This article was truly a blast to write and was commissioned for issue 13.1 of the Journal of Jazz Studies. Thanks to Sean Lorre and Lawrence Davies for their thoughtful editing; I also got good feedback from Loren Schoenberg and Lewis Porter.
Brad Linde found the amazing 1965 video, and on the Mingus centennial I sent it along to Brian Krock for uploading to his YouTube channel.
The program has some of the most remarkable jazz on video I’ve ever seen, and the commentary is almost as fascinating. As I write in my essay:
The thread of Ellison’s commentary would be picked up by future African American writers and musicians. Albert Murray, Stanley Crouch, and Wynton Marsalis all regarded Ellison as a touchstone, and Ellison’s determination to define jazz, especially to define it in terms of a “Negro American” aesthetic, foreshadows Murray’s book-length manifesto Stompin’ theBlues and the “jazz wars” of the 1980s and ‘90s, of which Crouch and Marsalis were regular combatants.9 The first time I looked at Jazz: The Experimenters, I was a bit surprised to see Ellison in the “Stanley Crouch role.” This comment may paint me as naive, but I believe many of my peers also think of Crouch, Wynton, Ken Burns’s Jazz, and so forth as a phenomenon of the Jazz at Lincoln Center era. It is edifying to see Ellison take this side of the discourse decades earlier.