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The JAZZ Story

The JAZZ Story

The JAZZ Story

An Outline History of Jazz

In the span of less than a century, the remarkable native American


called Jazz has risen from obscure folk origins to become this


most significant original art form, loved and played in nearly every

land on


Today, Jazz flourishes in many styles, from basic blues and ragtime

through New Orleans and Dixieland, swing and mainstream, bebop and

modern to free form and electronic. What is extraordinary is not that


has taken so many forms, but that each form has been vital enough to

survive and to retain its own character and special appeal. It takes


open ears and an open mind to appreciate all the many and wide-raging

delights jazz has to offer.


Jazz developed from folk sources. Its origins are shrouded in

obscurity, but

the slaves brought here from Africa, torn from their own ancestral


developed it as a new form of communication in song and story.

Black music in America retained much of Africa in its distinctive


elements and also in its tradition of collective improvisation. This


blended with the music of the new land, much of it vocal, produced


than just a new sound. It generated an entire new mode of musical


The most famous form of early Afro-American music is the spiritual.

These beautiful and moving religious songs were most often heard by

white audiences in more genteel versions than those performed in rural

black churches. What is known as gospel music today, more accurately

reflects the emotional power and rhythmic drive of early Afro-American

music than a recording of a spiritual by the famous Fisk Jubilee


from the first decade of this century.

Other early musical forms dating from the slavery years include work

songs, children's songs, and dances, adding up to a remarkable legacy,

especially since musical activity was considerable restricted under




After the slaves were freed, Afro-American music grew rapidly. The

availability of musical instruments, including military band discards,


the new-found mobility gave birth to the basic roots of Jazz: brass


dance band music and the blues.

The blues, a seemingly simple form of music that nevertheless lends


to almost infinite variation, has been a significant part of every

Jazz style,

and has also survived in its own right. Today's rock and soul music


be impossible without the blues. Simply explained, it is and eight (or

twelve) bar strain with lyrics in which the first stanza is repeated.

It gets its

characteristic "blue" quality from a flattening of the third and

seventh notes

of the tempered scale. In effect, the blues is the secular counterpart

of the



By the late 1880's, there were black brass, dance and concert bands in

most southern cities. (At the same time, black music in the north was

generally more European-oriented.) Around this era, ragtime began to

emerge. Though primarily piano music, bands also began to pick it up


perform it. Ragtime's golden age was roughly from 1898 to 1908, but


total span began earlier and lingered much later. Recently, it has


rediscovered. A music of great melodic charm, its rhythms are heavily

syncopated, but it has almost no blues elements. Ragtime and early


are closely related, but ragtime certainly was more sedate.

Greatest of the ragtime composers was Scott Joplin (1868-1917). Other

masters of the form include James Scott, Louis Chauvink Eubie Blake

(1883-1983) and Joseph Lamb, a white man who absorbed the idiom



Ragtime, especially in its watered-down popular versions, was

entertainment designed for the middle class and was frowned on by the

musical establishment. The music not yet called Jazz (in its earliest

usage it

was spelled "jass"), came into being during the last decade of the


century, rising out of the black working-class districts of southern


Like ragtime, it was a music meant for dancing.

The city that has become synonymous with early Jazz is New Orleans.

There is reality as well as myth behind this notion.

New Orleans: Cradle of Jazz

New Orleans played a key role in the birth and growth of Jazz, and the

music's early history has been more thoroughly researched and

documented there than anywhere else. But, while the city may have had

more and better Jazz than any other from about 1895 to 1917, New

Orleans was by no means the only place where the sounds were

incubating. Every southern city with a sizable black population had


that must be considered early Jazz. It came out of St. Louis, which

grew to

be the center of ragtime; Memphis, which was the birthplace of W.C.

Handy (1873-1958), the famed composer and collector of blues; Atlanta,

Baltimore, and other such cities.

What was unique to New Orleans at the time was a very open and free

social atmosphere. People of different ethnic and racial backgrounds


establish contact, and out of this easy communication came a rich


tradition involving French, Spanish, German, Irish and African

elements. It

was no wonder that this cosmopolitan and lively city was a fertile


ground for Jazz.

If New Orleans was the birthplace of Jazz in truth as well as in

legend, the

tale that the music was born in its red light district is purest

nonsense. New

Orleans did have legalized prostitution and featured some of the most

elaborate and elegant "sporting houses" in the nation. But the music,

if any,

that was heard in these establishments was made by solo pianists.

Actually, Jazz was first heard in quite different settings. New

Orleans was

noted for its many social and fraternal organizations, most of which

sponsored or hired bands for a variety of occasions -- indoor and


dances, picnics, store openings, birthday or anniversary parties. And,


course, Jazz was the feature of the famous funeral parades, which


even today. Traditionally, a band assembles in front of the church and

leads a slow procession to the cemetery, playing solemn marches and

mournful hymns. On the way back to town, the pace quickens and fast,

peppy marches and rags replace the dirges. These parades, always great

crowd attractions, were important to the growth of Jazz. It was here


trumpeters and clarinetists would display their inventiveness and the

drummers work out the rhythmic patterns that became the foundation for

"swinging" the beat.

The best way to account for the early development of jazz in New Orleans

is to familiarize yourself with the cultural and social history of this

marvelously distinctive regional culture.

One might say that jazz is the Americanization of the New Orleans music

developed by the Creoles, occuring at a time when ragtime, blues,

spirituals, marches, and popular "tin pan alley" music were converging.

Jazz was a style of playing which drew from all of the above and

presented an idiommatic model based on a concept of collective, rather

than solo, improvisation.

Ultimately, New Orleans players such as Louis Armstrong and Sidney

Bechet developed a new approach which emphasized solos, but they both

began their careers working in the collective format, evident in the

early recordings by the Original Dixieland Jazz Band (1917), Kid Ory's

Sunshine Orchestra (1921), the New Orleans Rhythm Kings (1922, 1923) and

King Oliver's Creole Jazz Band (1923).

