Free Essay

Jazz Age

In: English and Literature

Submitted By Aramomer
Words 8297
Pages 34
Journal of American Studies, 45 (2011), 1, 113–129 f Cambridge University Press 2010 doi:10.1017/S0021875810001271 First published online 19 July 2010

Jazz as a Black American Art Form : Definitions of the Jazz Preservation Act
Jazz music and culture have experienced a surge in popularity after the passage of the Jazz Preservation Act (JPA) in 1987. This resolution defined jazz as a black American art form, thus using race, national identity, and cultural value as key aspects in making jazz one of the nation’s most subsidized arts. Led by new cultural institutions and educational programs, millions of Americans have engaged with the history and canon of jazz that represent the values endorsed by the JPA. Record companies, book publishers, archivists, academia, and private foundations have also contributed to the effort to preserve jazz music and history. Such preservation has not always been a simple process, especially in identifying jazz with black culture and with America as a whole. This has required a careful balancing of social and musical aspects of jazz. For instance, many consider two of the most important aspects of jazz to be the blues aesthetic, which inevitably expresses racist oppression in America, and the democratic ethic, wherein each musician’s individual expression equally contributes to the whole. Balanced explanations of race and nationality are useful not only for musicologists, but also for musicians and teachers wishing to use jazz as an example of both national achievement and confrontation with racism. Another important aspect of the JPA is the definition of jazz as a ‘‘ high ’’ art. While there remains a vocal contingent of critics arguing against the JPA’s definitions of jazz, such results will not likely see many calling for an end to its programs, but rather a more open interpretation of what it means to be America’s music.

On 13 June 1993, President Bill Clinton addressed a crowd at the White House that included, among the usual dignitaries, some of the most famous names in jazz. Clark Terry, Wynton Marsalis, Illinois Jacquet, Dorothy Donegan, Herbie Hancock, John Lewis, Rosemary Clooney, and Joe Williams were among the guests invited to celebrate the fortieth anniversary of Newport Jazz Festival.1 In his scripted remarks, President Clinton eulogized the role of jazz in American culture, alluding both to the contributions of black musicians and to the international position of jazz:
It’s especially important that we should be together here in America’s house to celebrate that most American of all forms of musical expression, jazz. Jazz is really
English and Speech Department, City Colleges of Chicago. Email : 1 George Wein and Nate Chinen, Myself among Others : A life in Music (New York : Da Capo Press, 2003), 494.


Jeff Farley

America’s classical music. Like the country itself, and especially like the people who created it, jazz is a music born of struggle but played in celebration.2

Neither the occasion nor the language used by President Clinton was entirely unique. There had previously been several celebrations for jazz at the White House, including President Nixon’s seventieth birthday celebration for Duke Ellington in 1969 and President Carter’s commemoration of the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Newport Jazz Festival in 1978.3 What was different about this occasion was that the White House crowd was also celebrating what one newspaper reviewer called ‘‘ America’s recently rekindled love affair with its own music, jazz.’’4 The renewed affections resulted from the passage of the Jazz Preservation Act (JPA) in 1987, which has since had a notable impact on American foreign and cultural policy, education, and media industries.5 The JPA was a government mandate to preserve a history and canon that it defined, primarily, through a wide variety of publicly supported jazz performances, historical studies, and educational initiatives. As with President Clinton’s remarks above, the JPA identified jazz as a black American art form. Sponsored by John Conyers Jr., a Democratic representative from Detroit and leading member of the Congressional Black Caucus, the resolution received support from both parties, and there was little debate. In his comments to the House concerning the resolution, Conyers remarked,
I want to tell the Members that if my life in the Congress could follow the ease with which I gathered signatures for this measure, I could make some revolutionary progress in the struggles around issues on which I work so hard, but this was truly a bipartisan endeavor.6

There were no dissenters in the House vote in September, or the Senate vote in December. Conyers’s success was partially due to contemporary developments both in the jazz industry and in federal bodies such as the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). Although faced with a proposed budget cut of 50 percent by President Reagan in 1981, the NEA emerged under chairman Frank Hodsoll as an advocate for ‘‘ projects that advance the art forms or bring a diversity of




Howard Reich, ‘‘ Jazz at the White House : Newport stars, the Clintons and WTTW Celebrate America’s Music ’’, Chicago Tribune, 12 Sept. 1993, 3. Amy Lee, ‘Jazz at the White House’, Christian Science Monitor, 7 June 1988, 34; Duke Ellington, Music Is My Mistress (New York : Da Capo, 1973), 424–33. For the 1978 cel4 ebration see Wein and Chinen, 414–19. Reich, 3. 6 H. R. 57, 100th Congress (1987). 100th Cong. Rec. 24933 (1987).

Jazz as a Black American Art Form


art to a broader audience. ’’7 The pre-1970s styles of jazz fit perfectly into this rubric, as they appealed across a wide spectrum, could be played in a concert setting, had enormous potential for education, and had an important and underrepresented historical value, especially for African Americans. If concentrating primarily on these older styles was too conservative for some in the jazz community, it was a relief for the NEA, which had been continuously embroiled by debates about using public funds to support inaccessible, avant-garde art.8 The NEA started the Jazz Masters fellowships in 1982, with the first three awards given to giants of the jazz canon : Roy Eldridge, Dizzy Gillespie, and Sun Ra.9 This program was the first significant national award for jazz and a culmination of the efforts of several important jazz advocates who worked either for the NEA or for the National Council on the Arts (NCA). Among these were Duke Ellington (1968–74), Billy Taylor (1972–78), and David Baker (1987–94) in the NCA and A. B. Spellman in the NEA (1975–2005). Spellman was instrumental in creating the Jazz Masters fellowships, and remembered,
In 1975 when I came here _ most of the arts establishments simply would not touch [jazz] _ On the National Council on the Arts the attitude, unfortunately, was the same. Billy Taylor and I had many heated arguments with council members about giving some parity to jazz with classical music in the guidelines of the Arts Endowment. David Baker had many arguments with several council members, including, of course, the late pianist and cultural critic Sam Lipman, again about jazz as a fine arts form. And, of course, David was able to change Sam’s point of view.10

As Spellman made clear, the definition of jazz was integral to its role in federal funding schemes such as the NEA. Being recognized as a fine art allowed jazz to adopt the approach of classical music institutions while focusing on black American contributions that had long been ignored by funding bodies. Race was not explicitly stated in the aims of the Jazz Masters fellowships, but arranger Gil Evans, popularly known for his work with




Frank Hodsoll, ‘‘ Supporting the Arts in the Eighties : The View from the National Endowment for the Arts, ’’ Annals of the American Society of Political and Social Science, 471 (1984), 84–88. See also Douglas P. Starr, ‘‘ Private and Government Sources: Funding the Arts ’’, Music Educators Journal, 69, 8 (1983), 43–45, 43 ; Claiborne deB. Pell, ‘‘ Federal Support for the Arts Has a Future ’’, Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 471 (1984), 102–6, 103. See Mark Bauerlein and Ellen Grantham, eds., National Endowment for the Arts: A History 1965–2008 (Washington, DC: National Endowment for the Arts), 2009. NEA, ‘‘ NEA Jazz Masters, ’’ available at, 10 visited 3 March 2008. Bauerlein and Grantham, 50.


