thumbnail of The Evolution of Jazz; 19; Early New York Jazz, Part Two
Hide -
If this transcript has significant errors that should be corrected, let us know, so we can add it to FIX IT+
Dream represents a survival from the ragtime era of the 89 days in its form the form called by musicians the slow drag the slow drag arriving in technique from blues piano style both in its blue harmonies and its drag rhythm. And as an illustration I believe of perhaps some of the first intermingling of the blues with a ragtime in very early New York jazz. The pianists in this professional and social context had to know and not only how to play softly but they also had to have a fairly thorough knowledge of keys of harmonies. Whether scholastically or by ear they had to have a solid left hand and had to produce more than a thumping bass on the right hand had to contribute imaginative phrasing and quite intricate melodic patterns. It was all the better if the pianist was a blues singer as well and the aforementioned Jack the bear apparently
is a legendary example of the height of this kind of fusion. He was an intuitive pianist himself but he nonetheless gave James P. Johnson some valuable instruction and he created. So we are told very unusual harmonies. Jack the bear like many well-known ragtime pianists and vocalists of that time. I don't quite know what whether to call them pre jazz or early jazz used to make the Harlem circuit and that meant not only touring the cabarets but also the parlor so shows where an important segment of hollow musical life had a proving ground. There are pianists and to some extent the early instrumentalists were able to perform an experiment so they probably socials to some extent did provide a incubated for later Highland band jazz as well as for the pianists. It might be well hear it to describe the rent party and parlor social which occurred
simultaneously in cities like Chicago as well as New York where it provided a setting for the development of boogie woogie particularly in Chicago as well as the other forms of party piano. As Ready blackish describes this social phenomenon in Chicago from 1910 to about 1933 the city became the center of the great Northwood industrial migration of the negroes and thereby a meeting place for a barrel house and boogie woogie player he's the great South Side institution of rent party known in Chicago a skiffle shake a percolator run by the landlady paid the rent by the proceeds from the sale of home cooked food and bootleg liquor and was the scene of gambling dancing and a good time in general. The social affairs of a submerged under privileged and partly expatriate dark population where the haven of the piano blues players who are making the rounds of the innumerable scuffles subsisted on the free food and drink and allied steps
from those who emerged as winners in the gambling encounter is at their height in the 1920s these parties kept together the bodies and souls of several hundred players native Chicagoans like Dan Bradley met players from other sections of the country. Some of whom are well known through their later records like Montana Taylor while others like men who are called the toothpick playing Tom Detroit Red and the £375 James Hemingway have disappeared. Surviving only as legends as you can see both in Chicago and New York and other allied cities. These parties socials these rent parties enabled pianos from various sections of the country to trade ideas and trade influences. Dan Burley recreates here an example of a rent party piano.
At about the same time in New York James P. Johnson was playing this kind of party.
It's in Harlem in the parlor so show was often a means of raising funds for church groups. The rent party idea took hold there later but the power social also came to be exploded by gangs who offer it as shows that would Smith describes it to mind the door and were not to be dissuaded. James Payne was one of the first on the poller social scene. Fats Waller out of knee pants at an early age to join him. Tatum from Toledo Ohio. Well Eli and Smith were either Pilar or social pioneers. Usually the entrance fee was nominal often as low as 25 cents and the real money was made on food and drinks with often a kitty for the talent present. The food was dished out buffet style in the kitchen with the music in the parlor and gets everywhere. When the committee of fourteen Highlands equivalent of the watch and ward society at that time objected to the Party's continued guests returning quietly
after the curfew. Then the drums and piano were played very softly until dawn and perhaps later as at the breakfast party which later for the breakfast dance which later sprouted forth from the parlor social and musical talent. Now these socials was highly capable quite varied aside from the pianists and the muffled drummers. There was Christmas a blind harmonica player who used to pool water through the reeds of his instrument which then played double. Perhaps one of the first chromatic harmonicas whistling read was another member of the circuit. He whistled ragtime through his teeth and as someone recalled admiringly like a Mockingbird as the jazz era flower and jazz bands became part of the local scene. The entertainers during the evening might also include renowned instrumentalists and singer it's Bessie Smith would wander in accompanied perhaps by big Charlie Green from the Henderson orchestra and his trombone. And during the section
