Women’s History Month: Pearl Primus!

I know very little about Pearl Primus, but I’ve been fascinated by this photo since I found it on the Google Life photo collection (you can see more photos here.
She’s not a ‘jazz dancer’ in the strictest sense – she probably fits a little more comfortably into the concert dance or even ballet basket. But she was very much an activist, with a passion for African and African American dance, and she was definitely active as a dancer, performer and choreographer during the 1930s and 40s.

I did a bit of googling and came up with very few actual videos of her dancing on youtube, but I did find this little doco about her that only fuelled my interest:

linky

Then I found this video of her dancing, which isn’t too great – you can’t really see what she’s doing, and I’m not sure it really does her work justice.

NB that first photo is from a series called ‘Jam Session’ by Gjon Mili in the Life Magazine collection on google, which features many other amazing pics.

Gjon Mili is interesting because he directed ‘Blues for Greasy’ jam session film which starred:
Harry ‘Sweets’ Edison: trumpet
Lester Young: Tenor Sax
Flip Phillips: Tenor Sax
Bill Harris: Trombone
Hank Jones: Piano
Ray Brown: Bass
Buddy Rich: Drums
Ella Fitzgerald: Vocals

Mili worked with Norman Granz on this film, and Granz owned the Verve record label as well as organising the Jazz At The Philarmonic concerts and being hardcore anti-segregation.

google, you’re amazing


I couldn’t remember the name of a good film I saw ages ago. Well, it wasn’t that good, but the dancing (stepping and a few other bits and pieces) was. This is what I typed in. That’s the film there, the second result. That’s amazing.

lists and canons in jazz

An interesting discussion has cropped up on SwingDJs called “30 Good Hot Records” from LIFE. This is what I’m about to post in response.
I love lists of iconic or ‘good’ songs/books/films/texts. I love them because though they are presented as definitive, they are always[ more effective as a provocation than a definitive answer to questions about what counts and is important enough to be listed. Discograhies work, pretty much, as definitive ‘lists’ or ‘canons‘.
I’ve come across a few different uses of ‘hot’ in articles and books from the 1930s, particularly in reference to discographies. Kenney’s discussion of jazz in Chicago outlines the differences between ‘jazz’ or ‘hot’ bands and music and ‘dance’ bands. These differences are not only musical, but also inflected by race, class, the recording industry, live venue management and ownership, gender… and so on. I’ve also come across quite a few discussions in an academic (rather than populist or ‘music critic’) sources about the expression ‘hot jazz’. The most useful sources point out that any attempt to finally define ‘hot’ or ‘jazz’ is not only difficult, but also problematic.
Krin Gabbard discusses the cultural effects of constructing canons – in which discographies play a key role – and points out that lists of ‘hot’ or ‘important’ or ‘real’ jazz records aren’t neutral or objective lists of songs – they are highly subjective and negotiated by the author’s own ideas about music and place in society generally.
Kenney (who’s written some absolutely fascinating stuff about jazz music in Chicago in the 20s) discusses Brian Rust’s discographies, making the point that Rust distinguishes between ‘hot’ and other types of jazz recordings. Friedwald talks a bit about Rust (and other discographers) in his jazz.com articles. Kenney’s research into the recording and live music industry in Chicago suggests that who got to record or play what types of music was actually dictated in large part by record companies’ ideas about race and class and markets rather than musicians’ personal inclination. That last point suggests that you could make some interesting observations about the correlation between race, class, recorded songs, ‘popularity’ and ‘jazz’ in Chicago jazz during this period. I don’t know enough about it, though, so all I’ll say is that you could, but you’d better have some badass sources to support your arguments. And you’d also better be prepared to accept the idea that though America had a national music industry, different state legislations and music cultures resulted in quite different local practices: it’d be tricky to generalise Chicago’s story across other cities and states. Not to mention countries.
Life and other magazines’ comments on and participation in music promotion in the 30s is also pretty interesting – these guys had ideological barrows to push, just as did Rust and other discographers. One of the effects of publishing this type of list (which was no doubt as hotly contested then as it is now – except by a wider audience :D) is that it does stimulate discussion and debate. And, hopefully, record and ticket sales. One thing I’d be interested in knowing is who owned LifeGreat Day In Jazz photo, I think about the fact that it was a photo for Esquire magazine, and that Esquire also produced a series of live concerts, recordings… and of course, photo spreads in magazines. While GDIJ works a fabulous representation of jazz it also serves as a canon, and as such is also subjective, ideologically framed and interpreted (eg asking why are there so few women in this photo leads us to questions about gender and jazz?) Canons are fascinating things, and can be the jumping off place for all sorts of great discussions and debates. I think this is why I was so excited by Reynaud’s session on Yehoodi Radio where he used the GDIJ photo as an organising structure for the music he chose. In that case, the photo became a listening guide for a radio program. I’d just rather not use them as definitive, fixed lists; I like them more as provocations, or a place from which to begin discussing (and arguing about) a topic.
If I saw a list like the one in Life today, I’d be extra-suspicious. Songs on So You Think You Can Dance, for example, are owned by the company which produces that tv show. There’s been quite a lot written about the Ken Burns’ Jazz series and its role in cross-promoting sales of records from catalogues owned by the same media corporation. The Ken Burns example is an especially interesting one: that series does not present an ‘objective’ list of important artists and songs. It is a jumping off place for a very successful marketing project surrounding back catalogues and contemporary musicians like Marsalis. George Lipsitz has written quite a bit about histories of jazz (including Burns’), and he makes this point:

