“It seems to me monstrous that anyone should believe that the jazz rhythm expresses America. Jazz rhythm expresses the primitive savage.”
- Isadora Duncan
“Jazz is rhythm and meaning.”
It’s been a week of listening, which got me to reading. Here are two novels to add to the reading list:
Coming Through Slaughter, Michael Ondaatje
Twelve Bar Blues, Patrick Neate
This is my third time reading them as a set, which is unusual as I don’t often read books in pairs; what’s more unusual is the re-reading, which I don’t do very often at all. I find these novels even more engrossing than the last time I read them, and I’m in even greater admiration of the story-telling.
The lives of early jazz and blues musicians were much different from today’s musicians. A century ago, the notion of a “career” in music didn’t really exist; playing in a band was simply a matter of survival, of managing poverty. Musicians got on with the business of playing as they invented a new art form, which was then largely regarded as something suspect, combining the Lord’s music (hymns and gospel) with the devil’s (“jass”, or jazz, which derived from “jasm,” slang for orgasm). There were plenty of delinquent boys who wound up in detention homes/schools, where, in southern states such as Louisiana, cornets and other band instruments were in abundance, leftover from the American Civil War. Band instruction* given at the some of the detention homes produced some of the greatest innovators of blues and jazz, including the great cornet player Buddy Bolden and the better-known Louis Armstrong.
End of rather convoluted lecture. Should Dear Reader find any of the above even remotely interesting, then I’d urge you to read Coming Through Slaughter andTwelve Bar Blues.
(*An early example of the importance of music education… jussayin’.)