Now, the era when jazz clubs frequented every street corner only remains in the museums. Music critic and former editor-in-chief of JAZZIZ magazine, Larry Blumenfeld, is trying to bring jazz to the forefront.
“Jazz is not a popular music by any stretch of the imagination,” he said, “but this is a timely, hot topic.”
This year, Blumenfeld is the Jeannette K. Watson Distinguished Visiting Professor of Syracuse University. His lecture series, named “Jazz in Troubled Times: The Relevance and Resonance of a Culture,” will run from March 25 to April 5, featuring listening experiences, discussions, workshops, and concerts from renowned musicians. He was selected for this honor after Eric Grode, the Goldring Arts Journalism program’s SU professor and director, suggested his name for the invitation.
Since then, the two closely worked to curate a list of topics for this event. Grode said that unlike some speakers in the past, the lecture series of Blumenfeld will span a number of disciplines – a testament to his own research.
Grode also said, “Larry has been as instrumental as anyone in the last decade for just yanking jazz and social justice back together,” “and reminding people that when you’re listening to music, you’re also listening to any number of cultures that have converged, sometimes harmoniously sometimes non-harmoniously, to become this thing that we listen to.”
In the National Arts Journalism Program, Blumenfeld attended Columbia University as a fellow. When he connected with jazz, he said he explored the rich, deep culture ingrained in the music. He began writing about jazz because it pertained to adifferent caliber’s issues, specifically social justice.
By reporting on musicians and the music itself, he said he could draw the connections between jazz and current issues. “Music and culture are the some of the deepest bonds between the U.S. and Cuba and that embargo is an act of violence between that familial connection,” Blumenfeld said.
Recently, in addition to the publications thsat he writes for, Blumenfeld has assisted with producing jazz festivals like the Spoleto Festival USA in South Carolina. But he said that his research, which brought him to Chicago and New Orleans, was equally important. “My career and my work has led me to feel that culture is precious, and we’re in a moment where culture in this country needs to be amplified,” Blumenfeld said.