…the film is a spectator’s story aimed at generating a canon to be consumed. Viewers are not encouraged to make jazz music, to support contemporary jazz artists, or even to advocate jazz education. But they are urged to buy the nine-part home video version of Jazz produced and distributed by Time Warner AOL, the nearly twenty albums of recorded music on Columbia/Sony promoting the show’s artists and ‘greatest hits,’ and the book published by Knopf as a companion to the broadcast of the television program underwritten by General Motors. Thus a film purporting to honor modernist innovation actually promotes nostalgic satisfaction. The film celebrates the centrality of African Americans to the national experience but voices no demands for either rights or recognition on behalf of contemporary African American people. The film venerates the struggles of alienated artists to rise above the formulaic patterns of commercial culture, but comes into existence and enjoys wide exposure only because it works so well to augment the commercial reach and scope of a fully integrated marketing campaign linking ‘educational’ public television to media conglomerates. (17)

Lipsitz is interesting because he says thinks like Why not think about jazz as a history of dance? Why not look into the lives of musicians who gave up fame and fortune in massively famous bands to work in their local communities?
Friedwald, Will. “On Discography” www.jazz.com, May 27, 2009 http://www.jazz.com/jazz-blog/2009/5/27/on-discography
Gabbard, Krin. “The Jazz Canon and its consequences” Jazz Among the Discourses. Duke U Press, Durham and London 1995. 1-28.
Kenney, William Howland. “Historical Context and the Definition of Jazz: Putting More of the History in ‘Jazz History'”. Jazz Among the Discourses. Duke U Press, Durham and London 1995. 100-116
Lipsitz, George. “Songs of the Unsung: The Darby Hicks History of Jazz,” Uptown Conversation: the new Jazz studies, ed. Robert O’Meally, Brent Hayes Edwards, Farah Jasmin Griffin. Columbia U Press, NY: 2004: 9-26.
References for my posts on Esquire.

