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Few people in the 1920s had any idea what jazz, played by jazz musicians actually was. Which is the reason Whiteman was able to get away with his title of King of Jazz. Reading such comments as you quoted proves the point. Ted Lewis was a little purple in his prose, with all the 'primitive' rhetoric (Jelly Roll Morton might have had a word of two to say about 'primitive'), but was nearer to the truth. There's no such thing as 'symphonic' jazz. It's a oxymoron.RWondraschek wrote:Lewis and Whiteman always represented absolutely opposite ends as far as their approach to popular music & jazz was concerned.ahaim wrote: Facts:
- “Jazz” is the title of the 1926 book authored by Paul Whiteman and Mary Margaret McBride. The first sentence in the book: “JAZZ came to America three hundred years ago in chains.”
- From Ellington, Edward Kennedy (1973). Music is My Mistress ,. Garden City, N.Y. Da Capo Press: ”Paul Whiteman was known as the King of Jazz, and no one as yet has come near carrying that title with more certainty and dignity.”
- In the 1920s the word “jazz” had become synonymous with “dance music.” From The Cambridge History of Twentieth-Century Music — Edited by Nicholas Cook and Anthony Pople, Cambridge University Press, 2004, 836 pp. , “. . . to the majority of Americans of the time, the arranged music of his and similar bands, playing with a rhythmic bounce, and offering jazz-like solos, was jazz.”
- Whiteman’s orchestra was the most popular dance band of the 1920s. From Paul Whiteman — Pioneer in American Music, Volume I: 1890-1930, by Don Rayno, The Scarecrow Press, Inc., 2003, 840 pp. “Whenever Whiteman came into a city with his famous band, the red carpet was rolled out in his honor. Mayors, governors, and even presidents, kings, princes, and other prominent officials welcomed him ceremoniously.
- Whiteman did not confer the title of “King of Jazz” upon himself, as commonly stated. In fact, he did not like the sobriquet. The first mention was in 1919, in the Pasadena Evening Post, “. . . the friends of Mr. Whiteman have with much enthusiasm bestowed the title of “king of jazz” upon him.
While Whiteman was attemting to educate the public to the gradual abandon of the "Primitive, archaic Jazz", and replacing it with his vision of, in his opinion, much higher-standing & superior "Symphonic Jazz", Ted Lewis stressed the importance of the unrestrained, uninhibited music "from the guts".
Lewis' viewpoint on jazz, in contrast to Whiteman's, is perfectly illustrated in the following contemporary report, at a time when he (Lewis) was still at least as popular as Whiteman:
New York Morning Telegraph, May 19, 1922, p.07
TED LEWIS EXPLAINS THE PHILOSOPHY OF PRIMEVAL MUSIC
There's no temporizing about jazz with Ted Lewis, maestro of syncopated orchestration, who will bring his Metropolitan Band to the Bushwick Theatre next week. Lewis is all for jazz and wild rhythms and arrangements that seem from the Senegal and the African river basins. He glories in syncopation; he lives in outlaw musical meter; he succeeds by virtue of his superb indifference to tradition.
Paul Whiteman seeks to blend the classical with the ultra modern to soften, to modify, the mad delirium of decadent dance music. He seeks perfect time and the urbanities of orchestration. Lewis on the contrary is defiant. He exclaims in justification: "I express the mood of civilized society to-day in its revolt against over-civilization. We are borne down by sophistication. Everything is too complex. Let us get back to nature and the good healthy earth; let us give reign to the instincts that are primeval; let us express the emotions as the caveman and the pioneers in bronze and iron would express them. That is why I seek inspiration in the folk music of savage tribes, in tunes and harmonies of the levee blacks, in the 'blues' of the forbidden quarters in tropical cities and New Orleans and the old Barbary Coast. Art is looking backward to the primitives; we are discovering great healthy virtues in the earliest music and literature; men and women are mad all of a sudden for the simple life of the South Seas; we are finding art in the paintings of the cavemen on the rocky walls of Altamira. So in music I am giving the public what it craves in jazz. I am not compounding any felony by adapting classical music to syncopated time or toning down jazz to sober beats. I am after jazz plain and simple and the wilder the better. My bandsmen are with me in this and the public has supported me for a number of seasons. I want to give the thrill that comes from the dim, throbbing drums in the night-time of African desert. I seek the shock and startle that a missionary might experiece in stumbling upon a cannibal feast and hearing the elephant tusk trumpets and the big blacks beating with a human thigh bone upon a tin pan gong. It's in the air to-day. We all want excitement; we want the nerves rasped down to the raw. Give us pep in the cry everywhere.
So I am a jazz musician and I am proud of it. At the Bushwick Theatre I promise to go to the syncopated limit of music. Over at the Palace Theatre they craved my jazz last week. It araouses the elemental, the primitive, the nomadig urge."
Audience in the 1920s was already as divided over the question of how to define "Jazz", as we ourselves are today ...
I agree.ahaim wrote: I am not trying to decide who is most deserving of the sobriquet “King of Jazz.” I am explaining the circumstances, using documented facts, that led to Paul Whiteman becoming known as “King of Jazz.”
And, yes, in the 1920s the majority of people made no distinction between jazz and dance band music.