The music is only about 100 years old, but it's already seen scores of geniuses creating joyful noises against all odds. We examine time-honored masterpieces and tell the narratives around them — and in doing so, refract the cultural history of the United States and beyond.

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Sun Ra's music sounds like it was intercepted from another world.
Evidently, pianist Kris Bowers' bookshelf includes James Baldwin's uncollected writings and Robin Kelley's biography of Thelonious Monk.
Kenny Burrell performs at his 80th birthday concert in 2011.
Clockwise from top left: Anthony Braxton, Keith Jarrett, Richard Davis, Jamey Aebersold.