[Dixielandjazz] jazz etymology and meaning

ROBERT R. CALDER serapion at btinternet.com
Fri Mar 27 02:42:48 PDT 2009

There is the problem that record sales organisation has generally had too much of a say in how people habitually casually classify music. 
I once gave a young friend a Lightnin' Hopkins CD and he wanted to have some sort of sub-classification of it beyond the music's origins in Texas, and what he suggested was a sort of terminology which would bely and shrink Lightnin's range. 
Lightnin' was some sort of a giant, but his range was not that great. 
But look at all the silly nonsense, at one time distinguishing "Dixieland" and "Swing" and (egad!) "Symphony" as if they didn't refer to bodies of music considerably different in range and scale.  
And more recently there is this gent on the stride site, modestly pleased that young people like his music, and being asked "do you also play jazz" for the simple reason that jazz is assumed to be one small thing like those other definitely small, but LOUD things, which get passed off as genres within the sub-genre of music (sub-music some say) made mainly for money. 
There's also this peculiar notion that music having been once made becomes mere history, which not only narrows awareness and description but the music itself. Marek and I were exchanging mails about Clark Terry and he wondered how far being an Ellingtonian had improved Clark's playing, and I thought probably that being an Ellingtonian had actually stopped Clark from forgetting all the lots of lovely things he had heard as a lad in St. Louis.  Just think, there he was in the Ellington band, and some poor scholar at Riverside Records was stretching his hearing to make out what Edith North Johnson was saying to guess the name of a cornetist Clark has much more recently mentioned as somebody he heard when he was a boy. 
Vary the descriptions and keep them full and stimulating, like the music!  Call it Eddie Condon even. 
I suspect the Ellingtonian formulation of good music versus bad music had a little more to do with being sick of a mania for misclassification which confuses everywhere. Austin High Low Music has come to mind, though it's probably a term more puzzling and perplexing than intriguing!

Fun, anyway!


More information about the Dixielandjazz mailing list