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March 1, 2006

contemporary 20s jazz recreationists - rough ideas

Posted by dogpossum on March 1, 2006 6:04 PM in the category music

Listening to a new CD by the Charleston Chasers, I was struck by the short musical step between British brass bands and the earliest jazz and ragtime. The story goes: Afro-American slaves took up the instruments abandoned by fleeing southern American soldiers at the end of the 19th century and invented ragtime. Ragtime moved to New Orleans and was made over in that multicultural city to become hot jazz. You can hear the sames sorts of instruments in early jazz and ragtime as in marching bands - tubas, trumpets, clarinets, big drums. The difference being the African influence. Or, more specifically, the difference being the blues.

The specific similarities in the history of jazz and the history of British brass bands are worth noting. The more obvious online sources refer to the relationship between brass bands and miners in the UK. Brass bands, as with jazz, were the creative work of marginalised or working class people in both countries. The clearest difference, however, lies in British brass band's role as competitive performance bands, and jazz's more comprehensive position in Afro-American vernacular culture. The parallels could continue, if we referred to American - specifically New Orleans - marching bands, but that's not my concern here.

The Charleston Chasers are a British band, and I was struck by the similarity between their music and the brass bands of British tradition. The Charleston Chasers, despite my high hopes, aren't such a great band for swing dancing - for charleston or other 20s dances. I suspect that it is because they lack the blues. To me, that translates to their music feeling like it lacks soul. It doesn't make me want to shake my arse.

I have some reservations about some of the larger 'society jazz' type bands recreating 20s jazz, mostly because I find they reproduce the more mannered jazz you might associate with a 'high society' band of the 20s, rather than the grittier jazz from the 20s which I prefer.
That hasn't stopped me liking Vince Giordano's work (including my new CD, and I tend to sort of audio-ly skim over the shinier aspect of this music.

I'm also struck by the vast superiority of the original music and bands from the 20s - is it a race thing? An ethnicity thing? Part of me - somewhat suspiciously - simply feels that these new, predominantly white recreationist bands are simply too 'white' to make for good charleston. I like a little grunt, a little grit in my charleston music.

Posted by dogpossum on March 1, 2006 6:04 PM in the category music