October 19, 2021

A Long History of Jazz

This is a work in progress. I do like a bit of jazz. There’s definitely a bit of Howard Moon in me.

Howard Moon in a Jazz Trance, circa 2006

But jazz is a bit like tea. Its hard to be a connoisseur. At some level it all admittedly sounds or tastes the same. Maybe I can increase my enjoyment of jazz by understanding the subtle differences between artists and styles. Only then will I be able to know what is like to be on the astral plane of ‘The Moon’.

Year by Year

1964

In 1964 Thelonius Monk did this in Paris.

Fast moving, like a quick stream. Its pacey, jaunty at times, can be trance like too. The music is not introspective, particularly, but rather getting somewhere, moving somewhere, upbeat. It is interesting though, varied, and feels like various challenges and adventures are being had, with the idea being that one ought to just race over life’s challenges and not reflect too much or let them get you down in the dumps. Enjoy the ride and then on to the next one.

Chet Baker did this in Belgium.

Chet Baker, taking it really easy, Time After Time, 1964

Chet Baker’s work is the ultimate in relaxation. Each instrument is played like the longest gentlest of back massages. You can feel the fabric of your muscles unwinding. Corporate producers of confectionary often get criticised for being wide of the mark when trying to re-create the spirit of a particular musical genres in their television adverts, as is their want, but Cadburys perhaps, came pretty close, with their Cadbury’s Caramel Bunny advert. Ladies and gentlemen I present to you Chet Baker: the Cadbury’s Caramel Bunny of jazz.

Artists

Louis Armstrong

Louis Armstrong was born in 1901. He worked for a Jewish family called the Kanofskys. The Karnofskys encouraged his singing and gave him money to buy a cornet. Louis was mentored by a cornet player called King Oliver. Apparently, in memory of the Karnofskys, Louis always wore the Star of David when he played, and blended Russian melodies into his music.

Thelonius Monk

Monk was born in New York city in 1917.

On his 1964 live concert in Paris. Fast moving, like a quick stream. Its pacey, jaunty at times, can be trance like too. The music is not introspective, particularly, but rather getting somewhere, moving somewhere, upbeat. It is interesting though, varied, and feels like various challenges and adventures are being had, with the idea being that one ought to just race over life’s challenges and not reflect too much or let them get you down in the dumps. Enjoy the ride and then on to the next one.

Stan Getz

Stan Getz was born in 1927 in Philadelphia. His father and paternal grandparents lived in the East End of London for a while. His grandparents had escaped their home country, the Ukraine some year previous, after the anti-Jewish pogroms. Getz is best known for being a saxophonist.

The Best of Album reveals a very laid back, very relaxing, very dream like number. Its pacy, but its a very laid back pace, a deep resonant pace, like sitting back in a massage chair. Its the double bass, at least it seems so, that provides the velvety, corduroy like backbone to the album. With the top hat bouncing along, pulled at the end of the sleigh, for the ride. The saxophone and piano take in turns to do their thing. The saxophone is velvety, like thick chocolate, its narcotic, and send you into a semi-dream state.

Chet Baker

Chet Baker was born in 1929, in Yale, Oklahama, just two years after Stan Getz. Unlike Monk and Getz, he wasn’t born on the east coast but in the middle of the States. Baker was a vocalist and a trumpeter. Chet Baker’s work is the ultimate in relaxation. Each instrument is played like the longest gentlest of back massages. You can feel the fabric of your muscles unwinding. Corporate producers of confectionary often get criticised for being wide of the mark when trying to re-create the spirit of a particular musical genres in their television adverts, as is their want, but Cadburys perhaps, came pretty close, with their Cadbury’s Caramel Bunny advert. Ladies and gentlemen I present to you Chet Baker: the Cadbury’s Caramel Bunny of jazz.

Themes

Twentieth Century art form

Howard Moon was right, jazz was a twentieth century art form. The pioneers of jazz were all born at the beginning of the twentieth century, they developed the art between the 20s and the 60s, and very few, if any, made it through to the year 2000.

However jazz, arguably and not surprisingly, can be said to have its routes in nineteenth century music. Debussy, for example, sounds very much like jazz. Incredibly so.

Jewish influence in American jazz

A cursory look at the lives of two jazz musicians: Stan Getz and Louis Armstrong, reveal the influence of Jewish families on the jazz scene. Stan Getz came from a Jewish family, Louis Armstrong was supported by a Jewish family and was said to have wore the star of David as a symbol of appreciation for that support.

Furthermore both families, Stan Getz’s and the Kolinkskys, who supported Armstrong, can trace their routes back to Russia. Both families were in some sense, immigrant families, who had ended up in the States because their immediate ancestors had had to flee the pogroms in Russia and the Ukraine, in the late nineteenth century.

I don’t know if this is just a coincidence, that perhaps, in any musical scene or in any industry in the United States you can find influences from Jewish families, whose ancestors fled the Russian pogroms – given the numbers of Jewish families who had to flee and make a home in the States.