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In a typical program he would introduce 'an extinguished guest'... then play the blues of Bobby Rush or the gospel of the Mighty Sons of Glory, then rhapsodize about Dip's Drive-in Laundromat. Community news - for instance, who was about to be 'funeralized' - might follow - Early Wright, obituary to the DJ, WROX Clarksdale

Author Topic: Books on early jazz  (Read 2018 times)

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Offline dj

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Books on early jazz
« on: November 30, 2010, 09:50:26 AM »
Can anyone recommend books on early jazz - from its origins through 1930 or so?  I'm looking for something to read on the subject and don't know where to start.

Offline Johnm

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Re: Books on early jazz
« Reply #1 on: November 30, 2010, 10:11:21 AM »
Hi dj,
Gunther Schuller wrote a book entitled "Early Jazz".  I've not read it, but he is a tremendous musician and very thorough scholar.  I very much enjoyed and admired his book "The Swing Era", which I have read and re-read.  Schuller has strong opinions with which you may or may not agree, but they are all firmly founded in the music.
All best,
Johnm

Offline eric

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Re: Books on early jazz
« Reply #2 on: November 30, 2010, 10:31:17 AM »
It's not exactly what you're looking for but "Pops," the recent biography of Louis Armstrong is great, as is Louis' own autobiography.
--
Eric

Offline lindy

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Re: Books on early jazz
« Reply #3 on: November 30, 2010, 10:35:56 AM »
Jazzmen, by Frederic Ramsey.

The Story of Jazz, by Marshall W. Stearns.
 
Jazz: A History Of America's Music. Geoffrey C. Ward & Ken Burns (yes, the companion book to the PBS series "Jazz", stands up well on its own).

Buddy Bolden and the Last Days of Storyville, by Danny Barker.

Satchmo: My Life in New Orleans. Autobiography.
« Last Edit: November 30, 2010, 10:37:21 AM by lindy »

Offline unezrider

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Re: Books on early jazz
« Reply #4 on: November 30, 2010, 06:11:46 PM »
hey dj,
i really enjoyed "Jelly's Blues: The Life, Music, & Redemption of Jelly Roll Morton" by Howard Reich. it's gives a good representation of the era. & more than that, a real glimpse into how much his music meant to him. he was a true artist. much more than the hustler/pimp caricature he's sometimes presented as. (hence the "redemption" in the title)
chris
http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_ss_i_0_17?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=jelly+roll+morton&sprefix=jelly+roll+morton
i just checked & amazon has some copies (new) from .09 cents plus shipping.
"Be good, & you will be lonesome." -Mark Twain

Offline dj

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Re: Books on early jazz
« Reply #5 on: December 01, 2010, 03:42:00 AM »
Thanks, guys.  This will keep me busy for a while!  Though more suggestions are always welcome.

Offline Pan

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Re: Books on early jazz
« Reply #6 on: December 01, 2010, 05:53:41 AM »
It's been a looong time, but I enjoyed "Hear Me Talkin' To Ya" by Nat Shapiro and Nat Hentoff:

http://www.amazon.com/Hear-Me-Talkin-Ya-Story/dp/0486217264

It has lots of fun anecdotes gathered from the musicians themselves.

"Really The Blues" by Mezz Mezzrow and Bernard Wolfe should be fun too:

http://www.amazon.com/Really-Blues-Mezz-Mezzrow/dp/0806512059

Cheers

Pan

Offline oddenda

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Re: Books on early jazz
« Reply #7 on: December 25, 2010, 12:03:54 AM »
Mezirow's book is semi-fiction! Try JAZZ by Gary Giddins & Scott DeVeaux - the best successor to Marshall Stearns' book, which is still valid.

pbl

Offline Rivers

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Re: Books on early jazz
« Reply #8 on: December 27, 2010, 07:44:03 AM »
I'm reading "Stardust Melody: The Life and Music of Hoagy Carmichael" by the late Richard M. Sudhalter at present. It contains lots of information about that time and place, the musicians, Bix, Hoagy, Trumbauer, Whiteman, Louis Armstrong, King Oliver, Ellington, Fletcher Henderson, JRM, etc., the writers, publishers, assorted crazed denizens of the jazz age, Gennett studio sessions, on and on.

The big bonus here is the author was actually a jazz musician (trumpet) who can write. As a musician you feel it's written for you, since much of it wouldn't be understood without a pretty good knowledge of music. For example there's a lot of useful musical 'craft' detail discussed, for example, how Bix approached composing his songs and licks (the idea of "correlated phrasing", which now make total sense to me when I listen to him play, see the intro to "Riverboat Shuffle" to get the idea), and how that influenced just about everybody on the scene, including Hoagy's own approach to composition and playing.

