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The Benny Goodman Quartet: Lionel Hampton, vibraphone; Teddy Wilson, piano; Benny Goodman, clarinet; and Gene Krupa, drums; in Busby Berkeley’s 1937 film, Hollywood Hotel.

(MaxJazz/Lebrecht Music & Arts)

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Jazz Ex.2 characteristic rhythmic motive of the charleston

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Corp author Jazzsign

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Charlie Parker, 1949.

(JazzSign/Lebrecht Music & Arts)

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Jazz Ex.1c cinquillo

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Corp author JazzSign/Lebrecht Music & Arts

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Duke Ellington Orchestra: Kay Davis, singer; Al Sears, saxophone; Junior Raglin, bass, Ray Nance trumpet, and trombonist Tricky Sam Nanton; 1945.

(JazzSign/Lebrecht Music & Arts)

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Corp author Rue des Archives

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Ella Fitzgerald.

(RA/Lebrecht Music & Arts)

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Jazz Ex.1b habanera

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Jazz  

Mark Tucker and Travis A. Jackson

The term conveys different although related meanings: 1) a musical tradition rooted in performing conventions that were introduced and developed early in the 20th century by African Americans; 2) a set of attitudes and assumptions brought to music-making, chief among them the notion of performance as a fluid creative process involving (group) improvisation; and 3) a style characterized by melodic, harmonic, and timbral practices derived from the blues and African American religious musics, cyclical formal structures, and a supple approach to rhythm and phrasing known as swing.

Historians and critics using studies of concert music and literature as models have often portrayed the development of jazz as a narrative of progress. Their accounts suggest that jazz started as unsophisticated dance music but grew into increasingly complex forms, gradually gaining prestige and becoming recognized around the world as an art. Over that same period, the attitudes of cultural and institutional gatekeepers toward the music changed dramatically. In ...

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Joe “King” Oliver (standing with trumpet) leads the Creole Jazz Band from New Orleans, including Louis Armstrong (kneeling with trumpet), 1923.

(Lebrecht Music & Arts)

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Dean Alger

[Alonzo ]

(b New Orleans, LA, Feb 8, 1894; d Toronto, ON, June 16, 1970). American blues and jazz guitarist and singer. Research indicates that Johnson was born in 1894 (Alger). He was influenced by the musical activities of his family and the rich musical environment in New Orleans of the early 1900s, including the early blues, jazz, and the lyrically expressive French and Spanish music traditions. He began playing violin, developed excellent guitar skill, and by the 1920s was also recording on piano, banjo, mandolin, and harmonium.

Johnson performed on violin with Charlie Creath’s band on the Mississippi riverboat St. Paul, and after winning a blues singing contest in St. Louis, he began his recording career with OKeh Records. His first recording featured “Mr. Johnson’s Blues” and “Falling Rain Blues” (OK, 1925) and was a two-sided hit. From 1925 through 1932 he made more recordings than any other bluesman. In late ...

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J.R. Taylor

[Andrew Dewey ]

(b Newport, KY, May 28, 1898; d New York, NY, Dec 11, 1992). American jazz saxophonist and bandleader. He spent his childhood in Denver, where he studied piano, singing, alto saxophone, and music theory with Paul Whiteman’s father, Wilberforce Whiteman, among others. In 1918 he joined George Morrison’s orchestra as a bass saxophonist and tuba player. Around 1927 he moved to Dallas, where he joined Terrence Holder’s Dark Clouds of Joy orchestra; he assumed its leadership in 1929. In that year he transferred the band to Kansas City, Missouri, where it was known as the Clouds of Joy (among other related titles), rivaled Bennie Moten’s band, and made its first recordings (1929–30). From 1930 he made several nationwide tours, although the band continued to be based primarily in Kansas City. The success of “Until the Real Thing Comes along” (1936, Decca) established the band’s lasting popularity. Until the group disbanded in ...

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Jack Stewart

[George Vital(is) ]

(b New Orleans, LA, Sept 21, 1873; d New Orleans, LA, June 1, 1966). American drummer, alto horn player, and bandleader. Primarily a bass drum player, he also played snare drum, drum set, alto horn, and string bass. He was leading string bands and brass bands by 1889 and led a drum and bugle corps during the Spanish-American War. His specialty was funerals, and he operated within an established territory of the Algiers and Gretna neighborhoods in New Orleans.

Laine organized his Reliance Brass Band around 1900. As demand for dance music grew, he added pianists, guitarists, and string bass players to the brass band lineup. Laine’s bands were multiethnic and included light-skinned blacks he could hire without running afoul of the law. Some members had musical training, others had none, resulting in a successful combination of readers and fakers. Laine hired many musicians, 150 of whom have identified. A third of these became mainstays of early jazz. Members of Tom Brown’s band, the Original Dixieland Jazz Band, the Louisiana Five, Jimmy Durante’s band, and the New Orleans Rhythm Kings became internationally famous....

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Charles E. Kinzer

[Mesirow, Milton ]

(b Chicago, IL, Nov 9, 1899; d Paris, France, Aug 5, 1972). American jazz clarinetist. He learned clarinet as a teenager and picked up saxophone in 1917, while in reform school. A streetwise champion of African American jazz, he socialized and played occasionally with the younger musicians of the Austin High School Gang in Chicago in the mid-1920s. After recording with the Chicago Rhythm Kings and others (1928) he moved to New York, where he recorded with Eddie Condon, toured with Red Nichols, and freelanced. In the 1930s he organized recording sessions, notably with Sidney Bechet and Tommy Ladnier (1938). He also founded an interracial band (1937), worked with Art Hodes (1943–4), and led bands at Kelly’s Stables (1943) and Jimmy Ryan’s (1945). In 1945 he co-founded the King Jazz label, for which he made some of his best recordings with Bechet. In ...

