The Retro Cocktail Hour may be moving from Northwest Public Broadcasting’s NPR and Classical Music service, but it already has a well-established second home here on KJEM 89.9FM.
For fans of the funky, vintage-futuristic show who live outside of our terrestrial signal, catch it on the NWPB App through a smartphone, or stream The Retro Cocktail Hour here by clicking “Listen Live” at the top right of the page.
Same party, same day, same time, just at a different address.
We will be posting the recent episodes of Jazz at 100 which aired on KJEM over the holidays. Here are the two hours that aired on December 14.
“Because its loose, improvisatory format offers an obvious point of contrast to the swing styles that preceded it, bebop is often represented by jazz historians as a conscious revolt against the tightly controlled commercial environment offered by the swing bands of the 1930s and 1940s. Yet it is not at all apparent that during the formative years of bebop its inventors felt alienated from the large swing bands. [Charlie] Parker, [Dizzy] Gillespie and many others continued to work with large dance orchestras during the war years; and from 1945 onward, Gillespie made it a point to present his music in a big band format whenever feasible. It makes more sense to see bebop as deriving from a musical environment that was very much a part of the musical culture of the swing era, even if largely invisible to the casual fan: the jam session.” – Scott DeVeaux
Some of the same forces that launched Bebop as a break from Big Band Swing, also fueled the birth of Rhythm and Blues – the rise of independent labels in the wake of the recording ban of 1942 – 1944, the economic infeasibility of touring with 16-member orchestras, the decline of dance halls in the aftermath of the war, and the rise of juke boxes and radio as primary entertainment media. Bebop and R&B also shared the big bands as a common pool of musicians who used that platform to explore the harmonically-rich alternative to swing in bebop and the rhythmically propelled alternative in R&B.
We will be posting the recent episodes of Jazz at 100 which aired on KJEM over the holidays. Here are the first two which aired on the 7th of December.
In the late 1930s and early 1940s, the very dance-oriented swinging music of the Big Bands was the most popular music around. Never had jazz been more central to mass culture. Just over the horizon were the draft of 1940 that eventually conscripted 10 million men, making it increasingly difficult to field top notch bands.
But in the late 1930s, it seemed like the swinging would never end.
Although Duke Ellington, Count Basie and Woody Herman soldiered on, mostly keeping bands on the road into the 1970s (Ellington) and 1980s (Basie and Herman), the era of the big band effectively ended with the AFM strike and World War Two shortages of gas, rubber and players. A leaner combo-oriented music emerged in night clubs after the war. Several band leaders sought to find common ground with the new music and the big band format, but as dance halls faded, the economics of the large ensemble no longer worked.
If you missed last week’s Jazz at 100, you can listen to both hours right here. You can find all the episodes leading up to the current week’s show on the site if you need to catch up on any of them. Make sure to tune in to Jazz at 100 Thursday nights from 7-9!
While the jazz of the thirties was predominantly remembered as coming from orchestras and big bands, seminal soloists continued to record memorable music in small group settings, setting the stage for disruptive industry transitions to come in the 1940s.
In the last hour we heard from prominent Swing Era soloists Chu Berry, Roy Eldridge, Johnny Hodges and Lester Young, featured in small group settings. Continuing in the small group vein, in this hour we’ll hear from the Benny Goodman Trio, Quartet and sextet, Django Reinhardt and le Quintette Du Hot Club de France avec Stephane Grappelli and the influential, but less well known sextet led by bassist John Kirby.
Catch up on last week’s show before the next two hours air tomorrow night from 7-9! Tune in to Jazz at 100 every Thursday night from 7-9!
Jazz has often been understood through the lens of the conflict between art and commerce. In the 1930s, several artists successfully blurred these distinctions. Louis Armstrong adopted popular song as his vehicle foe a successful career shift into the mainstream. Lionel Hampton, a key member of Benny Goodman’s courageous color-blind quartet and the leading vibraphone player of his generation, created a series of high-energy recordings that were foundational in the development of Rhythm and Blues.