Jeff Farley

Miles Davis, was the sole white recipient during its first twelve years, amongst thirty-six of his black colleagues. Complementing developments in favor of jazz in the NEA was the emergence of a group of musicians commonly dubbed the ‘‘Young Lions ’’ after their appearance under that title in Carnegie Hall in July of 1982. Leading this group of new stars was trumpeter Wynton Marsalis, at the time a twenty-one-year-old sideman of legendary drummer and band leader Art Blakey. Marsalis was immensely talented as well as articulately outspoken about ‘‘ real ’’ jazz, representing a far more politically acceptable return to the musical and sartorial styles of the 1950s and 1960s and publicly shunning the contemporary pop-rock-fusion vogue in jazz exemplified by Miles Davis and Herbie Hancock.11 Consequently, what the Young Lions presented to jazz advocates like John Conyers Jr. was a group of talented musicians able to embody, and therefore to ‘‘preserve, ’’ their social and musical history of jazz in America. Conyers recognized Marsalis’s potential to promote the vision of the JPA, and so the day after the resolution passed, Conyers and the Congressional Black Caucus invited Marsalis to lead their celebrations by hosting a panel on jazz.12 If the Jazz Preservation Act’s definition of jazz as a black American art form was conceptually influenced by its predecessors, it was also necessarily rooted in the practicalities of its goals. The first half of the JPA’s text defined jazz and its contribution to America, but the second half was centered on the proclamation that ‘‘ it is the sense of the Congress that Jazz is hereby designated as a rare and valuable national American treasure to which we should devote our attention, support, and resources to make certain it is preserved, understood, and promulgated.’’13 One of the primary ways in which Congress showed its support was through institutions created to represent its new cultural status.14 These institutions have been the foundation of the government’s effort to engage the public in America and abroad with jazz. They not only host their own repertory orchestras, they lead in efforts at music education that have reached millions of children and adults. American educational programs in particular have developed rapidly and were a specific focus of the JPA, which stated that it was ‘‘ important for the youth of America to recognize and understand jazz as a significant part of their cultural and intellectual heritage.’’15


Richard Harrington, ‘‘ Wynton Marsalis, Young Lion of Jazz, ’’ Washington Post, 15 Dec. 1984, D1; Richard Harrington, ‘‘ Marsalis: Jazzy AND Classical, ’’ Washington Post, 4 Sept. 12 1983, D10. 100th Cong. Rec. 24934 (1987). 14 15 H. R. 57, 100th Congress (1987). Ibid. Ibid.

Jazz as a Black American Art Form


On a national level, two institutions have been the center of most of the funding and media attention : Jazz at Lincoln Center (JALC) in New York and Smithsonian Jazz in Washington, DC.16 Their repertory orchestras are led by Wynton Marsalis and David Baker respectively. These organizations have grown immensely in the past twenty years with NEA funding, and each has their own educational curricula and programs, archival work, events, and recordings.17 Their success in attracting audiences and teaching schoolchildren about jazz has been in part due to the definition of jazz as a black American art form. Being recognized by Congress as ‘‘ high’’ art has been essential to gaining access to music classrooms, as well as building the programs and facilities that attract millions of dollars in public and private funding. Within the classroom, the issues of race and American national identity have allowed jazz to be addressed not only as music, but as an integral part of American social and political life in the twentieth century. Jazz is not only introduced under the subject of music, but also in history, social studies, and politics. Race and national identity have also been central to the performances of the repertory orchestras, which often address these issues in their printed material and stage presentations, and in commissioned work such as Wynton Marsalis’s Pulitzer Prize-winning Blood on the Fields.18 Identification of jazz as indigenous American music has also continued the State Department’s sponsorship of international jazz tours meant to promote American culture and democracy, including JALC’s program The Rhythm Road : American Music Abroad.19





Jazz at Lincoln Centre, ‘‘ Jazz at Lincoln Centre Profile, ’’ available at http://www. profile.html, visited 15 Aug. 2007; ‘‘ Smithsonian Jazz,’’ available at, visited 3 March 2008. For federally sponsored online educational programs see Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz, ‘‘ Jazz in America, ’’ available at, visited 3 March 2008; Jazz at Lincoln Centre, ‘‘ NEA Jazz in the Schools, ’’ available at http://, visited 3 March 2008 ; ‘‘ Smithsonian Jazz ’’ ; Public Broadcasting Service, ‘‘ Jazz : A Film by Ken Burns, ’’ available at http://, visited 3 March 2008. Wynton Marsalis, Blood on the Fields, Columbia Records, 1995. The Pulitzer was awarded in 1997, and is the only jazz piece ever to have won. The first State Department tour was undertaken in 1956 under the direction of Dizzy Gillespie. Many others followed, including Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, and Benny Goodman. See Dizzy Gillespie and Al Fraser, To Be, or not _ To Bop: Memoirs (Garden City: Doubleday, 1979), 413–27 ; Ellington, Music Is My Mistress, 301–89. For more on The Rhythm Road, see Jazz at Lincoln Center, ‘‘ The Rhythm Road : American Music Abroad Program, ’’ available at, visited 17 April 2008 ; Fred Kaplan, ‘‘ When Ambassadors had Rhythm,’’ New York Times, 29 June 2008, 17. For more detailed work on the State Department tours see Penny M. Von Eschen, Satchmo


Jeff Farley

As these institutions first sparked the country’s rekindled ‘‘ love affair ’’ with jazz, they helped draw attention and funding to foundations that were already working locally to promote jazz. Some of these, such as the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz (TMIJ), the Jazz Foundation of America, and Jazz Institute Chicago, have their own educational programs, concert series, and competitions.20 The TMIJ in particular has grown into one of the largest national organizations for jazz, attracting funding from national governmental bodies such as the US Commission of Fine Arts, the NEA, and the Department of State.21 The growing interest in jazz during the 1990s consequently drew the attention of music- and book-publishing industries, which attempted to capitalize on record reissues and reprints of jazz histories and autobiographies.22 All of these developments drew the attention of scholars across America, and university jazz departments and studies started to flourish in the early to mid-1990s.23
Blows up the World : Jazz Ambassadors Play the Cold War (London: Harvard University Press, 2004). Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz, ‘‘ Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz, ’’ available at, visited 3 March 2008 ; Jazz Foundation, ‘‘ Jazz Foundation of America, ’’ available at, visited 3 March 2008; Jazz Institute of Chicago, ‘‘ Jazz Institute of Chicago, ’’ available at http://, visited 3 March 2008. The TMIJ was founded in 1986 by Monk’s son, Thelonious Sphere Monk Jr., who has enjoyed close connections to Washington, DC. He helped George Wein organize the party at the White House under President Clinton. Wein said of the concert, ‘‘ I noticed during the [presidential] campaign that Thelonious Monk’s son, T. S. Monk, Jr., was President Bill Clinton’s man for jazz. I knew that I could go directly to the social secretary of the White House, as I had before, but I felt it was best to call T. S. Monk first. The wife of Tom Carter, who was chairman of the Monk Foundation, worked for Vice President Al Gore. ’’ Wein and Chinen, Myself, 493. Wynton Marsalis joined T. S. Monk as a supporter of Clinton at campaign rallies. See Gwen Ifill, ‘‘ Campaign Down to Last Hours – Hectic Pace for Clinton at the Finish, ’’ San Francisco Chronicle, 2 Nov. 1992, A1. For example, see John L. Walters, ‘‘ Kind of Overkill : Miles Davis Wouldn’t Have Wanted His Outtakes Made Public, So Why All the Box Sets ?’’, The Guardian, 10 Feb. 2006, E3. One major publisher of jazz books is Da Capo Press, which has done a large number of reprints in the past 20 years. For a listing see Da Capo Press, ‘‘ Listing of Jazz Books, ’’ available at MUS025000&imprintCid=DC, visited 15 May 2008. Examples of seminal works from this period include Black American Literature Forum’s 1991 special issue on jazz literature, which included Scott DeVeaux, ‘‘ Constructing the Jazz Tradition : Jazz Historiography, ’’ Black American Literature Forum, 25, 3 (1991), 525–60 ; and John Gennari, ‘‘ Jazz Criticism : Its Development and Ideologies, ’’ Black American Literature Forum, 25, 3 (1991), 449–523. See also William Howland Kenney, Chicago Jazz : A Cultural History, 1904–1930 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1994) ; David W. Stowe, Swing Changes : Big-Band Jazz in New Deal America (Cambridge, MA : Harvard University Press, 1994) ; Krin Gabbard, ed., Representing Jazz (London: Duke University Press, 1995) ; idem, ed., Jazz among the Discourses (Durham : Duke University Press, 1995).





