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To return then to New York jazz as we've known it long before the jazz band was heard in New York the piano players supplied the bulk of the entertainment for Cabaret and Chelsea. San Juan Hill and Harlem Charles Edward Smith writes It's interesting to note that Scott Joplin's dream with its elements of ragtime and music from negro square dances should have had soul performance in addition to the early I want I mentioned at the composer's home. That it's all performance at the Lincoln Theatre in Harlem at a time when they could tell you it was being danced in the neighborhood on Columbus Circle called San Juan Hill. Whether a guide to that word Smith writes. It was an operetta based on ragtime forums. Certain of its titles are based on social dance forms of the 19th century group dancing. And it is interesting to note that one of the titles is slow drag the common name for adaptations of Blues which had no social standing to speak of by their own name and in the section on of the New York jazz we played a slow drag by James P. Johnson called the dream. After a
performance at the Lincoln Theatre in Harlem in a small cast sang Pride's. With a composer at the piano and sound musical values of his work have never been properly appreciated says Smith except for borrowings. The theme of Joplin's operetta was supposed to express the joy of the negroes that emancipation Joplin claim that this thing was stolen. Later to become over someone else was named one of the most famous harangues. Of course such a claim would be hard to verify at this date but there can be no doubt of one fact when Joplin learned of the already copyrighted rag he came home dejectedly to his bride in Harlem. He was then living in the east and sat down at the big mahogany table at which he did most of his writing. And patiently rewrote the main theme of his operetta so that he would not be sued for plagiarism. The involved piano obituary has not once been played in an important concert of American music. Joplin himself died in obscurity in 1917. His mind affected by years of overwork and neglect.
And he said wistfully before his death maybe I'll be recognized 25 years from now. So far this has only happened in terms of the specialists in ragtime music who have rediscovered many of his rags. Smith The best historian of New York jazz forever describes its growth in the jazz record book famous blues singers came into New York to work they recorded at the many different studios downtown and for Black Swan. The label of an all negro recording company. They sang at the Lafayette of the Harlem Opera House and the Apollo they had attended one or another of the little cabarets that mushroomed all over Harlem from Sugar Hill to that slightly dismal stretch of Fifth Avenue then known as the jungle. Was singing the blues notes with an excellent little band at the Garden of joy. One hundred forty eight straight. Jazz was on its way that Euston as it was
still behind Chicago and convention really a band that played around Highland Johnny Dunn's Barbara Miley at a place called Connors in 1920 to Count Bass he was playing in a little band at the Royals before he later went to Kansas City and I don't mean something in jazz history. But these reputations and this is an important point that Smith makes. Usually when I've been based on writer Warrick runs the man had mastered the jazz style. More throwaway. At the beginning of the tonal styles would predominate. I don't naturally with some exceptions. And it would be rare indeed to find a northern trombonist for example who could fake a New Orleans tailgate in the ensemble. One thing was quite similar between this early New York style if it can be called that and what was happening in Chicago. It had to compete with popular music. This happened in Chicago and was one of the causes for the decline of jazz there in the
twenties related to revive. But that struggle against commercialism was never so obvious as in New York the nation's capital for a popular and orchestral music. Because of this situation continues now as New York musicians had been trained in a school tried different from that of their New Orleans contemporaries. And this includes men who came into New York from other parts of the country. Coleman Hawkins born in Missouri in 1940 is an example. He started on piano and shower when he was five switched to tenor when he was nine. Which in itself was a little startling since 1916. The tenor saxophone was not a common instrument. In anything but a regular band. He writer went Michael 11 reports to Washburn college in Topeka Kansas for three years where he studied harmony and composition and job as a tenor man with local bands. Finally in 1921 he joined Mamie Smith's jazz hounds in Kansas City went to New York
on a nice mits trip there as he was a blues singer and joined Fletcher Henderson. Another example of the increasing number of musicians with. Legitimate musical training among men who played in New York in the 20s was Benny Carter who was born in New York City in 1970 went to Wilberforce University where he did not specialize in music but did write in the college band led by Fletcher Henderson's pianist brother Horace. It was Buster Bailey and christened Raymond Memphis Tennessee who was a music student in high school. Later when he moved to Chicago had several private teachers the most important of whom was friendship. The Chicago Symphony clarinetist who also was one of Benny Goodman and probably his teachers. The greatest influence to return to Coleman Hawkins However the greatest influence on his style occurred in 1924 and as well as we'll hear.
