Actually, these are a pair of sincere and searching essays on a topic that never gets any easier to talk about. But it doesn't do any of us any good to pretend that our society -- or for that matter, our scene -- has somehow progressed "beyond" race. Only someone who has had the privilege of not having their racial identity inform their every interaction, every day, could possibly make that kind of absurd claim.
Anyway, just go read... listen... think...
Reading about jazz, collecting albums and seeing who I and others think of as avant-garde/cutting-edge/innovative, I sometimes find myself wondering if young black musicians haven't disappeared almost totally from that category. Maybe they have - or maybe avant-garde jazz has become an oxymoron (for some reason, recent Ben Ratliff articles have been implying this) - but there are two elements that contribute to this feeling: media selectivity and the strong conciousness of tradition/history/lineage that's both felt within black America and also imposed upon it.
This - a white avant-garde apart from a black mainstream - is something that is often stated, explicitly or implicitly. Apart from Don Byron, everyone mentioned in the article quoted above and Will Layman's on fusion is white. Nate Chinen's "Brooklyn Jazz Renaissance" is slightly more balanced, but still prompted heated replies from trumpeter Ahmed Abdullah that, as far as I am aware, went largely unnoticed (perhaps because Abdullah was rather long-winded). Also, the only young black jazz musician prominently cited by Chinen is Robert Glasper, which kind of reinforces the "black jazz is stuck in the mainstream and/or past" sentiment.
On Matana Roberts's blog, a post titled "Hello black folks? can you hear me?" delves quite deeply into the web of feelings invested in this community/isolation tension. She starts from an overjoyed observation of the "wall to wall blackness in the audience" at an Alice Coltrane concert, but then gets depressed because "we are struggling cause not only are there not a lot of black folks in the experimental jazz realm that I am a passenger in, but there are rarely any black folks in the damn audience." The comments to the post are interesting too, as other young black American jazz musicians like Corey Wilkes and Jaleel Shaw chip in. Shaw's and Roberts's early educational experiences are really depressing and strange to me, and make this initiative seem particularly relevant.