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The evolution of jazz. A survey of America Mark from Scott Joplin to Lenny Tristan. The evolution of jazz is 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 toward the end of last week's program I was mentioning some of the omissions in the course of a series of lectures because they were not particularly germane to the basic.
It is depicting the evolution of jazz. I said nothing for example in the chorus about the attempt to revive the Dixieland New Orleans form of music in this country in Europe and Australia. At least I didn't say anything in any detailed forum. Young man backed by critics and collectors would be all that jazz deteriorated after the twenties or to feel that the Dixieland whirl in style is the noblest form of the art.. I have tried with great sincerity to effect a renaissance of the New Orleans style. We attempt has not succeeded succeeded musically although it has given much pleasure to thousands of people and has led listeners new to jazz to become interested in exploring the forum and its later developments more fully. Since this New Orleans Dixieland revival is particularly prevalent in the colleges it is germane I think to say something about it here. Succinctly Sidney Finkelstein wrote this attempt at Restoration brings back a beautiful music
no longer creative because its social environment no longer exists. Let me expand that more firmly by quoting from an article I wrote on the subject. Homer Simeon though born in Chicago was one of the last of the major clarinetists in the New Orleans tradition and he expressed the opinion in a conversation that when he and New Orleans born or influenced musicians of his age group he is now in his late 40s early 50s are no longer playing New Orleans jazz as a living spontaneous form of jazz expression would be dead. Paul Barber and who recently brought his New Orleans band East has expressed the same view. These men are not egocentric So what they're saying is a basic however painful fact of jazz life. We have probably the last generation that will have a chance to hear a real New Orleans jazz. And I'm surprised it's still necessary to point this out. You had the presence of so many New Orleans bands not only here but in England France Holland Italy and Australia as
well as the fierce polemics in the periodicals devoted to jazz purists indicate the fallacy that New Orleans jazz can remain alive persists. The classic statement of this fallacy was given in a magazine interview by Conrad Janice who was leader of one of the best known of the revival units. He said New Orleans jazz is great. I don't want to improve it. I just want to keep it great. And I'm sure you meant that. Well the first part of the statement There is no disagreement. But let us further define New Orleans jazz. It was a largely unselfconscious urban folk music generated from a multitude of sources. His early practitioners had little idea they were helping to create an art form. They were primarily searching for their own original means of musical communication. In doing so musicians formulated a new musical language in a sense this language was inextricably connected with the socio economic cultural and psychological background of these men. When psychological and
environmental conditions changed the language changed and the jazz language as I hope we've demonstrated in the course of the previous 39 hours has continued to change as it must because jazz is essentially a personalized music for interpreter as well as composer and the jazz musician is both at the same time and he communicates what he has experienced as a person he cannot but be influenced by the whole contemporary context of his life and his musical language is continually modified accordingly. The man born and brought up in New Orleans 30 to 40 years ago can still speak meaningfully in the New Orleans musical language. As can those who learned it elsewhere in the country 30 and 40 years ago because they learned it naturally as an organic part of their lives. They're young imitators though are just that. They copy. They do not create because you cannot create as a jazz man by using a language that is not your own. Or as Oma simian puts it When you copy the credit if there is
any goes to the man or man you're copying you're not creating anything yourself. I would add that it does small credit to the man who pioneered a form of music based on individuality to try to be inevitably inferior copies of them which is not to say that there is a contemporary jazz performer composer cannot find many elements of value in the New Orleans style but to. Use that style exclusively with no regard to a seeming cognisance of all that has happened to the jazz language since is equivalent to a contemporary classical composer writing only in the style of an old saddle Haydn. Despite the sincerity then of the revival there is it is impossible to as Conrad Jana's put it keep New Orleans jazz great. It has just about run its course. It will always remain as part of the basic structure on which jazz will continue to change and grow. But the activities of those who are strenuously trying to reactivate the New Orleans style can contribute nothing positive to jazz. They can certainly delight themselves and their