on the big band jazz I'll play an example of Bessie Smith and a rent party one of Duke Ellington's early Highland memories when he had reached the city from Washington where he was born was when he was allowed to trail along on these pianistic excursions as he recalls the cry it's Libby and James P. is with me was the open sesame to almost any house and of such rich and occasionally hectic material was the molding of the early New York jazz. Ross Russell continues the story of James P. Johnson providing other aspects of New York musical life of this era. During the teen years of the century Johnson worked steadily at various bright spots satisfying the patrons and at his own style expanding and tightening it so that by the time of the jazz boom he was able to emerge a full fledged also. Immediately following the epoch making rise in the way both stand
of the Original Dixieland Jazz Band that we mentioned before the band of white imitators of the New Orleans musicians Johnson took advantage of the boom that they started. He formed a band and played a job at a club called The Quest club. This combination fronted by and featuring Johnson at the keyboard made a long stand there and helped establish the reputations of most of the men in it in terms of New York. When the date finally expired of the music as musicians drifted away organized bands of their own Johnson decided to explore a fresh medium for him but one that was familiar to many of the New Orleans musicians that a vaudeville hero he found himself in competition with a popular feature of the four a day circuit in a Professor Benjamin Harney billed as the outstanding exponent of ragtime piano James P. Johnson accepted the challenge and after a single season it overhauled the professor in popularity. He played the circuit for several years finding time meanwhile to launch hit tunes of his own composition. Swinging back to New York City in the palace just
after the armistice Johnson heard of a new field one which was soon to feel the full force of his talons colored musical comedy is tailored for road show consumption. We're usurping the place of minstrel company. Johnson talked his way into the musical directorship of an elaborate production to be known as Dudley smart set. After writing many of the lyrics and rehearsing the numbers Johnson went on successful tour with a show covering much of the south and west 19 20 found him back in New York again. James Reese Europe had just returned from the continent and was reorganizing the band for a day in domestic exploitation the band that he had led in Europe and Europe asked Johnson to take over the piano the offer combined with his own urge to play live music once more was too much for James P. to ignore He accepted and the band went into the class club for a long engagement. During this period James P. made his first piano player rolls for and Pico and he only and he only ends where he cut his first piano rolls in
1969. He met George Gershwin. Later they worked on the same shows in New York and in London. Johnson writing the colored tunes and Gershwin The Wright Gershwin never however absorbed the jazz idiom and his written attempts in the jazz language. Our lives the curiosity value today in 1921 James P. Johnson was approached by the larger companies signed to make rows exclusively for them this indicates the popularity of piano player roles at the time and he was included on the in the repertoire of the company as what was then termed a race featured alongside the row Coco but immensely popular efforts of non jazz performers like Phil Allman and conferee. So far Johnson had never waxed a phonograph record though he had made the piano player rolls. But this was soon to come for the phonograph companies that tap the field Roger that reached by the piano rolls. Once the Original Dixieland Jazz Band records it tested public receptivity conferee
and Johnson were one away from the QR is concerned. Victor is soon advertised by each of its ever expanding catalog and James P. Johnson's first victim pressing was bleeding hearted ludes the popularity of the record perhaps the first jazz piano solo on record as attested by other releases which followed in 1922 and succeeding years on OK Columbia Brunswick black swan and other competing labels the reason I devote time to the recorded history the early recorded history of jazz both here and previously in Chicago is because of the enormous importance of the record in jazz not only in making jazz music. Throughout the country and to younger musicians who are to be influenced by it because of the improvisational nature of jazz the fact that some of the better performances have been only able to be captured on record at that time. Record dates for James P. Johnson were merely a useful source of side money like song royalties. He was better known as the composer of the original Charleston
of old fashioned love and several other. Works. Most of these tunes were workaday products tailored to suit the needs of colored review. For Johnson was still active chiefly in this field. He also did skits and lyrics for production shows it for Ziegfeld Carroll Schubert and for the cotton crop. One of his road shows plantation days did so well in America but it was booked for an extended tour of Europe. Johnson was several months in England and the continent. Back in America he was attracted to Hollywood by a lucrative offer to do the musical score for a motion picture production starring Bessie Smith. A short production he had already done a great deal of work with her as Toon Smith an accompanist both on the road and for record dates as in the backwater blues that we played on an earlier lecture devoted to the blues. After his scoring had been accepted he remained in Hollywood long enough to play a supporting part in the picture. There is no need for the purposes of this course to keep up with James P. Johnson during the 20s.
