Cheat Sheet: Jazz Family Dynasties
by Seth Colter Walls | August 20, 2012
In most professions, nepotism is a bad look. But in music, as in sports, there's the great equalizer of needing to -- at some point -- perform at a high level in public (no matter who your parents might have been). When descendants of grand jazz families face contemporary audiences, they're confronted with the reality that this music is canon-obsessed, and ill-disposed to make excuses for the young. In order to succeed, they have to perform with a certain level of virtuosity regardless of their last name.
That's part of the fun of parsing the jazz dynasty: investigating what exactly distinguishes members from different generations, or even those in the same generation. Looking at these records side by side gives a hint as to what the dinner-table debates might be (at least as regards jazz). As for the streams within improvisational music that have built up some family traditions, they're as pleasingly diverse as any wide-eyed listener would want. There are post-bop families, free-improv families and more. The Cheat Sheet below is broken down by family dynasty to help give a taste of each one.