Jazz as a Black American Art Form


These activities show the accumulation of over twenty years of effort connecting form and function in government-sponsored programs for jazz. Their success has ensured that institutions such as JALC and Smithsonian Jazz remain the leading jazz proselytizers favored in Washington DC, a group that have been labeled ‘‘ neoclassicists’’ by their critics. This group comprises some of the most influential names in the jazz industry, including Wynton Marsalis, Stanley Crouch, Albert Murray, David Baker, and Billy Taylor. For the most part, the rhetorical battles between these figures and their critics had begun before the JPA, but the new outpouring of resources and legitimacy on neoclassical jazz placed much more at stake.24 Critics complained that publicly supported musicians and critics promoted a narrow definition of authentic jazz and a particular stance on the histories of race and discrimination in the industry, when these had been sources of disagreement, competition, and creativity since the release of the first jazz record in 1917. Perhaps the most controversial definition of jazz under the JPA is that of jazz as a fine or ‘‘high’’ art. Because of its importance to their institutional status, members of the JALC including Marsalis, Crouch, and Murray have been vociferous supporters of this concept. Crouch called jazz the ‘‘ highest American musical form, ’’ a form that others referred to as ‘‘ America’s classical music. ’’25 Associations between jazz and classical music were first developed in the 1920s by musicians such as Paul Whiteman, who became the country’s most famous band leader by blending the two styles and commissioning works such as George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue. Much like Whiteman, JALC wanted to take advantage of the accessibility and national identity of jazz while gaining the prestige and financial support bestowed by Western culture on artistic, ‘‘ serious’’ music. Nonetheless, on musical and racial issues JALC’s project stood in stark contrast to Whiteman. Their acknowledgment of jazz as both a black music and a classical art form confronted another legacy from the 1920s tacitly accepted by Whiteman, namely


For an example of the ongoing nature of the debate see Larry Kart, ‘‘ The Death of Jazz ’’, Chicago Tribune, 24 Feb. 1985, 4; idem, ‘‘ Part II of the Death of Jazz : An Update on the Status of the Neoclassical Trend’’, Chicago Tribune, 4 May 1986, 10 ; Larry Kart, ‘‘ Provocative Opinion : The Death of Jazz ? ’’, Black Music Research Journal, 10, 1 (1990), 76–81. Stanley Crouch, ‘‘ Blues to Be Constitutional : A Long Look at the Wild Wherefores of our Democratic Lives as Symbolized in the Making of Rhythm and Tune, ’’ in Stanley Crouch, ed., The All-American Skin Game, or, the Decoy of Race (New York : Vintage Books, 1997), 13. For seminal works see Grover Sales, Jazz : America’s Classical Music (Englewood Cliffs : Prentice Hall, 1984) ; Billy Taylor, ‘‘ Jazz : America’s Classical Music, ’’ Black Perspective in Music, 14, 1 (1986), 21–25.


Jeff Farley

the racist images of jazz as degenerate, unsophisticated music incapable of emotional depth.26 This view of jazz was stubbornly persistent for decades as many classical critics defended their genre as the sole high art form in music. Even when mainstream jazz critics and musicians had begun to accept the end of jazz as popular dance music in the mid-1940s, the development of concert forms such as bebop had not come with a new artistic status. To many of those looking down from the bastions of classical music such as concert halls and music conservatories, jazz remained an inhabitant of nightclubs and was at its worst the hedonistic inspiration of a counterculture rife with drug use and miscegenation.27 For example, conservative music critic Winthrop Sargeant’s famous 1946 article ‘‘ ‘ Hot Jazz’ vs ‘ Fine Art ’ ’’ derided the ‘‘ lofty critical language ’’ of writers like Leonard Feather who supported bebop. Sargeant complained,
They have even argued that the great musical issue of the day is that of jazzism vs ‘‘ classicism, ’’ that jazz is in some way the American successor to the venerable art of concert music, its tunesmiths and improvising virtuosos the latter-day equivalents of so many Beethovens and Wagners. Bach, after all, used to improvise too.28

Sargeant’s dismissive comments can be seen as exactly the type of criticism challenged by the JPA, for Sargeant believed that jazz is not a music in the sense that an opera or a symphony is music _ [jazz] exhibits no intellectual complexities, makes a simple, direct emotional appeal that may be felt by people who are not even remotely interested in music as an art.29

Still, advocates such as Billy Taylor and Stanley Crouch did not question Sargeant’s formulation of the artistic qualities of music so much as assert that jazz fitted into that formula. In reality, jazz had often occupied an ambiguous position between art and popular music, as epitomized in the career of one of the most famous jazz composers, Duke Ellington. He was at various times accused by critics of either pandering to audience expectations for financial reward or, as in the case of his 1943 extended composition Black, Brown and Beige, of being



See John R. McMahon, ‘‘ Unspeakable Jazz Must Go! ’’, Ladies Home Journal, Dec. 1921, in Karl Koenig, ed., Jazz in Print (1856–1929) (Hillsdale : Pendragon Press, 2002), 160–63 ; Heny T Finck, ‘‘ Jazz – Lowbrow and Highbrow, ’’ Etude, Aug. 1924, in ibid., 336. See Benard Gendron, ‘‘ A Short Stay in the Sun: The Reception of Bebop, 1944–1950, ’’ Library Chronicle, 24, 1–2 (1994), 137–59; Eric Lott, ‘‘ Double V, Double-Time : Bebop’s Politics of Style, ’’ in Gabbard, Jazz among the Discourses, 243–55. Winthrop Sargeant, ‘‘ ‘Hot Jazz ’ vs ‘Fine Art’, ’’ in Andrew Clark, ed., Riffs and Choruses 29 (New York : Continuum) 2001, 71. Ibid., 73.

Jazz as a Black American Art Form


‘‘ pretentious ’’ and of going beyond his place.30 The tension between the rhetoric of popularity and that of art remained through to the 1980s, in part prompted by the commercial and critical success of the Young Lions as well as some incendiary talk from Wynton Marsalis. Marsalis had a high-profile conflict with Miles Davis throughout the 1980s that epitomized the two positions. Marsalis claimed that Davis’s fusion bands ‘‘ ain’t playing nothing’’ and that he had ‘‘ sold out, ’’ while Davis in turn said, ‘‘ Who does Marsalis think he is ? The savior of jazz? ’’31 The nature of their debate transformed when the subject of artistic quality and cultural value had more practical implications concerning public funding. The preservation of jazz brought up factors beyond musical tastes or ideologies by giving more weight to the social and political contexts of jazz’s artistic status. Billy Taylor, an influential jazz educator and musician, was one of the first to articulate the materiality of these contexts through essays such as ‘‘Jazz: America’s Classical Music.’’32 The foundation of Taylor’s argument was that jazz was uniquely American and was socially worthy of being considered art: ‘‘ As an important musical language, it has developed steadily from a single expression of the consciousness of black people into a national music that expresses American ideals and attitudes to Americans and to people from other cultures all around the world.’’ Although this could be said of other genres based on the blues, such as R&B and rock and roll, Taylor made the distinction that, ‘‘ Though it is often fun to play, jazz is very serious music. ’’33 This quality of seriousness was essential to the creation of the JPA and had practical implications. As Taylor well knew, classical music was the subject of most of the formal study and public endowments for music. If jazz was to compete in these realms, it needed to be equally worthy, serious, and ‘‘ classical. ’’34



Critic Mike Levin called Ellington’s 1948–49 work ‘‘ derivative, depending on memories of past splendors. ’’ See Michael Levin, ‘‘ Reputation Shredded, Duke Should Disband, Mix Claims, ’’ Down Beat, 17 June 1949, 12 ; John Hammond accused Ellington of trying to work outside his three-minute dance tunes by viciously condemning his Black, Brown and Beige. See John Hammond and Irving Townsend, John Hammond On Record (New York : Ridge Press, 1977), 133. See also David Schiff, ‘‘ Built Pieces : Like Igor Stravinsky, Duke Ellington Was a Brilliant Assembler of Other People’s Music, ’’ Atlantic Monthly, 275, 1 (1995), 94. Karen Harris, ‘‘ When Marsalis Talks, It’s Brash; When His Trumpet Talks, It’s Beautiful, ’’ Dallas Morning News, 25 Jan. 1985, 22 ; Leslie Rubenstein, ‘‘ Wynton Marsalis – A Gentleman with a Horn: Mild-Mannered Jazz Genius Can Rub His Peers the Wrong Way, ’’ San Francisco Chronicle, 21 Sept. 1986, 39. Taylor. Billy Taylor has also served as the artistic director at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, DC since 1994, hosting concerts under the um33 34 brella of Jazz at the Kennedy Center. Ibid., 21. Italics in original. Ibid., 25.