When he played in the same group with Louis Armstrong. The difference between Hawkins early childhood was mid points out and that of a mature period is so great as to be almost unbelievable if one did not understand this historical fact. Hawkins was already a musician before in 1924. As were many of the man who played in New York. Excellent musicians technically able to perform in all of the requirements of the popular music of the time and the orchestral music but unlike Hawkins they had some years to go before they could be called in the best sense of the word a jazz musician. And it's rather natural to cite Hawkins case because more than anyone else. As I pointed out earlier he made the tenor saxophone a hot instrument. Among the other musicians in the early twenties working around Harlem and around New York was several who would later become famous as exponents of hot style Jimmy Harrison the trombonist
was at Small's in 1903. Fletcher Henderson from Georgette had abandoned Rose land from 1999 on sometimes played in small uptown clubs after his nightly stand. There was Edgar Samson a well-known arranger and saxophonist but the aforementioned Benny Carter. Who had become a distinguished arranger composer and instrumental virtue also one of the leading Alto stylists in jazz. And on another job this time with Charlie Johnson the trombone is Jimmy Harrison played opening night at Small's Paradise. There was Benny Cotter and Sidney to parents in Charlie Johnson's been at the same time. In 1919 when Clarence Williams came to New York he published royal blue. It's Armand had come up with him from New Orleans did not stay but William saris own future in the eastern metropolis. So he was one of the first New Orleans to take root in New York either as it
traveled through briefly as a boy in Louisiana and black clients learned good time in Oregon. He worked in a local hotel where a serenaded guest between meals. Running away with a minstrel show at the age of 12 he soon drifted into New Orleans who then truly the land of dreams says Mitt. To every aspiring musician in that territory when he wasn't at work shining shoes he listened to the big time Basin Street Professors such as Jelly Roll Morton express job was as a substitute for jelly roll after a turn in the Basin Street party as he went into vaudeville in 1911 and the series of records he made later in New York called the Clarence Williams grew five records suggest his long connection with negro show music which as we pointed out was beginning to displace largely to displace the minstrel shows. It was organized as a recording radio and gig playing unit in
1923 a gig being then is now. A single date generally an evening dance for another location. John. That was the year so anybody say in 1923 had a Chinese character Rona Donald Haywood opus that also featured Bessie Smith another indication of the many ways in which Jasmine traveled around the country brought to bear and other traveling vehicles here made in 1924 and has a Clarence Williams drive record. Louis Armstrong on his first trip to New York for reasons we'll come to in a moment. So many of us had soprano sax and so it was a phone. A band instrument of the family. Another indication that a jazz man can improvise on anything from a tin flute. So it was a phone. As a show to an indication of the growing negro influence in show music the singer Eva Taylor is not a jazz singer but in musical comedy vocalist trombonist Charlie evidence
was a New York musician. Clarence Williams on piano and Buddy Christian guitar. And early recorded example then of New Orleans musicians coming to New York. You know as you recall pretty corporate in the original Creole band and traveling shows and included New Orleans musicians had been there 10 and 10 and more years before 1924 and equines Williams moved with Eva Taylor on a non jazz vocal and many make up your mind. It was about this time that jazz began to be played more and more in big
bands and until a few riot bands came into being that was staffed entirely with jazz musicians among whom there was such a rapport as in the Count Basie band of the thirties. Most noticeably that it was proved that jazz need not be played only in small combinations and it was possible for a big band to retain a large pot though not all certainly of the improvisational freedom to be found in a 6 or 7 piece unit such as those in New Orleans and their Chicago. But for this to have happened. This discovery of the freedom that was still possible within the larger context of the big band. For this to have happened required an evolutionary process in a good place to begin is with the orchestra. Fletcher Henderson White band leaders like Paul Whiteman had hired individual jazz men like the explainer back. But as you heard in that. Monstrously ormolu arrangement of sweet Sue and the result was not in any