Armstrong's impact became apparent with the popularity of his Hot Five

and Hot Seven recordings (1925-28), redirecting everyone's imagination

toward inspired solos. Meanwhile, in New Orleans, community connections

such as "jazz funerals" in which brass bands performed at funerals held

by benevolent

associations continued to underline the role of jazz as a part of

everyday life.

Jazz may have been a luxury (entertainment) in New York, Chicago, and

Los Angeles, but in New Orleans it was a necessity--a part of the fabric

of life in the neighborhoods. And it still is.

THE EARLY MUSICIANS - Buddy, Bunk, Freddie and The King

The players in these early bands were mostly artisans (carpenters,

bricklayers, tailors, etc.) or laborers who took time out on weekends


holidays to make music along with a little extra cash.

The first famous New Orleans musician, and the archetypal jazzman, was

Buddy Bolden (1877-1931). A barber by trade, he played cornet and


to lead a band in the late 1890's. Quite probably, he was the first to


the basic, rough blues with more conventional band music. It was a

significant step in the evolution of Jazz.

Bolden suffered a seizure during a 1907 Mardi Gras parade and spent


rest of his life in an institution for the incurably insane. Rumor

that he

made records have never been substantiated, and his music comes from

the recollection of other musicians who heard him when they were


Bunk Johnson (1989- 1949), who played second cornet in one of Bolden's

last bands, contributed greatly to the revival of interest in classic


Orleans jazz that took place during the last decade of his life. A


storyteller and colorful personality, Johnson is responsible for much

of the

New Orleans legend. But much of what he had to say was more fantasy

than fact.

Many people, including serious fans, believe that the early jazz


were self-taught geniuses who didn't read music and never took a


lesson. A romantic notion, but entirely untrue. Almost every major


in early jazz had at least a solid grasp of legitimate musical


and often much more.

Still, they developed wholly original approaches to their instruments.


prime example is Joseph (King) Oliver (1885-1938), a cornetist and

bandleader who used all sorts of found objects, including drinking


a sand pail, and a rubber bathroom plunger to coax a variety of sounds

from his horn. Freddie Keppard (1889-1933), Oliver's chief rival,


use mutes, perhaps because he took pride in being the loudest cornet


town. Keppard, the first New Orleans great to take the music to the

rest of

the country, played in New York vaudeville with the Original Creole

Orchestra in 1915.


By the early years of the second decade, the instrumentation of the


Jazz band had become cornet (or trumpet), trombone, clarinet, guitar,

string bass and drums. (Piano rarely made it since most jobs were on

location and pianos were hard to transport.) The banjo and tuba, so


identified now with early Jazz, actually came in a few years later


early recording techniques couldn't pick up the softer guitar and

string bass


The cornet played the lead, the trombone filled out the bass harmony


in a sliding style, and the clarinet embellished between these two


poles. The first real jazz improvisers were the clarinetists, among


Sidney Bechet (1897-1959). An accomplished musician before he was 10,

Bechet moved from clarinet to playing mainly soprano saxophone. He was

to become one of the most famous early jazzmen abroad, visiting


and France in 1919 and Moscow in 1927.

Most veteran jazz musicians state that their music had no specific

name at

first, other than ragtime or syncopated sounds. The first band to use


term Jazz was that of trombonist Tom Brown, a white New Orleanian who

introduced it in Chicago in 1915. The origin of the word is cloudy and


initial meaning has been the subject of much debate.

The band that made the word stick was also white and also from New

Orleans, the Original Dixieland Jass Band. This group had a huge

success in New York in 1917-18 and was the first more or less


Jazz band to make records. Most of its members were graduates of the

bands of Papa Jack Laine (1873-1966), a drummer who organized his

first band in 1888 and is thought to have been the first white Jazz

musician. In any case, there was much musical integration in New


and a number of light skinned Afro-Americans "passed" in white bands.

By 1917, many key Jazz players, white and black, had left New Orleans

and other southern cities to come north. The reason was not the


1917 closing of the New Orleans red light district, but simple


The great war in Europe had created an industrial boom, and the


merely followed in the wake of millions of workers moving north to the

promise of better jobs.


King Oliver moved to Chicago in 1918. As his replacement in the best

band in his hometown, he recommended an 18-year-old, Louis Armstrong.

Little Louis, as his elders called him, had been born on August 4,

1901, in

poverty that was extreme even for New Orleans' black population. His

earliest musical activity was singing in the streets for pennies with

a boy's

quartet he had organized. Later he sold coal and worked on the levee.

Louis received his first musical instruction at reform school, where


spent eighteen months for shooting off an old pistol loaded with

blanks on

the street on New Year's Eve of 1913. He came out with enough musical

savvy to take jobs with various bands in town. The first established

musician to sense the youngster's great talent was King Oliver, who


Louis and became his idol.


When Oliver sent for Louis to join him in Chicago, that city had


the world's new Jazz center. Even though New York was where the

Original Dixieland Jass Band had scored its big success, followed by


spawning of the first dance craze associated with the music, the New


bands seemed to take on the vaudeville aspects of the ODJB's style

without grasping the real nature of the music. Theirs was an imitation

Dixieland (of which Ted Lewis was the first and most successful

practitioner), but there were few southern musicians in New York to


the music a New Orleans authenticity.

Chicago, on the other hand, was teeming with New Orleans musicmakers,

and the city's nightlife was booming in the wake of prohibition. By


odds, the best band in town was Oliver's Creole Jazz Band, especially

after Louis joined in late 1922. The band represented the final great

flowering of classic New Orleans ensemble style and was also the

harbinger of something new. Aside from the two cornetists, its stars


the Dodds Brothers, clarinetists Johnny (1892-1940) and drummer Baby

(1898-1959). Baby Dodds brought a new level of rhythmic subtlety and

drive to jazz drumming. Along with another New Orleans-bred musician,

Zutty Singleton (1897-1975), he introduced the concept of swinging to


Jazz drums. But the leading missionary of swinging was,


Louis Armstrong.


