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Mary Lou Williams performance of the pearls you notice not only and this is true of course of the basi version of 12st draggers contrasts strong. There is not only a change in the beat but in the harmonic development in the use of the jazz idiom. Here then is Mary Lou Williams in Jelly Roll Morton is the pearl. By the end of the recording Mary the Williams original contributions to the composition
in the course of this largely improvs a touring performance become all the more evident. Here is yet another illustration of the evolution of the beat. First a performance by a big spider bank unit of weight on yonder in New Orleans. And then the same song is played some years later by a small unit from the Count Basie band.
Another factor in the evolution of the jazz beat is the fact that the
art of percussion and the degree of skill of the rhythm section as a whole all evolved in the course of jazz history so that later drummers like Joe Jones of the basi band in a big city catholic were more adaptable to new styles to new demands of big band drumming than some of the older men and their technical knowledge increased thereby adding to their flexibility and to the last a city of their beat. Similarly a bass player like Jimmy Blanton was Duke Ellington and a guitarist like Charlie Christian with Benny Goodman and a pianist like Bass himself showed how both relaxing and yet propelling a rhythm section could be how it could swing everyone in the band using the swing as a verb that takes a direct object without driving so much as lifting everyone along on the crest of this positive but always relaxed power. A good example is the way. First of all Benny Goodman was playing in Chicago in 1928 when in a Dixieland group and the limitations I believe on his
playing because of the nature of the rhythm behind it. Unlike many of the Dixie non-musicians Goodman was not satisfied with this form of jazz
and evolved along with the musical language searching experimenting adapting to his needs those parts of the jazz language he could you could see and benefiting by the evolution of the jazz beat. So here is how it sounds in 1940 with fellow band members George all done tenor saxophone Cody Williams who had recently left Duke Ellington to join him on trumpet. But I had Charlie Christian guitar Artie Bernstein bass and Harry Jaeger drums with a guest pianist count basi. Note how free or how much more swinging the rhythm is how it indeed lifts the man especially on the last chorus. This incidentally was originally a Dixieland stand in the Royal Garden blues. Long.
Long. With. Because of the importance of the beat in jazz at the risk of redundancy
I should like to quote the pertinent section from the chapter called The Jazz language in wilder Hobson's. Excellent book American jazz music which has been unfortunately out of print for some time he writes ragtime. Only began to suggest what is possible in suspended rhythms that is rhythm suspended around the basic pulsation. First off beat accents may be a great deal more intricate and sensitive they rendered than they customarily were in ragtime. Syncopation by a subdivision is undoubtedly inevitable that is once a
musician takes pleasure in syncopated quarter notes will tend to go on syncopated sixteenths and so on. Anyone who has seen the tapdancing of Bill Robinson of Fred Astaire over the hand drumming of the dancers Shankar as Hindu musicians will probably realize how subtle syncopated accents may be and going further there is no reason why I suspended rhythm effects should necessarily come from more or less percussive accents. I may also come from what might be called stresses occurring you know melodic line. An example that Hobson suggests of this occurring through stress is in a melodic line that has suspended rhythm effects. Is bunny Berrigan strumpet introduction to Mildred Bailey's recording of squeeze me. Might be well to play that one once again because of its brevity.
