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The evolution of jazz is. A survey of American art form from Scott Joplin to Lenny Tristan on. 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. Duke Ellington statement of musical principles in the nineteen thirty seven etude may well serve as an introduction to the modern era of jazz he writes and I've taken an
excerpt from the longer article. To me jazz means simply freedom of musical speech. And it is precisely because of this freedom that so many varied forms of jazz exist. The important thing to remember however is that not one of these forums represents jazz by itself. Jazz means simply the freedom to have many forms in its opening the way for many kinds of free musical expression. Jazz is peculiarly American. That's the American character of jazz derives from its freedom rather than from any specifically American line of musical descent. Even the negroid element in jazz turns out to be less African than American. Actually there is no more than essentially African strain in the typical American Negro. Then there is an essentially French or Italian strain in the American of those ancestry. The African beat of rhythm and line of melody have become absorbed in its American environment. It is this that I have tried to emphasize in my own writings in black brown and they have tried to show the development of the Negro in
America. I have shown him as he is supposed to be and has a years. The opening themes of the third movement reflect are supposed to be negro the unbridled noisy confusion of the Harlem Cabaret which must have plenty of atmosphere. That word in quotations if it is to live up to the tourists expectation. But there are by numerical count more churches than cabarets in Harlem. There are more well educated and ambitious Negroes than wastrels. In my fantasy it gradually changes its character to introduce the negro as he is part of America with the hopes and dreams and love of freedom that have made America for all of us. But what has this to do with the development of jazz. Simply this that it requires a great deal more than offbeat rhythms and loud hoots to make jazz. It requires basically two separate kinds of awareness. First the thermal musical awareness that the past 50 years of study development have brought to jazz and in the second place an awareness of the contemporary scene with all its shadings of feelings. When the young jazz musician comes
out of the conservatory has more and more do. He still needs to learn much that cannot be taught by books and mastery. He needs to learn what people are thinking and feeling he needs to adjust to the contemporary Enos of the times and the people whom he wishes to express and for whom he wishes to interpret life and human needs of feeling can change overnight. Hence no doubt the many kinds of jazz freedoms we find it's like moving a person but he looks different. And the many jazz forms we find each with its distinguishing harmonic or stylistic device represent a varying moods or colors of the same human scene. In this sense then it becomes increasingly difficult to say just where the so-called serious music leaves off and jazz begins. Jazz is serious music when it sets itself as earnestly as any other form to explore and to express the feelings and the condition of its time. There is good and worthless jazz just as there is good and bad music in the purely classical or other styles expressive jazz requires as much scholarship as
much musicianship as any other kind of music. In addition it requires a peculiar awareness of form and of the human thoughts and feelings. Those forms express this quotation was from the March 1947 Etude in Arlington an article by Duke Ellington. And jazz also requires as I mean Anderson sang with Ellington in the middle 30s it requires an element called swing. Dancing. Like Dancing.
That. Can. Lead. To. A woman.
The word swing is generally used as a verb by the jazz musicians themselves. It was used as a knock on by the public and some critics to define the bands of the 30s and early 40s principally the white bands like those of Goodman the Dorsey Brothers Harry James Artie Shaw. The only Herman groups and the like. These bands made no original contribution of their own to jazz as had Alington and Henderson and they say now the white bands produced a number of good musicians. They were as you know that's largely derivative when they were of any age as interested all derivative of the negro bands and so I shan't devote much time in this chorus to any but the Benny Goodman orchestra because Goodman by introducing musicians like Hampton Teddy Wilson and later Charlie Christian and to a small units as well as into the large band did contribute something of import to jazz. As I said Swing is used as a verb by jazz musicians. And the quickest and deadliest insult one can inflict on a jazz man. And it still holds
true. Who is to say of him that he does that he doesn't swing what the verb to swing really means. And they point out here that it therefore applies to all of jazz. The whole history of jazz not just of the so-called swing period of the 30s and 40s. That's the use of swing as a noun and I think a rather imprecise vague use of what the verb to swing really means is a subject of much dispute. Musicians themselves often disagree as to whether a certain individual or a certain small unit swing or a large band. So it's a quality that can only be imperfectly translated into words that something one feels about a jazz performance and performer. Duke Ellington once said in an interview swing is an emotional element that enters after the tune starts moving. In other words when a number is right and rolling it's swinging. When it comes out good when the music is right and the men are playing the
way they want to that's jazz and it swings. When you Tristan a contemporary jazz pianist teacher and theorist defines it this way. Swing is the vitality in music in any art form painting poetry everything has to swing. It's the life of the thing. It isn't a question of how steady your time is. When you say someone doesn't swing you really mean there's no life no spirit in what he's doing. The contemporary clarinetist body to Franco rites of jazz as a pulse of music says further that one can speak of swing as having a swinging feel. One can easily imagine a pendulum swinging back and forth with a strict but comparatively free rhythm. If you can absorb that paradox of Francos definition points I believe to one of the basic aspects of swinging that is easy is relaxation. The lack of rigidity when the rhythm in place that as well as explicit of a jazz performance is not relaxed. You get what can be called Drive a kind of high power. Like much of the music of Stan Kenton. But not swinging in the jazz
sense. So a man can be called a relaxed regular but free pulsation the proto Franco writes further that the epitome of the swing feeling is to be found in Count Basie's band. And on that point every young musician I know and most of the older ones agree no long large band not counting the small units the count has led has swung. In this relaxed positive and enormously releasing sense releasing both for performer and listener then the basi band of the late 30s and 40s. We were all familiar I imagine with a song called The Song of the islands which is usually played in a saccharin fashion by pop bands and a dragged out listless tempo. Here is how it swings and a count basi performance. I feel that the rhythmic freedom within the regular swing for four pulsation.
