[Dixielandjazz] Louis, Duke and BeBop

Stephen G Barbone barbonestreet at earthlink.net
Thu Jun 17 08:13:20 PDT 2010

>  Rick Campbell <ricksax at comcast.net> wrote:
> Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington both helped invent the language of
> jazz, but they never took the elitist stance of the beboppers.
> That is, while they were pushing the envelope by phrasing off the
> beat, unusual accents, high notes, ambitious tempos, and chordal
> explorations, they were quite happy to entertain audiences at every
> level of sophistication, including adoring white audiences in North
> Dakota.
> For example, Strutting With Some Barbeque incorporates the major 7th,
> and Caravan stacks clashing chords. Advanced stuff for the time, but
> not pretentious and you could still dance to it.
> From many written accounts of 52nd Street during the 1940s, the
> beboppers were deliberately trying to create an exclusive advanced
> form of music that only the "coolest cats" could understand and play.
> They succeeded very well, because they drove away not only a bunch of
> mellow journeyman musicians-- they also drove away the dancers and
> listeners.

Hi Rick:

Let me add some thoughts about the relationships between OKOM, Bop,  
Dancers and Swing. I grew up in New York City where and when the  
changes to the music and audiences were happening.

To my way of thinking, the demise of dancing to OKOM happened because  
of a combination of events. Bearing in mind that Big Band Swing had  
become the most popular music in the USA during the decade starting in  
1935 and dancing was a primary way to enjoy it.

1) A new 20% federal  luxury tax was imposed during WW 2 on cabarets  
that had dancing. Being no dummies, the jazz night club  owners  
immediately replaced their dance floors with tables and chairs, banned  
dancing and thus avoided having to add 20% to customers'  bills, which  
they felt would lower their profits. The only clubs left with dance  
floors were those very expensive, show type clubs. Copa Cabana etc.

2) From August 1942 to November 1944, the American Federation of  
Musicians prohibited their members from recording. (except for V Disks  
sent to troops overseas)  This followed an earlier ASCAP ban that  
prohibited radio stations from playing their songs. The result was a  
musical stagnation.

3) WW 2 also made it much more difficult for bands to tour. This  
combined with 2 above, made it difficult for musicians to survive and  
many took day gigs. Even Frankie Trumbauer who had become a test pilot  
for North American Aviation in 1942, and continued to play in the NBC  
orchestra after the end of WW2 still earned most of his postwar income  
in aviation.

4) A change in music taste away from Swing to popular vocals, folk  
music  Rock & Roll, Jump Blues, etc..

5) The rise of bebop.

In NYC after WW 2, Jazz Joints like Condon's, Nick's, Jimmy Ryan's,  
Hickory House, Melody Lounge, Cinderella Club, etc., were for  
listening only. You couldn't dance to Dixieland there no matter how  
badly you wanted to. Two different audiences developed. The kids who  
saw it as party music (drinking etc) and the older folks who saw it as  
"Art Form" music.

Bebop after WW 2 only followed that same "Art Form" trend. Surely its  
practitioners wanted to have a new music that only those who had  
mastered their horns could play. I don't think they saw it as elitist,  
but rather as a way to expand the genre, and a musical challenge that  
would separate the men from the boys.

The swing bands quickly folded because they could no longer generate  
the kind of money they need to survive. Legendary dance venues like  
the Savoy closed down for lack of audience/dancers.

Where did the dancers go? To Rock and Roll. By 1960, kids were dancing  
to Elvis, Bill Haley, Louis Jordan, etc.

Where did OKOM go?

To Festivals where "Art Form" audiences glared at folks who were too  
loud, discouraged dancing because it was distracting, and in reality,  
became the elitists. The prevailing attitudes were now "This is Art  
and you will shut up and enjoy it." Worked for a while, but did not  
expand the audience for OKOM to young people.

It is only recently that most of the "art form" jazz addicts have died  
off and the Festivals in an effort to survive are getting back to  
providing venues for what OKOM used to be. Music for dancing and  
partying. And trying to attract a new, young audience.

In any event, nothing lasts forever.

Steve Barbone

More information about the Dixielandjazz mailing list