Electric Adolescence: The Jazz Mix

When the term ‘jazz’ first emerged it was regarded as so profane that it wasn’t to be used in the company of the gender once considered so delicate.

Comprised of musical traditions carried from West Africa on slave ships, the genre differed from European music largely through the implementation of “swing,” the term given to an intangible rhythmic momentum. Intangible, because it represented the spirit of a people the country was engineered to oppress.  

The idea that this subjugated class would use music to openly define American culture terrified those in power, to the extent that a series of restrictions enacted in southern states both before (“It is absolutely necessary to the safety of this Province, that all due care be taken to restrain Negroes from using or keeping of drums, which may call together or give sign or notice to one another of their wicked designs and purposes.” — Slave Code of South Carolina, Article 36, 1740*) and after the American civil war in 1865 and 1866 with the newer Black Codes” made it – among many other things – illegal for slaves to play the drums.

Part of why New Orleans became central to the evolution of jazz involved an exception that people of color were allowed their own spiritual practices, such as African-voodoo rituals that utilized percussion. These rhythms eventually became standard fare within the bars and brothels of the city’s emerging red-light district.  

The period commonly referred to as ‘the jazz age’ began in 1920, when prohibition laws gave rise to thousands of jazz-centric speakeasies, which solidified the genre’s reputation as being the soundtrack to immoral behavior writ large. At the same time, the music was gaining respect from the same established critics who had previously dismissed it outright.

With segregation leaving African Americans few employment opportunities outside of the entertainment industry, being a musician became a viable occupation, and now cabaret piano players and touring bands would introduce this revolutionary sound to white America.    

By World War II, this elegant revolution would define American musical culture throughout the world, with swing bands travelling overseas with the military, and then performing throughout war torn Europe; representing the promises of freedom their homeland didn’t quite live up to. Back home, many bands and orchestras were finding their own ranks depleted as men of fighting age were conscripted for combat. This led to the practice of hiring exceptionally-young musicians, giving rise to a handful of virtuosos that became household names through their efforts to deconstruct the genre.  

While the rise of rock and roll marked a decline in popularity of jazz, that shift brought with it a new spirit of experimentation and innovation that would initially be defined as “Bebop” and then further transform into what became known as “Hard bop.” No longer diluted by an orchestra, these pioneering musicians would redefine traditional song structures through exploratory solos and stripped-down arrangements. Jazz had reached its creative crescendo, and the art form that had arrived in shackles finally broke free.


  • Miles Davis – Flamenco Sketches
  • Charles Mingus – Self-Portrait in Three Colours

  • Yusef Lateef feat Charlie Parker – Blue Rocky

  • Oliver Nelson – Stolen Moments

  • Stanley Turrentine – Since I Fell For You

  • Ahmad Jamal – Poinciana

  • Don Rendell, Ian Carr – Blue Mosque

  • Larry Nozero - Chronicle of the Murdered House
  • Eddie Louiss – Colchiques
  • Les McCann – Before I Rest

  • Alice Coltrane – Sivaya

  • Pharaoh Sanders – Upper Egypt & Lower Egypt (Edit)
  • Mulatu Astatke – Tezeta
  • Yussef Kamaal - Ayla
  • John Coltrane Interview - Carl-Erik Lindgren (Stockholm)

  • John Coltrane – I’m Old Fashioned

  • E.S.T. – Believe, Beleft, Below

  • The Thomasz Stanko Quartet – Soul of Things (Variation 1)

  • Chet Baker – Blame It On My Youth

  • Duke Ellington – In a Sentimental Mood

  • Art Tatum & Ben Webster – My Ideal

  • Ella Fitzgerald – Someone To Watch Over Me

  • Harry James – You Made Me Love You

  • Mantovani – I Wish You Love
  • Branford Marsalis – Scenes In the City

Electric Adolescence

Arc Angles's picture


Do you assemble these playlists on Tidal for users to find? If not that would be a huge help for future posts. Thanks!

TNjazz's picture

Okay, I guess you're well intentioned, so I'll try to be nice and not challenge some of the more dubious assertions in your ... whatever it is you've written. But I truly don't understand what the list of 25 performances is supposed to be representative of. Your narrative mentions New Orleans but the playlist omits Louis Armstrong or Sidney Bechet. Bop is brought up but no Bird*, Monk or Dizzy? Well at least you found a spot for Mantovani, who clearly never would have happened if not for those drums in Congo Square.

* Sorry but your Yusef Laten track does not "feature" Charlie Parker -- it was issued on a pretty short-lived label called Charlie Parker. I'd suggest a few more footnotes next time...