violence and film and blues

Reading Gussow’s book about racial violence in southern America, I wonder why I keep coming back to violence. My honours thesis discussed female violence in film, and this book really is about violence in blues music. Both are about violence from the perspective of the disempowered; one discussing women, one black men and women in America.
I’m not comfortable with this stuff – I don’t like stories about violence, I don’t like watching it in film. But both seem linked to hopelessness. Violence for the women in the films I discussed was a last resort or an act of desperation. In the blues songs I’m reading about now, violence is either to be borne or to be perpetrated in revenge or rage or desperation. Both are domestic or carried out in ordinary, everyday spaces.
In my honours thesis I was interested in what happened to female characters when their acts of violence were institutionalised or sanctioned by institutions in the role of assassin. In these blues songs, we are continually reminded that white men were perpetrators of violence which was ignored by the state or unofficially condoned – or at least ignored. These acts of violence contrast clearly with the violence of waged war. I’m interested in the way some types of violence are sanctioned by the community and some not. And who gets to enact this ‘sanctioned’ violence. You know, of course, that class and gender and race are at work here.
One of the other elements of these representations of violence is the role of fantasy, or imagined violence. In the blues song, it might be an imagined retribution for a lover’s deceit, or for a lynching. Music allows the playing out of ideas or fantasies, and the public performance of this music encourages an attentive, participatory audience. It is not enough simply to imagine; it is necessary that the imagined violence be laid out and commented upon by the broader community.

things i have done regularly lately

Cooked a large piece of meat in milk for a long period of time. Pork, chicken, whatever. I’ll cook it, you can eat it.
While searching blindly in my backpack, felt something soft and hanky-like, pulled it out and discovered it was a single maxi-sized pad*. This has happened: at the bi-lo checkout with a middle aged woman cashier, trying to pay for bread with a cocky indie boy salesman, rummaging for cables at the DJ booth while sitting next to a very-christian tech-dood (this happened twice in one weekend with two different christians), looking for a hanky, desperately, while trying to obscure a post-sneeze-excitement nose. The one time I actually _needed_ a maxi (as in badASS absorbency) pad I couldn’t find the fucker.
Played more than one song from The Spoon Concert album while DJing for a bunch of spazzed out lindy hoppers. It’s like a sickness. Not the lindy hop – my playing stuff from this album. I just can’t help it. I need to get some sort of clue.
Wandered why mormons bother with plural marriage** where the arrangement is one man + many women. While I know that many women is a fully sick option when you’re looking at running a conference or a university degree or planning a lindy exchange, I’d have thought the ideal solution is one woman + many men within a marriage. Because I sure as fuck know The Squeeze is run a little ragged riding back and forth between the couch and DVD shop and could do with a sub some time soon.
Thought I might like to re-watch Aliens, mostly for Bill Paxton.***

I like imagining him ranting “Game over, man, game over!” when the Law discovers he’s a polygamist.
Wandered why I didn’t believe people when they told me Veronica Mars was good. I used to enjoy that bit in Deadwood when Kristen Bell was eaten by Woo’s pigs. Now I can’t believe I wasn’t into this shit.
Wished we had broadcast TV. But only when people are tweeting like motherfuckers about freakin’ Masterchef. Whatever _that_ is.
*as in PERIODS.
**this is what happens when you re-watch Big Love.
*** Big Love, again.

fillum

An ace film called ‘Vespers’ where the world ends from plague in Victorian England (via io9):
Vespers

jam session photography

Remember I was all interested in magazines and their interest in ‘all-star’ shows and bands? Well, I’ve been reading* about Gjon Mili, who directed ‘Jammin’ the Blues’:

(I think this version is edited down… but I’m not sure)
Seen that one? Maybe you haven’t seen this one:

Here’s the blurb from the youtube site:

