Promoting Affect and Desire in the International World of Smooth Jazz

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    Abstract

    In this article, I suggest that the feminized and sexualized associations of smooth jazz as fashioned by the industry during the 1990s have since contributed to its vitriolic and sometimes hysterical denouncement by jazz performers and scholars. In particular, I uncover the affective, sexual, and gendered significance surrounding smooth jazz's reception to highlight the industrial complex precipitating its commercial ascent. Finally, I concretely interrogate these values by highlighting the work of Dutch saxophonist Candy Dulfer, emphasizing the industrial dimensions undergirding her reception as a highly successful 1990s instrumentalist whose work was often promoted as smooth jazz, despite the stylistic diversity of her recordings. Here I contrast industry discourse to those performative values expressed by Dulfer, while also recognizing the larger historical and cultural reception of jazz as a highly gendered, racialized, and sexualized cultural phenomenon. Ultimately I show how Dulfer both participated in and disrupted the feminized and sexualized associations of smooth jazz to artfully side-step the bonds of anxiety over legitimacy that might otherwise have confined her in an increasingly fragmented and international jazz world. By uncovering the semiotic significance attached to smooth jazz's promotion and reception, my analysis indirectly critiques dominant scholarly debates, which cumulatively and exclusively emphasize race and ethnicity (over gender or sexuality) as essential constructs influencing jazz's broader cultural significance. These biases have led to under-developed conceptualizations of jazz's complex professionalization during the late-twentieth century.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)251-285
    Number of pages35
    JournalJazz Perspectives
    Volume7
    Issue number3
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 2013

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