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The evolution of jazz is a survey of American Art 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. Last week in beginning a description of the development of jazz along the Eastern Seaboard the thesis was advanced that this development of jazz was more influenced more directly influenced at the beginning by ragtime than was New Orleans jazz. The ragtime pianists from the 80s and 90s when that form developed into
a piano style moved around the country from St. Louis in Sedalia and other ragtime centers. Charles Edward Smith describes it. They brought in the tunes they had heard at Kaisers on South Rampart Street New Orleans. The monic on Beale Street Memphis or up from the levee in St. Louis. One leg really wrong to that early period in New York as did a man called Jack the bear. Rocky Roberts who was an early influence on Duke Ellington in Washington D.C. And I'm James P. Johnson and Highland was in and out of New York. I had a later period in the first two one like well it was a trick an eccentric pianist and while creating his visual and pianistic pyrotechnics he rested the stump of his leg on the piano just in front of the keyboard. But perhaps the most colorful of all was a man called Jack the bear whom Duke Ellington named a song for him many years later with his box back coat narrow pants and turned up
shoes. He was much travelled and multi professional. Not at all unusual for a keyboard veteran to whom on the line meant any town where there was a honkytonk a sporting house or a plain back room with an old upright. These and many other traveling players left their imprint on local keyboard styles not only along the Eastern Seaboard but throughout the country. Right time as you recall was first a piano style that evolved from the cakewalk in the earlier dances like the banjo accompanied plantation Jag. It also came from the brass bands that syncopated marches and there were many European influences in that men like Scott Joplin the best known of all ragtime composers had studied classical theory and practice. And ragtime too had been influenced by the Blues since ragtime pianists could hardly help but be influenced by the Blues pianists and often they were one in the same. Because for among other reasons as Scott Joplin notated one of his works ragtime
as he said was a music based on improvisation but in its classic sense it was a more structured more Europeanized music than the blues and the other Afro-American folk sources. As a review of ragtime Here is an analysis let's say of Maple Leaf Rag provided by CPA Roger is one of the elements of ragtime of the classic rag is the presence of various strains similar to the presence of various sections in the European dance forms and the introduction of the central strain in the rag with a change of key. He goes on in this analysis of Maple Leaf Rag to point out that in Broadway's all of the devices which would at once identify it as a rag particularly in the 80s and 90s.
The themes originate from the syncopated cakewalks and the directions tempo Damasio verify the two formats rhythm that underlies the ragging right hand. But something new has been added certain new devices are coupled to traditional forms such as the cakewalk in March and it is these that create the individual rhythmical don't let the listener knows as an instrumental rank maple leaves section for IME as A B A C D in the piece may be lengthened at will by repetition of any or all of the sections except the third the second rank patterns are obtained mostly from the offbeat anticipations of right hand chords and single notes against a bass which isn't strictly for rhythm. Without the contrast in regular rhythm the syncopation would lose its snap except for short periods like a stop chorus for example. When one's auditory memory provides a regular rhythm retaining it from a preceding passage peculiar to the rag is the employment of octaves and chords in the left hand with every
fundamental change of harmony. The bass octaves are led into the new harmony by sounding a semi-tone below it. Sections B and D of maple leaves contain this device. The resultant linear thrust makes for an athletic impact with the syncopated ragging that is occurring simultaneously in the treble. More contrapuntal than the base of approx. This octave and chord bass constantly progress is both diatonically and chromatically variation is obtained by the occasional insertion of a phrase composed of one octave and two chords commonly used in the waltz although not poly rhythmic. It's one more device that keeps the rag from the monotony of square cut patterns. And as we pointed out in a rather wrong section previously the use of secondary rag enabled ragtime to become truly poly Resnick that was for example the superimposition of a. Phrase of three several phrases of three over a regular four beat bass
to go back to this analysis in the treble right hand syncopations usually occur after the second and fourth beats of each measure tied into the beat. Following each respective like in the trio of Maple Leaf Rag second the patients appear based this time on arpeggios of the harmony. Here is Scott Joplin performing his own Maple Leaf illustrating some of the aspects of the classical. There were many variations on what could be called the classic right blend in performance
and that's why it's rather odd to speak of the pure rag as some commentators have of the show them who is generally acknowledged by his contemporaries to have been perhaps the most gifted of all ragtime composers could not read or write a note and his improvisations were notated for him by Scott Joplin. These variations on the classic rag increased when Rags and blues were intertwined and geographical styles arose so that northern or eastern seaboard Ragtime is often apt to be thought of as faster though not always and is more influenced by European musical elements than let's say the rags played in the honky tonks of New Orleans and Memphis and even St. Louis for though Joplin had extensive formal classical training. Many of his St. Louis contemporaries had not.
So as ragtime traveled throughout the country and changed and evolved it entered more directly into the jazz language not only in New Orleans but in places like New York. Let's try to trace this briefly. First of all here is Scott Joplin playing his original writings. I am. I am. I am. I am.