Life Magazine photographer Gjon Mili joined with jazz producer and Verve-label owner Norman Granz to produce the short film “Jammin’ the Blues” in 1944 with Lester Young, Red Callendar, Harry Edison, “Big” Sid Catlett, Illinois Jacquet, Barney Kessel, Jo Jones and Marie Bryant. The film was nominated for Best Short Subject at the 1945 Academy Awards, but didn’t win.
The pair came together again in 1950 to shoot footage of leading jazz artists of the day, but when funding dried up, the film ceased production and sat on shelves for 50 years (except for a few snippets which found their way onto bootlegs).
Blues For Greasy is one of those pieces shot by Gjon Mili and Norman Granz, using musicians from his Jazz at the Philharmonic tour.
Harry ‘Sweets’ Edison: trumpet
Lester Young: Tenor Sax
Flip Phillips: Tenor Sax
Bill Harris: Trombone
Hank Jones: Piano
Ray Brown: Bass
Buddy Rich: Drums
Ella Fitzgerald: Vocals

Isn’t Youtube wonderful?
But then, Google is pretty good too:
Gjon Mili was actually a photographer, who did lots of work with magazines like Life. He also did some work for Esquire, including a ‘Jam Session’ shoot at his studio. And because the internets is truly freakin’ awesome, I had a little look at the Life photos on Google and found this freakin amazing collection of photos.
What’s so great about this series? Lots of things. The sheer calibre of stars, all together in one room, playing jazz. Duke Ellington, Dizzie Gillespie, Gene Krupa, Billie Holiday, Eddie Condon… there are just so many amazing musicians in there together. One of the other important things to note about this session is the fact that this is a group of mixed race musicians, playing and photographed together. That was still pretty amazing in 1943.
This is my favourite one:
linky
I like it because it’s Billie Holiday singing ‘Fine and Mellow’ with Cozy Cole on drums. I’m sure someone with a better eye could identify the others. This isn’t the famous 1957 television performance I’ve posted before, though.
I also quite like this one:
linky
It’s a group of people from vogue magazine at the same photo shoot.
You know what I’m thinking.
*Knight, Arthur, “Jammin’ the Blues: or the Sight of Jazz, 1944”. Representing Jazz, ed. Krin Gabbard. Duke U Press: Durham and London, 1995. 11-53.

magazines, jazz, masculinity, mess

This is another in-progress bit of writing in response to things I’ve been reading lately. I’ve found some nicely critical engagments with jazz and jazz study, and am suddenly wishing I was in the US. This isn’t the most coherent of posts, partly because I lost part of it with an inadvertent page refresh. Shit.
I’ve been thinking or wondering about the relationship between Esquire magazine and jazz, partly as a result of my work with the jazz discography (and following Billie Holiday). There were a few concerts in 1944 and 1945 featuring the ‘Esquire All Stars’ – a group of truly big names: Roy Eldridge, Jack Teagarden, Barney Bigard, Coleman Hawkins, Art Tatum, Louis Armstrong, Billie Holiday, Mildred Bailey and others.


There are some albums released from these concerts, including one interesting one called At the Met, the cover of which is particularly provocative when you consider the issues I raise below.

I’ve just found this in a paper about Miles Davis:

By the 1950s, American had become aware of subtle shifts in social and gender roles. Sociologists and psychiatrists were talking about men trapped in gray flannel suits, the age of conformity, the weakening of the superego, the other-directed person. The concern was that a new postwar economy was creating a society in which people were externally motivated, too well adjusted, too sociable. Scarcely concealed behind the jargon of social science was the fear that it was not women who were changing, but men, who were becoming soft, emotional, and expressive – that is, more like women rather than like the rational and task-oriented patriarchs who had built and protected America. More often than not, such ideas were dressed up as if they were the received wisdom of the ages, but their sources were transparently pop.
Elsewhere, Playboy magazine was wrestling with the same anxieties and assuaging them with a particular kind of male hedonism, promoting the good life for the single man: money, imported cars, circular beds, top-of-the-line stereos, chicks. And like Esquire before it, Playboy championed jazz, as a male music, to be sure, but the music of a certain kind of male, as the couture, decorations, and genderized illustrations of the jazz life in its pages made clear. Then there were the Beats, detested by Playboy, but sharing some of its fantasies by celebrating freedom, male bonding, drugs, art, and the hip lifestyle, one of their inspirations being the nightlife of the black musician (Szwed 183).