The Creole Jazz Band began to record in 1923 and while not the first


New Orleans band to make records, it was the best. The records were

quite widely distributed and the band's impact on musicians was great.

Two years earlier, trombonist Kid Ory (1886-1973) and his Sunshine

Orchestra captured the honor of being the first recorded artists in


category. However, they recorded for an obscure California company

which soon went out of business and their records were heard by very


Also in 1923, the New Orleans Rhythm Kings, a white group active in

Chicago, began to make records. This was a much more sophisticated

group than the old Dixieland Jass Band, and on one of its recording


it used the great New Orleans pianist-composer Ferdinand (Jelly Roll)

Morton (1890-1941). The same year, Jelly Roll also made his own




Morton, whose fabulous series of 1938 recordings for the Library of

Congress are a goldmine of information about early Jazz, was a complex

man. Vain, ambitious, and given to exaggeration, he was a pool shark,

hustler and gambler a well as a brilliant pianist and composer. His


talent, perhaps was for organizing and arranging. The series of

records he

made with his Red Hot Peppers between 1926 and 1928 stands, alongside

Oliver's as the crowning glory of the New Orleans tradition and one of


great achievements in Jazz.


That tradition, however, was too restricting for a creative genius

like Louis

Armstrong. He left Oliver in late 1924, accepting an offer from New

York's most prestigious black bandleader, Fletcher Henderson

(1897-1952). Henderson's band played at Roseland Ballroom on

Broadway and was the first significant big band in Jazz history.

Evolved from the standard dance band of the era, the first big Jazz


consisted of three trumpets, one trombone, three saxophones (doubling


kinds of reed instruments), and rhythm section of piano, banjo, bass


or brass) and drums. These bands played from written scores

(arrangements or "charts"), but allowed freedom of invention for the

featured soloists and often took liberties in departing from the



Though it was the best of the day, Henderson's band lacked rhythmic

smoothness and flexibility when Louis joined up. The flow and grace of


short solos on records with the band make them stand out like diamonds


a tin setting.

The elements of Louis' style, already then in perfect balance,

included a

sound that was the most musical and appealing yet heard from a

trumpet; a

gift for melodic invention that was as logical as it was new and


and a rhythmic poise (jazzmen called it "time") that made other


sound stiff and clumsy in comparison.

His impact on musicians was tremendous. Nevertheless, Henderson didn't

feature him regularly, perhaps because he felt that the white dancers


whom his band performed were not ready for Louis' innovations. During

his year with the band, however, Louis caused a transformation in its


and, eventually, in the whole big band field. Henderson's chief


Don Redman, (1900-1964) grasped what Louis was doing and got some of

it on paper. After working with Louis, tenor saxophonist Coleman

Hawkins (1904-1969) developed a style for his instrument that became


guidepost for the next decade.

While in New York, Louis also made records with Sidney Bechet, and

with Bessie Smith (1894-1937), the greatest of all blues singers. In


he returned to Chicago and began to make records under his own name

with a small group, the Hot Five. Included were his wife Lil Hardin

Armstrong (1899-1971) on piano, Kid Ory, Johnny Dodds, and guitarist

Johnny St. Cyr. The records, first to feature Louis extensively,

became a

sensation among musicians, first all over the United States and later


over the world. The dissemination of jazz, and in a very real sense


whole development, would have been impossible without the phonograph.


The Hot Five was strictly a recording band. For everyday work, Louis

played in a variety of situations, including theater pit bands. He


to grow and develop, and in 1927 switched from cornet to the more

brilliant trumpet. He had occasionally featured his unique gravel


singing, but only as a novelty. Its popular potential became apparent


1929, when, back in New York, he starred in a musical show in which he

introduced the famous Ain't Misbehavin' singing as well as playing the

great tune written by pianist Thomas (Fats) Waller (1904-1943),


one of the greatest instrumentalists-singers-showmen in Jazz.

It was during his last year in Chicago while working with another


Earl (Fatha) Hines (1903-1983), that Louis reached his first artistic


Hines was the first real peer to work with Louis. Inspired by him, he


in turn able to inspire. Some of the true masterpieces of Jazz, among


West End Blues and the duet Weatherbird, resulted from the

Armstrong-Hines union.


Louis Armstrong dominated the musical landscape of the 20's and, in


shaped the Jazz language of the decade to come as well. But the Jazz


the Jazz Age was more often than not just peppy dance music made by

young men playing their banjos and saxophones who had little

understanding of (or interest in) what the blues and/or Louis


were about. Still, a surprising amount of music produced by this

dance-happy period contained genuine Jazz elements.

PAUL WHITEMAN - King of Jazz?

The most popular bandleader of the decade was Paul Whiteman

(1890-1967), who ironically became known as the King of Jazz, although

his first successful bands played no Jazz at all and his later ones


little. These later bands, however, did play superb dance music,


scored and performed by the best white musicians the extravagant

Whiteman paychecks could attract. From 1926 on, Whiteman gave

occasional solo spots to such Jazz-influenced players as cornetist Red

Nichols, violinist Joe Venuti, guitarist Eddie Lang (1904-1933), and


Dorsey Brothers' trombonist-trumpeter Tommy (1905-1956) and

clarinetist-saxophonist Jimmy (1904-1957), all of whom later became

bandleaders in their own right.