sense big band jazz or swing the jazz man and such an ensemble was noticeable by the sharp clarity of his position his position being a lonely direct antithesis to the commercial one swinging uncreative Edgar against nature of the orchestra as a whole. But with Henderson to a small initial extent and later with Ellington and basely and Lunsford and Hines and a few others there came about a new kind of big band not the Commercial Hotel or a ballroom organization that played what musicians scornfully called the businessman's bounce. Although these swing and jazz bands like basses and Ellington's could and did buy hotels and bones but their bounce was a swinging one albeit often rightly so so as not to affright and the proprietor or some of the dancers. This new kind of big band contributed directly to the evolution of Jazz both in the nature of the music it played in the increasing emphasis on harmony
because of the fact that there were more than six in the group. And the increasing emphasis on a range of passages that require greater technical scale. Of the jazz men in the ensemble. In the fact that these big bands proved during the 30s and 40s to be an incubator for jazz men as a place where they could play with a degree of security economic security just as earlier the cabarets and clubs in New Orleans and Chicago in Kansas City and New York and provided places where the early jazz men and their small combos could work. These small units of course continued all through the 30s and 40s. Men would cut out of big bands to join them or form them then return to a big band after they've broken up. But the point was that until the postwar period there were always a number of large bands in which a jazz musician could feel in context particularly negro jazz musician because they were better big bands went
with the negro big bands in which a jazz musician could feel and context could learn from other members of the unit and could grow musically. Both in technique and in conception. As I said anything goes Dion states that the band itself. In the more created instance is the band itself became an instrument rich in possibilities for the creative musician basic to the formation of this band. What is the use of the saxophone choir of alto tenor and baritone. It's customary among some jazz critics to frown upon the formation of these bands. As an intrusion of symphonic music into the purity of jazz. Yet these riot bands of brass Reed and percussion in the hands of a runs better Ellington are basically a magnificent musical combinations. New to our culture and the program's abilities of rich outcry from exploring it is important to remember in discussing the history of jazz he continues that nothing of value
is ever really lost. It is only the one sidedness of our music alive today and a direct product of commercialism which uses the new to wipe out the older mess empowers others to propagandize for the old against the new. A musical instrument as an extension of the rights and mind as a tool as an extension of the hand and mind and instrument like a tool. Makes possible deeper and richer creation. So long as one remembers that it has no meaning in and by itself without the human being behind it. Which applies to the jazz band because when a man like Duke Ellington behind a band it can become a creative force for and in jazz the direct antithesis to something like the Guy Lombardo band which is it was function rather is
entirely a commercial one of these bands. The jazz bands of swing or the swing or jazz band as you will hear really did become instruments. Duke Ellington once said seriously that he regarded the band as his instrument. And I know this may sound paradoxical at first. Whatever he wrote for his band all through the years he wrote with a particular instrumentalist in the band in mind he did not write for a trombone. He wrote let's say in the early 40s for three distinctive trombone voices then in the band he wrote for the liquid late legato trombone of Laurence Brown for the record and gravely humorous trombone talking trombone really a tricky Santon. And he wrote for the more legitimate tone style. About trombone is 1000 years old and when these men left he changed his writing to correspond to the individual styles of their successors. Because of this empathy between Ellington and his musicians
because of the empathy between the men in the band themselves between the band as a whole and Ellington how they result in sound was the sound of an individual composed of the sounds of many individuals in the band. And their wives one of the basic essences of jazz. Whether in small or large combination and it's to sound like a paradox until you've heard it in performance the primacy in jazz of the rise of the improvising individual performer within the naturally cooperative group. We've heard the holiness of the five performances and this is chronologically geographically. Let's listen to the late who had a distinctive voice through his original.
He was first and then later by Kansas City. And this is a recording of his one o'clock jump. I am.
