Joined: March 16th, 2018, 10:44 am

April 17th, 2018, 3:07 pm #11

RWondraschek wrote:
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.
 
 
 
 
 
 
Lewis and Whiteman always represented absolutely opposite ends as far as their approach to popular music & jazz was concerned.
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 ...


Ralph
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.
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Joined: March 16th, 2018, 10:44 am

April 17th, 2018, 3:09 pm #12

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.
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Joined: March 16th, 2018, 10:44 am

April 17th, 2018, 3:17 pm #13

I wasn't aware that I even motto. :-). Still doesn't answer the question of why W didn't disown it if he disliked it so much. Commercial reasons, perhaps?
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Joined: January 1st, 1970, 12:00 am

April 17th, 2018, 4:00 pm #14

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. 
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Joined: March 29th, 2018, 12:06 pm

April 17th, 2018, 4:11 pm #15

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. 
I agree.
Still, IMO, the 'right attitude" was where the ODJB's real importance within the history of Jazz lay, more so than the actual music that that band played. Remember LaRocca's remark that, after Henry Ragas had died, the band had to search far and wide before they found another pianist who could NOT read music ?
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Joined: March 16th, 2018, 8:41 am

April 17th, 2018, 10:16 pm #16

Alex Revell: "The jazzmen in the various bands led by Lewis were in a vastly more friendly jazz environment that that of the Whiteman band."
 
If I had to choose 8 records to take with me to a desert island, I'd take at least one Whiteman. Obviously it would be one featuring Bix, but that wouldn't be the only reason. With the addition of an arrangement by Bill Challis, some of those late 1927-1928 sides become simply magical. In no way is Bix (or any other jazz soloist) hindered by the band. In fact, when he solos, Bix is more often than not perfectly supported by a contingent from the band, not smothered by the entire orchestra as some seem to suggest. On the other hand, as much as I like many Ted Lewis recordings, I'd be struggling to fit one in amongst the eight sides.
 
Ted Lewis, by his own admittance, was a stage act and his band's primarily role was to support his performances. Like Whiteman, he employed top jazzmen in his band, but on most sides they had to take second place to Lewis' gaspipe clarinet playing and tragedian singing style. In other words, their playing was secondary to the commercial interests that sold Lewis' records. Obviously, there are a few exceptions, such as "Clarinet Marmalade" (featuring Don Murray) or "Royal Garden Blues" (featuring Muggsy, Goodman and Fats). The same commercial policy applied to Whiteman of course - and indeed to all bandleaders that understood that in order to survive in the real world their bands had to pander to public tastes or they might as well pack up.

Even so, Ted Lewis' reasoning that if an idea worked commercially why change it used to irritate the jazz men that he employed, such as Benny Goodman. In fact, Goodman loved to mercilessly imitate Lewis' gaspipe clarinet playing. Lewis' clarinet playing in 1930 was virtually indistinguishable from his clarinet playing in 1917. At least Whiteman had the decency to put his violin away when the recording light came on.

And at least Whiteman's outfit - unlike Lewis' - was often cutting edge when it came to arrangements, certainly in the late 1920s, which allowed the likes of Bix to shine so brilliantly. Let's face it, Whiteman didn't need to employ Bill Challis, nor indeed Bix, and could have probably been even more commercially successful by just churning out popular songs with simple arrangements and no solos at all.
 
I realise that the constant touring that the Whiteman band undertook probably didn't do Bix's health any favours, but all the name bands had to tour to survive and touring can be hell for a musician whether they are playing straight dance music or out and out jazz. And overall I get the feeling that Bix was happy and immensely proud to be in the Whiteman Orchestra. In return, Whiteman cared about Bix probably more than almost anyone else outside of his immediate family. He loved the guy and he loved his music. Whiteman was obviously deeply upset by Bix's breakdown and told him to go home and take as long as he needed to recover - and he kept him on full salary. So I think we should cut the guy some slack.

Someone once said that Paul Whiteman was the King of the Jazz Age, and I think that is a fair and suitable appellation as well as an accurate observation.
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Joined: March 15th, 2018, 4:56 pm

April 17th, 2018, 11:27 pm #17

I once read an autobiography of the violinist Henri Temianka. He mentioned playing in a café band in Europe during the twenties, getting criticized for not playing 'jazz' well.  The tune in question was 'Valencia.'

Modern listeners mistake references to 'jazz' in the 20s as referring to the improvisational music, with frequent blues influences, that we call Jazz TODAY.

Guy Lombardo and Lawrence Welk were considered, and called, 'jazz bandleaders' back then.
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Joined: March 16th, 2018, 8:41 am

April 17th, 2018, 11:59 pm #18

Yes indeed. The "jazz" of the 1920s could cover anything from improvisational music that we would recognise as jazz today to a band playing waltzes with a saxophone added!
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Joined: March 15th, 2018, 4:56 pm

April 18th, 2018, 2:32 am #19

Also worth remembering that newspaper 'interviews' with musicians were often utterly bogus. One of the redeeming factors in Wolfe: <i>Finding Bix</i> was his exposure of the Bix 'interview' in the Davenport paper as a concoction from previous (non musical) sources.
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