In 1927, Whiteman took over the key personnel of Jean Goldkette's

Jazz-oriented band, which included a young cornetist and sometime


and composer of rare talent, Bix Beiderbecke (1903-1931). Bix's very

lyrical, personal music and early death combined to make him the first

(and most durable) jazz legend. His romanticized life story became the

inspiration for a novel and a film, neither of them close to the


Bix's closest personal and musical friend during the most creative

period of

his life was saxophonist Frank Trumbauer (1901-1956). Fondly known as

Bix and Tram, the team enhanced many an otherwise dull Whiteman

record with their brilliant interplay or their individual efforts.


Bix's bittersweet lyricism influenced many aspiring jazzmen, among


the so-called Austin High Gang, made up of gifted Chicago youngsters

only a few of whom ever actually attended Austin High School. Among

them were such later sparkplugs of the Swing Era as drummers Gene

Krupa (1909-1973) and Dave Tough (1908-1948); clarinetist Frank

Teschemacher (1905-1932); saxophonist Bud Freeman (1906-1991);

pianists Joe Sullivan (1906-1971) and Jess Stacy (b. 1904); and

guitarist-entrepreneur Eddie Condon (1905-1973). Their contemporaries

and occasional comrades-in-arms included a clarinet prodigy named


Goodman (1905-1986); and somewhat older reedman and character, Mezz

Mezzrow (1899-1972), whose 1946 autobiography, Really the Blues,

remains, despite inaccuracies, one of the best Jazz books.

Trumbauer, though not a legend like Bix, influenced perhaps as many

musicians. Among them were two of the greatest saxophonist in Jazz

history, Benny Carter (b.1907) and Lester (Prez) Young (1909-1959).


A great influence on young Goodman was the New Orleans clarinetist

Jimmie Noone (1995-1944), an exceptional technician with a beautiful

tone. Chicago was an inspiring environment for a young musician. There

was plenty of music and there were plenty of masters to learn from.

Cornetist Muggsy Spanier (1906-1967) took his early cues from King

Oliver. In New York, there was less contact between black and white

players, though white jazzmen often made the trek to Harlem or worked

opposite Fletcher Henderson at the Roseland. When a young Texas

trombonist, Jack Teagarden (1905-1964), came to town in 1928, he

startled everyone with his blues-based playing (and singing), very

close in

concept to that of Henderson's trombone star, Jimmy Harrison

(1900-1931). These two set the pace for all comers.

Teagarden, alongside Benny Goodman, worked in Ben Pollack's band.

Pollack, who'd played drums with the New Orleans Rhythm Kings, was

quite a talent spotter and always had good bands. When Henderson

arranger Don Redman took over McKinney's Cotton Pickers in 1929 and

made it one of the bands of the `20s, his replacement was Benny


Carter could (and still can) write arrangements and play trumpet and

clarinet as well as alto sax. For many years, he was primarily active

as a

composer for films and TV; but in the late 1970's, Carter resumed his

playing career with renewed vigor. (Editor's Note-Carter just turned

eighty and is still playing and recording.)


Another artist whose career spanned more than fifty years is Duke

Ellington (1899-1974). By 1972, he was one of New York's most

successful bandleaders, resident at Harlem's Cotton Club--a nightspot

catering to whites only but featuring the best in black talent.

Ellington's unique gifts as composer-arranger-pianist were coupled


equally outstanding leadership abilities. From 1927 to 1941, with very


exceptions and occasional additions, his personnel remained unchanged--


record no other bandleader (except Guy Lombardo, of all people) ever


Great musicians passed through the Ellington ranks between 1924 and

1974. Among the standouts: great baritone saxist Harry Carney

(1907-1974), who joined in 1927; Johnny Hodges (1906-1970), whose

alto sax sound was one of the glories of jazz; Joe (Tricky Sam) Nanton

(1904-1946), master of the "talking" trombone; Barney Bigard

(1906-1980); whose pure-toned clarinet brought a touch of New Orleans

to the band; Ben Webster (1909-1973), one of Coleman Hawkins' greatest

disciples; drummer Sonny Greer (1903-1982), and Rex Stewart

(1907-1967) and Cootie Williams (1910-1985), an incomparable trumpet

team. Among the later stars were trumpeter Clark Terry (b. 1920) and

tenor saxist Paul Gonsalves (1920-1974).

Ellington's music constitutes a world within the world of Jazz. One of


century's outstanding composers, he wrote over 1,000 short pieces,


many suites, music for films, the theater and television, religious

works and

more. He must be ranked one of the century's foremost musicians,

regardless of labels. His uninterrupted activity as a bandleader since


has earned him a high place in each successive decade, and his

achievement is a history of Jazz in itself.

Three outstanding contributors to Ellingtonia must be mentioned. They


trumpeter-composer Bubber Miley (1903-1932), the co-creator of the


significant style for the band and, like his exact contemporary Bix

Beiderbecke, a victim of too much, too soon; bassist Jimmy Blanton

(1918-1942), who in his two years with Ellington shaped a whole new


for his instrument in Jazz, both as a solo and ensemble voice; and


Strayhorn (1915-1967), composer-arranger and Ellington alter ego who

contributed much to the band from 1939 until his death.


Aside from the band, for which he wrote with such splendid skill,

Ellington's instrument was the piano. When he came to New York as a

young man, his idols were James P. Johnson (1894-1955), a brilliant

instrumentalist and gifted composer, and Johnson's closest rival,


(The Lion) Smith (1898-1973). Both were masters of the "stride" school


Jazz piano, marked by an exceptionally strong, pumping line in the


hand. James P.'s prize student was Fats Waller. New York pianists


met in friendly but fierce contests--the beginnings of what would

later be

known as jam sessions.

In Chicago, a very different piano style came into the picture in the


`20s, dubbed boogie-woogie after the most famous composition by its


significant exponent, Pinetop Smith (1904-1929). This rolling,

eight-to-the-bar bass style was popular at house parties in the Windy


and became a national craze in 1939, after three of its best


Albert Ammons, Pete Johnson and Meade Lux Lewis, had been presented

in concert at Carnegie Hall.