Jeff Farley

Consequently, the effort to define jazz as ‘‘ America’s classical music’’ had to privilege certain aspects of jazz history. For Wynton Marsalis, this meant that any style of jazz that was not sufficiently artistic and classical should be excised from the genre. He was particularly dismissive of jazz fusion and believed its simplified musical structures and appeal for popularity threatened the artistic qualities of jazz. Fusion’s adoption of rock and roll elements provided the perfect excuse for its dismissal from jazz history:
What fusion does is it relieves us, our country, of the problem of dealing with jazz and the contribution of the Negro to the mythology of America. The question in jazz has always been : is it pop music or is it a classical music ? And I don’t mean classical in terms of European music, but I mean does it have formal aspects that make it worthy of study, and does it carry pertinent mythic information about being American. The thing that these musicians did in the 1970s is they relieved all of the cultural pressure that Duke Ellington placed on our nation to address the music seriously and teach it, which would make us deal with ourselves and our racism, which everyone knows is our greatest problem_35

Ellington was a particularly important figure for Marsalis since he was seen by critics as the greatest jazz composer. Marsalis finds that the intellectual complexity of his compositions gave his music ‘‘ formal aspects that make it worthy of study.’’ Furthermore, Marsalis saw Ellington’s music as containing ‘‘ information about being American, ’’ and thus it served perfectly his promotion of jazz as America’s classical music. However, privileging composition over the collective improvisation of fusion risked undermining the system of value that had first distinguished jazz from classical European music and placed black music at the center of American culture. Jazz had first gained its status as particularly American and ‘‘ worthy of study’’ by challenging the system of musical value that Marsalis accepts. What first attracted many to jazz was the secondary importance of composition. Improvisation made the musician the composer of the tune, with the melody and harmony subsumed by his or her personal expression. This quality had been long discouraged by classical musicians, as typified by the objections of an editorial in 1910 :
There are so many so-called ‘‘ players ’’ who think that an excellent ear, and the possession of some ability at natural transposition, gives one the right to improve upon or substitute an accompaniment for that of some composer who has spent perhaps a lifetime in study.36

35 36

Lolis Eric Elie, ‘‘ An Interview with Wynton Marsalis, ’’ Callaloo, 13, 2 (1990), 282. Edith Lynwood Winn, ‘‘ Questions and Answers, ’’ Jacob’s Orchestra Monthly, Sept. 1910, in Koenig, Jazz in Print, 84.

Jazz as a Black American Art Form


The use of improvisation popularly accompanied the racial stereotype of ‘‘ natural’’ playing by black musicians, which contrasted with the learned methods of European music. However, for a small but influential group of European classical composers, including Darius Milhaud, Igor Stravinsky, and Dmitri Shostakovich, it also represented a value found in jazz they felt would influence the development of classical music.37 Despite Wynton Marsalis’s respect for improvisation and its essential place in jazz music and history, he concluded that the classical sophistication of jazz was at times compromised by the focus on improvisational solos. Marsalis explained to an interviewer that the problem with jazz after 1940 was that ‘‘ a lot of sophistication was cut out, because you have a genius like Charlie Parker who mastered single-line playing. So single-line playing became elevated over the mastery and genius of somebody like Duke Ellington, who had control over many lines.’’ While the interviewer was momentarily taken aback, Marsalis explained his logic by comparing the examples of Charlie Parker’s solos in 1945 to Duke Ellington’s 1938 extended piece Diminuendo and Crescendo in Blue. His conclusion was that Parker’s work was definitely not more sophisticated in any way, shape or form. It might make people mad, but I’m sorry. If you give any musician in the world a pen and paper, play those two records and say which one you would rather transcribe, they’d definitely pick Bird’s music.38

The formula for Marsalis was based on a directly proportional system : simpler harmonies and arrangement made the ‘‘ level of social statement much simpler. ’’39 Wynton Marsalis was certainly not alone in these beliefs, but his high public profile meant that he drew a lot of criticism. Among his detractors were those who also used concepts such as ‘‘ social statement’’ to forward their position that jazz should always be technically innovative and a reflection of contemporary times. For instance, scholar Lee Brown saw Marsalis’s career as an effort to perpetuate the elevation of ‘‘ serious music, ’’ which removes jazz from the social milieu that had originally made it popular and subversive. Brown quips,
Were I to wave a wand and retrieve something, it might be the seething funkiness and unbuttoned vitality of Vine Street in Kansas City around 1937. For the culture


See Chris Goddard, Jazz Away from Home (London : Paddington Press, 1979), 123; Karen C. C. Dalton and Henry Louis Gates Jr., ‘‘ Josephine Baker and Paul Colin : African American Dance Seen through Parisian Eyes,’’ Critical Inquiry, 24, 4 (1998), 903–34, 907; S. Frederick Starr, Red and Hot: The Fate of Jazz in the Soviet Union 1917–1980 (New York : Oxford University Press, 1983), 62–63. 39 ‘‘ Bird ’’ was a common nickname for Parker. Elie, 279. Ibid., 278.


Jeff Farley

that Marsalis wants to save, we have to shift the scene to the chic venues of Lincoln Center.40

While many critics and musicians agreed with Brown’s assessment, in the context of government funding of the arts ‘‘seething funkiness ’’ was little competition for ‘‘ America’s classical music. ’’ The debate about the definitions of the JPA, however vitriolic at times, has remained largely within the small community of jazz musicians, journalists, aficionados, and academics whose lives or livelihoods were most profoundly affected. However, the goals of the JPA and its funding bodies were to reach well beyond this group to bring a basic knowledge of jazz to as many as possible. Only by creating an enduring conception of jazz could it be ‘‘ preserved, ’’ and so it was inevitable that the narrative of jazz history and the constituents of its canon used in publicly sponsored programs would be considered overly simplified and conservative by those with more extensive knowledge. This is certainly the case with regard to race. In the atmosphere of intense debate about neoclassicist jazz that started in the 1980s, the focus on black musicians and traditions was often divisive and emotional and has continued to be a challenge for JALC and other publicly supported programs. In many ways, the debate about role of race in jazz mirrored contemporary discussions in America often referred to as the ‘‘Culture Wars. ’’ Just as intense as the internal debates about jazz, the Culture Wars tried to resolve the role of government in funding arts and humanities and the level of control Congress should have over their content.41 Other issues were tangential but influential to the Wars, namely Affirmative Action in the Reagan and Bush years and ‘‘political correctness ’’ during Clinton’s tenure.42 Both of these issues created an extensive debate about race in America and the government’s role in mediating race relations and identity politics.43 As a result, one of the essential challenges posed by the JPA was finding a politically acceptable balance between identifying jazz as representative of




Lee Brown, ‘‘ Jazz : America’s Classical Music ?’’, Philosophy and Literature, 26 (2002), 157–72, 169. For more on Congressional struggles with Reagan over the NEA see Margaret Jane Wyszomirski, ‘‘ Congress, Presidents, and the Arts: Collaboration and Struggle, ’’ Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 499 (1988), 124–135. For more on Reagan’s attitudes against Affirmative Action see James C. Musselwhite Jr., ‘‘ The Impacts of New Federalism on Public/Private Partnerships, ’’ Publius, 16, 1 (1986), 113–31. For more on political correctness in the 1990s see Andrew Ross, Manthia Diawara, Alexander Doty, Wahneema Lubiano, Tricia Rose, Ella Shohat, Lynn Spigel, Robert Stam, and Michele Wallace, ‘‘ A Symposium on Popular Culture and Political Correctness, ’’ Social Text, 36 (1993), 1–39. See Richard Jensen, ‘‘ The Culture Wars, 1965–1995 : A Historian’s Map, ’’ Journal of Social History, 29 (1995), 17–37.