By far the most commercially successful of the stride pianists, he made his reputation (and his living) through comedy. “He wasn’t witty, if that word is taken to imply a kind of humor too subtle to engender belly laughs – he was funny. He was also bigger than life, Rabelaisian in intake, energy, and output. His greatest joy was playing Bach on the organ, but he buttered his bread as a clown, complete with a mask as fixed as that of Bert Williams or Spike Jones. It consisted of a rakishly tilted derby, one size too small, and Edwardian mustache that fringed his upper lip, eyebrows as thick as paint and pliable as curtains, flirtatious eyes, a mouth alternately pursed or widened in a dimpled smile, and immense girth, draped in the expensive suits and ties of a dandy.” – Gary Giddens
If you missed the show a week before Thanksgiving, you can listen to the full two hours right here:
In the mid-1930s, jazz orchestras led by drummer Chick Webb and clarinetist Benny Goodman rose to prominence with the arrangements of Edgar Sampson and Fletcher Henderson. After launching the careers of Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Jordan, Webb succumbed to spinal tuberculosis in 1939, at age 34. Goodman launched the careers of Gene Krupa, Teddy Wilson, Lionel Hampton, Harry James and Charlie Christian over a storied run that earned him the controversial sobriquet “King of Swing”
Billie Holiday began recording at 18 years old in 1933 in a session with Bennie Goodman and was musically active until her death at 44 in 1959. Ella Fitzgerald also began recording at 18 (in 1935 as the singer with Chick Webb), but in her case, her career surged again in the mid-1950’s with the songbook series on Verve. They are perhaps the two most important female singers to come out of the Swing Era.
Catch up on last week’s show before tuning in on Thursday Night from 7-9!
In the eleventh hour of Jazz at 100, we followed Count Basie through the Benny Moten Band in Kansas City and heard his first recordings as a leader. In 1937, after Benny Moten’s death, he took the nation by storm with his driving band lead by the “All American Rhythm Section” and the dual tenor saxophones of Herschel Evans and Lester Young.
In the last hour, we heard Count Basie emerge as an exciting new voice from Kansas City. In this hour, we return to New York to follow Duke Ellington’s innovative path through the 1930s as he experiments with longer musical forms while building one of his greatest bands featuring tenor player Ben Webster and bassist Jimmy Blanton.
Catch up on last week’s show before Thursday night for the next installment of Jazz at 100! Tune in from 7-9!
Outside of the Chicago – New York nexus, jazz thrived during the late 1920’s and 1930’s in Missouri, Oklahoma and Texas, with its center in Kansas City. Under the careful control of Boss Pendergast, Kansas City was a wide open town with a thriving night club music scene, nurturing musicians like Joe Turner, Count Basie, Ben Webster, Lester Young and Charlie Parker. Working the urban centers and roadhouses in the region were a slew of “territory bands” only a handful of whom are preserved in the recorded legacy. In this hour, we’ll explore the early jazz of Kansas City and the Territory Bands.
Sidney Bechet made a stand with the soprano sax and Frankie Trumbauer celebrated the lightness of the C-melody sax. And then there was Coleman Hawkins.
Be prepared for this week’s Jazz at 100 by catching up on both hours of last week’s show. You can listen to them right here and be sure to tune in every Thursday from 7-9.
In this hour, we’ll return to Harlem to listen to maybe the most important band leader in jazz history and one of the most significant composers of the music – Duke Ellington.
“Calling Ellington a bandleader is like calling Bach an organist.” – Gary Giddens
A contemporary of Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington moved from Washington, DC to New York at roughly the same time and established himself as a recording artist. By 1927, he was established in residency at the Cotton Club, broadcasting nationally on the radio and building a repertoire of jazz compositions custom-made for the specific players in the band.
Large jazz ensembles, such as Ellington’s, soon to be known as “Big Bands”, evolved through the 1920s with significant innovations led by bandleaders Fletcher Henderson, Benny Carter, Jimmy Lunceford and Don Redman, and arrangers Carter, Redman, Edgar Sampson and Sy Oliver. By the mid-1930s Big Bands dominated popular music.