>>It seems to me that the intended subtext of the jazz presentation at the White House was much deeper than simply "America ... still had some zip". Indeed the immediate thought that came to mind when I heard about the musical line-up was that jazz has become all that it is by relying on the US traits of individual liberty and spontaneous collaboration. And I think this is very well highlighted in Mr. Bouloukos experience: "... I was often asked by serious Chinese classical musicians how I could improvise at great length on the piano without having any music in front of me. When I responded that I was playing jazz..."
Moreover, it has occurred to me in reviewing your two columns that the well-recognized prominence of an excluded minority of Americans in inventing and furthering jazz has a similar significance internationally. And if one is looking for another intended subtext in the Obama White House, this would have to be suspected.<<
On the last point, yes, indeed. The performers included the two featured African-American singers, plus Herbie Hancock and a bassist and (I think) sax player who were black; a number of white musicians, on trumpet (x2), drums, piano; and then Shenyang-born, Philadelphia-trained, proudly-Chinese, but currently NYC-based Lang Lang. If you were looking for an e pluribus unum tableau, you could do worse.
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James Fallows is a staff writer for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. He and his wife, Deborah Fallows, are the authors of the 2018 book Our Towns: A 100,000-Mile Journey Into the Heart of America, which was a national best seller and is the basis of a forthcoming HBO documentary.