Accepting that definitions of jazz have been malleable and contested throughout its history, the introduction to Jazz/Not Jazz seeks to map out how we can learn about jazz as a whole by interrogating its traditionally understood musical and cultural margins. Attempts to enforce strict definitions of jazz—whether by musical elements, commercial aspirations, instrumentation, geography, and ethnicity—fail to do justice to the history of a music characterized by continuous change. Reflecting on jazz history and historiography, the chapter points to the political, cultural, financial, academic, and aesthetic motivations that generate proclamations and debates about jazz. The final section surveys the contributions from individual contributors, each of whom challenges conceptions of this endlessly fascinating, vibrant, and evolving genre.
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