This chapter looks at jazz in the time period between its commercialization in the 1920s and the bebop era in the mid-1940s. Jazz turned into harmless, expected entertainment music, formatted for the white mainstream. In the process these characteristics most pertaining to African American experience were erased. Jazz critics integrated this flawed vision of the essence of jazz. Early critics defended jazz’s status as art, conforming it to Western cultural and aesthetic criteria. Later, serious jazz critics from France developed an equally problematic, racially essentialist vision of jazz. Its flaws were fully revealed with the rise of bebop, which they deemed blasphemy against “true jazz” whose rules they had created themselves.
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