Until the 1960s American jazz, for all its improvisational and rhythmic brilliance, remained rooted in formal Western conventions originating in ancient Greece and early Christian plainchant. At the same time European jazz continued to follow the American model. When the creators of so-called free jazz-Ornette Coleman, Cecil Taylor, John Coltrane, Albert Ayler, Sun Ra, Anthony Braxton, and others-liberated American jazz from its Western ties, European musicians found their own distinctive voices and created a vital, innovative, and independent jazz culture.
Northern Sun, Southern Moon examines this pan-Eurasian musical revolution. Author and musician Mike Heffley charts its development in Scandinavia, Holland, England, France, Italy, and especially (former East and West) Germany. He then follows its spread to former Eastern-bloc countries. Heffley brings to life an evolving musical phenomenon, situating European jazz in its historical, social, political, and cultural contexts and adding valuable material to the still-scant scholarship on improvisation. He reveals a Eurasian genealogy worthy of jazz's well-established African and American pedigrees and proposes startling new implications for the histories of both Western music and jazz.