[Dixielandjazz] What happened to Jazz?

Steve Barbone barbonestreet at earthlink.net
Wed Jan 10 08:49:35 PST 2007

 pat ladd at pj.ladd at btinternet.com wrote:

> No more difficult then humming or playing Stevie Wonder's "Sir Duke" t>>
> Theres a thought Steve, when was the last time you heard someone whistling
> in the street?  I always whistle, anything, from DYKWIM to Misty to Miss
> Jenny`s Ball but I must admit I get some strange looks.
> This of course maybe because I have a full band playing in my head and I am
> only whistling a part, or maybe because I don`t whistle very well.

You broke me up there Pat because I too have that band going in my head all
the time. And as a bad whistler, I hum constantly, generating some strange
looks from people around me. My wife often says to them; "He's a musician."
which always gets a smile from strangers. Very rarely do I hear others
whistling or humming in public.
> What would the modern youngster whistle? There are no tunes which I can
> discern in the stuff I hear on the radio.

I don't listen to much of the radio music so I don't know. However, from
what I see on the top selling downloads, and albums there appears to be some
humable stuff out there. Etta James "At Last" type songs. Someone might want
to check out the latest vocal albums and let us know.
> Not sure about the timing of the demise of jazz. Perhaps it was different in
> the States. I can never remember OKOM as being a main stream radio genre.
> Here, by the early  Forties when I was 11 or 12 years old,  the main music
> on the radio was `dance music` Henry Hall, Geraldo, Cyril Stapleton etc and
> then the `real` swing bands began to take over,under the influence of the
> American Big Bands,  The Squadronaires, Joe Loss, and so on. Again this was
> music for dancing. Dance Halls were full every night of the week. There were
> plenty of small groups still working and I was attending Sunday afternoon
> concerts listening to, Vic Lewis, Harry Gould, Nat Gonella, Ray Ellington
> Quartet.

It was the same in the US. The major popular music here was dance music and
stuff like Bing Crosby crooning popular (not jazz) tunes and Frank Sinatra
singing non-jazz tunes with bands like Tommy Dorsey that were (IMO) not
Jazz, but Dance Bands. As I see it, the 1920's were called "The Jazz Age"
and not the 1930s. Perhaps what many of us forget in the USA is that:

By the mid 1950s, rock and roll, had evolved from black rhythm and blues,
with strong beats and sometimes risqué lyrics. The black audience had
neither been enamoured of 1930s style Dixieland, nor Bop. R & B written by
blacks for blacks, also appealed to white teenagers, for whom listening to
it over black-oriented radio stations late at night became a cult like
event. Aware of this emerging market, white performers and arrangers began
to "cover "R & B songs, toning down the beat and cleaning up the lyrics.
E.G. "Ain't That a Shame," (1955) a rock hit by, "Fats" Domino, became an
even bigger hit with a ballad-like cover by Pat Boone. This genre made some
jazz players, e.g. Louis Prima, into major stars.

Then, along came Elvis, a charismatic white man who could sing with the high
energy appeal of a black man, generating an enormous following among the
white audience. Soon to be followed by The Beatles, the UK's most famous
musical export. No way was Jazz in any form going to be able to compete with
that, unless merged into it like Miles' electric funk or fusion efforts.

> Bop emerged and split the ranks and a good slice of the music became to
> clever to whistle or dance to. There was a lot of experimentation, Kenny
> Baker and his AfroCubists and so forth but never really big.
> The big jazz revival came along with Acker, Lightfoot, Ball, and then it all
> went to hell.  There was still work playing the `old` dance music but it was
> no longer the main stuff on the radio.
> There are still dozens of jazz (OKOM) bands  playing in the UK , more per
> square mile than in the States I suspect, but it is mainly club gigs and
> festivals.  Festivals are well attended but few youngsters appear.

Agree that bop split the "jazz" ranks etc., and that all sorts of
innovation, experimentation occurred to take "jazz" into different
directions. But the predominant jazz form today seems to be "smooth jazz"
here in the USA. Yeah, I know folks, some of us don't consider that as
"real" jazz, but then, we are neither the majority view, nor the folks who
define "jazz" in the 21st Century, even IF we are right.
> Thats my take on it . Probably way off beam.  Exit stage left. Whistling.../

Your take is on beam IMO. Right now, "I'm humming Bird's "Now's The Time"..
:-) VBG.

Steve Barbone

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