This article “The Man” discusses Miles Davis’ masculinity, positioning him in the 1950s as both ‘a man’ and as a jazz musician. There’s lots of talk about ‘masculinity’. We can also draw some conclusions about white, middle class men and their interest in black masculinity as some sort of ‘free’, ‘sensual’ and ‘vibrant’ ideal. Particularly in reference to the Beats.
It’s been interesting reading this article after one about the Newport Jazz Festival, “Hipsters, Bluebloods, Rebels, and Hooligans: the Cultural Politics of the Newport Jazz Festival” by John Gennari. Particularly in reference to this section:

At the Newport Jazz Festival on the fourth of July weekend in 1960, thousands of white youths described by Life magazine as “more interested in cold beer than in hot jazz” spilled from the jazz concerts into Newport’s downtown, attacking policemen, kicking in store windows, and manhandling the town’s residents and visitors. Press reports noted that many of the drunken rioters screamed racial epithets while rampaging through the town. State police used billy clubs and tear gas to stem the riot, then called on the marines for help in restoring order. When the air cleared, over two hundred of the marauders found themselves in local jails, while more than fifty of their victims required medical attention. One witness told the Providence Journal: I’ve experienced fear twice in my life. Once was in combat during World War II; the other was Saturday night in Newport.
Scheduled to end on Sunday night, the festival was ordered shut down on Sunday afternoon by the Newport city council. The last act was a program of blues narrated by Langston Hughes. Anticipating the city council’s action, Hughes penned a set of lyrics on a Western Union sheet. He handed them to Otis Spann, who sang them slowly as the crowd quietly departed.
Among a rash of press reports on the riot, one commentator blamed the allure of Newport, a “resort area which hold[s] a fascination for the square collegian who wants to ball without running the risk of mom and dad stumbling across his prostrate from on somebody’s lawn.” Mordantly noting the contrast between the Newport gentry “in the front row with their Martini shakers” and the youngsters “squatting in the back, their heads between their knees, upchucking their beer,” journalist Murray Kempton wondered, “Was there anything in America at once so fashionable and so squalid?” To many who had embraced Newport as jazz’s City on a Hill, a sterling model of New England Brahmin philanthropy, more disconcerting than the spectacle of loutish yahoos profaning the festival was the rioter’s identity. These were not switchblade-wielding rebels without a cause, nor pothead beatnicks in overalls. These ‘young hooligan herrenvolk of the Eastern seaboard,” as Village Voice jazz critic Robert Reisner dubbed the rioters, were students from the elite colleges, fraternity brothers on a fast track to the corporate boardroom. “You could tell the students from Harvard and Yale,” wagged one man on the street: “They were throwing only imported beer bottles.” (Gennari 127)

I’d previously thought about the Newport Jazz Festival in reference to the film High Society and the documentary film Jazz on a Summer’s Day, both of which suggest class tensions, but in the politest way. Neither references these sorts of middle class men rioting (!). In fact, JOASD is, as Gennari discusses, a more than a little arty, genteel and restrained. Here’s a gratuitous clip to illustrate:

For many dancers Newport is significant for the albums recorded there by Count Basie and Duke Ellington. Gannari discusses the racial tensions at work in the Newport Jazz Festival, particularly in its later years and in reference to Louis Armstrong’s performance in JOASD which is a little too uncle Tom to be precisely comfortable (and Gannari complicates this with references to Armstrong’s own ability to subvert this stereotype). Unlike the idealised descriptions in Beat literature (including some sections in On the Road, which have always bothered me, especially when read in conjunction with Anne Petry’s novel The Street), in JOASD black masculinity is carefully contained.
I guess what I’m trying to do here is make some distinctions about representations of race and class in mens’ magazines, in music magazines and in films like JOASD. Mens’ magazines and Beat writers presented an idealised black masculinity with was free, undomesticated, independent – an artist unbound. Films like JOASD and High Society present black masculinity as safely contained as an item of novelty by the bandstand or (as in JOASD) safely receptive by chairs in the audience. Both of these disconnect them from the broader community of which they were a part… the communities, I should say.
I always think about stories about Nat King Cole in these sorts of discussions. About an anecdote I heard on a TV doco. Cole, financially and artistically successful, bought a large house in a wealthy white suburb. His lawn was set on fire/painted with racial epithets. Though he sought the trappings of middle class security, he was still tagged as ‘other’.
Let’s talk a bit more about High Society.

