Ellington, Cab Calloway, and Benny Goodman, the King of Swing. And while boogie woogie and hot jazz grew out of the Big Apple, a generation of experimental musicians such as Chet Baker and Stan Kenton stood at the forefront of West Coast jazz and the Los Angeles scene. Noted jazz writer Scott Yanow carefully traces the evolution of jazz from regional manifestations to an increasingly national language at the turn of the 20th and 21st centuries.
The Greenwood Guide to American Roots Music series includes volumes on musical genres that have pervaded American culture. This series describes American musical traditions that have been associated with specific geographic regions throughout our nation. Each volume explores the different ways that a genre, such as jazz, has evolved naturally in different regions and scenes while becoming an undeniable element of American culture.
Clawing at the Limits of Cool is the first book to focus on Davis and Coltrane's musical interaction and its historical context, on the ways they influenced each other and the tremendous impact they've had on culture since then. It chronicles the drama of their collaboration, from their initial historic partnership to the interlude of their breakup, during which each man made tremendous progress toward his personal artistic goals. And it continues with the last leg of their journey together, a time when the Miles Davis group, featuring John Coltrane, forever changed the landscape of jazz.
Authors Farah Jasmine Griffin and Salim Washington examine the profound implications that the Davis/Coltrane collaboration would have for jazz and African American culture, drawing parallels to the changing standards of African American identity with their public personas and private difficulties. With vastly different personal and musical styles, the two men could not have been more different. One exemplified the tough, closemouthed cool of the fifties while the other made the transition during this time from unfocused junkie to a religious pilgrim who would inspire others to pursue spiritual enlightenment in the coming decade.
Their years together mark a watershed moment, and Clawing at the Limits of Cool draws on both cultural history and precise musical detail to illuminate the importance that their collaboration would have for jazz and American history as a whole.