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Northern Society For Jazz Study Vol.2 No.15 0007

Northern Society For Jazz Study Vol.2 No.15 0007

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The Hew Orleans bands who went to Chicago and later to New York City in the latter part of the Great War developed a style which is now known as the "Dixieland Style", they played group improvised counterpoint, and the best known of these bands appeared on the London stage and the Hammersmith Palais in the immediate post war dayse The blues, however, still remained chiefly the preserve of the coloured players and singers - it was not until the middle twenties that the blues sometimes in their original forms, but often in commercialised forms, began to figure in the music to which white people dancod in West End, suburban, and provincial dance halls. The greatest of all the blues singers was the late Bessie Smith, who was killed in a motor accident six years ago* A big woman with a large strident voice, she declined to water down the authentic blues in order to become a "popular" attraction, and most of her gramophone records wore for the American "race" companies specialising in music for ihe coloured people. Robeson, whose name is much hotter known to the white people, is a fine actor with a fine voice - but Bessie Smith, with her nostalgic emotionalism and sometimes pornographic story telling, is far more representative >fthe American negro. For the true musical expression of the negro is the blues, not the Swanee River type of composition attributed to him by the ^hite man. The blues is the American negroes1 contribution to music and because it could bo easily adapted to the general requirements of commercial jazz, it has influenced the whole course of popular music. The songs warbled by crooners may seem to bo a far cry from Handy* s YELLOW DOG BLUES or Bessie Smith* s BACK WATER BLUES, but it is a fact, but for the coloured people of the Southern States, popular music as we know it today would not exit.

This music, however, devised and developed by the coloured

musicians and also by understanding white men, has boon taken over by Tin Pan Alloy as the means of creating a vast music business. It was the early twenties which saw the rise of popular jazz music under rarious modifying influences exerted by musicians such as Paul .hiteman, Art Hickman, and Fcrde Grofe.. They.and others began adapt-thc pure jazz form to commercial requirements and this commercialised product was given tremendous popularity by the arrival of radio and talking pictures. In the middle twenties, groups of coloured and white musicians, many possessing colossal instrumental ability, revolted against these commercial standards and began making gramophone records in which they proved that jazz could have both grace and melody without losing sight of its original traditional objectives. These men gave a great impetus to true jazz music, recording

under a variety of incognito names at the "time that they held staff jobs in the various dance orchestras in hotels, restaurants, and night clubs, in broadcasting studios and theatres.


Most of the Interesting “recording dates* were made by pick up combinations assembled for the sole purposer Some of the musicians concerned had started in school and college orchestras, many began their professional careers in night haunts, and on river and lake excursion streamers, for a while one such group had a remarkable boy clarinetist, in short trousers, from the Chicago 1chetto*. He was BENNY &0LRMAN, whose phenomenal technique has lately been heard interpreting Mozart with the PRO Art Quartette in New York City — although Goodman is primarily known for his leadership of America* s best known “swing orchestra". It was, in fact, these musicians v/ho first coined the word “swing* (i.e. this really swings) and it was net long before ordinary band leaders were compelled to take some notice of the vigorous, authentic jazz music produced by these less popular groups. All they did, however, was to introduce into their commercial programme an occasional "hot" or “saving" number and tc-dfiy the much used word "swing" is applied to flashy, exhibitionist orchestrations designed as musical "sensations", and have only a distant relationship with the real thing.

I have emphasised the point that improvisation plays a leading part in the production of jazz music * It would be quite impossible to write down the exact notation c£ one of these "classics of jazz" .from a gramophone record — but there is no guarantee that the score, reproduced note by note In value by other comb'inations, would sound correct in the jazz sense. Most classical musicians would translate the score in a completely uninteresting manner. To create jazz in the authentic sense, a performer must have an intuitive "feeling" for the music (scores of men who earn their livelihood playing in dance orchestras do not possess this feeling). For jazz is an intensely personal music and the composer is of less significance than he is in orthodox music. One notable exception to the rule is the 44 year old negro composer — performer - Edward Kennedy (Duke) Ellington, vho has composed, arranged, and performed with his orchestra, music in the genuine manner. And it is perhaps significant that most "serious" musicians are more attracted by his brilliantly scored works in the jazz idiom than by the older jazz school of inspired improvisation.

Dr. Northcote has been particularly impressed by Ellington when equally good jazz of a different kind aroused a loss cordial interest.

But however interested serious musicians may become in certain

aSCiS^°f Lt is purG nonsQnsG to talk learnedly of a raproch-

men*betiresn,Jaxz and lqgitimate music. The only contribution iais has to mate -to musical idiom lies in now methods of erploitw Astm ments the production of novel tone colours and thl o^!lbi {itfot r small orchestral groups 0 (Continued on Page 2 A L * °