linky

This is my favourite part of the film. Armstrong is, effectively, the narrator of HS. It is his voice which anchors the film. I like the way he introduces us to Newport, and his presenting jazz as the most important part of this narrative. I like the casual setting of their playing – playing for fun, for their own enjoyment rather than for an audience. Armstrong’s story is for the guys in the band. I kind of like the idea of the band on the road because it echoes the idea of bands and jazz as music in transit. Travel and jazz are also buzzing about in my head at the moment (and I’ve talked about it before). Their place on a bus is interesting, too, as it clearly marks their class later on, when we see characters like Samantha zipping about in their flash, private cars. Again, buses are a space I think of as ‘public’, and I’m really interested in the way musicians and dancers make public places ‘space’ – they occupy it aurally and physically and socially, cutting down invisible lines between individual people with a song or a dance step.
But this contrasts with the following clip (one described in Gennari’s article).

linky

This is such a great song. And a fascinating scene. Armstrong and the band are actually introduced to the very white, very upper middle class Newport gentry by Crosby (I can’t remember why, exactly). The point is that they’re introducing this crowd to jazz. And, we can assume, to black musicians as more than servants. It’s pretty radical to have a white singer on stage with a black band, but not that crazy. The band are, of course, matching in their suits. The part I like most is where Crosby’s perfectly articulated, wonderfully modulated voice is upstaged by Armstrong’s badass trumpet solo. Crosby is perfect; Armstrong is perfectly badass.
This song is popular with dancers, but this version isn’t so great for dancing. It’s a little too mannered. There’s another version where Armstrong sings all the lyrics and the song, generally, has a little more kick. It makes you want to dance. I wish I could find it on the internet, but I can’t. Having Armstrong sing as well as play trumpet anchors the song in quite a different way. Armstrong is more comfortable with improvising, and the subtext feels a little saucier. There’s a greater element of call and response. And improvisation, of course, is the best way of escaping and adding creatively to a song without it collapsing into random noise.
This clip is significant for its role in introducing the Newport Jazz Festival to a white, straight crowd. And Newport was largely, as one of the promoters George Wein insisted, about popularising jazz. Or about introducing jazz to mainstream America. Debates about the types of jazz on display at Newport, about work practices, pay and the general culture of the festival during a period of Jim Crow legislation make it particularly interesting. Because, remember, the fact that Louis Armstrong and his band are sitting at the back of the bus is very important. Segregation meant that where they traveled and how they traveled and how they played music was managed by law. In this context, what does it mean for Armstrong’s solo to bust right out of the carefully mannered, modulated frame set up by Crosby and his ‘introductions’?
Of course, in the film HS the white crowd return immediately to ‘not-jazz’ music and dancing after the performance; this was a moment’s entertainment.
I’m not really sure where I’m ultimately going with all this, but there’s something niggling me about the connection between men’s magazines, masculinity in the postwar (1940s-60s) period, jazz and jazz performances – big jazz concerts in particular.I’ve also come across an interesting discussion of gender and masculinity in jazz by David Ake in the article “Regendering Jazz: Ornette Coleman and the New York Scene in the Late 1950s”. I’m also thinking about jazz clubs in the 40s and 50s, their (predominantly male) membership and their effects on the jazz scene. There’s something about big jazz concerts in there too, I think, that I have to follow up. Especially since I noticed just how many live recordings Billie Holiday did in the last decade of her career. The 50s saw her do a whole lot of television shows as well as large concerts, and recordings made from these. I want to follow up these ideas about the ‘popularising’ of jazz in regards to the status of jazz as ‘art’ music today. There’s a tension between ‘classic jazz’ as ‘art’ and later jazz (from bebop to avant garde) in the jazz literature that I want to explore, especially in regards to the Ken Burns’ documentary film Jazz. In fact, I always have something to say about that film, especially in regards to its positioning of the jazz musician as isolated ‘artist’, and jazz history as one of artists prompting cultural change. I am, of course, far more of the opinion that jazz was and is very much a product and process of community and local cultural context.
I know that there’s something to be said about individualism and masculinity and the freedom from consequences that comes from the idea that ‘jazz’ is about isolated artists without community responsibility and ties. How connected was that rioting by young, white middle class college men with a ‘freedom from responsibility’ associated with the black jazz musician by mens’ magazines and writers?
George Lipsitz presents the book Songs of the Unsung as an alternate history of jazz, one firmly embedded in local community, with jazz musicians as necessarily participating in everyday community life, rather than isolated with their ‘art’ in some rarified space:

