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.