The point is that the varying emphasis as well as the percussive accents of a melodic line may have as a general characteristic suspension a round or eccentricity to the beat. This varying emphasis may consist of fluid changes in pitch tone or volume or combinations of the 3 which can be called stresses. A man with a feeling for suspended rhythm will invent melodies in which both accent and stress suspensions are a fluent general principle. That is what the jazz improvisor does with his instrumental singing. In such melodies they suspended rhythmic effect comes out of changes which are at once and inseparably rhythmic
and linear. This kind of music is a particularly striking example of the folly of considering the various aspects of music separately. The vast difference between these subtle jazz rhythms and those of Ragtime is evident to anyone who who has heard the latter in the form of their own mind that the jazz player is not obliged to syncopate Warrens but that his rhythmic conception involves suspension as a general prevailing principle in a jazz band then there are intricate percussive syncopations from what is known as a rhythm section supporting a melodic and harmonic expression from trumpets clarinet saxophones and so on. Which in itself is stress and accent syncopated the whole being elaborately poly Resnick a complex of suspensions from the drums in the back row to the clarinet say in front. Now as we have seen Hobson continues syncopation by accent is nothing recent in music but its use in ragtime was unique to
rock similarly suspended rhythm by stresses as well as accents is nothing recent having appeared in various ways in various kinds of music but its use in jazz is unique to jazz. There are of course literally an infinite number of possible suspended rhythm designs but whatever design he makes the jazz player will always try to do one thing just as they poly rhythmic persistence of the relatively road ragtime syncopations gave listeners a sustained lift. So they probably read Mick persistence of the much subtler jazz suspensions and they have correspondingly subtle effects. The listener may feel a spirited propulsive buoyancy. What might be called a momentum build up with the stress and accent suspensions that is this momentum which the jazz player always tries to achieve which he himself must feel of course before he can communicate it. It may be found in various forums. Having no necessary connection with the mood of gayety which the word buoyancy by itself may
suggest. I hope you heard it in the Bessie Smith blues records. Louis Armstrong somewhere says lightly lightly and politely and the reader may listen to his muted trumpet entrance toward the end of not going to jog which we played in a previous lecture to indicate that aspect of it. Or it may be powerful in driving as in the Mackenzie Condon record of China boy or an album Ammons boogie woogie stop this momentum is the particular life of jazz rhythm it is what is called swing as a verb. Hobson goes on to write about Swain he says. Swing has often been spoken of as if it were an absolute quality. Neither a band swings or it does not but swing will be present to some degree wherever a momentum is build up in suspended rhythms in other words it is not confined to jazz precisely one interest and his point it may for instance be in ragtime and Schumann syncopations in a stairs tapping
and I might add in the poetry of Dylan Thomas or Theodore Redgate. It is not a rare rhythmic achievement. Thousands of Whistler's do it. But like any expressive possibility it may have innumerable forms and it is not surprising that in Western music the most intricate with correspondingly subtle degrees of effectiveness should be in jazz with its poly rhythmic stress and accent suspensions. This emphasis on swing is degree rather than absolute quality. Well of course seem naive to anyone who realizes that any expressive effectiveness is a matter of degree. There is for example no point at which talent becomes genius but English jazz fans actually debated whether Duke Ellington's band really swung and I heard a prominent American critic at Brandeis symposium on jazz state state quite flatly that Harrington's ban did not sway presumably what they meant to ask these English jazz fans was whether it ever played with as powerful a rhythmic drive as some other bands. Perhaps it did not but it certainly swung in its way because the building
up of rhythmic suspensions has always been an integral part of Ellington's efforts as well certainly as of the musicians who have played whether they answer in any event would depend on the listener. As might be expected the degree of swing varies in every jazz performance and in every ear. But there is no one absolute quality of swinging. Here a suggestion may be made as to its extreme propulsive effectiveness as dance music perhaps it is the kind of rhythm most similar to the rhythm of the human body itself which emotion is a momentum of accent and stress suspensions away from or toward positions of balanced rest. Set up such a musical rhythm in other words and a responsive body is bound to vibrate in a sense sympathetically. Somebody is however not very responsive for reasons to vary is to go into here. If the listener doesn't feel the momentum says Hobbs and I do not know what to suggest except more familiarity with the music. If he
does feel it and listens acutely to the playing it should be apparent that the momentum is obtained with fluent nuances. Often that one's rhythmic and linear which obviously could not be indicated in musical notation limited as it is rhythmically speaking to mathematical divisions of the bar and symbols for slight prolongation or diminution of the momentum the jubilant expression of let's say Lester Young improvising and Jeepers Creepers for example comes out of the players feeling and there can be no written notes for the subtleties which make up its value. Chance concludes. Hobson There is no way of learning to play jazz from notes alone.
