[Dixielandjazz] Hot Dance Music is not Dixieland

jazzchops at isp.com jazzchops at isp.com
Tue Jul 1 23:49:58 PDT 2008

Steve Barbone wrote:

>So the point I try and make is that those words, or "trad jazz" or
>"hot dance" or whatever, are really meaningless.

The term "hot dance music" is NOT meaningless. It is NOT dixieland. The
term was coined to differentiate between a dance band (group with 10 or
more players reading charts) without jazz solos, and a similar performance
which included jazz solos.

By 1926, the modern trend was for bands of 10 pieces or more playing
arrangements. Of course, there were still bands playing in a collectively
improvised way (especially on recording sessions, i.e., Armstrong
Hot-Five, Seven, Jelly's Red Hot Peppers, Clarence Williams' bands), but
the general trend in dance halls and ballrooms was for larger bands - and
some of those had "hot" soloists, like Armstrong, Jimmie Noone, Freddie
Keppard, Bix, Benny Goodman, Jack Teagarden, Miff Mole, Dorsey Bros, et.
al. Certainly these bands can't really be called "swing bands" either,
since there is certainly a rhythmic difference between them and what was
later called swing. (However, a band like Luis Russell's, with a driving
4/4 beat laid down by Pops Foster and Paul Barbarin, was clearly not the
same rhythmic feel as King Oliver's band with a tuba playing two beat.)

This trend for hot dance music continued until the mid-1930s when the word
swing began to be used as a noun to describe dance bands playing what had
been called "hot" arrangements, and also featuring jazz soloists. A
perfect example would be, prior to Benny Goodman forming his band,
Fletcher Henderson's band, which was playing arrangements written by and
for jazz musicians. Although many musicians still referred to groups that
weren't playing "hot" arrangements as dance bands with jazz soloists.

The fact of the matter is, most of the guys who played what was called
dixieland ended up playing in larger groups and being featured as jazz
soloists. So all of these labels end up becoming useless, as I've stated
before. Is what Louis Armstrong played dixieland, swing, or jazz?
Obviously, it depends on what the surrounding musical ensemble is doing.
I'd hardly call Armstrong's recording of "Stardust" dixieland or swing.
Hot dance music - maybe.

There's this unfortunate tendency to use the word "dixieland" as all
encompasing word to described pre-swing jazz. So what then do we call
Louis Armstrong and Earl Hines playing "Weatherbird?" Joe Venuti and Eddie
Lang playing "Wild Cat?" Johnny and Baby Dodds and Jelly Roll Morton
playing "Wolverine Blues?" I could give a 100 more examples like this. And
the bottom line is - they are all jazz, and that's what they were called
at the time.

I won't even attempt to discuss the term "traditional jazz." ;-) But I
will mention that it's been my experience that musicians in the UK and
Europe seem to have a better and clearer concept of those terms than
musicians and listeners here in the States...

Chris Tyle

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