Adam Shatz is a Contributing Editor at the London Review of Books. (June 2019)

Follow Adam Shatz on Twitter: @adamshatz.


The Apostle of Now-ness

Don Cherry at the Amougies Festival, Belgium, 1969

Studio 105, Paris 1967

an album by the Don Cherry Trio

Home Boy, Sister Out

an album by Don Cherry
In 1978 the trumpeter Don Cherry was asked about his music in a documentary for Swedish television. “Well, for one thing,” he replied, “it’s actually not my music, because it’s a culmination of different experiences, different cultures, and different composers that involves the music that we play together.” This was …

The Mythologies of R.B.

Roland Barthes

Barthes: A Biography

by Tiphaine Samoyault, translated from the French by Andrew Brown

The Friendship of Roland Barthes

by Philippe Sollers, translated from the French by Andrew Brown
In 1978, Roland Barthes embarked on a series of lectures entitled “Preparation of the Novel” at the Collège de France. The novel? Which novel? The one that Barthes had long planned to write, of course. But he didn’t know quite how to begin, and he kept getting distracted. As Laurent …

Bad Boy from Buffalo

Julius Eastman, Buffalo, New York, 1972

Gay Guerrilla: Julius Eastman and His Music

edited by Renée Levine Packer and Mary Jane Leach

Unjust Malaise

an album by Julius Eastman
On a cold winter day in 1989, Julius Eastman huddled in a group of homeless men outside Bellevue Hospital in Manhattan, warming his hands by an oil-drum fire, when a reporter from Newsday approached him. The day before, a young female doctor, five months pregnant, had been raped and murdered …

Silence Bigger Than a Table

Wadada Leo Smith at the Montreal Jazz Festival, July 2016

Solo: Reflections and Meditations on Monk

an album by Wadada Leo Smith
Some artists start out with a bang, others with barely a whisper. The trumpeter and composer Wadada Leo Smith, one of the most influential figures of the postwar black musical avant-garde, could not have begun his career more quietly. In 1972, Smith, then a thirty-one-year-old musician living in New Haven, …


‘Orientalism,’ Then and Now

Jean-Léon Gérôme: The Snake Charmer, 1870

The Orientalism of today, both in its sensibility and in its manner of production, is not quite the same as the Orientalism Edward Said discussed forty years ago. 
The hard edge of today’s Orientalism targets the fragile fabric of domestic politics, the very possibility of coexistence, particularly in Europe and the US. The Western self, produced by this contemporary Orientalism, is not a liberal who measures his or her freedom or reason by the absence, or weakness, of those concepts in the East. Instead, he is an aggrieved, besieged white man standing his ground, with his finger on the trigger, against the barbarians who have made it through the gates. He is not Lawrence of Arabia, or even the Quiet American; he is Dirty Harry.

Rapping with Fanon

Performers with portraits of Ahmed Sekou-Toure, Leader of the Democratic Party of Guinea, Pan-African Festival, Algiers, 1969

Rocé’s anthology album carries more than a whiff of radical chic nostalgia, which he does little to conceal when he describes the 1960s and 1970s as “an epoch of struggles, of possibility.” Yet Par les damné.e.s de la terre is an unexpectedly moving document, not only because it presents an extraordinary archive of recordings, but also because it illuminates the radical hopes that Frantz Fanon’s ideas had once inspired. It is a powerful reminder of what that world sounded like. 

New Stars in Coltrane’s ‘Interstellar Space’

John Coltrane playing in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, 1962

In spite, or perhaps because, of its demands, John Coltrane’s final album, Interstellar Space, has always enjoyed a following among saxophonists. It has also spawned a lively sub-genre of saxophone-and-drums duets, starting with Duo Exchange, which Coltrane’s last collaborator, Rashied Ali, recorded with the tenor saxophonist Frank Lowe in 1973. The latest contributions to this body of work are by two gifted and exploratory young tenor saxophonists, both born in 1982. Neither James Brandon Lewis’s Radiant Imprints, nor Travis Laplante’s A Dance That Empties, is an explicit homage to Interstellar Space, but both are striking tributes to the album’s legacy, and to the vitality of Coltrane’s late style.

Jazz and the Images that Hold Us Captive

The photographer and journalist Val Wilmer grasped that there is a struggle that precedes all others: the matrix in which other struggles are inscribed, which is simply the human struggle to go through life, to endure, and to make one’s mark, whatever that may be. One needn’t embrace a spurious universalism blind to race and gender, or to other forms of discrimination, to see that this struggle is our common one, even if we experience it in very different ways inflected by our backgrounds and experiences.