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Jazz Age revisited?

Series at the Segerstrom Center features Diana Krall, Esperanza Spalding, Wynton Marsalis and other greats.

October 23, 2013|By Michael Miller

It's just six years and a couple of months until the '20s — the 2020s, that is — which may inspire a reflection or two from jazz aficionados.

Nearly 100 years ago, the musical form so dominated society that it became a euphemism for an entire decade: the Jazz Age, memorialized in "The Great Gatsby," flapper dresses and other symbols of the time before the Great Depression laid America's fortunes low.

A quarter century later, jazz played an integral part in Beat culture, which helped to birth the social revolutions of the 1960s. But in the age of Miley Cyrus, Kanye West and iTunes, can the art form that documentarian Ken Burns once called "the purest expression of American democracy" still jolt the status quo?

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Aaron Egigian, the senior director of music programming for the Segerstrom Center for the Arts and overseer of its Jazz Series, thinks it can — though the effects may not show immediately. He noted how musicians still find inspiration in tunes recorded decades ago and said a musician like Esperanza Spalding, who will perform this week at Segerstrom, may influence future generations the same way.

"I think we arrive at the impact of any kind of music on society kind of after the fact," Egigian said. "And I say that looking back at the impact that Miles Davis had with the 'Kind of Blue' album, and that was 1959. It was sort of the waves that came from that continued to move out and reverberate.

"So I think, in a way, it becomes more impactful, and people build on the kinds of musical ideas that were initiated in that particular group of tunes that Miles put together.

"So I don't see it as something that happens now on the spot. I see it as something that reverberates in what we sort of create and experience."

Egigian still regrets that he never had a chance to schedule Davis, who died in 1991, at Segerstrom. Even without the "Bitches Brew" auteur, though, the coming Jazz Series offers more household names than usual.

In addition to this weekend's show by ACS, a trio consisting of Geri Allen, Terri Lyne Carrington and Best New Artist Grammy winner Spalding, the schedule features blues icon B.B. King, trumpeter Wynton Marsalis and singer-pianist Diana Krall. Rounding out the lineup are the McCoy Tyner Trio with Joe Lovano, Dr. Lonnie Smith and the Fred Hersch Trio.

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