Jazz: Fitting the Slipper

Now that jazz is certified as America's own cultural contribution, the music world has pretty well taken it into the family. But only as a sort of stepsister. Classical musicians and listeners accept its presence, but they don't necessarily understand it, much less like it. Even the compliments they pay it—such as Stravinsky's frequently ex pressed fondness for its syncopated rhythms— tend to miss the point and be come condescending.

Clearly, what jazz and classical music need are mediators who can boast impeccable credentials in both camps. Gunther Schuller is such a man. A composer, conductor, and president of Boston's...