Jazz as a Black American Art Form


black American culture, and of the country as a whole. In the words of the JPA, jazz brought ‘‘ to this country and the world a uniquely American musical synthesis and culture through the African American experience.’’44 While a majority of innovations in jazz came from black musicians, specific reference to their experience became controversial among musicians and critics because it was perceived as marginalizing the contributions of others based on race.45 However controversial, recognizing jazz as a form of black music was essential to the purpose of John Conyers Jr. and the Congressional Black Caucus when proposing the resolution, as well as to those who were going to implement it. That is perhaps why Conyers read a statement by Larry Ridley, professor of music at Rutgers University, into the congressional record. After citing the importance of the Emancipation Proclamation and Civil Rights legislation of the 1960s to African Americans, Ridley called the JPA ‘‘ landmark legislation ’’ that ‘‘ is significant because it recognizes the cultural and artistic contributions of African Americans as progenitors in the evolution of America’s indigenous art form – Jazz.’’46 This position has been firmly supported by musicological analysis, which has provided the most widespread agreement on the black and American origins of jazz. This consensus had built up over several decades preceding the JPA, and has only increased with the spate of jazz histories published in the last twenty years. This scholarship uniformly argues for jazz’s black musical foundations, with special emphasis on African music and black American forms of ragtime and the blues.47 Scholars commonly depict the unique timbre, harmony, melody, rhythm and improvisation that are key
44 45

46 47

H. R. 57, 100th Congress (1987). Richard Sudhalter’s work on white jazz musicians is exemplary of this sentiment and scholarship. See Richard M. Sudhalter, Lost Chords : White Musicians and Their Contribution to Jazz, 1915–1945 (New York : Oxford University Press, 1999). 100th Cong. Rec. 38284 (1987). This was the case with seminal works and more recent volumes, for example Schuller’s introductory chapter, ‘‘ The Origins, ’’ focuses on African and European music, gospel, blues and ragtime – Gunther Schuller, Early Jazz : Its Roots and Development (Oxford : Oxford University Press, 1968), 3–62 ; Collier’s first chapter, ‘‘ The Precursors, ’’ covers the African roots, American transplantation, the blues and ragtime – James Lincoln Collier, The Making of Jazz : A Comprehensive History (London: Hart-Davis MacGibbon, 1978), 3–56 ; Gioia’s ‘‘ Prehistory of Jazz ’’ covers African music, blues and ragtime – Ted Gioia, The History of Jazz (Oxford : Oxford University Press, 1997), 3–28; Ward’s chapter ‘‘ Gumbo: Beginnings to 1907 ’’ covers New Orleans’s music, ragtime, blues, church music and also Buddy Bolden, Jelly Roll Morton and Sidney Bechet – Geoffrey Ward, Jazz : A History of America’s Music (New York : Alfred A. Knopf), 2000, 1–35; Hasse’s chapter ‘‘ The Emergence of Jazz ’’ covers African and European music, New Orleans’s music, blues, and ragtime – John Edward Hasse, Jazz : The First Century (New York : William Morrow), 2000, 1–24 ; Dicaire covers the blues, ragtime, and black New Orleans culture in his


Jeff Farley

elements of jazz as developing from black music and reflecting black experiences and history. Geoffrey Ward’s judgment epitomizes the social commentary inherent in this approach: ‘‘Jazz music belongs to all Americans, has come to be seen by the rest of the world as the symbol of all that is best about us, but it was created by people routinely denied the most basic benefits of being American. ’’48 Establishing the link between the musical freedom and improvisation of jazz, issues of race, and ‘‘ all that is best ’’ about America also addresses the JPA’s definitions of jazz as a microcosm of democratic function. In language indicative of its Cold War era origins, the JPA asserted that jazz ‘‘ makes evident to the world an outstanding artistic model of individual expression and democratic cooperation within the creative process, thus fulfilling the highest ideals and aspirations of our republic.’’49 Representing jazz as ‘‘ democratic’’ music has been a central element to the work of JALC members such as Wynton Marsalis and Stanley Crouch, and scholars such as Ken Burns, John Edward Hasse, Garry Hagberg, and Scott Saul. Hasse’s comments in his introduction to Jazz : The First Century are representative :
The jazz musician, through inflections and stylings, puts his or her own distinctive stamp on the material, making something personal out of something shared. Like democracy at its best, a jazz band maintains an optimum balance between the individual and the group and upholds the value of both.50

Here the jazz band is itself a model of democracy arbitrated solely upon musical values and talent. This approach does not deny the history and importance of racial discrimination in jazz but externalizes it, locating it socially within the contexts of American society and the American music industry, and musically within its aesthetics. The democratic model is admittedly idealistic, and the concern of many of those mentioned above has been to focus on the potential of this democratic model of jazz to transcend social and political barriers. As stated in the JPA, jazz has contributed to a fuller realization of the promise of American democracy, as it has been ‘‘ a unifying force, bridging cultural, religious, introduction – David Dicaire, The Jazz Musicians of the Early Years, to 1945 (London: McFarland & Company, 2003), 1–3. Ward, 2. This is similar to President Clinton’s comment, quoted above at note 2. H. R. 57, 100th Congress (1987). Hasse, ix. See also Wynton Marsalis, ‘‘ Wynton Marsalis, ’’ available at http://www., visited 17 April 2008 ; Crouch, ‘‘ Constitutional ’’ ; Ken Burns, dir., Jazz : A Film by Ken Burns, PBS Paramount, 2001 ; Scott Saul, Freedom Is, Freedom Aint: Jazz and the Making of the Sixties (Cambridge, MA : Harvard University Press, 2003), 6.

48 49 50

Jazz as a Black American Art Form


ethnic, and age differences in our diverse society.’’51 In the words of trumpeter Quincy Jones, jazz has the ‘‘ power to make men forget their differences and come together. ’’52 The idea of cultural and social convergence through jazz resonated well with one of the most common images of American history in which the nation functions as a ‘‘ melting pot. ’’53 Although the African elements of jazz first brought it popularity, their application to European musical contexts reflected America’s diverse culture and made the music distinct from its antecedents in both continents, and thus a ‘‘ uniquely American musical synthesis. ’’54 This view of jazz has been favored by musicologists throughout the twentieth century. For instance, Gunther Schuller’s writing on the origins of jazz showed the impact of America’s social environment on the music : ‘‘It seems in retrospect almost inevitable that America, the great ethnic melting pot, would procreate a music compounded of African rhythmic, formal, sonoric and expressive elements and European rhythmic and harmonic practices. ’’55 Since most of the innovators in jazz were black musicians, jazz writers have often portrayed them as the crucible in which these elements and practices melded together. The contradictions between presenting jazz as a model of democracy and transcendence, and as a product and subject of racism, have brought much criticism. Perhaps no one has attracted more than director Ken Burns for his film Jazz.56 Burns’s nineteen-hour documentary built on the work of a variety of historians, as well as JALC, by juxtaposing images of jazz as a model of democracy and ‘‘ what is best about us’’ against the racism that black musicians faced and ‘‘ turned into great art. ’’57 Despite a viewing audience for Jazz numbering an estimated twenty-three million and an impressive financial return, Burns was disappointed by the preponderance of scathing reviews criticizing his perspective.58 They cite his multimillion-dollar budget and nineteen hours of footage as ample resources to make a more nuanced and chronologically complete history of jazz.
51 53 54 55 56 58 52 H. R. 57, 100th Congress (1987). Hasse, iv. See Israel Zangwill, The Melting Pot: Drama in Four Acts (New York : Macmillan, 1909). H. R. 57, 100th Congress (1987). Schuller, 3. For more recent examples see Hasse, 3–4 ; Ward, xxi. 57 Burns, Jazz. Ibid. Dan Harlan, ‘‘ Ken Burns and the Coming Crisis of Academic History, ’’ Rethinking History, 7, 2 (2003), 170. For other examples of academic criticism of Burns see Euan Staples, ‘‘ ‘ You Can’t Steal a Gift ’: Narrative of Nation in Ken Burns’s Jazz, ’’ Australasian Journal of American Studies, 21, 2 (2002), 15–32; Theodore Gracyk, ‘‘ Jazz after Jazz : Ken Burns and the Construction of Jazz History, ’’ Philosophy and Literature, 26 (2002), 173–87; Steven F. Pond, ‘‘ Jamming the Reception : Ken Burns, Jazz, and the Problem of ‘ America’s Music ’, ’’ Notes, 60, 1 (2003), 11–45.


