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Spirits Rejoice!Jazz and American Religion$
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Jason Bivins

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780190230913

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: April 2015

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780190230913.001.0001

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Shadows on a Wall

Shadows on a Wall

Jazz Narrates American Religions1

(p.66) 3 Shadows on a Wall
Spirits Rejoice!

Jason C. Bivins

Oxford University Press

This chapter investigates long-form suites that narrate American history in ways critical and celebratory. Since the 1930s, jazz suites have served as ways for musicians to enact sonically their differential understandings of race, religion, and American history. Charles Mingus, Max Roach and Abbey Lincoln, and Archie Shepp investigated African American vernacular music and history for their liberatory potential. Fred Ho and Sun Ra sounded out alternate pasts to criticize Christianity and American culture. And Duke Ellington, John Carter, and Wynton Marsalis crafted detailed settings of particular episodes in African American history, using jazz as the voice of historical authenticity. These historical efforts resonate with long-standing American traditions—from remembrances of the “city on a hill” to LDS sacred history, from Alexander Crummell to Elijah Muhammad—of narrating the sacred past in contrast to the depredations of the present.

Keywords:   historical retellings, Pan-Africanism, Charles Mingus, Max Roach, Archie Shepp, Sun Ra, Duke Ellington, John Carter, Wynton Marsalis

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