I am. I am. At the same time that record was made they were playing in Duke Ellington's then musicians like Danny the gad from New Orleans Jimmy Blanton who learned his jazz on the river boats during the 20s Kuti Williams from Mobile Alabama Harry Carney from Boston and Joseph tricky Sandman and from New York. I mention the birthplaces of a lot of these large band musicians in the 30s and 40s to indicate. That Jazz was long evolving into a national language and by the middle and late 30s had become one. Are there much of the pre Jazz Bass the blues spirituals work songs and a whole body of Afro American folk music and European influence as had been part of the whole south and south west as well now. Spreading through the rest of the country and always altered form continually altered form after the Civil War.
Nonetheless in terms of the jazz language itself jazz was to a certain extent regional at Forest. It grew in a way and in geographical pockets. The most vigorous of the first outgrowths having been in New Orleans a strain that later came to Chicago but traveled from Maine to California and 10 shows and other touring groups. There were pockets along the Eastern Seaboard Atlanta Washington D.C. early New York. There were the ragtime centers of St. Louis in Sedalia graduates of rich branched out everywhere and particularly helped mold the really eastern seaboard jazz. There were developments in Kansas City in the southwest and long before jazz and these pockets there had been they wandering blues singers and piano playing as in the 1960s and 70s. From the Deep South who traveled everywhere in the early periods of geographical formation of jazz and huge sections spoken idiom with colloquialisms of its own. The basic language was potentially the same.
And through meeting each other in small groups. And in the large bands of the 30s musicians from all sections worked out a common grammar. They still spoke as a jazz man must with individual voices and with strong evidences in some cases of their regional backgrounds. Like the New Orleans clarinet of Bonnie the guide however sophisticated. As it sounded in Duke Ellington's band. This process of fusion was not difficult because the original regional variants themselves were never a pure variance. They had been subject to many heterogeneous influences from the very beginning. So whenever I say regional background or talk in terms of geographical pockets of influence I mean that quite loosely there is no such thing in any precise semantic musical a musicological sense as Chicago style or Kansas City style or New York jazz as close as one can come to using a geographical stylistic description with any precision. His New Orleans style and some would would could contend that even that can be so delineated. But in a general sense these geographical labels
can be used if it is remembered that jazz and jazz men have always traveled and it left influences on their way and picked up many. And so by the middle and late 30s there had been so much into fusion that a common jazz language had been created on the basis of which it was Van Bronson Arroyo for the modern jazz men like OSB and Parker and Powell to build a further developed language. This has been a digression I realised before investigating Fletcher Henderson. But I wanted to underscore the importance of these allied units in the development of jazz. And in a preliminary way through the basi record and through a description of Ellington's way of writing to give you an idea of the way they functioned in Ellington's case it was a different from bases and an idea of the mature sound of the Basie band. And so that you can contrast at the base even for example did not have. The care in writing for it that Ellington and his arranger is used in their band. And so it indicates
the many different ways of big band styles and sounds. Next week. Examples primarily in Henderson of the early big band jazz and the impact upon it of musicians from the vigorous stream of New Orleans like Louis Armstrong. You have been listening to the evolution of jazz. I recorded series prepared and produced by Nat Hentoff of the auspices of Northeastern University and presented by the Lowell Institute cooperative broadcasting Council. The evolution of jazz was recorded in the Boston studios of WGBH AF am. This is the national educational radio network.
The Evolution of Jazz
Episode Number
Fats Waller, Part Two
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WGBH Educational Foundation
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University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Episode Description
This program continues to explore the music and influence of Fats Waller.
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
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Waller, Fats, 1904-1943. Works. Selections
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Host: Hentoff, Nat
Producer: Hentoff, Nat
Producing Organization: WGBH Educational Foundation
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University of Maryland
Identifier: 55-32-20 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:29:34
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Chicago: “The Evolution of Jazz; 20; Fats Waller, Part Two,” 1954-03-26, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed April 21, 2024,
MLA: “The Evolution of Jazz; 20; Fats Waller, Part Two.” 1954-03-26. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. April 21, 2024. <>.
APA: The Evolution of Jazz; 20; Fats Waller, Part Two. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from