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New Thing? Gender and Sexuality in the Jazz Composers Guild
Abstract

Abstract:

Trumpeter and composer Bill Dixon founded the Jazz Composers Guild in the fall of 1964. The organization included Cecil Taylor, Sun Ra, Paul and Carla Bley, Archie Shepp, Roswell Rudd, Burton Greene, and John Tchicai, among others. The Guild's short history was marked by conflict both within the organization and with other figures in the jazz underground, such as Amiri Baraka. Scholarship has explained these conflicts in terms of race and class, overlooking a hidden history of gender and sexuality that inflected relationships and conflicts in New York's avant-garde jazz scene. The article pays particular attention to Carla Bley's experiences in the group, and to the nonnormative sexual presentation of Taylor, whose presence seemed to disrupt the heteromasculine rhetoric of the Black Arts Movement. Drawing on interviews with members of the Guild, this article traces how gender and sexuality framed the discourse of free jazz in the 1960s.