Jeff Farley

While these criticisms have merit, they do not take into account that Jazz was the political and musical product of years of government programs on jazz and a faithful representation of the definitions present in the JPA. It is precisely Ken Burns’s positivist vision of jazz, especially concerning race, that has thrived in Washington, DC throughout several changes in administration and ideology. Burns, along with scriptwriter Geoffrey Ward, sees race as not only a central question to American life, but also an essential element to the true preservation of jazz as a black American art form.59 Ward commented to one newspaper reviewer, ‘‘It just kills me that kids don’t listen to this music today, especially black kids, but kids in general _ So if this film gets a few kids more into jazz, that will be a very good thing. ’’60 Hence Burns gave prominence to Wynton Marsalis as a talking head, demonstrator, and charismatic role model. Marsalis’s role can be summed up in the comment made by Newport Jazz Festival founder George Wein in the final episode:
And I listened to him play, and I started to cry. I couldn’t believe it because I never thought I’d hear a young black musician play that way. And I could hear he had been listening to Louis Armstrong. And that meant so much to me because the only young musicians that paid attention to Louis Armstrong were white musicians. Young African American musicians did not pay attention to Louis Armstrong.61

Such comments have even more significance when considering the only significant study on the demographics of jazz listeners, which was carried out by the NEA in 1982. It found that the jazz audience was predominantly ‘‘ urban, young, white, well-educated, and from high-income-level households. ’’62 As Burns clearly demonstrated, to be the definitive music of America, jazz needed to represent far more. Whether or not critics and musicians agreed with Burns, the support supplied by the JPA meant that there had to be some method of ‘‘ preserving’’ jazz. There was no shortage of musicians and critics who were in favor of public support for jazz, so most at least tacitly accepted the idea of identifying jazz as a black American art form. Indeed, the logic behind the support for organizations such as JALC was hard to rebut :
Today at the Lincoln Center young players are again being apprenticed and educated, and casually integrated audiences are sitting and swinging together. They are

60 61 62

Philip Elwood, ‘‘ The Racial Side of Jazz and Blues : Ken Burns’s Series Surprised Many Fans’’, San Francisco Chronicle, 27 Jan. 2001, B2 ; Mark Feeney, ‘‘ In the World of Ken Burns’s Jazz, Race Matters, ’’ Boston Globe, 28 Jan. 2001, N1. Howard Reich, ‘‘ Heat’s on Burns’s Jazz,’’ Chicago Tribune, 26 Nov. 2000, 1. Burns, Jazz. Harold Horowitz, ‘‘ The American Jazz Audience,’’ quoted in Willard Jenkins, ‘‘ Where’s the Jazz Audience ?’’, Antioch Review, 57, 3 (1999), 355–62, 359.

Jazz as a Black American Art Form


doing so to the musical arrangements of a man universally acknowledged to be a master musician and perhaps the most ambitious composer alive. If this is ‘‘ conservatism, ’’ it’s of a kind sorely needed by a nation that chews up and spits out its great black artists. Our culture has little that is more deserving of conservation than the legacy of Armstrong, Ellington and the great canon of American jazz.63

With such acceptance being given by the majority, the pronouncements of jazz educators like Billy Taylor have become increasingly difficult to question. Jazz, as America’s classical music, ‘‘ defines the national character and the national culture _ No matter when or where it is composed and performed, from the ‘good old days’ to the present, jazz, our ubiquitous American music speaks to and for each generation – especially the generation that creates it. ’’64 For all of the opposition to neoclassicism there has not been a halt to comments like that of singer Tony Bennett: ‘‘ Every civilization is known by its culture, and jazz is America’s greatest contribution to the world – it is our ‘classical ’ music. ’’65 Indeed, the programs under the JPA are still expanding in scope and accessibility. The executive director of the International Association of Jazz Education, Bill McFarlin, suggested in 2007 that the health of jazz education had dramatically increased under the JPA: ‘‘ I don’t have empirical data, but I would have to guess that the jazz education industry has quadrupled in the last 20 years. ’’ The association’s director of education, Greg Carroll, concurred, ‘‘ I can recall back in the early ‘60s, when it was sort of taboo for jazz to be presented in the classroom. Now it’s unusual if a music program does not have a jazz program embedded within it. ’’66 The Internet curricula have been an important part of this expansion because of their unique multimedia potential and instant accessibility. In 2006 alone, the NEA Jazz in the Schools website had over four million users, while TMIJ’s Jazz in America has grown to an estimated twelve million.67 A similar result has been seen commercially, especially after the 2001 release of Ken Burns’s Jazz, which doubled the share of jazz in total record sales.68 While there remains a vocal contingent of critics arguing against the JPA’s definitions of jazz, such results will not likely see many calling for an end to its programs, but rather a more open interpretation of what it means to be America’s music.

64 66


Eric Alterman, ‘‘ Jazz at the Center : Jazz at the Lincoln Center Artistic Director Wynton Marsalis Criticises Paternalism among Jazz Critics ’’, The Nation, 264, 18 (1997), 9. 65 Taylor, ‘‘ Jazz : America’s Classical Music, ’’ 22. Hasse, v. Nate Chinen, ‘‘ Jazz is Alive and Well. In the Classroom, Anyway, ’’ New York Times, 7 Jan. 67 Ibid. ; ‘‘ Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz’’. 2007, 1. Nekesa Mumbi Moody, ‘‘ Ken Burns’ Jazz Breathes New Life into Field, PBS Documentary Sets Compact Disc Sales Afire, ’’ Dallas Morning News, 5 Feb. 2001, 23A.

Reproduced with permission of the copyright owner. Further reproduction prohibited without permission.…...

Similar Documents

Premium Essay

Is Jazz Dead

...R. Matzen Is Jazz Dead, Or Has It Just Moved Across The Pond? Jazz may appear to be dead, but only at first glance. The era in which jazz first launched and gained massive pop culture status in the United States has come and gone by more than 80 years. Even so, the improvisational genre continues to thrive outside its birthplace with great enthusiasm in the countries of Europe. All it takes is a jump across the ocean to realize that jazz is very much alive and growing thanks to the talent of a few innovative artists residing there. American jazz music accompanied the liberation of Europe after World War II where it came to be strongly associated with freedom. Shortly after the liberation there was a large influx of American jazz musicians, including greats like Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis, Bud Powell and Ben Webster who traveled overseas to find a wider, more accepting audience and to escape the racism to which they were regularly subjected to in the United States. Having all these jazz legends living in Europe enabled a large cultural exchange between the musicians of America and the musicians of Europe. Jazz music was quickly internalized by the European musicians who were eager to add tinges of their own folk music and culture to the ever expanding melting pot of American jazz. Due to the fact that the Europeans were so open to cultural exchange and so willing to except and support jazz - through the likes of the avant-garde Polish Trumpeter Tomasz Stańko,......

Words: 932 - Pages: 4

Free Essay

Jazz Age paper. I will be reforming to you what the Jazz Age is and what is was. Also in this novel The Great Gatsby. F. Schtt Fitzgerald portrays the reckless life he and his wife Zelda lived in the 1920's by comparing it to the lives of Tom and Daisy Buchanan. The Jazz Age was a big up roar with the centries. The way the Jazz Age got it's name was from the music. Start of the 1900's the "Jazz" type of music came out. People starting listening to the Jazz Music because it has a soft, swinging beat. Starting out into the music and then when everyone realized that is was cool they said that this time is called the "The Jazz Age is Born". In Paris, they banned dancing in public since of the war and it was the effect at the end of the 1918th centries but that wasnt't going to stop them from dancing. Many balls were held in Paris, because they loved dancing so much. During the pre-war era, many young americans were getting in trouble by their elders for the breaking the law such as, using slang, dancing low class dances, and loved dancing to the African American influences. Lots of the women in this time were getting but down since they were no longer using the corset, they were wearing much shorter skirts that showed their ankles, cutting their hair to a very short length with was very against what they did.Durring the Roaring 20's the most popular music would have been the beginning of the swing, or now as called the birth of Jazz. Jazz is a type of music of a American origin......

