The 14th Darmstadt Jazzforum held in October 2015 focused on different aspects of identity in jazz. The participants talked about the perception of female instrumentalists, about „male“ or „female“ sound, about homosexuality, about references to the body as well as about the denial of the erotic element in music, about Jutta Hipp, Ivy Benson, Clare Fischer, Sun Ra and others. The conference participants looked at jazz history, but they self-confidently also looked at the jazz scene of today. They discussed how common prejudices can be overcome and how to describe the gender discourse of the 21st century. It is perfectly clear that the view of jazz musicians and their art may be distorted if we reduce them to any parts of their identity, be it their gender, their sexual orientation, their ethnicity, or anything else. However, to ignore these facets, be it in jazz history or today“s jazz scene, is a proof of neglect as well. With this publication we hope to contribute to a discourse which is and remains important in our changing modern world.
Jazz used to be a predominantly male music. Not only were most of the musicians male, but its aesthetics and social environment was dominated by male ideals and male players as well. In the public perception of this music women as well as other groups or identities not compliant with the male orientation of jazz’s origins played only a minor role. Strong female instrumental voices, for instance, or musicians with a LGBT background were marginalized both by the media and by the jazz scene, seen as an exception or celebrated as a fig-leaf for the alleged openness of the music