Johnson was from Kansas City, where boogie-woogie was also popular.

The midwestern center was a haven for Jazz musicians through-out the

rule of Boss Pendergast, when the city was wide open and music could


heard around the clock.

The earliest and one of the best of the K.C. bands was led by Bennie

Moten (1894-1935). By 1930 it had in its ranks pianist Count Basie

(1905-1984) who'd learned from Fats Waller; trumpeter-singer Oran (Hot

Lips) Page (1908-1954), one of Louis Armstrong's greatest disciples;


an outstanding singer, Jimmy Rushing (1903-1972). The city was to put


imprint on Jazz during the `30s and early `40s.


The great Depression had its impact on Jazz as it did on virtually all


facets of American life. The record business reached its lowest ebb in

1931. By that year, many musicians who had been able to make a living

playing Jazz had been forced to either take commercial music jobs or


the field entirely.

But the music survived. Again, Louis Armstrong set a pattern. At the


of a big band with his increasingly popular singing as a feature, he


the pop hits of the day in his unique Jazz mold, as such artists as


Waller and Billie Holiday (1915-1959), perhaps the most gifted of


Jazz singers would do a few years later.

Thus, while sentimental music and romantic "crooners" were the rage

(among them Bing Crosby who had worked with Paul Whiteman and

learned more than a little from Jazz), a new kind of "hot" dance music

began to take hold. It wasn't really new, but rather a streamlining of


Henderson style, introduced by the Casa Loma Orchestra which featured

the arrangements of Georgia-born guitarist Gene Gifford (1908-1970).

Almost forgotten today, this band paved the way for the Swing Era.


As we've seen, big bands were a feature of the Jazz landscape from the

first. Though the Swing Era didn't come into full flower until 1935,


up-and-coming young jazzmen from 1930 found themselves working in big


Among these were two pacesetters of the decade, trumpeter Roy (Little

Jazz) Eldridge (1911-1989) and tenorist Leon (Chu) Berry (1908-1941).

Eldridge, the most influential trumpeter after Louis, has a fiery


style and great range and swing. Among the bands he sparked were

Fletcher Henderson's and Teddy Hill's. The latter group also included

Berry, the most gifted follower of Coleman Hawkins, and the brilliant

trombonist Dicky Wells (1909-1985).

Another trend setting band was that of tiny, hunchbacked drummer Chick

Webb (1909-1939), who by dint of almost superhuman energy overcame

his physical handicap and made himself into perhaps the greatest of

all Jazz

drummers. His band really got under way when he heard and hired a

young girl singer in 1935. Her name was Ella Fitzgerald (b. 1917).


But it was Benny Goodman who became the standard-bearer of swing. In

1934, he gave up a lucrative career as a studio musician to form a big


with a commitment to good music. His Jazz-oriented style met with


enthusiasm at first. He was almost ready to give it up near the end of


disastrous cross-country tour in the summer of `35 when suddenly his

fortunes shifted. His band was received with tremendous acclaim at the

Palomar Ballroom in Los Angeles.

It seems that the band's broadcasts had been especially well timed for

California listeners. Whatever the reason, the band, which included


Jazz stars as the marvelous trumpeter Bunny Berigan (1908-1942) and

drummer Gene Krupa, not to mention Benny himself, now scored success

after success. Some of the band's best material was contributed by

arrangers Fletcher Henderson and his gifted younger brother Horace.

As the bands grew in popularity, a new breed of fan began to appear.


fan wanted to listen as much as he wanted to dance. (In fact, some

disdained dancing altogether.) He knew each man in each band and read

the new swing magazines that were springing up--Metronome, Down Beat,

Orchestra World. He collected records and listened to the growing


of band broadcasts on radio. Band leaders were becoming national


on a scale with Hollywood stars.


Benny's arch rival in the popularity sweepstakes was fellow


Artie Shaw (b.1910), who was an on-again-off-again leader. Other very

successful bands included those of Jimmy Dorsey and Tommy Dorsey,

whose co-led Dorsey Brothers Band split up after one of their



First among black bandleaders were Duke Ellington and Jimmie Lunceford

(1902-1947). The latter led a highly disciplined and showmanship-


band which nevertheless spotlighted brilliant jazz soloists, among


saxophonists Willie Smith and Joe Thomas and trombonist Trummy Young

(1912-1984). The man who set the band's style, trumpeter-arranger Sy

Oliver (1910-1988), later went with Tommy Dorsey.

A newcomer on the national scene was Count Basie's crew from Kansas

City, with key soloists Lester Young and Herschel Evans (1909-1939) on

tenors, Buck Clayton (1912-1992) and Harry Edison (b.1915) on

trumpets, and Jimmy Rushing and Billie Holiday (later Helen Humes) on


But important as these were (Lester in particular created a whole new


for his instrument), it was the rhythm section of Basie that gave the


its unique, smooth and rock-steady drive--the incarnation of swing,

Freddie Green (1911-1987) on guitar, Walter Page (1900-1957) on bass,

and Jo Jones (1911-1985) on drums and the Count on piano made the

rhythm section what it was. Basie, of course, continued to lead


bands, but the greatest years were 1936-42.


The war years took a heavy toll of big bands. Restrictions made travel

more difficult and the best talent was being siphoned off by the

draft. But

more importantly, public tastes were changing.

Ironically, the bands were in the end devoured by a monster they had

given birth to: the singers. Typified by Tommy Dorsey's Frank Sinatra,

the vocalist, made popular by a band affiliation, went out on his own;


the public seemed to want romantic ballads more than swinging dance


The big bands that survived the war soon found another form of

competition cutting into their following--television. The tube kept


home more and more, and inevitably many ballrooms shut their doors for

good in the years between 1947 and 1955. By then it had also become


expensive a proposition to keep 16 men traveling on the road in the


bands' itinerant tradition. The leaders who didn't give up (Ellington,


Woody Herman, Harry James) had something special in the way of talent

and dedication that gave them durability in spite of changing tastes



The only new bands to come along in the post-war decades and make it

were those of pianist-composer Stan Kenton (1912-1979), who started


band in 1940 but didn't hit until `45; drummer Buddy Rich (1917-1987),


veteran of many famous swing era bands and one of jazzdom's most

phenomenal musicians, and co-leaders Thad Jones (1923-1990), and Mel

Lewis (1929-1990), a drummer once with Kenton. Another Kenton

alumnus, high-note trumpeter Maynard Ferguson (b. 1928), has led

successful big bands on and off.


In any case, a new style, not necessarily inimical to the big bands

yet very

different in spirit form earlier Jazz modes, had sprung up during the


Bebop, as it came to be called, was initially a musician's music, born

in the

experimentation of informal jam sessions.

Characterized by harmonic sophistication, rhythmic complexity, and few

concessions to public taste, bop was spearheaded by Charlie Parker

(1920-1955), an alto saxophonist born and reared in Kansas City.

After apprenticeship with big bands (including Earl Hines'), Parker


in New York. From 1944 on, he began to attract attention on


52nd Street, a midtown block known as "Swing Street" which featured a

concentration of Jazz clubs and Jazz talent not equaled before or



Bird, as Parker was called by his fans, was a fantastic improviser


imagination was matched by his technique. His way of playing (though

influenced by Lester Young and guitarist Charlie Christian (1916-

1942), a

remarkable musician who was featured with Benny Goodman's sextet

between 1939-41), was something new in the world of Jazz. His


on musicians can be compared in scope only to that of Louis Armstrong.

Parker's principal early companions were Dizzy Gillespie, a trumpeter


abilities that almost matched Bird's, and drummer Kenny Clarke

(1914-1985). Dizzy and Bird worked together in Hines' band and then in

the one formed by Hines vocalist Billy Eckstine (1914-1993), the key

developer of bop talent. Among those who passed through the Eckstine

ranks were trumpeters Miles Davis (1927-1991), Fats Navarro

(1923-1950), and Kenny Dorham (1924-1972); saxophonists Sonny Stitt

(1924-1982), Dexter Gordon (1923-1990), and Gene Ammons

(1925-1974); and pianist-arranger-bandleader Tadd Dameron (1917-1965).

Bop, of course, was basically small-group music, meant for listening,


dancing. Still, there were big bands featuring bop--among them those


by Dizzy Gillespie, who had several good crews in the late `40s and


to mid-50's; and Woody Herman's so-called Second Herd, which included

the cream of white bop--trumpeter Red Rodney (b. 1927), and

saxophonists Stan Getz (1927-1993), Al Cohn (1925-1988) and Zoot Sims

(1925-1985), and Serge Chaloff (1923-1957).


Ironically, the coming of bop coincided with a revival of interest in


Orleans and other traditional Jazz. This served to polarize audiences


musicians and point up differences rather than common ground. The

needless harm done by partisan journalists and critics on both sides

lingered on for years.

Parker's greatest disciples were not alto saxophonists, except for


Stitt. Parker dominated on that instrument. Pianist Bud Powell

(1924-1966) translated Bird's mode to the keyboard; drummers Max

Roach and Art Blakey (1919-1990) adapted it to the percussion

instruments. A unique figure was pianist-composer Thelonious Monk,

(1917-1982). With roots in the stride piano tradition, Monk was a

forerunner of bop--in it but not of it.


In the wake of Miles Davis' successful experiments, rock had an

increasing impact on Jazz. The notable Davis alumni Herbie

Hancock (b. 1940) and Chick Corea (b.1941) explored what soon

became known as fusion style in various ways, though neither cut

himself off from the jazz tradition. Thus Hancock's V.S.O.P., made

up of `60s Davis alumni plus trumpeter Freddie Hubbard, pursued

Miles’ pre-electronic style, while Corea continued to play acoustic

jazz in various settings. Keith Jarrett(b. 1945), who also briefly

played with Davis, never adopted the electronic keyboards but flirted

with rock rhythms before embarking on lengthy, spontaneously

conceived piano recitals. The most successful fusion band was

Weather Report, co-founded in 1970 by the Austrian-born pianist

Joe Zawinul (b. 1932) and Wayne Shorter; the partnership lasted

until 1986. The commercial orientation of much fusion Jazz offers

little incentive to creative players, but it has served to introduce

new young listeners to Jazz, and electronic instruments have been

absorbed into the Jazz mainstream.

New York - The Jazz Mecca

New York City is the Jazz capital of the world. Jazz musicians can

be found playing at jam sessions, smoky bistros, stately concert halls,

on street corners and crowded subway platforms. Although the music was

born in New Orleans and nurtured in Kansas City, the Big Apple has long

been a Mecca for great Jazz. From the big band romps of Duke Ellington

and Count Basie at The Savoy Ballroom in Harlem to the Acid Jazz jam

sessions downtown at Giant Step, New York continues to serve as the

proving grounds for each major Jazz innovator.

52nd Street - The Street That Never Slept

Between 1934 and 1950, 52nd Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenues was

the place for music. The block was jam-packed with monochromatic five-

story brownstone buildings in whose drab and cramped street-level

interiors there were more clubs, bars and bistros than crates in an

overstocked warehouse. 52nd Street started as a showcase for the small-

combo Dixieland Jazz of the speakeasy era then added the big-band swing

of the New Deal 30s. Before its untimely demise, hastened by changing

real estate values, The Street adopted the innovations of bop and cool.

So in just a few hours of club hopping, a listener could walk through the

history of Jazz on 52nd Street. Favorites included pianist Art Tatum,

singer Billie Holiday, tenor saxophonist Coleman Hawkins, Count Basie and

his Big Band, trumpeter Roy Eldridge, pianist Errol Garner, trumpeter

Dizzy Gillespie and alto saxophonist Charlie Parker.

Minton's Playhouse - Birthplace of Bebop

In the early 1940s, a group of Jazz revolutionaries gathered at an

uptown club called Minton's Playhouse. Through a series of small group

jam sessions frequented by musicians in their teens and early twenties,

a new music called Bebop was born, sired by alto saxophonist Charlie

"Bird" Parker, trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie and pianist Thelonious Monk.

Bird was generally regarded as the intuitive genius and improviser of the

group, his magic sound and awesome technique changing the face of Jazz.

Diz was the conscious thinker and showman, a man who spent a lifetime

charming audiences worldwide. Monk was the creative clearinghouse and

refiner, a musical iconoclast whose compositions became legendary.

At first, Bebop's eccentric starts and stops, and torrents of notes

played at machine-gun tempos jarred listeners and proved devilishly

difficult to play. But by the late 1940s, when big-band swing had

declined, bop matured and became the Jazz standard.

Birdland - Jazz Corner of the World

Miraculously, just as 52nd caved in, Birdland opened on Broadway. For

more than a decade, from 1949-1962, the survival formula was memorable

double and triple bills, commencing at 9pm and sometimes lasting untill

dawn. Descending the stairs to the jammed basement nitery, a listener

would encounter a racially mixed throng, primed for an evening of high

octane musical invigoration. To add to the excitement, Birdland's

colorful host was Pee Wee Marquette, a uniformed midget. Riding the final

crest of the Bebop wave, Birdland was a musical oasis for accomplished

improvisors where the finest jazz on planet earth was presented with a

minimum of pretense. The club has let it all hang out ambiance encouraged

musicians to stretch the boundaries with spirited audience

encouragement. Live radio broadcasts from the club, hosted by Symphony

Sid, compounded the excitement.


Diversity is the word for today's Jazz. Various aspects of freedom


been pursued by the many gifted musicians connected with the AACM

(American Association for Creative Musicians), a collective formed in

1965 under the guidance of the pianist-composer Richard Muhal Abrams

(b. 1930). Among the groups that have emerged, directly and


from the AACM are the Art Ensemble of Chicago and The World

Saxophone Quartet, and notable musicians of this lineage include

trumpeter Lester Bowie (b. 1941), reedmen Anthony Braxton (b.1945),

Joseph Jarman, Julius Hemphill, Roscoe Mitchell and David Murray,

and violinist Leroy Jenkins, Ornette Coleman has continued to go his


way, introducing a unique fusion band, Prime Time, collaborating with

guitarist Pat Metheny (b. 1954), and celebrating occasional reunions


his original quartet.

Quite unexpectedly, but with neat historical symmetry, a new wave of

gifted young jazz players has emerged from New Orleans, spearheaded by

the brilliant trumpeter Wynton Marsalis (b. 1961), who joined Art


Jazz Messengers--a bastion of the bebop tradition--in 1979. Also an

accomplished classical virtuoso, Marsalis was soon signed by Columbia

Records and became the most visible new Jazz artist in many years.

Articulate and outspoken, he has rejected fusion and stressed the

continuity of the Jazz tradition. His slightly older brother, Branford

Marsalis (b. 1960), who plays tenor and soprano sax, was a member of

Wynton's quintet until he joined with rock icon Sting's band for a

year. He

has since led his own straight-ahead jazz quartet. As his replacement


Blakey, Wynton recommended fellow New Orleanian Terence Blanchard

(b. 1962), who later formed a group with altoist Donald Harrison also

from New Orleans, as co-leader.

Many other gifted players have emerged during the present decade --


many to list here. Many have affirmed their roots in bebop, and some


reached even further back to mainstream swing (such as tenorist Scott

Hamilton (b. 1954), and trumpeter Warren Vache, Jr. [b. 1951]), but

almost all, even when choosing experimentation and innovation, operate

within the established language of jazz. As in the other arts, Jazz

seems to

have arrived at a postmodern stage.

We ought not to overlook the increasingly important role being played


women instrumentalists, among them Carla Bley, JoAnne Brackeen, Jane

Ira Bloom, Amina Claudine Myers, Emely Remler and Janice Robinson.

The durability of the Jazz tradition has been symbolically affirmed by


events: the Academy Award nomination of Dexter Gordon, the seminal

bebop tenor saxophonist, for his leading role in the film Round


and the widely acclaimed appearances of Benny Carter, approaching his

90th birthday, at the helm of the American Jazz Orchestra (an ensemble

formed in 1986 to perform the best in Jazz, past and present) both as


player and composer.

And one may also take heart at the qualitative as well as quantitative

growth of Jazz education in this country, and the active involvement

of so

many fine performing artist in this process.


No one can presume to guess what form the next development in Jazz


take. What we do know is that the music today presents a rich panorama

of sounds and styles.

Thelonious Monk, that uncompromising original who went from the

obscurity of the pre-bop jam sessions in Harlem to the cover of TIME


worldwide acclaim without ever diluting his music, once defined jazz

in his

unique way:

"Jazz and freedom," Monk said, "go hand in hand. That explains it.


isn't anymore to add to it. If I do add to it, it gets complicated.


something for you to think about. You think about it and dig it. You

dig it."

Jazz, a music born in slavery, has become the universal song of


Jazz History - Periods, Styles

Batchelor, Christian: This thing called Swing ; a

study of Swing music and the Lindy Hop, the original Swing dance.

London 1997.

Belaire, David C. G.: A guide to the big band era.


Bergerot, Franck & Arnaud Merlin: The story of jazz ; bop and beyond.

New York 1993.

Berlin, Edward A.: Ragtime ; a musical and cultural history. Reprint

(1980). Berkeley, Calif. [etc.] 1984.

Boyd, Jean A.: The jazz of the southwest;an oral

history of Western Swing. Austin, Tex.1998.

Budds, Michael J.: Jazz in the 60s ; the expansion of musical

resources and techniques. Expanded ed. Iowa City, Ia. 1990.

Carver, Reginald & Lenny Bernstein: Jazz profiles ;

the spirit of the nineties. New York 1998.

Cockrell, Dale: Demons of disorder ; early blackface

minstrels and their world. Cambridge 1997.

Collins, R.: New Orleans jazz ; a revised history ; the development of

American music from the origin to the big bands. New York 1996.

Corbett, John: Extended play ; sounding off from John

Cage to Dr. Funkenstein.Durham, N.C. 1994.

Dean, Roger T.: New structures in jazz and improvised

music since 1960. Milton Keynes 1991

Deffaa, Chip: Swing legacy foreword by George T.

Simon. Metuchen, N.J. [etc.] 1989.

Deffaa, Chip: Voices of the jazz age ; profiles of 8

vintage jazzmen. Wheatley 1990.

DeVeaux, Scott: The birth of Bebop ; a social and

musical history. Berkeley, Cal. [etc.] 1997.

Erenberg, Lewis A.: Swingin' the dream ; big band

jazz and the rebirth of American culture. Chicago, Ill. [etc.] 1998.

Feather, Leonard: The encyclopedia yearbooks of Jazz.

Reprint (1956 & 1958). New York 1993.

Feather, Leonard: The passion for jazz. Reprint

(1980). New York 1990.

Fernett, Gene: Swing out ; great Negro dance bands.

Reprint (1970). New York 1993.

Goldberg, Joe: Jazz masters of the 50s. Reprint

(1965). New York [1983].

Gottlieb, William P.: The golden age of jazz. New &

revised ed. San Francisco, Cal. 1995.

Griffiths, David: Hot jazz ; from Harlem to

Storyville. Lanham, Md. [etc.] 1998.

Grudens, Richard: The best damn trumpet player ;

memories of the big band era & beyond. Stony Brook, N.Y. 1996.

Grudens, Richard: The music men ; the guys who sang

with the bands and beyond. Stony Brook, N.Y. 1998.

Grudens, Richard: The song stars ; the ladies who

sang with the bands and beyond. Stony Brook, N.Y. 1997.

Hadlock, Richard: Jazz masters of the 20s. Reprint

(1965). New York 1988.

Hall, Fred: Dialogues in Swing ; intimate

conversations with the stars of the Big Band era. Ventura, Cal. 1989.

Harrison, Daphne Duval: Black pearls ; blues queens of the 1920s. New

Brunswick, N.J. [etc.] 1990.

Hennessey, Thomas J.: From jazz to swing ; Afro-

American jazz musicians and their music, 1890-1935. Detroit, Mich.


Jasen, David A. & Gene Jones: Spreadin' rhythm around ; black popular

songwriters, 1880-1930. New York 1998.

Jones, Leroi: Black music. Reprint (1967). New York


Jost, Ekkehard: Europas Jazz 1960-1980. Frankfurt 1987.

Kennedy, Don: Big Band Jump personality interviews. Atlanta, Ga. 1993.

Kennedy, Rick: Jelly Roll, Bix and Hoagy ; Gennett studios and the

birth of recorded jazz. Bloomington, Ind. [etc.] 1994.

Koerner, Julie: Big bands. New York 1992.

Koerner, Julie: Swing kings. New York 1994.

Kofsky, Frank: John Coltrane and the jazz revolution

of the 1960s. New York 1998.

Korall, Burt: Drummin' men ; the heartbeat of jazz ;

the Swing years. New York 1990.

Litweiler, John: The freedom principle ; jazz after

1958. Reprint (1984).New York 1990.

Lock, Graham: Chasing the vibration ; meetings with

creative musicians. Exeter 1994.

Morgan, Thomas L. & William Barlow: From Cakewalks to

concert halls; an illustrated history of African American popular

music from 1895 to 1930. Washington, D.C. 1993.

Nicholson, Stuart: Jazz, the 1980s resurgence.

Reprint (1990) of: Jazz, the modern resurgence. New York 1995.

Nicholson, Stuart: Jazz-Rock, a history. New York


Owens, Thomas: Bebop ; the music and its players. Reprint (1995). New

York [etc.] 1996.

Piazza, Tom: Blues up and down ; jazz in our time. New York 1997.

Rosenthal, David H.: Hard bop ; jazz and black music 1955-1965.

Reprint (1992).New York 1993.

Russell, Bill: New Orleans style compiled & ed. by

Barry Martyn & Mike Hazeldine. New Orleans, La. 1994.

Scanlan, Tom: The joy of jazz : Swing era, 1935-1947.

Golden, Col. 1996.

Schuller, Gunther: Early jazz ; its roots and musical development.

Reprint (1968). New York [etc.] 1986.

Spellman, A: B.: Four lives in the bebop business.

Reprint (1966). New York 1985.

Stewart, Rex: Jazz masters of the 30s. Reprint

(1972). New York [1982].

Stowe, David W.: Swing changes ; Big Band jazz in New

Deal America. Reprint (1994). Cambridge, Mass. 1996.

Tracy, Sheila: Bands, booze and broads. Reprint

(1995). Edinburgh (etc) 1996.

Van der Merwe, Peter: Origins of the popular style ; the antecedents

of twentieth-century popular music. Reprint (1989) Oxford 1992.

Vincent, Ted: Keep cool ; the black activists who

built the jazz age.London [etc.] 1995.

Waldo, Terry: This is Ragtime. Reprint (1976). New York


Walker, Leo: The wonderful era of the great dance

bands. Reprint (1964). New York 1990.

Wilmer, Valerie: As serious as your life; the story

of the New Jazz. Reprint (1987).London 1998.

Wyndham, Tex: Texas shout ; how Dixieland Jazz works. Seattle, Wash.



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