The jazz drummer of the late Dave tough wrote in metronome writing out the various beats on paper and explaining them as well as one can is I'm afraid a futile procedure. Granted that someone can in this way acquire a considerable technical equipment. The really important things such as taste experience and the feeling for the music are intangible qualities that defy such black and white analysis. Now the reader may get a clearer idea of the nature of the written music which is used in jazz. A jazz score is designed to be rendered with and hence of course to lend itself to the to the UN scorable nuances of jazz rhythm and the playing of it. There is a natural subtle all pervasive alteration of the written note values which throws the music into such a momentum as we have been discussing in the music of Ellington. This is the particular translation of written notes that is characteristic of jazz. As other traditions are feelings about reading characteristic of other kinds of music. It should not be confused with the interpretation of a score for instance such a jazz score as Fletcher Henderson sugar foot stomp will be interpreted
differently by each jazz band that plays it. But all of them well translated into a jazz momentum. On the other hand a group of New York Philharmonic musicians playing the score might interpret it as they wished but the intended life would not be in the music unless they themselves had real empathy with jazz. Between a score is on the playing out then there must be the jazz musician musicians particular instinct for suspended rhythm. Some jazz chords in fact convey only the bare essentials and notation. This was true of many of the bass the arrangements the subtleties of phrasing and accents being worked out at rehearsals or on the job or in the very recording studio. The amount of scoring has in general increased since the early days of jazz. It is only natural that more and more orchestral possibilities should have been explored. But there are good reasons why much of the music is still improvised. In score a jazz that solo passages are usually ad lib. Sometimes the score gives the soloist a melody on which to improvise but very often it gives him only the chord sequence and
in present day many aspects of present day contemporary jazz there are still no score is used except in rather complex numbers. Of course mine solo passages might be written and read with a proper feeling but together with the personal qualities of Royce and invention which are obtained in improvising they momentum which comes out of feeling to begin with naturally tends to increase in spontaneity of spirit and expressive nuance as the player is free to play as he feels at the moment in the improvising of such man as Louis Armstrong Johnny Hodges Frank Lester Young. There is a lyric writer which could come only from men playing as the spirit moved them and which is evident not only in the spirit of their playing but in the subtleties of its design. Though this growing your last US city of the beat that we've been discussing I think the jazz men in all areas of the country and was part of the general
evolution of jazz it is true that Count Basie epitomized it and so many of his early sideman received their jazz apprenticeship in Kansas City in the Midwest and the Southwest. But it might be well to look into the genesis of jazz in that area. Though of course I do not ascribe the swinging beat to Kansas City any more than any other single place. It was an inevitable mark of jazz as growing flexibility and confidence of its performers. It was happening all over the country at the same time as it evolved in the basi units but so well to the basi band swing. Then in recent years when young modern jazz man feeling that some of the rhythmic experiments of early bop experiments will go into at some length became had become unnecessarily complex. These young jazz men would speak as Stan Getz did one night to me about returning as he phrased it it's time to return to the base he beat because
this kind of swinging beat is part of the mainstream of jazz. You have been listening to the evolution of jazz recorded series prepared and produced by Nat Hentoff under 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
Swing, 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 talks about swing and what it means within the parameters of jazz.
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.
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Jazz musicians--United States--Biography.
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Host: Hentoff, Nat
Producer: Hentoff, Nat
Producing Organization: WGBH Educational Foundation
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University of Maryland
Identifier: 55-32-24 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:29:06
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Chicago: “The Evolution of Jazz; 24; Swing, Part Two,” 1954-04-23, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed May 28, 2024,
MLA: “The Evolution of Jazz; 24; Swing, Part Two.” 1954-04-23. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. May 28, 2024. <>.
APA: The Evolution of Jazz; 24; Swing, 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