Songs of the Unsung presents jazz as the conscious product of collective activity in decidedly local community spaces. The modernist city and the nation pale in significance in Tapscott’s account in comparison to the home, the neighborhood, and the community. Physical spaces far more specific than the ‘city’ shaped his encounter with music, and these spaces had meaning because they were connected to a supportive community network (Lipsitz 17)

I think I like this approach because I want to talk about jazz in the context of contemporary swing dance culture, where dancers read a history of jazz not as a history of art, but as a history of music for dancing. And this history of music for dancing as a collaborative, community history, perhaps too complicated to be told with a simple temporally linear narrative.
I was absolutely delighted to find this section in Lipsitz’s book:

Instead of modernist time, this would be a history of dance time, starting with ragtime, not as a showcase for the personal ‘genius’ of Scott Joplin but as a site where African attitudes toward rhythm (and polyrhythm) became prominent in U.S. popular culture. The difference between the rhythmic concepts in ragtime’s right-hand melodies and left-hand bass accompaniment and the genre’s additive rhythms (eight semiquavers divided into 2/3s and 1/2s) evidenced a tasted for multiple patterns at the same time that it opened the door for future rhythmic innovations. Rather than the era that gave to Dixieland and swing, the 1920s and 1930s could be see as a movement from the fox-trot to the jitterbug and the lindy hop. More than a away to distribute music more effectively to a broader audience, the development of electrical recording techniques would be seen as a shift that enabled bass and drums to replace tuba and banjo as the key sources of rhythm. Such a story would feature the tap dancing of John “Bubbles” Sublette, who was dancing “four heavy beats to the bar and no cheating” fourteen years before the Count Basie band came east and popularized swing. This narrative would honor the moment in 1932 when Bennie Moten began to generate a different kind of rhythm and momentum for dancers by replacing the banjo with the guitar and substituting the string bass for the tuba. The transition from swing to bop in this story would not focus on the emergence of the saxophone over the trumpet or the small ensemble over the big band as much as it would highlight how string bass players and frontline instrumentalists began to assume responsibility for keeping time so that drummers could be free to experiment with polyrhythms and provide rhythmic accents for soloists.
The distinctive creators of ‘dance time’ would not be the virtuoso instrumentalists of modernist time but rather virtuoso ‘conversationalists’ like drummer Max Roach and dancers Earl Basie (better known by his stage name, Groundhog) and Baby Laurence. (Lipsitz 22)

