Today, a dance revolution is happening, particularly in Brooklyn, where clubs like Nowadays and Elsewhere Space are gaining popularity for their House music. Historically rooted in Black culture, the genre is experiencing a resurgence as Black artists, producers, and DJs actively reclaim House music as a platform for cultural expression and empowerment. Most notably, Beyoncé's Renaissance and Drake's Honestly, Nevermind have significantly brought dance music back into the spotlight. Beyoncé's album symbolizes empowerment and self-expression with its vibrant House tracks, while Drake's work introduces a fresh fusion of R&B and House, solidifying his status as a trendsetter. The House music movement is thus thriving as these influential artists push genre boundaries, getting people moving on the dance floor.
This summer, I had the pleasure of immersing myself in the genius and infectious artistry of another historically Black genre– Jazz. As part of BRIC’s Celebrate Brooklyn Summer Concert Series, I enjoyed the musical talents of drummer Antonio Sanchez and his opening act, saxophonist Takuya Kuroda. Shoutout to the BRIC team for nailing this lineup— Kuroda was a great choice for the opening act, as the atmosphere he, his band, and their eight instruments created was absolutely electric, with each member truly vibing and completely in the zone. The contagious energy that filled the air was simply irresistible, drawing the audience into the groove as well.
While I love a good groove and a chance to let loose, I couldn’t help but ponder the rich history of jazz, how it was once deeply ingrained in the Black community, and its power to bring people together through dance and movement. As my interest in jazz has grown deeper, I've learned to appreciate it for its true essence as a conversation between humans and instruments, and I question why Jazz has been left out of this revolution. During the BRIC performance, as each instrument bellowed its tune during the performances, it became evident that this was more than just a show– it was a spirited energy exchange between the instruments, the performers, and the audience.
Observing the musicians, I loved how each of them vibed to the music at their own tempo. This stuck with me because it points to the rich soundscape and freedom of individual expression that jazz music affords its players and listeners. For example, the bassist and I were on the same fast tempo; I could see him bopping his head at the same time I’d tap my thigh. Meanwhile, my friend and other band members were catching different beats— my friend tapped his leg on the beats between my thigh taps and the pianist would bop his head every two beats or so.
This epitomizes the rich and complex soundscape of jazz music, making it an ideal genre for dancing and enjoying a wide variety of rhythmic patterns. The band's skillful play showcased the beauty of jazz with around eight instruments simultaneously creating a tapestry of beats and rhythms that were simply irresistible to dance to. While the audience was vibing with the music, I noticed their expressions and reactions were quite different from what you might see in an all-Black audience.
For one—if the audience were predominantly Black, they would all be standing up and fully immersed in the groove. There’d be no need for chairs! The communal experience of jazz, especially in historically Black communities, has always been about more than merely passive listening—it's about active participation and a shared connection to the rhythm and soul of the music. Just think back to the days of the Lindy Hop when Jazz listeners would quite literally be bouncing all over the place and on top of each other! This type of dancing was made possible by the plethora of tunes, beats, and melodies in jazz music.
Thus, I believe that the dance revolution holds the potential to extend to Jazz, a genre deeply rooted in Black culture. As Black people, we are in the process of reclaiming ownership of our artistic categories, and, with its rich history and soulful rhythms, Jazz has always been inherently danceable. Though, it's important to note that, while the majority of dance music is crafted to ignite movement, not all jazz music is inherently designed for dancing. Certain jazz styles lean towards a more relaxed ambiance, catering to the aforementioned “passive listeners.” Considering this, completely incorporating jazz into the ongoing dance revolution might not be a seamless fit. Nevertheless, leaving space for jazz within this movement is crucial—a metaphorical seat at the Dance Revolution table that acknowledges its unique essence and historical contribution.
** Cover image by Debra Hurd **