Words: 802 - Pages: 4

Free Essay

Jazz in America

...How Jazz Music Lead to a Victory in World War II Music is a very powerful tool, it can bring people together, it can make two people hate each other and in some instances it can put words into your head without you even knowing (ie. Hotel California- The Eagles). Music is something that nearly everybody listens to anywhere from church hymns to the ear splitting dubstep music that sounds like Autobots and Decepticons fighting. Since it is so universal that means that it could have a large impact on every population. I shouldn’t use the word could, it has impacted history already as it is. In my paper I will prove this by showing you that the invention of jazz music effected World War II enough to push us onto the winning side of the war. Imagine a time when the United States only consisted of nineteen states, and James Monroe has just been elected president. This time would be the year 1817 and it was also the year that the world of jazz would begin. I use the word begin in a very loose way, because jazz music didn’t just pop out of the ground one day. What I am referring to is that in New Orleans in 1817 Congo Square was designated as the official site for slave music and dance. This was what began what lead up to become jazz music. The music itself wasn’t started until at the very earliest 1892 when African American artist, Tommy Turpin writes what is considered to be the first ragtime song on his piano. [2] Ragtime music is a music style that would eventually turn......

Words: 2054 - Pages: 9

Free Essay

Duke of Jazz

...Shantae Todd Intro to Jazz History Mrs. Lester 29 January 2014 “Duke of Jazz” Duke Ellington was an American jazz composer, orchestrator, bandleader, and pianist, who were considered to be the greatest composer in the history of jazz music and one of the greatest musicians of the 20th century. He composed over 2000 works and performed numerous concerts during his musical career. A compilation of some of his most popular music is collected on a CD called "The Popular Duke Ellington." He was born Edward Kennedy Ellington on April 28, 1899 in Washington, D.C. to Daisy and James Ellington. They served as the ideal role models for young Ellington and taught him everything from table manners to the power of music. He was eight when he got his first piano lessons. By the age of fourteen, he was sneaking into Frank Holliday’s poolroom. He learned from his experiences in the poolroom how to appreciate the value of mixing with a wide range of people. He attended the Armstrong Manual Training School to study commercial art instead of an academically-oriented school. During the summer months, he would seek out and listen to ragtime pianists in Washington. He said he decided to become a musician when he realized that when playing the piano, there was always a pretty girl standing down at the bass clef end of the piano, thus the music career of Duke Ellington was born. He was called “Duke” because he was something of a dandy, with a love of fancy clothes and an elegant style. He......

Words: 768 - Pages: 4

Premium Essay

Jazz Concert

...Professor Barr Wednesday 3:00 11/22/10 Concert Report I attended the Fall Jazz Band concert at Mt. Sac in the Sophia B. Clarke Theater. The show was on Friday November 19th, 2010 at 8:00 p.m. The concert first featured the Latin Jazz Ensemble of Mt. Sac. Followed by the Latin Jazz Ensemble was the Mt. Sac Jazz Ensemble 1. The concert was directed by Jeff Ellwood and Tim Curle. The first piece played by the Mt. Sac Jazz Ensemble was called “Intersecting Lines” which was composed by Les Hooper. After warming the audience up with that piece, they went on to play “True North” by Mike Dana. Next the Ensemble played “Let’s Face the Music and Dance,” by Irving Berlin. The last piece the Latin Jazz Ensemble played was “Too High,” composed by Stevie Wonder, which I thought was pretty interesting. After a short intermission the Mt.Sac Jazz Ensemble came out and started off with “Hot and Spicey,” by Jason Goldman. The second song they played was called “Count Me In” by Billy Byers. Next they played “D-Bop” played in D-Flat I believe, and it was said to be a difficult piece for the ensemble, but they still mastered it. After “D-Bop” the piece called “Truth” was played which featured a solo piece from a talented saxophone player. Then they played “And Another Thing,” which is composed by Tom Garling. The last piece played was called “Yes or No,” and this was composed by Wayne Shortner. Jazz music started towards the beginning of the 20th century. This genre......

Words: 568 - Pages: 3

Free Essay


...colorful. I have always enjoyed listening to sounds which calm me down and maintain positive emotions. Although jazz music has never been my biggest interest, after I started learning about it in class I began to wonder about phenomena of Jazz. Surprisingly I found out it made me bobbin my head and feel warm inside. The performance I attended was at B.B King Blues Club and Grill located on near Times Square. This neighborhood means you will be battling with pretty big crowd but the place was generally pleasant and accommodating. The band played in a style of Ornette Coleman, known as one of the major innovators of the free jazz movement of the 1960’s. The band consisted four saxophones (2 altos, 1 tenor, 1 baritone) two trombones, three trumpets and instruments for setting rhythm. It was beautiful to see it life, all together, performing so professionally. The pieces were easy to listen to which was unexpected to me. The two songs that caught my attention were “Lonely woman” from 1959 and “Dancing in your head” from 1988. In the song “Lonely woman” I noticed many improvisations and solos. The beginning of the song reminded me of Brass Band’s funeral march from New Olean’s style. On the other hand, in the song “Dancing in your head” I noticed that instruments were not playing together, but they were improvising. I believe this style might be called ‘cool jazz’, which we were introduce to on our last class. In both songs, there were more improvisations than composed......

Words: 341 - Pages: 2

Premium Essay

The Evolution of Jazz and Its Mo0Dern Influence

...The Evolution of Jazz and its Modern Influence Jazz is a music art form that was created solely in America. It is considered to be one of the most influential forms of music in American history. Not only did it originate in America but it is also one of the few art forms that have two distinctive sounds. The jazz sound is separated into classical jazz and jazz fusion (modern) jazz. Jazz is also one of the only forms of music for which college music majors are required to study several artists’ techniques as a semester course. Jazz music has been used in many forms of music in America. With all the respect that jazz has garnered around the world, unfortunately, the art form has lost popularity over the last 20 years. With the emergence of hip-hop, techno, and other music forms, young musicians of today do not find the music appealing or relevant. All the awards for jazz musicians have been moved off the national television award shows. There is also a movement to remove the jazz categories from the Grammy list completely. This paper will discuss the history of jazz, where it began, how it evolved, and its future. To understand the future of jazz, one must understand what it really is and the instruments that were combined to make the ensemble. Jazz started to form early in the twentieth century in New Orleans. At that time, the sound was called Ragtime. This sound was produced by a band that included the string bass, drums, a guitar or banjo, and a "melodic section" with......

Words: 2476 - Pages: 10

Free Essay

Effect of Jazz on Modern Music

...much unlike the others. The introduction of Jazz music in the early 20th Century has sculpted what we know music as today. As a style that has evolved over time, people aren’t able to pinpoint a specific moment where Jazz was first played. Although, most accept it was initially developed in New Orleans, Louisiana. Jazz music at its core is a unique combination of both European and African musical elements. It takes its “rhythm and feel” component from African music. Additionally, the component of harmony -- that is, the chords that accompany the melody of the tune (usually played on the piano) -- and various instruments, such as the saxophone, trumpet, and piano, are borrowed from European music. While Jazz initially only saw popularity in a small minority of communities throughout the American South, it soon grew far beyond those reaches, developing many alternate styles of its own as it was introduced to new corners of society. Some examples include: Swing, Ragtime, Bossa Nova, Blues and Bebop. Classic jazz and its alternates are the facilitators of the evolution of popular music. While rock is considered the first iteration of today’s popular music, as a genre it owes many of its elements to Jazz music. For instance, Jazz musicians were the first to develop/use a complete drum set. Before jazz, bands required one person each to play the snare and bass drum, the cymbals, and the tom-toms. Rock didn’t just take the drum set from Jazz music. It also borrowed many of the......