followers but their relationship to living jazz and even to their own goals will continue to be a static one. I've also not spoken in this course of the state of jazz criticism perhaps because of the youth of the art. It's rap video evolution and the incessant struggle by both musicians and supporters of jazz to bring it to the intention to the attention of the wider public. Perhaps because of all these factors and many others emotional stances have been more characteristic of writing about jazz than a considered musical judgments based on a set of well established still viable criteria. In terms of periodical literature the best criticism I know of is to be found in the French magazine Jazz Hot edited by discography Shiloh's De Launay. It's address and it's spelled J A Z Z hyphen t its address is 14 Rue shop ta Paris
9 C H A P T. Though there are exceptions its general level of analysis historical as well as musicological is high. The English magazines jazz Journal the more heterogeneous Melody Maker are often valuable. There are German Italian many South American magazines there's a new English language magazine published in Bombay for Japanese magazines but not being that it extended a linguist I cannot comment on them not having been able not having read them. In this country the three leading magazines on the subject are the record changer downbeat and metronome. The record changer has featured a number of outstanding articles of history and analysis covering the entire jazz field from pre jazz influences to the Russell Roth series on BOP. I quoted from extensively in the lectures on that phase of early modern jazz. The attitude of the changes editors toward contemporary jazz however is limited by the
fact that they are in the forefront of the revivalists of the New Orleans style and have little sympathy with the modernists downbeat is partly a trade magazine for the musician and increasingly a journal for the general audience. It's news coverage of the jazz world is the most complete of any magazine and it has long been source material for historians and both here and abroad. It also features occasional historical and analytical articles and is of particular interest for the fact that it has frequent Frank interviews with the jazz musicians themselves and their articulate statements concerning their art are generally of great value. As an example there has been a recent series in the magazine called the jazz scene today with illuminating Lee provocative articles by Dave Brubeck buddy to Franco and Earl Hines. Metronome too is a forum for the jazz musician down me by the way it is published twice a month metronome once a month. Metronome occasionally also has articles that probe sources as well as surface phenomena. But for the serious
student while these magazines are extremely important in providing a continuing knowledge of the course of jazz none of the three for me has been as helpful as the French magazine jazz hot for depth of perspective. Yet a cautionary note because of the distance of jazz hot from the actual scene that magazine too has defects. Some of them serious due to some odd misconceptions of various aspects of jazz actuality as viewed from parents. So for a balanced picture of both the American and the French publication should be read. Only a beginning has been made an informed perceptive socio psychological writing on jazz. It's mores the nature of its practitioners and its audience. Such a writer as Anatole Broyard had he who has had articles on the subject in commentary and the Partisan Review. I disagree with many of his conclusions but he is extremely stimulating
writer in this important field. It's to be hoped that the projected quarterly magazine of the Institute of Jazz Studies will further develop this aspect of writing about jazz. In terms of the large circulation general magazines both here and abroad jazz has been subject to an almost continuous misrepresentation. Some of it unashamedly intentional. Life magazine's articles on BOP emphasize the eccentric dress and language of the fringe element of BOP of history and I know it's a very small percentage of the total paid no attention to the musical importance of the phenomenon. And it's not related in any sense to the jazz tradition articles in the slick magazines like mine was Al in the Saturday Evening Post. I have been serious distortions of the nature of jazz and quite likely have done the form much harm among people otherwise UN oriented. Time magazine however should be commended for frequent relatively informed articles on contemporary developments in jazz. So even the time writers occasionally lapse into a