There was always something to absorb his interest and manifold talents I knew show to be rehearsed sides for Columbia showed engagements his band pianists recording dates with Ethel Waters a jam session at the rhythm club where men like Ellington Claude Hopkins Fats Waller and Willie the Lions spoke of going to get their lessons from the grandfather James P.. He had other shows in production for the road he did a show out in Hollywood. He sat in uptown with expired back Frankie trombone or Louis Armstrong and always the house rent parties and the Chitlin struts. Looking back Ross Russell concludes we are impressed mainly in the man's music. His records and the influence of his piano. But these things were no more than threads in a larger pattern. We wonder how his records. Piano managed to escape the taint of commercialism. How we avoided becoming a conferee of Gershwin of Irving Berlin how the slender threads in the disorganized pattern came to
acquire a lasting form and color after the rest of the picture and blew it off. Jimmy wonders himself if he has succeeded in salvaging something of value from the hectic to successful career he believes he owes it to his unflagging interest in after hours music as busy as he still had time or found time to play at a house rent party or a jam session. A man with a tremendous vitality could relax at activities which exhaust another. And so James P. went uptown to get his kicks to become revitalized in his use of the jazz language. And that's why you will often find jazz musicians welcoming even after a very arduous late hour as an engagement welcoming a chance to perform at improvised sessions where they can reenergize their sense of the jazz idiom for a time of James P. Johnson was Thomas Fats Waller. Born in 19 for Fats Waller like James P. Johnson received his
first training in music from his mother. He followed James P. Johnson's example of grounding himself soundly in piano technique in musical theory studying composition at a later age with Carl Boehm and piano with Leopold Gadhafi. His first public appearance was at the age of 10 when he played an organ solo at his father's Abass Indian Baptist Church. From a part time job running errands offense at 14 sat for the first time at the console of the Wurlitzer grand organ a $23 a week after that came work on piano play a role similar to the jobs James P. Johnson had for James P. was Fat's main formative influence. Both work dates toward vaudeville with blues singers like Bessie Smith the father of a clergyman used to say the jazz was music for the devil's workshop and his ardent wish was for Thomas to become a minister. However he was secretly pleased with the success of Fats Waller as the years went on. Perhaps feeling with the author Frank
O'Connor that the devil shouldn't have all the tunes. Though an immensely gifted musician Fats Waller never took jazz or himself very seriously. Perhaps the one thing he did cherish considerable regard for was the organ and he hoped someday to retire from the round of night club dates and devote his time to that instrument and to composing as a popular composer he wrote many first rate songs. He had a melodic gift that I believe was superior to that of Gershwin in terms of the popular song. He wrote songs like black and blue Honeysuckle Rose squeeze me. I'm going to sit down to write myself a letter writing this behaving keeping out of mischief now. I have a feeling I got a feeling I'm falling and many others. He was a very congenial man exceedingly generous and aside from being a superlative jazz pianist the outstanding showman I would think of the past two or three generations. The Showman of taste. And yet of immense a typical inventiveness occasionally his good humored equilibrium was upset. There was a time he
was approached by a youngest jazz fan around Broadway and 50th Street who wanted to know who played this or that chorus on such and such a record made many many years ago. That's shattered and walked as fast as he could across the street boarded a north bound street car fell asleep and when he awakened at 100 Third Street realized that his current chauffeur was still downtown he met a friend whom he groused about this concluding with a. Remark I knew I shouldn't have gone down there on Broadway. It was Fats Waller as I mentioned at the beginning of the Course who is said to have been asked by the well-meaning and very interested lady. Just what is this jazz. And who answered it. You'll have to ask you'll never know. A contention which this course is trying to disprove that jazz like any other form of music is subject to analysis and the more one understands about its background and techniques the more of one can enjoy its multi faceted pleasures.
Here is a piano player role recording made by Thomas Fats Waller in 1923 when he was very much under the influence of James P. Johnson and here is an example of how he transformed a show tune of that to hear. It ain't nobody's business if I do. I am. I am
I am. I am. I am.
I am I am. I am. Well there is an illustration of the later development of his piano style
and of another factor. Here is a recording of it's a sin to tell a lie. And this other factor is this. Like Louis Armstrong and many other jazz men who have at times been asked to sing commercial songs for record companies. That's why I had a sardonic disdain for most of the more idiotic lyrics and expressed this disdain by his parody treatment in jazz language for example.
Then you know the way I live. I've not yet managed to break. Any. Get on out. You're not wanted.
Very noticeable there was the extension of the left hand technique acquired from James P. Johnson who in turn we acquired it from his ragtime background. It's extension both in mobility and in its incorporation into the more direct jazz language of Thomas Waller. Next week more remarks about Fats Waller a tracing of the piano influence from James P. to waller to Art Tatum to Bud Powell and then an indication of the early years of big band jazz in New York in the 20s in the Fletcher Henderson band. To be followed by the impact on that band of Louis Armstrong and the New Orleans tradition. You've been listening to the evolution of jazz. I recorded series prepared and produced by Nat Hentoff under the auspices of Northeastern University and presented by the
The Evolution of Jazz
Episode Number
Early New York Jazz, Part Two
Producing Organization
WGBH Educational Foundation
Contributing Organization
University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
If you have more information about this item than what is given here, or if you have concerns about this record, we want to know! Contact us, indicating the AAPB ID (cpb-aacip/500-3x83p219).
Episode Description
This program discusses the emergence of jazz in New York, focusing on Fats Waller.
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--New York (State)--New York.
Media type
Embed Code
Copy and paste this HTML to include AAPB content on your blog or webpage.
Host: Hentoff, Nat
Producer: Hentoff, Nat
Producing Organization: WGBH Educational Foundation
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 55-32-19 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:29:06
If you have a copy of this asset and would like us to add it to our catalog, please contact us.
Chicago: “The Evolution of Jazz; 19; Early New York Jazz, Part Two,” 1954-03-19, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed June 25, 2022,
MLA: “The Evolution of Jazz; 19; Early New York Jazz, Part Two.” 1954-03-19. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. June 25, 2022. <>.
APA: The Evolution of Jazz; 19; Early New York Jazz, 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