News of the. Morning. Doing. The. Very.
Thing. That. Happened. To. Me. Or he. Or her. Or him.
My own feeling about the best of the basic music is that it's the closest thing to flying while still in the ground. It is of course possible to have always possible to have drive and swing occur simultaneously but the swing is the basic. Necessity. And without a drive alone results in quite inferior music very rigid very on relaxed music. This basically kind of pulsation which was not exclusive with him certainly or with the members of his band that was characteristic of all the best jazz man of the 30s white and Negro marked an evolution in jazz rhythm. Not that Louis Armstrong King Oliver did not swing in the 20s Louis especially continues to swing as much as anybody in jazz more than most. But this is to City of the beat in large band performance and it's greater communal Alasdair city and small band work as well did not occur generally until the 30s. It reflected I think in musicians from all over the country a greater confidence in the use of the jazz idiom and with that
confidence a greater freedom rhythmically as well as melodically and harmonically. New Orleans jazz man and many early jazz musicians from other areas like St. Louis Chicago Kansas City almost always swung from the start. But as we've heard on the early Henderson records it sometimes took jazz performers like those few of those from northern states time to become oriented in jazz rhythm as well as in jazz intonation and phrasing. This was especially true I believe of those like Coleman Hawkins on whose evolution as a jazz man we spent some time men who had fairly extensive classical training in their formative years. It was only through actual jazz performance over a period of time and through listening to other jazz man that a man like Hawkins could feel entirely in context where the pulse rate of nature of jazz. So that in time his beat became elastic
became a swinging beat and he became skilled in the playing around the beat in the building up of rhythms complimentary to the basic pulsation. Those documents further an early point made in this chorus that there is no such thing as racial inheritance of musical proclivities. It's a matter of cultural influence so that Jack Teagarden who had grown up with little formal training but easy access to blues and early Jazz had no difficulty playing with a jazz beat and jazz intonation from the beginning of his career. But Coleman Hawkins had to learn to garden as white Hawkins's negro. It might be well to review the distinction between the basic beat. That is the basic pulsation and the rhythms based on it. Of course this is none of this has anything to do with the Temple which is a matter of how fast or how slow the pulsation is play the beat and the rhythms are played around it can be played in any temple. As you recall in a jazz performance often the only instruments playing regularly on the beat marking
the one two three four or in some Dixieland music and some large music accent in the second and fourth beats in the measure the ones that's hitting the beat regularly are the drums in a string bass guitar and occasionally the piano. The rest of the instruments are playing rhythms variously suspended around the beat anticipating it retarding it eccentric to it in some way often no one of the melody instruments gets on the beat for the entire performance. They feel it and hear it behind them from the drum and bass. The point is that the basic pulsation is always in place and is always part of the feeling of the performance because on it the other rhythms are improvised and sometimes as was also pointed out not even the drum and bass around the beat. But so long as everyone in the band is agreed on what they feel to be the basic pulsation then there is no rhythmic confusion no matter how many complimentary rhythms are devised in the course of the number. And that is why you'll notice that at the beginning of a jazz performance someone in the band the leader usually will stomp off the basic beat
either with his foot or as an Ellington's and bases band on the piano through playing a fragment of the song to come. And that's the foundation for what will happen in the white Dixieland music that came from New Orleans jazz. The beat was often called in a very overgeneralized way to beat this was much less applicable to the original New Orleans jazz as played in New Orleans and later in Chicago by men like Louis Armstrong. You may recall baby dogs the drummer for King Oliver and Louis saying in an earlier lecture that in the Oliver band he played or more accurately he accented two beats to the measure on fast tunes and played four on slow numbers. Louis Armstrong wanted four no matter how fast the tempo his mind said Baby worked into but he was quick enough to improvise with the four behind him whereas Oliver was more comfortable in to Quakertown bones. The jazz played in Harlem the jazz of the large negro bands and the cans of the late Kansas City units and