condescending style of writing on the subject. The New Yorker has printed able of somewhat exaggerated profiles of Duke Ellington and Dizzy Gillespie. The front of the magazine capsule descriptions of the current weekly jazz scene in New York I might add are thoroughly unreliable in terms of value judgments. They're very polite. The and very uninformed the names and places are accurate enough. And when Wilder Hobson was one of the editors of Fortune magazine that Journal had an article of worth on Duke Ellington and as I recall covered other aspects of the jazz scene. By and large however newspaper and general magazine coverage of jazz has been uninformed and all too often deformed. In terms of books on the subject there is yet to appear a sound analytical volume from the strictly musical perspective of some value however in terms of the morphology of some pre-modern jazz is Winthrop Sargent's jazz hot and hybrid as say our
GNT published by Dutton. It has recently been reissued and contains much of interest of an early jazz poly rhythm scalar structure and harmony. His conclusion however that jazz is a closed limited cycle is absurd and comes from the fact that Sargent never knew very much about the evolution of jazz. He wrote the jazz for example and he wrote the jazz when it was in a state of immediate will decline in 1938. I think this course has shown how wrong he was. An early book however the May I say again of the musical examples of poly rhythm are though incomplete. Quite interesting. An early book that has become a classic of anecdotal historical writing on jazz is jazz man edited by Frederick Ramsey Jr. as he y and Charles Edward Smith published I believe by hardcourt Harcourt Brace. I'm not quite sure it's a collection of articles on various phases of jazz. Up to the jazz of the 30s and is essential reading for anyone interested in
jazz history. So is Charles Edward Smith's book The Jazz Record book published by Smith and derail. Do you are you. This contains an admirably concise history of jazz up to the 30s as well as an as an analysis of several hundred major jazz recordings up to and through the 30s and other relatively early book of much merit. Out of print but still available and some second hand bookstore is his wilder Hobson's Hill BSL and wilder Hobson's American jazz music published by W. W. Norton company. It's especially valuable for its basic handling of the description of the early jazz language. This too has a list of early records a collection of essays of varied interest is from tears of jazz edited by Ralph to toll Donald d e t o l e d a et all published by Oliver Darrelle incorporated. It contains the 1999 as Dan so may article in full in the view of all man
Dunsany Vishay along with a number of other variable evaluable investigations from Boogie Woogie to Duke Ellington a magnificent introduction to the music of Jelly Roll Morton and early New Orleans jazz as Alan Lomax his book Mr Jelly Roll published by dual Sloan and Pearce in large part it's a transcription of Jelly Roll Morton Library of Congress reminiscences with connecting sections by Lomax based on interviews and research. The Jelly Roll Morton Library of Congress recordings themselves with excellent illustrations by Morton on the piano are available in a series of I think 12 12 inch long playing records on the circle label and many hitherto out of print early jazz recordings have been reissued on a label called Riverside and also by Columbia in the Louis Armstrong story. The spider backstory and Bessie Smith story each a collection of three to four long playing records. For a general history Dave
Dexter's jazz cavalcade is worth looking through. One of the best of the autobiographies is Eddie Condon's we called it music edited by the late Thomas grew with connecting historical sections vies to grow is published by Holt and serves as a valuable description of the Chicago Jazz men and their latest progress in New York which I did not go into in any great detail in this course because they did not have in general there were exceptions like Bud Freeman. But in general once they left Chicago they did not contribute much of import to the evolution of jazz. Another autobiography this one widely publicized both here and abroad to the heart of jazz is far less reliable called really the blues it was told by mezz measure older professional writer Bernard Wolfe. Now Israel has never been even close to being a major jazz musician. His personal life and character are not were not high not as he seems to try to indicate representative of that of other jazz men. The book is of no value whatsoever to an understanding of jazz and I suspected to be
more of a novel than an autobiography and not a very good novel. In terms of modern jazz very little has been written as yet in book form when it feathers inside bebop published and I paper covered edition by JJ robins and sons incorporated are all B.B. ins. He's valuable for the early history of Bob brief biographical descriptions of some of the leading practitioners and contains a section of musical analysis of the changes in the jazz language brought about in blocks. The chapters on cool jazz and other forms of contemporary jazz and Barry Ulanov history of jazz in America published by the Viking Press are the best available in book form. In fact the only I think on this most recent period of jazz history the earlier sections of his book. However particularly those on pre jazz history that one is inexcusable and part of those on New Orleans Jazz are sorely inadequate. But starting with the section on cool jazz that much of value can be gained from the book.
