Does anyone know of any good books on the modern avant-jazz scene, say, from the mid-1980s on, or even from the 1990s on? I can’t really find any. Hell, it’s hard to even find anything on the free jazz scene from the 1960s on. Ted Gioia’s History of Jazz, as close to a canonical text in terms of recent jazz histories as there is, has a nice section on what he calls “postmodern” jazz, touching respectfully on various folks such as John Zorn, but only in a fairly abbreviated fashion.
I’d love to read a full-fledged text about the “downtown” NYC free-jazz scene, or even better, a broader history that also touches on possibilities for “avant-jazz” in the future, given the proliferation of cross-genre pollination in recent years — ranging from the Blue Series hip-hoppy stuff to more oddball, unclassifiable material on labels like Cryptogramophone or Nine Winds. There’s a rich history here, with plenty of fascinating biographies and musical trends to draw on (just based on the scattered interviews with various prominent figures that I’ve read), and I’m sure there’s plenty of interest. I guess it’s only a matter of time before something shows up on the shelves. It seems like this is too self-conscious a scene for something not to turn up.
On the other hand, a good book on avant-rock seems like a total pipe dream, unless Chris Cutler ever feels like writing another book. I did just order Bill Martin’s Avant Rock, but I don’t have very high hopes for it, and it doesn’t seem like he really talks much about RIO or the contemporary avant-rock scene, instead focusing on the more well-known likes of King Crimson, and um, Yes. Well, I guess that shouldn’t be surprising… we already know he’s a Yes fanboy.
I’d love to write such an avant-rock history myself, but as of now I certainly lack the large-scale perspective and experience to tackle such an effort, to say nothing of the fact that I am musicologically illiterate (perhaps irrelevant, but probably not).