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Corp author JazzSign/Lebrecht Music & Arts

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The Original Dixieland Jazz Band: Henry Ragas, Larry Shields, Eddie Edwards, Nick La Rocca, and Tony Spargo, 1917.

(JazzSign/Lebrecht Music & Arts)

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Bruce Boyd Raeburn

[Crawford, Joseph ]

(b, New Orleans, LA, c1897; d New Orleans, LA, July 4, 1931). American jazz cornetist and bandleader. Buddy Petit began his professional career as a founding member of the Young Olympia Band, formed when Olympia Band cornetist Freddie Keppard left New Orleans to join the Original Creole Band in Los Angeles in 1914. Other members of the Young Olympia were clarinetist Jimmie Noone, trombonist Zue Robertson, banjoist Simon Marrero, bassist John Marrero, and drummer Arnold DePass, and shortly afterward Noone and Petit co-led a band of their own at places such as the Pythian Temple until the clarinetist left to join Keppard in Chicago for the Creole Band’s final vaudeville season in 1917–8. Petit made a short trip to Los Angeles in 1917 to work with Jelly Roll Morton before returning to New Orleans and situating himself as one of the top bandleaders on the regional (Texas-Florida) scene. A photograph taken in Mandeville, Louisiana, ...

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Charles E. Kinzer

(Floristan )

(b New Orleans, LA, Oct 19, 1878; d New Orleans, LA, Feb 4, 1961). American jazz clarinetist. A Creole of color, he learned guitar and clarinet as a youth, and began playing clarinet professionally by the age of 16. He was adept at both reading and embellishment-oriented improvising, and moved easily among the brass bands, orchestras, and smaller dance bands of the downtown Creole community, remaining active into the 1930s. His light skin enabled him to work occasionally with white bands. He played B♭ and E♭ clarinets with brass bands, including the Exclesior and Tuxedo bands, and while with the latter is said to have developed an obbligato solo on “High Society” (a swinging paraphrase of the piccolo part from the standard march arrangement) that has since become a celebrated set-piece in the repertory of traditional jazz. During the Depression Picou left music to work as a tinsmith, but with the revival of interest in traditional jazz he returned, recording with Kid Rena in ...

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Sarah Vaughan, 1946.

(Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, William P. Gottlieb Collection, LC-USZ62-89643)

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[Bertholoff, William Henry Joseph Bonaparte ]

(b Goshen, NY, Nov 23, 1893; d New York, NY, April 18, 1973). American jazz pianist and composer. Born Willie Bertholoff, he gained the surname Smith from his stepfather. He grew up in Newark, New Jersey, where his mother’s keyboard playing in the African American Baptist church sparked his early interest in music. He started playing piano at the age of six. He adopted Judaism in his youth and served as a cantor for a time during the 1940s. After a largely informal music education he began to play professionally while still in his teens, and soon became one of the most illustrious and influential proponents of stride piano. According to one of various stories, he earned his nickname “the Lion” during World War I through his heroism at the front. On his discharge from the army in 1919 he established himself in the forefront of New York’s stride pianists. The friendship and mutual admiration he enjoyed with Duke Ellington during these early years were musically documented in Ellington’s “Portrait of the Lion” (...

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Bruce Boyd Raeburn

[John Alexander ]

(b New Orleans, LA, April 17, 1890; d Los Angeles, CA, June 17, 1966). American guitarist and banjoist. Although he worked as a plasterer throughout his life, he was one of the foremost guitarists and banjoists (along with Lonnie Johnson) who emerged from New Orleans in the 1920s. From age 11 he studied with Jules Baptiste and was influenced by Bud Scott and Frank Landry. At 15 he led trios at neighborhood fish fries, then worked with George Jones, Armand Piron, Kid Ory, and the Superior, Imperial, and Tuxedo bands before joining Fate Marable on the riverboats in 1918. In September 1923 King Oliver took St. Cyr to Chicago, which led to jobs with Darnell Howard and a long-term association with Doc Cook’s Dreamland Orchestra (1925–9). His recordings with Louis Armstrong’s Hot Fives and Hot Sevens (1925–7) and Jelly Roll Morton’s Red Hot Peppers (...

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Mark Berresford

(Coleman )

(b Brunswick, MO, Feb 7, 1882; d New York, NY, March 9, 1961). American clarinetist, bandleader, composer, and music publisher. His first professional engagement (c1897–8) was with a “pickaninny” band led by Nathaniel Clark Smith. In 1902 he was assistant leader of P.G. Lowery’s band with Forepaugh and Sells Circus and later that year joined Mahara’s Minstrels band under the leadership of W.C. Handy. In 1903 he formed his own band in Minneapolis, where he made the first recordings by an African American band. Sweatman moved to Chicago in 1908, where he led trios at the Grand and Monogram theaters. In 1911 he made his first vaudeville appearance, and in late 1916 made the first records recognizable as jazz performances. In 1918 Sweatman’s band was signed to an exclusive recording contract with Columbia, their records rivalling those by the Original Dixieland Jazz Band. He continued to work through the 1920s and early 1930s in vaudeville, and in ...