The Old Jazz Cats....
Rashid Booker from New York, New York on December 21, 2014: The Great African-American Classical Art-Form
The Beginning of The Great Art-Form; Be –bop
The Rashid Project ~ Be-bop (1940-1955) — with Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie in New York, New York Bop style of so-called jazz, was sometimes called bebop or rebop, but common usage shortened it to bop. One explanation for the name is that players sang the words bebop and rebop when vocalizing their new way of phrasing.
Developed between the early and mid-1940s - "bebop" expanded upon many of the improvisational elements of the swing era. Young musicians including Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, Bud Powell, and Thelonious Monk, influenced by the innovative compositions of soloists of the swing era (e.g., Art Tatum, Coleman Hawkins and Lester Young) began exploring more advanced harmonies, altered chords, and chord substitutions.
* A revolutionary style changed from swing era of so-called jazz.
* Inspired by the most advanced swing styles.
* A new vocabulary of musical phrases and methods of matching improvisation to chord progressions.
* Mastery of this style is considered the foundation for competence as a so-called jazz improviser to this day.
The Climate of Change
A combination of social and economic events helped to usher in bebop era. As World War II ultimately drafted many of the veteran musicians needed for the popular big bands of the swing era, many teenagers too young to be drafted were instead enlisted into the ranks of the touring road bands. Young musicians like Gillespie and Parker, as well as Stan Getz and Red Rodney, developed their craft at an early age by working with established swing masters.
There were hundreds of big bands and although a few played so-called jazz, such as Ellington, Basie and Goodman - others played none. This stimulated a need for the so-called jazz artist to find a new means, beyond the big band, for development. In New York City, many afterhours’ clubs became breeding grounds for small group explorations, especially in Harlem. Clubs like Minton's Playhouse witnessed the development of this new music by bebop innovators including guitarist Charlie Christian, bassist Jimmy Blanton, and pianist Thelonious Monk.
A different social climate existed for the Generation of African-American musicians born around 1920. The 1930's saw a growing consciousness among whites, especially on the political left that in a democracy African-Americans could not be treated as second-class citizens.
Unlike the disrespect so-called jazz musicians received in previous years, by 1940, music critics were calling so-called jazz musicians artists who were worthy of respect. T
his resulted in the development of a strong distaste by young African-American so-called jazz artist for the show-biz antics associated with commercial music and turning away from the swing style of the big bands whose commercial tendencies made it suspect.
However, this was not a reaction against the true so-called jazz artists of the swing era, but it was a catalyst to further the development of the musical language.
The war also forced cut backs in dance halls and cabarets due to the Government issued the Cabaret tax, which collected money from any nightclub or restaurant which permitted dancing.
Due to these issues and the fact that in the 1940's the United States was entering a war; there was more tension in the music of this era than in the music of the swing era. So-Called jazz, as well as the other arts, has always been influenced by the mood of the times. The musical tension was created by tonal clashes, unusual harmonies, and fast tempos with complex rhythms.
Sight And Knowledge
WAYS OF SEEING
Seeing comes before words. The child looks and recognizes before it can speak. But there is also another sense in which seeing comes before words. It is seeing which establishes our place in the surrounding world; we explain that world with words, but words can never undo the fact that we are surrounded by it. The relation between what we see and what we know is never settled.
Each evening we see the sun set. We know that the earth is turning away from it. Yet knowledge, the explanation, never quite fits the sight. The way we see things is affected by what we know or what we believe. When in love, the sight of the beloved has a wholeness which no words and no embrace can match: a totality in which only the act of making love can temporarily accommodate.
Yet this seeing which comes before words, and can never be quite covered by them, is not a question of mechanically reacting to stimuli. We only see what we look at. To look is an act of choice. As a result of this act, what we see is brought within our reach - though not necessarily within arm's reach. To touch something is to situate oneself in relation to it. We never look at just one thing; we are always looking at the relation between things and ourselves.
Our vision is continually active, continually moving, continually holding things in a circle around itself, constituting what is present as we are. An image is a sight which has been recreated or reproduced. It is an appearance, or a set of appearances, which has been detached from the place and time in which it first made its appearance and preserved - for a few moments or a few centuries. Every image embodies a way of seeing. Even a photograph.
For photographs are not, as is often assumed, a mechanical record. Every time we look at a photograph, we are aware, however slightly, of the photographer selecting that sight from an infinity of other possible sights. This is true even in the most casual family snapshot.
The photographer's way of seeing is reflected in his choice of the subject. The painter's way of seeing is reconstituted by the marks he makes on the canvas or paper. Yet, although every image embodies a way of seeing, our perception or apprectation of an image depends also upon our own way of seeing. (Berger)
When we look and see the photographs above, many memories are recalled and recollected. The music and the musician assume a recognizable but unusual posture and memory down the Jazz memory lane captured in time and space. The subject may have as well have passed on, but their physical appearances make us remember the music, their acts and soulful renderings.
