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Classic Jazz

Classic Jazz: A Personal View of the Music and the Musicians

Foreword by BENNY CARTER
Copyright Date: 2000
Edition: 1
Pages: 358
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  • Book Info
    Classic Jazz
    Book Description:

    Floyd Levin, an award-winning jazz writer, has personally known many of the jazz greats who contributed to the music's colorful history. In this collection of his articles, published mostly in jazz magazines over a fifty-year period, Levin takes us into the nightclubs, the recording studios, the record companies, and, most compellingly, into the lives of the musicians who made the great moments of the traditional jazz and swing eras. Brilliantly weaving anecdotal material, primary research, and music analysis into every chapter,Classic Jazz: A Personal View of the Music and the Musiciansis a gold mine of information on a rich segment of American popular music. This collection of articles begins with Levin's first published piece and includes several new articles that were inspired by his work on this compilation. The articles are organized thematically, beginning with a piece on Kid Ory's early recordings and ending with a newly written article about the campaign to put up a monument to Louis Armstrong in New Orleans. Along the way, Levin gives in-depth profiles of many well-known jazz legends, such as Jelly Roll Morton, Duke Ellington, and Louis Armstrong, and many lesser-known figures who contributed greatly to the development of jazz. Extensively illustrated with previously unpublished photographs from Levin's personal collection, this wonderfully readable and extremely personal book is full of information that is not available elsewhere.Classic Jazz: A Personal View of the Music and the Musicianswill be celebrated by jazz scholars and fans everywhere for the overview it provides of the music's evolution, and for the love of jazz it inspires on every page.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-92898-5
    Subjects: Music

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-xiv)
    (pp. xv-xvi)
    Benny Carter

    The music called jazz is blessed to have so many devoted friends and fans, none more faithful than Lucille and Floyd Levin. Throughout the years this dynamic duo, a familiar sight at musical events in Los Angeles and elsewhere, have always given their support and encouragement to the performers and promoters.

    Somehow, during the years running his own business, Floyd found time to write articles about what he saw and heard. Since his retirement, he has devoted full time to his special interest and increased even further his activities on behalf of our music.

    The result is this book, a...

    (pp. xvii-xxii)
    Floyd Levin
    (pp. xxiii-xxiv)
    (pp. 1-8)

    I am frequently asked how I, the owner of a housewares business, began writing about jazz. I am neither a professional musician nor a fulltime journalist and thus lack the training one might expect a jazz writer to possess. So how did I break into the field?

    The answer begins with an exchange of correspondence between me and the late Sinclair Traill, a noted English jazz journalist who co-edited the regular “Collector’s Corner” feature in the London publicationMelody Maker.At Traill’s request, I wrote my initial essay, a piece about Kid Ory’s Creole Jazz Band. It appeared in the...

    (pp. 9-63)

    My first published article, which appeared in a 1949 issue ofMelody Maker,featured the legendary trombonist Kid Ory. How fitting that I should begin with him; for in many ways the story of West Coast jazz originates with this outstanding musical craftsman, who played a key role in a pair of important eras in jazz history separated by two decades. Before World War I, Ory, a giant among New Orleans bandleaders, nurtured a generation of legendary musicians. Many of his sidemen were influential figures in their own right: Joe Oliver, Louis Armstrong, and Mutt Carey all got their start...

    (pp. 64-96)

    In today’s world of compact discs and ’round-the-clock radio, it is hard to imagine a world without recorded music. Yet that is the type of world from which jazz came forth. By the time recorded music began to emerge, right after World War I, jazz was already thirty years old. Those early recordings were hit-or-miss affairs, with poor technology and scanty documentation—musicians often received no credit for their performances or were forced by contractual strictures to use pseudonyms. In many cases, pressings were so meager that all the copies have long since vanished.

    Piecing together the origins of great...

    (pp. 97-176)

    It has been my privilege and good fortune to know many outstanding jazz musicians personally. Some of them began their careers when jazz was in its infancy and helped to create the genre. Others came later, during the heyday of the Jazz Age, when the New Orleans sound captivated audiences throughout the nation and the world. And still others reached their prime in the revival years, when traditional jazz reclaimed its place as the nation’s original indigenous music. It has been a joy for me to listen to all of these great artists—not only to their music but also...

    (pp. 177-217)

    The city of New Orleans has long been recognized as the birthplace of jazz. Although some pundits would challenge that claim, it cannot be disputed that great numbers of jazz musicians have emerged from the Crescent City since the final decade of the nineteenth century. The Mississippi River was a two-way conduit, bringing the component elements to New Orleans and transporting the city’s music to northern riverports. The city’s deep musical roots remain vital today, partly because the music itself has such power but also because many people have worked to preserve that heritage. The articles in this chapter celebrate...

    (pp. 218-229)

    I met Louis Armstrong on his forty-eighth birthday—July 4, 1948. At least, that was the day hecelebratedhis forty-eighth birthday. As a waif in New Orleans, Armstrong probably did not know his exact date of birth, and Independence Day 1900 was likely an arbitrary choice. Drummer Zutty Singleton, his boyhood friend, told me: “Louis and I were the same age, and I was born in 1898.” InLouis Armstrong, An American Genius(Oxford University Press, 1983), James Lincoln Collier also concluded that July 4, 1900, was an incorrect birth date. Various sources have indicated that Armstrong was born...

    (pp. 230-267)

    Among the various periods of jazz history, none was more successful than the wave of nostalgia half a century ago that brought back the Jazz Age’s sounds.

    As the following chapter reveals, efforts to resurrect the spirited music that lost favor during the swing era occurred in various parts of the United States, Europe, and Australia. It was, however, on the West Coast where the most vigorous revival activity took place. Several independent record firms led the way. Most were undercapitalized and poorly distributed.

    When an ambitious young company acquired many of the independent labels, it reissued the material and...

    (pp. 268-286)

    In every art form, there are many contributors who, regardless of their skills, never achieve proper recognition. This unfortunate disparity between talent and reward is especially prevalent in the music business. For every big-name player who enjoys popular acclaim and lofty financial gain, there are hundreds of musicians working in the trenches who are just as dedicated to their art—and often are just as proficient. Indeed, top-ranking stars often gain favor despite being less talented than hundreds of unheralded contemporaries.

    Stories about the unsung heroes of jazz could easily fill a large book. Here are just a few whose...

    (pp. 287-312)

    My last conversation with Louis Armstrong, like my first, took place on his birthday: in this case, July 4, 1971. Lucille and I phoned him at his home in New York to extend our usual birthday greeting. He was very cheerful; his health was improving, he said, and the doctor had allowed him to blow his horn again after a long hiatus. Louis was looking forward to getting back on stage; he already had several jobs booked in the New York area.

    Two days after that happy conversation, Louis was dead, and I was en route to New York to...

    (pp. 313-314)

    Somewhere in a stack of treasured material there is a round tin containing fifty feet of 8mm movie film I shot while on a Mississippi riverboat cruise about thirty years ago.

    On the third day of the trip, midway between Cincinnati and New Orleans, the steamer tied up on the shore shortly after sunset, as it did every evening—the oldDelta Queenwas not permitted to travel after dark. The next morning, while Eddie Bayard was playing his cornet up on the deck, and Vic Tooker was accompanying him on the ancient steam calliope, I walked down the gangplank...

  16. INDEX
    (pp. 315-337)