There's a great article by Dave Douglas in the March 2004 issue of Downbeat, here are a few excepts:
"Avant Garde" is a term that is used more often than not to marginalize music or musicians who challenge the orthodoxy of the time.
Is it really true that musical developments of a half century ago represent the vanguard of current musical activity?
But genre and style have increasingly become an excuse not to hear the music at all. Rather than dealing with the physical reality of music, they connote given ideas about music, ignoring the real sensory experience of the thing itself.
Most of these comments were given in context to the trombonist Roswell Rudd stating that he felt that he should not be labeled as an "avant-garde" musician. I agree with both Douglas and Rudd that labels often do place musicians in boxes that they find very hard to escape. I enjoy both so called mainstream and avant-garde jazz and often it is hard to draw the line between the two. The mainstream jazz station WBGO will play the wonderful music by Dave Holland regardless of its often experimental nature, but will ignore the often melodic and beautiful music of William Parker because he has been labeled and "avant-garde" musician.
Douglas' remarks about musical development are also interesting. If you look at the mainstream music of jazz today, you see music modeled on the hard-bop of the 1950's while mush of the "avant-garde" seems to be compared to the early avant garde of the late 50's and early 1960's. I wonder if this is really true, or if a lot of the commentators (myself included) are not placing the current music scene in the proper context without burdening it with history.
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