that of modern jazz has been called again in an over simplified Apple appellation for jazz. A positive for beats to the measure. Generally an accented capable of infinite rhythmic variation and especially in modern jazz drumming of infinite cross accentuation that is the basic pulse as an accent but the X accents on that can be quite complex as well here but at base for an accented beats and this was the common jazz beat of the 30s and 40s with of course many exceptions. Another drummer beside Baby Dodds explained it this way in so called to beat the accent is on the after beat on the second and fourth beats in the bar which leads to heavy anticipations in BASIC for a beat are evenly accented to beat perhaps originated with two for marches March tempo is usually two beats to the measure. Many of the marches were used as one steps and two steps in early jazz played for dancing blues or
dragons usually played more slowly were written and straightforward for a time or at least played that way. If a drummer could or would read he played for even beats to the measure if he couldn't or wouldn't he felt for beats anyway. For me the drummer added Dixey then jazz calls for an open rhythmic pattern with the second and fourth beats usually accented. I say usually because often a drummer can enhance the whole by improvising himself and substituting a further syncopated background to complement the basic pulsation. Actually to be precise about this here I have to hear 4 foreign Dixieland especially when played by musicians with a background in other forms of jazz. You can hear it too for in some modern jazz or in the big band jazz of the 30s for example the early Kansas City units were largely to beat as was the later Jimmy Lunsford orchestra in large part. But in general the music of the non Dixieland bands of the 30s and 40s and into the 50s was basic
for a beat. Jazz men like to vary the rhythmic patterns in the basic policy at stations on which they're based so that there is no one set of generalisations. I've pointed out all these possible variations from the norm. At the risk of confusing you just to point out that there is no hard set kind of group categorization and setting up what beat is played for what kind of logic. I'll have more to say later about some of the advanced rhythmic patterns of contemporary jazz but. It may be interesting to hear in musical terms how this use of rhythm evolved in jazz. Here's a record of 12 Street rag made in the 20s with Louis Armstrong and baby daughter. It's always swings just as much in it as Lester Young in the count basi version of the same tune you'll hear after it. But the elasticity of the rhythm of the rhythm section especially is less evident in the earlier performance of the twenties.
In the late 30s this version of the same tune was made by basing the rhythm section begins with a brief parody of The Ricky take way the song is often played by people like peewee hunt. It is not a parody of the Armstrong performance because the basic musicians knew well that their own music was based on what happened before them through the contributions of men like Armstrong and baby dives. But look or rather listen to the way the Beat had changed by the late thirties. Do. You.
Think it's OK. For them to. Move. To if they don't go to them day to day. But they have a very good at it. The way of the world I am one of them. In a. Way I Am.
Just happy to have transferred Magneto's who's played a classic and I am strong difference in the ecstasy of a big fight as much unknowns. If it had been reported this narrative. ARE YOU KIDDING ME machine and I the tempo of jazzy piece three or three variations and him changes his if a complex or just as varied rather acknowledge as ever work experience. Yeah. This evolution this change in the jazz beat can also be heard in
The Evolution of Jazz
Episode Number
Swing, Part One
Producing Organization
WGBH Educational Foundation
Contributing Organization
University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Episode Description
This program talks about swing and what it means within the parameters of jazz.
Other 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.
Media type
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Host: Hentoff, Nat
Producer: Hentoff, Nat
Producing Organization: WGBH Educational Foundation
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 55-32-24 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:29:50
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Chicago: “The Evolution of Jazz; 24; Swing, Part One,” 1954-04-23, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed December 2, 2021,
MLA: “The Evolution of Jazz; 24; Swing, Part One.” 1954-04-23. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. December 2, 2021. <>.
APA: The Evolution of Jazz; 24; Swing, 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