And then the neurons pianist Jelly Roll Morton would play the original ragtime Scott Joplin miss one. And there was yet another in this example of early Highland
piano played by James P. Johnson the Harlem struck. You'll note that the rag is played by Jelly Roll Morton of New Orleans
indicating a much greater influx of the blues influenced than the early Highland version of the rag played by James P. Johnson. Which illustrates the previously made point that the music of the Eastern Seaboard was more directly influenced by rank time than was the New Orleans strain. I mentioned previously that. Last week that one of the best ways of examining the early state of jazz and pretty jazz actually in New York is through the career of James P. Johnson. Ross Russell relates that James P. at the age of nine was apprenticed to a local piano teacher for regular lessons. I mentioned last week that he had first studied with his mother who was a fair amateur musician and taught him to play a rag in the parlor upright and later that stomps
and rags and a few blues. That night he studied with a teacher called brutal who was an old country musician a strict disciplinarian a man of scales and exercise books as he innately possessed the good judgment as well not to interfere with his new pupils natural bent. And so James P. was allowed to play as rags in storms but with an important innovation only after the fingering had been corrected. Looking back Johnson is happy about this apprenticeship which helped him give him to his material along with correct thing Jenny taught the boy harmony enough at least to augment an excellent natural ear and unlock the technical mysteries that popular music might hold and so equipped. James P. Johnson just entering his teens took the plunge into the sea of professional music. That in Mr. Russell's metaphor was then beginning to rap at the shores of Manhattan. His first full time job was that of
a piano kid as they called it a barren Wilkens cabaret in New York and he replayed the popular music of the day season with liberal doses of ragtime. And here he met and became intimate with the aforementioned Charles Luckey Roberts Roberts influence made itself felt during Johnson's formative period leaving its deepest impression in the brilliant right hand that marks the James peace style even now. Here for example is lucky Roberts. But to James pay this was largely keyboard showmanship. He wanted a solider
more two handed style than Roberts and playing around New York he found his answer in the work of one who was a sporting house Professor piano player. And according to James P. Johnson had a left hand like a walking beam. And that was the inspiration for James P. is walking bass that later influenced Fats Waller and in turn influenced Art Tatum. This indicates this collaboration of influences on the young James P. Johnson and
his eclectic selection of influences. Illustrates as in our surveys of New Orleans Chicago and actually everywhere jazz has been played. The fact that there has been this constant interaction between the older jazz men the younger musicians the trading of styles among contemporaries the younger musicians often as I pointed out selecting stylistic elements from several men and later developing their own style on that bass tradition and the individual talent in jazz terms. Charles Edward Smith describes some of the places James P. Johnson served his early apprenticeship in and thereby provides a kind of backdrop for the early days of jazz in New York and tracing the background of Harlem jazz one finds again what was true of the pattern in New Orleans St. Louis and other cities along the way. But this music and its antecedents found no immediate acceptance in the more sedate musical life of the city.
James P. For example played his first real jobs in a section of New York then known as the coast where we don't lie and Smith was another Harlem pianist who received his practical schooling there. The place in which they worked was upstairs over a church that had been converted into a cabaret. But from the jazz point of view it made such places of interest where the man who played in them. People like Schuyler a one eyed guitarist who was James P. says could come along on any tune and any bass so who was known as kitchen Tom because his specialty was the kitchen timer. Almost all the pianists had at least one special date and generally a rank as well as being able to play in greater or lesser degree of professional proficiency many other tunes. Jimmie Johnson while still in his teens soon began playing around New York around 1013 working in a sidewalk cabaret in Chelsea then moving up to the west 60s and San Juan hero which in those days was famous both for its night spots and its more exclusive social dances.
A fair example of the jazz and poor Emporia of that era was Jim Allen's on San Juan Hill. It was entered by a side door that was bolted on the inside and so protectively heavy the James P's wife who received her first singing John there had to have help to open it the way then led through a pool room that was actually a pool room but only during the day. The Cabaret was on the lower floor. Rain dripped down the whitewashed walls and James P. used to put candles at the bottom of the piano to take out the dampness. There was a large old fashioned iron stove a wheezy ventilator fan that worked in reverse and a getaway door as in similar places where James P. played in Harlem soon after weapons had to be checked with the management. It should be emphasized that rag time for this early jazz right really was not limited. To the sporting crowd and to places of this sort the pianist who worked the cabaret Feo also played for dances that were gay but perfectly decorous old time rag pianists recall the cotillions in the north similar to the quad
rails of the South in which couples with dignified abandon improvised steps they played for working class dances. Jimmy Johnson remembers that he himself is played for cotillions in Chelsea in San Juan Hill where many of what later became jitterbug steps first evolved. Musical life like its social strata was varied and Highlands musicians no respecter of class or rank played where they got paid and Duke Ellington has pointed out again and again that there were more churches in Cabaret is than cabarets in Harlem all through its early as well as its later history. The main livelihood for the rag pianos though were alley places and the like. In music for these bistros before 1920 was much like that for the so-called parlor so shows or rent parties which were described in a moment in piano and drums where the foundation of Harlem
jazz drums loud and raucous in the early hours and muffled later on with matches under each snare top and bottom and the piano so soft that the shuffling of dancers feet was the dominant sound punctuated with encouragement such as put me in the alley of a play it play it so soft to the music because as the night went on that the dancers often continued to dance absent mindedly. When the number was over here is an example of that kind of jazz played at the cabarets and at the round parties the social dances. It's called The Dream. Yes. I am
I am. I am I am I am. I am. I AM I AM I AM I
AM I AM I AM I AM. I am.
The Evolution of Jazz
Episode Number
Early New York Jazz, Part One
Producing Organization
WGBH Educational Foundation
Contributing Organization
University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Episode Description
This program discusses the emergence of jazz in New York, focusing on 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.
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Music theory
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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: 00:30:02
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Chicago: “The Evolution of Jazz; 19; Early New York Jazz, Part One,” 1954-03-19, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed June 20, 2024,
MLA: “The Evolution of Jazz; 19; Early New York Jazz, Part One.” 1954-03-19. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. June 20, 2024. <>.
APA: The Evolution of Jazz; 19; Early New York Jazz, 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