The photographic essays conforms to the adage that Jazz massages the soul as do the pictures create a halo on Jazz and Jazz musicians. The way we see the photos above is what Jazz is and has always been about. It brings back the LPs one has been listening to, the Live performances these Artists engaged in, and sumptuous studio recordings to bear. Seeing the photos not only brings the memories closer and keeps them fresh.
it also etches the music in ones consciousness and soulful self at peace and one with nature, the universe, cosmos and they rhythms of all life. The images are encrypted into the musical world and existence that they help us keep the spirit of Jazz alive and continuing throughout time and ages.
All the photos above were taken by Jim Marshall using his Leica M4. He was able to take these photos despite the bulwark of ushers, burly guards, stage managers, and concert impresarios' efforts to dissuade him from photographing the musicians and he never just took to standing but the stages lip waiting for shots to appear.
Most of these pictures were taken in recording studios, rehearsal halls, backstage areas, festival grounds, or home living rooms, and a few of them were of the artists performing on stage. His photos display his uncanny ability to capture the mood, personality and should of an Artist and this translated into stolen moments rarely witnessed by the legions of fans who love and follow Jazz. He was also able to capture and radiate with this informal, friendly intimacy - wherein in the end, they are like family snapshots.
He would crawl through the Big-Bands sections, or capture a tight close-up facial of an artist whilst they were playing. Marshall's love of hanging out with Jazz musicians provided him with opportunities to photograph them not only informally, out of the spotlight, but also to receive their blessing to shoot them at will in performance. He had a knack for capturing reflective moods. Marshall's close relationships with the Jazz crowd got him Pictures the like of which no one else could have taken.
Jazz and Modern Black Culture in South Africa
It is interesting to read Playthell’s article, “An Evening with Edward Kennedy Ellington;” it got me thinking of life in the Ghetto of Soweto, in South Africa. The Townships might not have had the architectural wonders of New York and its chic urbane life-style, but, Duke still affected and influenced the life, music and self-esteem of Africans under Apartheid. There has long been a struggle against Apartheid by the indigene refuting the claim that we were uncouth and backward.
As the Township of Soweto expanded and grew, so did the music scene: the South African Jazz Scene. Some of the jazz groups had “American” as their names. There were Jazz big bands; the fashion of the day were Dobbs brim hats, Florsheim shoes – some two tone – double breasted jackets with broad lapels and the whole dress code as was worn by the Americans of the ’30s, 40s and 50s. I guess what I am saying is that, because of the inhumanity of Apartheid we witnessed an oppressed people immerse themselves in the American Jazz music and African American culture, language and mannerism as a way of keeping our souls intact.
The sleeve jackets of the LPs were the point of discussions from the Shebeens – Taverns/Speak Easies – of the day. Discussion about music, styles, musical signatures of The “Duke”, the “Count”, Hodges, Archie Shepp, Philly Jo Jones(some People even renamed themselves after their favorite artist here in Mzantsi), Coltrane, Monk, Miles, Bessie Smith, Sonny Rollins, Stitt, Sidney Betchet, Stachmo, Jelly roll Morton, Fats Waller, Charlie Parker, Ida Cox, Lucille Hegamin, Rosa Henderson, Bertha “Chippie” Hill, Sara Martin, Trixie Smith, Lizzie Miles, Sarah Vaughn, Mahalia Jackson, Mamie Smith, Josie Miles, Edna Benbow HIcks, Eartha Kitt, Mae Harris, Lulla Miller, jimmy Lunceford, Billie Holiday, Etta James, Charlie Christian, Ron Carter, Yusef Lateef, Ella Fritzgerald, Scot Joplin, and a host of other many American musicians-too numerous to list here.
The American Jazz idiom was dominating thoroughly and completely here in Mzantsi. How do I know all these name of all these musicians. Well, as kids in the early sixties, we would sit with our Uncles and fathers and hear them argue and debate that was the best on drums, saxophones, composition and arrangements, and passions would rise to pitch level.
There were people who never thought of other artist as deserving mention or to be listened to because they did not meet their standard of what was Jazz or the like. So as we grew up in the late sixties, we were exposed to a variety of different artists of this American genre. Well, in most cases, my generation was scoffed-at by our old timers for not listening to real and classic Jazz when we listened to Jimmy Smith, John Patton, Harold Mabern, Blue Mitchell, Lou Donaldson, Billy Cobham, Booker T., Soul Music and funk.
We were ridiculed by these stalwarts and keepers of the Old Jazz, as me and my peers referred to Classical jazz as “not listening to Jazz,” and knowing nothing about it. But today, with most of them gone, and many of those who survived apartheid – the old timers I referred to above – have formed Jazz Clubs here in South Africa. They meet on weekends and bring out their best collection and spend the whole day listening to jazz, eating and imbibing large amounts of alcohol; also, dressed to kill.
And whilst engaging in this celebration of jazz here in Mzantsi, you would hear talk like Playthell’s, whom I will cite below, as being what was said about these musicians by our elders. Most of the other stuff was learned and read from the LP liner notes by some Jazz critic or aficionado, and From Down Beat Magazine and so forth. It would go something like this passage from Playthell’s essay: