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During. The evolution of jazz. A survey of American art form from Scott Joplin to Lenny Tristan. The evolution of jazz as a tape recorded feature presented under the auspices of Northeastern University by the Lowell Institute cooperative broadcasting Council. Nat Hentoff associate editor of Downbeat Magazine discusses the growth of jazz from its roots in Europe and Africa. And considers the musical as well as the sociological forces that shaped it. Mr Hentoff. Last week we were speaking of the figures of transition transition between the jazz of the late 30s in the very early 40s and the beginnings of modern jazz or a bop as it was for his cause. The key
transitional figure was the tenor sax is to Lester Young. The second was Roy Eldridge concluded last week's lecture with a recording made in 1936 with Roy Barry on tenor saxophone Benny Goodman and several other prominent jazz men of the 30s played together in Fletcher Henderson's last important band a Chicago Outfit from 1935 to 37. There earlier come to New York from West Virginia by way of Chicago and had been greatly influenced by Benny Carter who in turn it influenced Roy Eldridge. Barry recorded together in 1938 three years before she was dead on piano is the late Clyde Hart a much under-rated musician and one of the first of the BOP pianists and himself as we'll see greatly influenced the first leading trumpet player Dizzy Gillespie. This recording is called sit in. Do you want to go.
Another transitional figure of importance was the bass player Jimmy
Blanton of whom most Jazz basses speak in terms of there was pretty bland and bass imposed bland and bass in jazz. Landon's musical battle as Ulanoff rides was for a line any line that could be called his instruments own. Duke Ellington when he heard Jimi Blanton playing with his band in St. Louis was immediately convinced bass players all over America a one with a couple of measures of Jack the bear and Coco and sepia serenade two of which recordings were played in the section on Ellington. When they heard the tone and the authority and the beat of the best bass man Jazz had ever known up to that time. A few of them were fortunate enough to get copies of his duets with Ellington long out of print on those sides. Jimmy demonstrated in 1939 and 1940 that his instrument was like a small relative a violin a melodic instrument that its melodic lines joined those of the brass and reeds in jazz as imaginatively as a guitar and that its rhythmic figures did not have to be limited to so
many syncopated beats a bar. Jimi died of tuberculosis in 1942 in a California sanitarium having accomplished in the last four of his 23 years what few musicians manage in a lifetime. He more than anyone else brought his instrument to maturity gave it a solo position in jazz and went much of the way toward revolutionizing the rhythmic patterns which on changing gave every indication of constructing of and eventually killing jazz right through Blanton and other men proved a source of enrichment to the evolution of jazz. Here is one of the duets between Jimmy Blanton on bass and Duke Ellington on piano. It's called plucked again. Before a transitional figure was guitarist Charlie Christian
speak of Charlie Christian is to speak of the beginnings of modern jazz and experimental sessions at Minton's and Highland in 1940 and 41. But first here is how Charlie sounded with a Benny Goodman unit of 1940. The musicians are good jazz men but somehow in the minds of young beginner beginners in modern experimentation like Christian the idiom used here had already been explored to its limits. There had to be changes and he foreshadowed some lightly in his own chorus here. His own accomplishment as of 1940 had been to do in large part for the guitar as a jazz instrument but Jimmy Blanton had done for the bass. In terms of the frontiers of jazz. Other men felt the same way as did Christian Charlie Parker Dizzy Gillespie Thelonious Monk. They felt they could do more in terms of the jazz language than had been done up to now. And by 1940 they had already begun experimenting. Before we hear some of their really work. Here is the kind of music on which they had been nurtured but which
had proved insufficient for their needs. Personnel Benny Goodman and clarinet Williams trumpet old tenor Count Bass the piano author Bernstein bass and Harry Jaeger on drums and it's called Benny's bugle. Charlie Christian Leonard Feather writes he was born in Texas raised in Oklahoma
City started playing electric guitar in 1937 when he was 18. Musicians who have been around Oklahoma with a band led by him and they whip Winborn later became conductor of the Sweethearts of Rhythm recall the brilliance and originality of his work in 1938 Charlie played for a while in Bismarck North Dakota with the sextette led by pianist Al Trent. Musicians throughout North Dakota and neighboring states were already raving about Christian as 17 year old girl in Bismarck Mary Osborne read the reports about it and went to the dome a dismal spot where the trained group was working. When she walked in the sound that greeted her seemed at first to be a tenor sax played through a microphone that distorted the sound a little. I glance at the bandstand revealed that the soloist was playing a guitar at that time amplified guitars were a rarity and the single note solo style was a complete departure from the pattern of solos and chords established by Col Christic McDonough and the other more conventional jazz guitarists. The trend group had a trumpet tenor sax piano bass drums and Christian but.
Remarkably Charlie did not count as a fourth rhythm instrument. Rather he was a third horn blending the guitar with a tenor and trumpet with three proud voicings that produced a sound new to jazz. What impressed everyone most of all Mary Osborne recalls was a sense of time he had a relaxed even beat that would sound modern even today. This sextet was doing everything that Benny Goodman did later and doing it even better. I remember some of the figures Charlie played in his solos. They were exactly the same things Benny recorded later was flying home Gone With The Wind wind seven come eleven and all the other Charlie didn't play bop exactly although we did things with augmented and diminished chords that were completely new to me and rhythmically some of his ideas sounded very much like Bob. While Kristen was working at the dome visiting bandleaders trying to lure him away even Henry Busey offered him a job. But Charlie refused feeling that he would be better off in obscurity playing the kind of music he liked. In addition to creating his own themes he would improvise on some of the popular songs that happen to have interesting chord patterns such as you go to my head in my old flame. Occasionally I'd even play Django Reinhardt solo take a
note for note from the Reinhardt record run at the French gypsy who. Was at one time the leading jazz man in New York. Well the French gypsies conception of jazz was infinitely removed from Charlie as he would get a kick out of imitating Django as courses on St. Louis Blues and then following it with something of his own. Local music shop aware of the stature was that Charlie was gaining locally advertised an electric guitar in its window as featured by Charlie Christian at the dome. When Mary Osborne bought one and began setting in with Charlie he would take a chorus and then in his gentle reserved manner encourage her to follow him. In July 1939 after John Hammond heard Charley in Oklahoma City and arranged for him to join Benny Goodman in New York he came to the attention of some other jazz men who had been experimenting with new sounds and new ideas. After his job with Benny every evening at the Pennsylvania Hotel Charlie would take his amplifier and instrument up to a dining room in the Hotel Cecil on West 1 18th Street in Harlem. Henry Minton a former
saxophonist who had been the first Negro delegate in local ATO to. Converted the dilapidated room into a crowd installed Teddy Hill as manager and made the place an open house for musicians where jam sessions were practically a nightly event. Still a bashful polite small town boy Charlie soon made many friends and admirers uptown. Jerry knew many young jazz fan who is now the owner and chief engineer for esoteric records used to bring his portable recording machine up to Minton's and recalls that Charlie never disappointed his listeners and if he knew that people were paying attention he really improvised Saturday admittance However it was pretty hectic with about 15 men on a small Bandstand all trying to get in there 32 when this happened. Charlie would just sit and play quarter compliments refusing to take a solo because he knew it would be wasted. Dizzy Gillespie in a recent conversation recalled. He had another solution to this. He remembers that when the stands were crowded by BN who were just exhibitionist so it went very good musicians but would take six or seven courses to prove it. He and the loneliest monk the
pianist on the afternoons before a session admins would work out some complex variations on chords and use them at night to scare away the unwelcome musicians on stand. On the few occasions when Charlie Christian did feel relaxed the paying customers paid tribute by standing still in front of the stand and just listening while Charlie played the same exciting jazz that was driving the whole Goodman band. Barry Ulanov describes the Charlie Christian story that's Lee in his book the history of jazz in America. He says it but Charlie Christian was a natural musician who is natural and as a priest sage the inevitable change in jazz. And he points out that the recordings that have recently been issue that were recorded at Minton's by Gerry Newman on this portable tape recorder indicate Christian at
his best. Better even than some of the more commercial recordings with Goodman. The signs were originally tape recordings made by Gerry at jam sessions in Minton's playhouse the dining room and club that Henry made and as we as we noted made out of part of the Hotel Cecil and 119 Street in Harlem. The recording was made in May 1941. Here are playing with some of the first musicians to make the move from swing to bop. Charlie plays chorus after chorus threading his way through such familiar chords and melodic lines as those of stopping at the Savoy and others to give shape to a whole new conception of music. The Beat never stops. It's steady pulsation is elaborated complicated simplified. The sound ever loses beauty of what you know cause the harpsichord texture of Charlie's guitar which is rather a misnomer it is produced in arpeggios trails Cascades clusters and phrases sometimes of tumultuous power sometimes of elegant restraint recording shows clearly what Charlie did with the electric guitar which before
him was played on jazz records only by Floyd Smith with Andy Craig's band in a manner that was engaging but not much beyond the formulations of the blues. Charlie changed the playing technique of the guitar and structured for a dramatic role in jazz which for all their imagination and resourcefulness any lying Carle crass and Dick McDonough had never dreamed it was Charlie Christian who made it possible for a guitarist such as Barney Kessel Jimmy Raney town follow to think and speak musically on a level with trombone as trumpeters and saxophonist so effectively to transform the guitar from a rhythmic servant into an eloquent master. But today very few bands big or small can find guitar is good enough for their needs. And after Christian a bad one would be all the more painfully conspicuous. I don't mean to imply that the good times has lost its function as a rhythm instrument because it is so use
still and modern jazz but the melodic and harmonic potentialities. Of the guitar have been greatly increased due largely to the example set by Charlie Christian. I think also I should qualify what you and I meant when he said that Christian was a natural musician as natural as pre-sales the inevitable change in jazz. One of the things I think you meant is this that. Because of the fact that Charlie was so absorbed in music had such a fine ear. He was not content with the one you and I thought was the clatter of refs in the goodman group and his imagination had to so afraid and had to experiment. And as such like similar musicians they are all musicians like Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie. He had to find new ways. Of saying things in an evolutionary jazz language. This is Joe guy who was also experimenting with trumpet lines at the time. Dad is playing I think you can find traces very definite traces of the influence of Roy on bridge
Charlie Christian died in 1942 of tuberculosis. As did they says Jimmy Blanton the same year the same guys Landon was 23 Christian the same age. And. I am. I am. I am.
That was an excerpt from another recording that Jerry Newman made in 1941 and another experimental meeting place for musician one rose uptown house in
Harlem. Leonard Feather continuos the story of Charlie Christian Clark who was playing drums at Minton's declares that Charlie contributed an infinite amount of the new jazz he was always very firm about a beat and we made it our business to swing all the time. Then he wrote some wonderful tunes to. Casso a young guitarist who was very prominent in contemporary jazz remembers that when Charlie Christian first heard him his first advice was first of all you've got to swing. Then you can experiment harmonically but if the basic pulsation of the basic swing isn't there then you're not playing jazz. When I Charlie and I like remember we're at the Douglas hotel and saying we're going to look at the St. Nicholas Avenue visiting a friend who was a dancer and play the ukulele. I followed around with you and then Charlie took it out of my hand look and he said you can make all the chords you want to on this if you just stretch your fingers right. He showed me how to back the yoke and I started experimenting. I got an idea that sounded good when upstairs in my room in the same hotel and wrote it down later on.
Joe guys show the tune a cootie Williams Including had Bob McRae make an arrangement. I called it fly right could be used to broadcast it from the Savoy Ballroom which was right after we left Benny Goodman. He recorded it for Columbia it was never released later I recorded it for Victor with a band of my own under the new title that I pissed with me and that was one of the first of the tunes. Joe mechanic had worked with Dizzy Gillespie in the teddy Hill band in the 30s and was a main group the main figure either in the group of remnants from the disbanded Hill personnel that went into Minton's in 1940 as part of the house band. His theory is that Charlie Christian started the use of the word. He bought Charlie and is used to him that way to illustrate some of their ideas he recons.
The Evolution of Jazz
Episode Number
Transition Continues, Part One
Producing Organization
WGBH Educational Foundation
Contributing Organization
University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Episode Description
This program goes further in depth about the major changes occuring in jazz during the late 1940s and into the early 1950s.
Series Description
Jazz historian Nat Hentoff presents a series that traces the history of jazz, from its musical and cultural roots to its contemporary forms. "The Evolution of Jazz" was originally broadcast from WGBH in 1953-1954, and was re-broadcast by the National Educational Radio Network in 1964.
Broadcast Date
Asset type
Jazz musicians--United States--Biography.
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Host: Hentoff, Nat
Producer: Hentoff, Nat
Producing Organization: WGBH Educational Foundation
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 55-32-29 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:29:06
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Chicago: “The Evolution of Jazz; 29; Transition Continues, Part One,” 1954-05-28, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed June 16, 2024,
MLA: “The Evolution of Jazz; 29; Transition Continues, Part One.” 1954-05-28. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. June 16, 2024. <>.
APA: The Evolution of Jazz; 29; Transition Continues, Part One. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from