The rug-pulling near-win that La La Land suffered at last weekend’s Oscars means that a good bit of the controversy facing Damien Chazelle’s musical will die down since it now won’t be burdened with defeating the far more cinematically deserving and politically relevant Moonlight. Within the jazz community, though, the film continues to stoke an argument that has been ongoing for much of the music’s history. The debate between paying homage to tradition and forging new paths burns with the unquenchable inevitability of Centralia’s eternal flames, while Ryan Gosling’s song-and-dance jazz purity simply offers a new frame for the tug-of-war.
Not that those two approaches are mutually exclusive, of course, which renders the whole battle largely moot despite its persistence. Take this month’s Philly jazz calendar, which is full of tributes and hat-tips while also rich with boundary-stretching reinventions.