[Dixielandjazz] Wolpe, Bauhaus, Hindemith, Cubism, Art?

Stephen Barbone barbonestreet at earthlink.net
Wed May 28 20:03:11 PDT 2003

Good points Burt. I'm with you, appreciating the virtues of visibly emotive hot jazz. It is also interesting to note that there are many adherents of "Art Form" Dixieland these days who want to sit and listen intently to the music. To the exclusion of dancers et al who distract them, thus destroying the individual listeners appreciation.

We see this at some Jazz Society concerts where they move dancers to the back of the hall and/or otherwise discourage it. But then, what is it that the audience listens to? I think we'd get a bunch of different answers depending upon the listener.

I think jazz changed from functional (dance stomp and shout) to "art" primarily because the 20% tax on entertainment during WW2 (Uncle Sam said dancing equaled entertainment) gave the audience that much less money to spend having a good time. So club owners all over the USA removed the dance floors, put in more tables and voila, "Show Bands" and/or "Listening" jazz became the in thing.

The club owners added to the size of the paying audience in order to mitigate the decline of the average tab. And even Dixieland, which was not originally listener's music in live performance, followed suit. Remember, guys like King Oliver, Bix Beiderbecke, Sidney Bechet and Louis Armstrong played for dancers in the clubs. You couldn't dance at Condons, Ryans, Nicks or any of the NYC clubs after WW2.

Over simplification perhaps, but the tax man changed the music as I see it. I still see Dixieland as "functional" music. Stomp, shout, party with the musos, have a good old noisy good time. Some musos may see improvisation as Art, but it is the people's art as far as Dixieland is concerned, not the art of the avant garde.

I think those bands that depend on an artsy "listening" audience are doomed to less and less gigs as the old folks in the audience die off. Perhaps if the music comes back full circle to the function, and delivers with emotion, we'll all have more gigs.

Steve  Barbone

Burt Wilson wrote:

> Let us not forget that Condon's drummer, George Wettling, was a modern artist who had his work featured in a layout in Coller's magazine around 1950. In fact, I believe one of Condon's albums has Wettling's art work on the front cover.
> I would like to draw a precarious point. The avante garde took to "modern" jazz just as it took to the freedom of expression of a Jackson Pollack. Hot jazz (or Dixieland) was considered passe by that time. It was, to me, a rejection of the emotional factor in OKUM for the more "thinking" virtues of modern jazz. If you remember, modern jazz fans made a lot less noise and were less vociferous in their approval. They didn't jump up and stomp their feet and shout--something I find very appealing about our music.
> To my way of thinking, modern jazz was a rejection of the tight chord structures of so-called "Dixieland" music where you always knew where a progression was heading--usually "round the horn."
> I do not take sides in any case although my heart is with the old hot jazz. I am for diversity first, last and always.
> Burt Wilson
> Silver Dollar Jazz Band
> -------Original Message-------
> From: Stephen Barbone <barbonestreet at earthlink.net>
> Sent: 05/28/03 12:41 PM
> To: Dixieland Jazz Mailing List <dixielandjazz at ml.islandnet.com>
> Subject: [Dixielandjazz] Wolpe, Bauhaus, Hindemith, Cubism, Art?
> >
> > This is a very complicated subject. Not really OKOM. However, there
> seemed to be a connection between modern art and modern music. It was
> very evident in New York City in the 50s and 60s when avant garde music
> was just beginning.
> If you went to the Five Spot in Cooper Square, NYC to see/hear someone
> like Ornette Coleman or Charlie Hayden you would be in the audience
> along with Jackson Pollack, and many other modern artists, and Leonard
> Bernstein, Stefan Wolpe, all the music teachers at Julliard and other
> composers, classical musicians, modernists etc. It was a very "artistic"
> scene.
> Basically they were drawing comparisons between Pollack and Charlie
> Hayden's free jazz, or Cubism and Monk, or Stravinski and Bird etc..,
> etc.., etc. To say nothing of comparing Brubeck to Bartok. Many of the
> more modern jazz musicians were studying with some big time classical
> musicians. Brubeck with Darius Milhaud for example. It was a heady scene
> for those who were there and solidified the belief that jazz was indeed
> art.
> That's just a simplified start. For those who might be interested, make
> those google searches for "dada music" or "Stefan Wolpe", or "Ornette
> Coleman" There is a wealth of information for the curious, about how the
> development of music paralleled that of the visual arts, and vice versa.
> However, be warned, if you tend to dismiss modern art, or modern music
> as trash, cacophony etc., don't waste your time.
> Cheers,
> Steve Barbone
> PS. Don't sell Wolpe short. When he wrote music for amateurs, or
> beginners, it was easily played. However, when he wrote for himself and
> the masters, it was some of the most difficult and intricate music
> imaginable. To many of us, including me, unplayably difficult without
> interminable practice.
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