Highly recommended, particularly if you're in love with Hoagy's songs and piano playing, since all the great Carmichael tunes are gone into in some depth and it really helps to know the song.
« Last Edit: December 27, 2010, 07:47:30 AM by Rivers »

Offline Richard

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Re: Books on early jazz
« Reply #9 on: December 27, 2010, 02:11:33 PM »
Without excavation I rememebr he did an excellent book on Bix many years ago and a couple of LPs using the Whiteman scores and him taking the Bix solos.
(That's enough of that. Ed)

Offline oddenda

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Re: Books on early jazz
« Reply #10 on: December 30, 2010, 04:11:04 AM »
Read the book myself. Hoagy was a great song writer... just not a very nice person in his personal life.

pbl

Offline Richard

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Re: Books on early jazz
« Reply #11 on: December 30, 2010, 02:13:10 PM »
Maybe I'll get the Hoagy book and complete the set
(That's enough of that. Ed)

Offline Rivers

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Re: Books on early jazz
« Reply #12 on: December 30, 2010, 03:38:50 PM »
The last half of the book is pretty sad, and a polar opposite to the first half. How could anything live up to working with Bix and co. as a young man? You get the impression that he had a lot bigger problem letting go of his youth than most of us. Despite all that worldly success, royalties, particularly for Stardust, flowing in year after year, he was still yearning for a hot little jazz band and the life and friends that went with it.

Many of his songs throughout his career are infused with nostalgia and memory. He himself was always looking back on his own early days with Bix through rose-colored glasses. I was thoroughly depressed at the end, although the account of the memorial service at IU was very touching and inspirational.

The best part is the first part, what an amazing ride. It's well worth it for that.

Offline DanceGypsy

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Re: Books on early jazz
« Reply #13 on: January 03, 2011, 11:09:04 AM »
Drop everything and immediately find yourself a copy of this book:

STOMP & SWERVE: American Music Gets Hot, 1843-1924
by David Wondrich

Then go to Archeophone Records and order the companion CD to the book (same title), as well as the "Lost Sounds" CD in Archeophone's genre series.

I have no idea who David Wondrich is, but he is a brilliant writer.  Not a speck of that dry, monotone academic prose that I have somewhat come to expect in my readings on the early histories of American music, instruments, etc.  My wife got this book for me for Christmas, and it blows away everything I have read to date.  Wondrich is opinionated and sarcastic at times, but this book is a real page-turner and he really moves you through the story.  The book starts with minstrelsy, moves on to the big brass military bands and then follows the development of the cakewalk, ragtime, jazz and the blues.

Here is an excerpt from pages 176-177, in his discussion of James Reese Europe:

     In the spring of 1910, Europe and some of his cronies founded the Clef Club, a combination social club, booking agency, benevolent association for black caberet musicians (string players almost to a man).  With his connections, he'd been making out just fine.  But he always thought big.  Furthermore, to publicize the club, he organized and conducted a semiannual series of concerts - fantastic affairs that mingled the tenacious tendrils of minstrelsy, Will Marion Cook's orchestral ragtime, light classics and what-have-you.
     By their fourth one, on May 2, 1912, they were playing Carnegie Hall, their 125-piece orchestra had horns and reeds to supplement the strings, percussion, and pianos (fourteen of them!) that the orchestra had started off with, and they were playing a nice-sized chunk of "serious" music, all by black composers - including, of course, Will Marion Cook.  They weren't in overalls or swallowtail coats, they weren't blacked up, and they weren't dishing out Coon songs.  Yet the integrated audience (seated together, a novelty) packed the joint, and the critics raved.  Big sensation: colored musicians play just as good as real ones, but different; who knew?
     This was a turning point in American music: the first viable alternative to European art music that wasn't derivative or cheesy.  The Clef Club Symphony Orchestra mixed highbrow and lowdown and made it look natural.  The players did unheard of things: they sang in harmony while they played, they used Underworld instruments like the banjo, they swung.  The raw drive and swerve of hot ragtime were incorporated, but not quenched.  Just as Will Marion Cook did with the vocal resources of Coondom, James Reese Europe took its instrumental ones - banjos, fiddle, drums, pianos - and forged them into something powerful, complex, and, above all, dignified.  While his music wasn't jazz, not precisely, it combined Underworld and Topworld in the same way.
     I don't want to say that without the Clef Club Orchestra, you'd have no Fletcher Henderson, Duke Ellington, Bix Beiderbecke, Artie Shaw, Charles Mingus, Beatles, Parliament Funkadelic...--none of the "there's got to be more to this music than just grinding" wing of hot music.  But Jim Europe set the cornerstone.  At least, that's what seems to have gone on - nobody thought to get the CCO on record.

And so on in this vein for 249 pages.  He uses the terms "Topworld" and "Underworld" to describe polite, respectable society and the underclasses, respectively, and he is very interested in the semi-porous boundary that separates them.  How what is noisy or dangerous and has parents wringing their hands and locking their children in at night in one generation is used as background music in commercials to hawk potato chips in the next (c.f. punk rock).

Again, of all the books I have read over the past several years on the ragtime, the blues, early jazz and rock & roll, this has been the most enjoyable, informative read.  It has been especially nice to have the companion CD (plus the other one I mentioned, which has a lot of what was left off the other CD) to hear the specific songs and artists being discussed.
« Last Edit: January 03, 2011, 11:35:44 AM by DanceGypsy »

Offline oddenda

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Re: Books on early jazz
« Reply #14 on: January 05, 2011, 03:26:38 PM »
Yeah, nice book. Your quote from the author is inaccurate, though, as the CCO (as James Reese Europe's Society Orchestra) recorded for Victor in 1913 (under the aegis of White ballroom dance couple Vernon and Irene Castle). His Hellfighters Band from WWI recorded for Pathe on return to the US after the war.

pbl

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