Words: 789 - Pages: 4

Premium Essay

Jazz and Jizz

...Jazz and jizz Jazz is a music genre that originated from African American communities of New Orleans in the United States during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It emerged in the form of independent traditional and popular musical styles, all linked by the common bonds of African American andEuropean American musical parentage with a performance orientation.[1] Jazz spans a period of over a hundred years, encompassing a very wide range of music, making it difficult to define. Jazz makes heavy use of improvisation, polyrhythms, syncopation and the swing note,[2] as well as aspects of European harmony, American popular music,[3] the brass band tradition, and African musical elements such as blue notes and African-American styles such as ragtime.[1] Although the foundation of jazz is deeply rooted within the black experience of the United States, different cultures have contributed their own experience to the music as well. Intellectuals around the world have hailed jazz as "one of America's original art forms".[4] As jazz spread around the world, it drew on different national, regional, and local musical cultures, which gave rise to many distinctive styles. New Orleans jazz began in the early 1910s, combining earlier brass-band marches, French quadrilles, biguine, ragtime and blues with collectivepolyphonic improvisation. In the 1930s, heavily arranged dance-oriented swing big bands, Kansas City jazz, a hard-swinging, bluesy, improvisational style and Gypsy jazz (a......

Words: 415 - Pages: 2

Free Essay

Jazz History

...Edgardo Del Rosario MUS 114 Richard Armandi 21 February 2016 Billie Holiday The career of jazz singer, Billie Holiday, was full of intense, life-changing moments. Billie was born on April 7, 1915 in Philadelphia. One of the first major events in her early life was being raped at the age of 11. Billie was always an outspoken person, who often swore. At the age of 14, she joined a brothel. She claimed she was 24, but her lie was soon exposed and was punished. These types of experiences molded her strong exterior and personality, which changed the course of her life. Billie added her own improvisation to her singing. When she sang at restaurants, she would go around to different tables, and sing her own improvised chorus each time. People were very impressed by her improvised singing, and caught the attention of recording artists. He was able to land a part in a Duke Ellington movie as well. In a certain scene, Billie’s character was beaten. They had to record the scene so many times that she was bruised black and blue towards the end. Her life events so far show a contrast between her natural talent as a singer, and the harsh brutalities of being a black female during a time of prejudice. Eventually Billie Holiday would have a masochistic side to her, opting to stay in relationships where she is abused. Her suitors introduced her to various drugs, such as opium and heroin. Needless to say, she would easily become addicted to them. The influence of drugs on Billie’s......

Words: 658 - Pages: 3

Premium Essay

The Jazz Age well as the poor. There were many causes that assisted in bringing the depression into existence. However, one of the main causes was the disproportionate riches during the nineteen-twenties. The gap between the rich and the working class people was the enlarged industrialize production during this period. In addition, this periods production cost fell quickly as wages rose slowly and prices remained steady. Following world war, one arrived what we know of today as The Jazz Age. It was movement from the 1920’s that emerged dance and Jazz music. This age glorified city life. Americans and many African American sharecroppers from the South left their farms in record numbers to live and work in places like Chicago and New York City. F. Scott Fitzgerald called it a time when "the parties were bigger, the pace was faster, the buildings were higher, the morals [reduced]". This era was also known as the "anything goes “period, which emerged in America after World War I. “The unbounded optimism of the Jazz Age and the shocking consequences when reality finally hit on October 29th, ultimately lead to the Great Depression” (PBS). Beginning with the stock market crash of 1929, which was originally designed as a corporation owned capital; where “Each share of stock represented a proportionate share of the corporation. The stocks were bought and sold on stock exchanges, of which the most important was the New York Stock Exchange located on Wall Street in Manhattan”(PBS). One of the......

Words: 1179 - Pages: 5

Premium Essay


...Jazz Argument What is jazz, is it just noise? Is it music? Well to many people in the 1920s jazz was seen as an annoyance or even a threat to society. Why was this exactly? Well, “with one more cause of loosening morals and frightening dislocation. Ragtime had been bad enough, with its insinuating rhythms and daring couple-dancing,” jazz was almost too different which clearly made many people over react. Now it is understandable and basically a known fact that no matter what you do or like someone somewhere is going to disagree so there’s always going to be a certain degree of negativity. From musical preference to favorite food, someone is bound to try and tear through your choice with their opinions. Jazz was often a fast paced and somewhat jumbled up or unorganized form of music that many people enjoy. Soothing melodies and “get up and dance” rhythms turned jazz into an exciting new era of music. Another interesting thing is that not only was jazz music played with instruments, bands who performed also had dance routines to go along with their set. Jazz was born in a time known as the roaring twenties, and I do believe it had quite the roar. In my opinion music in general is a way of expression that is deeper than just words spoken, it brings forth a level of inner bliss that brings peace to the mind and soothes the soul. Some forms of music are very different and often looked down upon (for instance I am a fan of metal music, which is not exactly a worldwide......

Words: 439 - Pages: 2

Free Essay


...Essay 13 1. What approach to jazz does Wynton Marsalis personify? How does he personify it? In considering this issue, refer to his life, his role in the jazz repertory movement, and in particular his work as a composer. According to the class notes and textbook, Marsalis is a trumpeter, spokesman for jazz tradition (not fusion or avant-garde), leader of Jazz at Lincoln Center; born in NOLA to musical family; trained at Juilliard, Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers; modeled quintet on Davis's; raised funding, became eclectic, greater clarity in improve, loosened strictures; first post-pop, writes with historicist bent, pastiche of jazz styles. He is also an articulate and influential spokesperson for traditional jazz aesthetics. The neoclassical school develops at the beginning of the 1980’s. It, by definition, implies a pursuit of “new” expressions of “classic” jazz. In this case… mostly jazz from the 1950’s. (style) Wynton has an overtly strong interest in composition over improvisation sometimes and resists excessive importation from competing musical styles like classical and rock. His work with the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra upholds the works of Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington as exemplars of the jazz tradition, and downplays the importance of such developments as fusion and the avant-garde. The influence of Ellington on Marsalis's compositional style, musical values, and jazz career calls attention to a historical approach. Marsalis does beyond traditionalism;......

Words: 286 - Pages: 2

Free Essay


...Jazz is an art form that originated and developed in America. Even though Jazz was created using the musical instincts of the African and European traditions, it reflects the American life. Over the years Jazz music has played a key role by reflecting an American’s right to personal freedom of expression. For instance, “Jazz has been called the purest expression of American democracy; a music built on individualism and compromise, independence and cooperation [1].” It has had a major influence on many musical styles and genres within the American society and continues to do so. Therefore, Jazz can be called the true American Classical Music. Just like Classical Music, Jazz has its own standard of literacy, form, and complexity. It has established a value over time and it allows many cultures to communicate thought as well as ideas with one another for Jazz is widely known. The only time Jazz was considered mainstream was the in the 1930s commonly known as the Swing Era. This is the time where many musicians were finally experimenting with the music and crafting jazz arrangements for bigger bands. The end of the Swing Era was marked by one main disaster. This had to do largely with the direct effects of World War II itself for members in the big bands were forced to serve their country [1]. There were also gas shortages, a tax raise, and curfew. These dissuaded people from going out which had a dramatic impact on the Swing. Since then Jazz music then proceeded to decline in......

Words: 530 - Pages: 3

Premium Essay


...History of Jazz Music | | | Inemesit Inyang Crump | 4/27/2012 | | In the world we live in today there many different types of music that comes from all types of people, countries and origins. Rock, blues, neo-soul, classical, hip-hop, techno and even heavy metal are just brief descriptions of the many genres of music. One genre of music that is most popularly known worldwide is Jazz. Jazz is one of the most historical forms of music in America, contributing to several cultural achievements and society. The history of jazz has an extensive timeline of history dating back to the early 1700’s and 1800’s which is also known as the slave era and the ragtime era. This unique form art has helped to unite people of all races, regions and national boundaries. Even though it is a form of entertainment, it has been used to widely voice sentiments on slavery, freedom, creativity, and American character both in the United States and also overseas. Jazz music consists of many forms such as European, ragtime, modal, afro-cuban jazz, fusion and many more. While many people argue that Jazz is not one of their favorite forms of music, it has been proven that it is one of the longest lasting forms of music dating back over 100 years. Jazz was born to African Americans, which were predominantly slaves. These African Americans attempted to express their culture and feelings using instruments to give other cultures an idea of their personalities. Even though Jazz is a......

Words: 1737 - Pages: 7