I’ll see how we go after a bit more reading…
Ake, David. Jazz Cultures. U of California Press: Berkely, 2002.
Gennari, John. “Hipsters, Bluebloods, Rebels, and Hooligans: the Cultural Politics of the Newport Jazz Festival, 1954-1960.” O’Meally, Robert, Brent Hayes Edwards, Farah Jasmin Griffin, eds. Uptown Conversation: the New Jazz Studies. Columbia U Press, NY: 2004. 126-149.
Lipsitz, George. “Songs of the Unsung: The Darby Hicks History of Jazz” O’Meally, Robert, Brent Hayes Edwards, Farah Jasmin Griffin, eds. Uptown Conversation: the New Jazz Studies. Columbia U Press, NY: 2004. 9-26.
O’Meally, Robert, Brent Hayes Edwards, Farah Jasmin Griffin, eds. Uptown Conversation: the New Jazz Studies. Columbia U Press, NY: 2004.
Szwed, John. “The Man” O’Meally, Robert, Brent Hayes Edwards, Farah Jasmin Griffin, eds. Uptown Conversation: the New Jazz Studies. Columbia U Press, NY: 2004. 166-186.
Many of these books are produced by members of the Jazz Study Group at Columbia. You can find some of their articles in full-text form online here at jazzstudiesonilne.org. It’s a fab resource.

kids’ SF films and badass women in jazz

1. ‘ Journey to the Centre of the Earth’ with Brendan Fraser is crap. Despite Fraser trying and trying with a truly crap script.
2. ‘City of Ember’ was awesome. Really good kids’ SF. Avoids the more disturbing subtexts of postapocalyptic stories. Mum gave me the book so I’ll read it and see how it compares.
3. It’s far too long til ‘Night at the Smithsonian’ comes out. I was really surprised that I liked the first one, but I think it really snagged my museum curiousity.
4. ‘Monsters v Aliens’ actually isn’t too bad. Not only does it pass the Bechdel Test (JTTCOTE and NATM failed), but it also [SPOILER] presents a woman who decides she doesn’t want to be a boring trophy wife. She wants to be a MONSTER! The best bit is where she kicks alien arse without superpowers or size. The next best bit is where Dr Cockroach beats an alien using his PHD IN DANCE. I knew there was a good reason for doing a PhD in dance, and preventing alien invasions is obviously it. [/]
5. Two badass female jazz pianists from the Olden Days: Mary Lou Williams and Lovey Austin.
6. Another reason to despise the Ken Burns ‘Jazz’ doco (or at least the PBS site:

Williams was long regarded as the only significant female musician in jazz, both as an instrumentalist and as a composer, but her achievement is remarkable by any standards.

I’m hoping that’s a mistype, as, while Williams rocks the kasbah, she certainly WAS NOT the ‘only significant female musician in jazz’. In terms of vocalists alone, Billy Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald were really, majorly important as musicians (as well as other things)… heck, I could go on and on and on. And that’s even considering the fact that there weren’t anywhere near as many women as men in big name bands.
The text is borrowed from the ‘New Grove Dictionary of Jazz’, so perhaps they’re to blame.
7. Why are all the jazz historians blokes? I want to read New Orleans Style and the Writing of American Jazz History might have some tips. I’m interested in the New Orleans ‘revival’ – the interest in New Orleans jazz (from the 1920s) in (predominantly white) audiences (c 1940s). While the blurb for that book suggests there were male and female writers, I’ve yet to come across them. I’d be surprised – absolutely stunned – if the authors’ gender break down was 50/50 male/female. This of course makes me think about reading the little jazz publications that were flying about in the 20s, 30s and 40s. I’m also thinking about the white appropriation of black music, here. Or at the least, the effects of mainstream media/white culture’s interest in African American music in this period. I’m afraid to start on the Australian stuff.
8. Record fairs are interesting. Mostly blokes. And the blokes into the stuff I’m into (if you can find any of that stuff) are freaky. There aren’t as many female as male swing DJs (duh – what’s new), and I’m guessing the sisters aren’t getting into hardcore vinyl either. But I’d love to be wrong.
9. Let’s just revisit ae fully sick female pianist: Mary Lou Williams. She was, fully, awesomely sick. Pianist, arranger, badass.
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