In Hole in Our Soul: The Loss of Beauty and Meaning in American Popular Music, Martha Bayles argues that too much contemporary pop music gets its inspiration from perverse modernism, which “makes obscenity and serious artistic value synonymous.” Rock and pop, argues Bayles, have been warped by decadent European ideas. Bayles observes that there are three kinds of modernism: introverted, or art for art's sake, which includes atonality and experimentation; extroverted, which revitalizes tradition and reaches out to its audience, the way artists like Duke Ellington did; and finally, perverse, whose goal is simply to goad, shock, and blaspheme.
Jazz has always been a kind of extroverted modernism, and always allowed the atonality and experimentation of introverted modernism (see Coltrane’s later works). However, it has always rejected perverse modernism. That has much to do with religion and the Christianity of the black churches. In the newly restored 1958 documentary Jazz on a Summer’s Day, there is a brief shot of the audience, including a person who might be considered a forefather of Kurt Elling. His name was Father Norman O’Connor. Largely forgotten now, Fr. O’Connor was once an omnipresent figure in the world of jazz. Known as “the jazz priest,” O’Connor was born in Detroit in 1921. He was ordained a Paulist priest in 1948, and in 1954, three years after becoming the Catholic chaplain at Boston University, he was named to the board of the first Newport Jazz Festival.
Writer - Critic - Poet - Editor