The best single monograph on pre jazz history though it is not wholly accurate is the one that I utilized extensively in the early lectures in this course. Ernest Borneman is an anthropologist looks at jazz its title in England as a critic looks at jazz it's been published in pamphlet form both here and in England. I don't know how it can be obtained now though the record changer magazine may have copies and it can probably be ordered through an English bookseller. It may be well to give the address of the record changer magazine 4:59 LaSalle Street L A S A L L E New York 27. Of particular both for a list of the pamphlets they do have. And in terms of back issues I would especially recommend any of you interested in further pursuing jazz historiography to ask for the July August 1953 issue which is devoted entirely to the Institute of Jazz Studies and contains some preliminary investigations on
jazz research. The July August 1953 issue of the record changer metronome and downbeat can be obtained in most music stands in the French magazine jazz heart can be obtained in this country naturally only by subscription. The English pelican book on jazz which I find has had wide circulation in this country as well as in England. It is by Rex Harrison is unfortunate. It's early pages are a fair summary almost entirely derivative of some pre jazz history and some of the facets of jazz in New Orleans. I don't mind it being derivative because most of this chorus has been a synthesis of other people's material with I trust some original redirections of my own but I do resent the fact that there are so few credit lines in this to Harrison's book. The general tone of the book is that of a jazz purist who believes that jazz deteriorated after the thirties and that its only hope of
one of its main hopes was and in the New Orleans revival movement. It's too bad pelican books did not publish other viewpoints on the subject or better yet a more balanced book by an English writer like let's say Steve race. One of the better critics on the continent. In France there is an occasionally interesting but not important book by an odd move on Mon. I didn't pronounce that correctly it's a g u v e l m a n as it's called will be bought published by that day. He d i t i o n s D E L A N A N G E T I M that I hold their age o d e i r has been working on a book which may already have been published. There should be extremely valuable because of how it is maturity and knowledge in 1945 you wrote an introduction to jazz published by the hoose in Paris. L A R U S S E. I haven't read this and so
can't comment on it. His name again is on the day. Hold there h o d e i r He's a very valuable critic he writes incidentally generally the jazz section in the excellent monthly French magazine devoted almost entirely except for that section and a few others to classical recordings called the discs. Other books by Europeans like the French German and I ca the Belgian Hallberg ofa have been valuable in that they stimulate an interest in jazz both in America and in Europe but in view of more balanced and later work on the subject they are of limited use now. Semi autobiographies of Louis Armstrong and Benny Goodman have been published but are not of especial value Woodman's is called The Kingdom of swing. I'm strong that swing that music of the two Armstrongs is the more worth looking into. A louis has been writing his own autobiography I mean all by and completely by himself without the often
egregious help of a ghost writer. He's been writing this for some years and when published that should be of much interest. Scheduled for publication soon is what may be the first thoroughly competent general history of jazz. It's been written in part. One time again from a Guggenheim Grant. It will be called main streams of jazz or something like that and it's being written by Professor Marshall Stearns who has been a great aid to the development of jazz historiography and is chiefly responsible for the formation of the Institute of Jazz Studies. The best single book on jazz so far and I believe that we've probably read most of it and in the course of this series. He has neither a detailed history nor a musicological study. It's a remarkably successful summary I believe of the evolution of the art form from New Orleans on though its account of pre jazz influences are much too limited. The author has empathy remarkable empathy for a jazz critic for all forms of jazz from the beginnings to the present.
