Review: Rinzler’s Contradictions of Jazz

I’ve come to regard this book as a personal sacred text. It’s as much about how to think as it is about jazz. I see myself returning to it over and over, mainly because I need as much help with thinking as I can get. Also, if anything supports the jazz-as-life metaphor (while not explicitly stating it), Rinzler’s book does. And I can dig it. Rinzler begins with a brief exposition of the various ways two concepts can be in opposition to each other and create a complex, dynamic tension rather than be mutually exclusive (e.g. gradation, propagation, juxtaposition, etc.). We can let ourselves be trapped into thinking that it’s either…my way or the highway, for instance – i.e. mutual exclusivity – rather than hold that both “ways” might co-exist and together offer a more complete version of reality. In Part 2, Rinzler follows up with the explanations of eight primary (and paired) values of jazz and how they may or may not manifest themselves, and then in the third part explains the musical and practical ramifications of these oppositions or contradictions: individualism vs. interconnectedness, assertion vs. openness, freedom vs. responsibility & creativity vs. tradition. Finally, Part 4 is an exploration of what these pairings “mean” in jazz, as well as existentially. As a result of reading this, I not only understand jazz better – an art I have practiced myself for over 20 years – but I also understand life better. Rinzler - Contradictions