In 1940 Duke Ellington and His Orchestra played at the Crystal Ballroom in Fargo, North Dakota. Jack Towers and Dick Burris were two local radio broadcasters for the U.S. Department of Agriculture who were also huge Ellington fans. They asked if they could record the performance and were granted permission provided they did not use it for commercial purposes. The recording was unusual for a number of reasons. At the time, live recordings were almost always made in concert halls or night clubs. It is rare to have a recording of a musical ensemble playing dance music live. Further, live jazz recordings at the time were rarer still. Towers and Burris brought a portable Presto-S disc cutter which they set up next to Ellington’s piano. The disc cutter could record fifteen minutes a side on sixteen inch discs. Most records at the time could only play three minutes a side, but Towers and Burris had access to the Presto because the UDSA used it to create lectures that could be played in farm colleges and extension services. The recording is significant because it captures Ellington’s Orchestra in its prime with the natural flow of the performance by not forcing the musicians to stop playing due to recording time constraints. The discs sat in Towers’ basement until the 1970s when Towers retired and took up record restoration as a hobby. He remastered the discs and got permission to release them commercially. The remastered album , Duke Elligton At Fargo Live, 1940, won the Grammy Award For Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album in 1980.
Esperanza Spaulding is a jazz vocalist, bassist, and composer from Portland, Oregon. She is currently a professor of music at Harvard University. Spaulding has one four Grammys. She is the first jazz artist to win in the best new artist category.
White House Performance
Wynton Marsalis is jazz and classical trumpeter and composer from New Orleans, Louisiana. He has recorded over eighty albums and has nine Grammys. He is the only musician to receive a Grammy for both his jazz and classical work. Marsalis was the first jazz musician to win the Pulitzer Prize for Music and he received the National Humanities Medal from President Barak Obama in 2015. He co-founded the Jazz program at Lincoln Center in 1987. Marsalis is active in jazz education worldwide and was named an international ambassador of goodwill for the United States by the U.N. in 2001. His youngest brother, Jason Marsalis will be playing in the Lionel Hampton Big Band during the 2020 Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival in Moscow, Idaho.
The Jazz Singer premiered on October 6th, 1927. The film, starring Al Jolson, tells the story of a second generation Russian American who wants to become a popular jazz singer. His father wants him to become a cantor in the local synagogue and believes being in show business is sinful. Jolson’s character must choose between his parents’ Russian-Jewish culture and pursuing his dream. The film is controversial today because of Jolson’s use of blackface throughout the film. However, the film is undeniably an important part of American culture because it was the first successful “talking” picture with synchronized dialogue and sound effects. The success of The Jazz Singer pushed all of the American motion picture studios into “the talkies” and effectively ended the age of silent pictures.
The October Revolution In Jazz
The first Free Jazz music festival took place from October 1st to October 4th in 1964. Organized by musician Bill Dixon, the four day festival had over twenty artists and ensembles performing and discussing their work. Headliners included Sun Ra, Paul Bley, and Cecil Taylor. The festival helped introduce the general public to the free jazz style.
Source: Anderson, Iain. This Is Our Music : Free Jazz, the Sixties, and American
Culture. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2007. Accessed October
8, 2019. ProQuest Ebook Central, p. 122