I've quoted extensively from it. It's called Jazz a people's music and is by Sidney think Stein and was published in 1948 by the Citadel Press. The book was a surprise much of think earlier work on classical music was fatally marred by his rigid Marxist preconceptions. Fortunately he has either evolved out of them or he abandoned them for the purpose of this book because except for very few peripheral instances which I have taken the gratuitous liberty of excising from the quotations. The book is free of such dogmatic twisting of cultural history. This may not seem very democratic but I suggest you read the book in its entirety. I saw no reason for including in quotations parts that seem to me of no value and often of considerable error. It is well written and contains a fairly good list of
recommended recordings as well. And again it is the best single book I know of on jazz jazz a people's music by Sydney Finkelstein published in 1948 by the Citadel Press. There have been other books of less value than those cited. Well let me point out also one of considerable value by body to Franco is a little pamphlet called a new approach to modern music has some degree of musical illustration both rhythmic and harmonic and is available for nothing at almost any music store because it is put out by the Leblanc people in Wisconsin. As an artifact might be possible to write directly to Z LeBlanc company Ali b l k can o show Wisconsin KDE and Os age a. They put it out not entirely as a public service they have to manufacture the kind of clarinet that Mr. de Franco uses.
There have been other books of less value as I say but it may well be that some of the narrative escaped my attention. In any case much remains to be done in the field of jazz historiography and psychosocial logical writing. May I again say that the aim of the use of material in this course has been to synthesize it whenever I have not faithfully reflected an author's idea I have said so and all emendations including those in Finkelstein's book have been quite obviously made so that in any case the synthesis so far as it has succeeded or not succeeded is my own culpability and not that of any of the writers I have quoted. To conclude this course then on the evolution of jazz I'd like to bring together for quotations one is by Duke Ellington made in Paris a few
years ago made as a matter of fact when the Parisian audience has proven audiences I want to do was quite blatantly disrespectful of the music they were hearing and were very unsympathetic with some of the contemporary developments of the Ellington idiom. And so I went and said Jazz in terms of an interviewer asked him if he were betraying his own style or his own definitions. He said Jazz cannot be limited by definitions or by rules. Jazz is above all a total freedom to express oneself with one single definition of this music is possible. This is it. Had I given that quotation at the beginning of the chorus it might have been might have seemed quite vague and of little aid in understanding the nature of the medium. I hope that in the context of the material we have covered it now attained some level of meaning jazz is not anarchy and some people will never listen to it with any care or seem to think. But it is an extremely personal and free free with informed free method of musical
communication. Another aspect of jazz to be remembered as it is its continuity of both performer and tradition and its constant search for fresh ways of helping the language evolve. I should say continuity of performer within tradition. This is what Mary Williams who more than and perhaps any other single figure in jazz has been in the forefront of each new stage in jazz evolution had to say in answer to a question from Charles De Launay of jazz hot magazine. The musician is what counts not his style or reputation. Let me explain. There was a time when Louis Armstrong was 10 years ahead of all other jazz man. All the youngsters began to imitate him. Some believe they had succeeded when they had acquired the technical agility they had been aiming for. They had forgotten that soul that originality was essential. Inspiration if you like. Others like Roy Charlie shavers and later Dizzy Gillespie without denying their model Armstrong tried instead of constructing themselves in servile imitation to find a
new way a way stemming from their personal conception. And yet Mary Lou continued some try at any price to label a man like Armstrong a Dixieland musician though for a long time he was an innovator evolving far beyond Dixieland. Music must not stagnate the goal of a musician is to enrich himself to fulfill himself in doing that to try to enrich the musical movement in which he participates. Another misconception Mary Lou Williams went on comes from the arbitrary idea some people have of what a jazz musician is. I call musicians men like Sidney Bush a Jack Teagarden Oscar Pettiford Louis Armstrong peanuts Hochul or will Bradley. Men whom you can never take by surprise when the pianist suddenly changes key. I've included a name like Bradley which will come as a surprise to the Oriental jazz listener because it is true that there are many studio man. Many men who are not very much in the jazz limelight who are excellent musicians but of recent
The Evolution of Jazz
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Series Wrap Up, Part One
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WGBH Educational Foundation
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University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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The series concludes with an overview of what Hentoff didn't cover in previous programs.
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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Host: Hentoff, Nat
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