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Why Jazz Happened

Copyright Date: 2013
Edition: 1
Pages: 266
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  • Book Info
    Why Jazz Happened
    Book Description:

    Why Jazz Happenedis the first comprehensive social history of jazz. It provides an intimate and compelling look at the many forces that shaped this most American of art forms and the many influences that gave rise to jazz's post-war styles. Rich with the voices of musicians, producers, promoters, and others on the scene during the decades following World War II, this book views jazz's evolution through the prism of technological advances, social transformations, changes in the law, economic trends, and much more. In an absorbing narrative enlivened by the commentary of key personalities, Marc Myers describes the myriad of events and trends that affected the music's evolution, among them, the American Federation of Musicians strike in the early 1940s, changes in radio and concert-promotion, the introduction of the long-playing record, the suburbanization of Los Angeles, the Civil Rights movement, the "British invasion" and the rise of electronic instruments. This groundbreaking book deepens our appreciation of this music by identifying many of the developments outside of jazz itself that contributed most to its texture, complexity, and growth.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-95398-7
    Subjects: Music

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-9)

    The history of recorded jazz can be traced back to February 26, 1917. On that Monday, members of the Original Dixieland “Jass” Band rode the freight elevator up to the twelfth floor of 46 West 38th Street in New York, where weeks earlier the Victor Talking Machine Company had opened its new recording studio. After assembling their instruments, the all-white quintet from New Orleans played “Dixieland Jass Band One-Step” and “Livery Stable Blues” into the long metal horn that served as a microphone back then. When the songs were released weeks later on either side of a single 78-rpm record,...

  5. 1 Record Giants Blink
    (pp. 10-28)

    On February 16, 1944, a dozen jazz musicians met at a New York studio to record three songs for Apollo Records. The band’s leader was the tenor saxophonist Coleman Hawkins, who at age thirty-nine was the oldest jazz musician present and easily the most famous. Almost five years earlier, Hawkins had recorded “Body and Soul,” on which he seemed to improvise seamlessly for about three minutes without once playing the famed song’s original melody—except for the opening four bars. Hawkins’s brash reworking of the Tin Pan Alley standard had become a jukebox hit for RCA Victor and made Hawkins...

  6. 2 DJs, Promoters, and Bebop
    (pp. 29-47)

    As soon as the ink had dried on the agreements signed by Victor and Columbia, records became a cash cow for the AFM. The more records that played on the radio, the merrier for the AFM. Airplay led to consumer and jukebox sales and thus a fatter union fund devoted to hiring unemployed musicians to play concerts.

    Once the union no longer presented obstacles to the airplay of records, radio began to make greater use of on-air personalities to play them, engage listeners, and lure them back. This on-air personality became more widely known as the disc jockey—a colorful...

  7. 3 G.I. Bill and Cool
    (pp. 48-69)

    Bill Holman had no clue what he wanted to do after his discharge from the navy in July 1946. When he was in high school before the war, he had played tenor saxophone and listened to big-band broadcasts on his family’s radio in Santa Ana, California. In the navy he was trained as an engineer. Back home after the war, he tried to enroll in the music program at Los Angeles City College, but he was rejected; the school was already bulging with high school graduates and returning veterans. Badgered by his parents, Holman decided to finish his engineering studies...

  8. 4 Speed War, Tape, and Solos
    (pp. 70-92)

    On a hot afternoon in August 1951, Zoot Sims ambled into Apex Studios on 57th Street and 6th Avenue in New York, opened his instrument case and assembled his tenor saxophone. Bob Weinstock, the owner of Prestige Records, had rented the studio for the afternoon. He had also hired a swinging rhythm section to accompany Sims—the pianist Harry Biss, the bassist Clyde Lombardi, and the drummer Art Blakey. When the session began, Sims recorded a song he had composed called “Trotting” and the standard “It Had to Be You.” Then Weinstock suggested a blues, telling Sims, “Let’s run it...

  9. 5 Suburbia and West Coast Jazz
    (pp. 93-117)

    In mid-1955, Dave Pell bought a three-bedroom ranch house in Encino, a suburb of Los Angeles about an hour north of the city in the San Fernando Valley. The tenor saxophonist was working six days a week and doing well—in fact, better than well. He was recording and playing concerts with Les Brown’s big band, recording movie soundtracks, making jazz records, playing on local TV shows, and gigging around Hollywood at jazz clubs with his octet. Married, with three children, nine cats, and three dogs, Pell had fallen in love with the Encino house at the end of the...

  10. 6 BMI, R&B, and Hard Bop
    (pp. 118-139)

    On December 4, 1939, Jelly Roll Morton was riffling through the day’s mail when an envelope caught his eye. Morton—a ragtime and early-jazz pianist as well as a prolific composer and charismatic showman—opened the letter. It was from the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP).¹ Morton had been trying to join the elite performing rights organization since 1934—without success. Formed in 1914 by musicians including Victor Herbert, Jerome Kern, Irving Berlin, and John Philip Sousa, ASCAP initially sought to collect copyright royalties from theaters and restaurants on behalf of member songwriters and publishers whose songs...

  11. 7 Bias, Africa, and Spiritual Jazz
    (pp. 140-160)

    Sonny Rollins doesn’t recall exactly how the riot started at New York’s Benjamin Franklin High School on September 27, 1945. What he does remember vividly is the high level of tension in the largely Italian neighborhood on East 116th Street and Pleasant Avenue that fall. Rollins’s junior high school class was the first to be sent to Franklin High in the fall of 1945—part of an early outreach program by progressive city officials determined to integrate the public school system.¹

    The high school’s principal, Leonard Covello, was known for his “community-centered” educational vision that hailed the contributions of immigrants...

  12. 8 Invasion and Jazz-Pop
    (pp. 161-185)

    On the evening of August 15, 1965, the jazz vocalist Carol Sloane climbed into a car driven by her friend Bob Bonis, and they headed out to New York’s Shea Stadium. Bonis was the Beatles’ American tour manager, and he had prized dugout seats for the British band’s much-heralded outdoor concert. When the concert began, Bonis took his place on the field just below the stage behind Ringo, while beefy members of the security detail stood behind the other members of the Fab Four. The rule was that if fans jumped onto the field and rushed the stage, the four...

  13. 9 Alienation and the Avant-Garde
    (pp. 186-202)

    When the saxophonist Joseph Jarman was discharged from the army in 1959, he found he wasn’t able to talk for a year. As a member of the 11th Airborne Division, he had been dropped by parachute at night on a mission in Vietnam, along with twenty other soldiers in his unit. Their secret mission—the United States did not officially have troops in the country at the time—was to raid and destroy a strategic, well-fortified North Vietnamese military outpost. But as the soldiers drifted down through the sky at 2:30 A.M. on the moonless night, something went terribly wrong....

  14. 10 Lights, Volume, and Fusion
    (pp. 203-224)

    In February 1969 Bill Hanley received a phone call from Stan Goldstein that would eventually change the direction of jazz. At the time, Hanley ran Hanley Sound, a company in Medford, Massachusetts, that designed sound systems for jazz and pop concerts. His company had already created systems for more than forty events, including the Newport Jazz Festival in the late fifties and sixties, President Lyndon Johnson’s inauguration in 1965 , and the Miami Pop Festival in 1968. Goldstein, in 1969, was a recording engineer who, with Michael Lang, had organized the Miami Pop Festival the preceding year. After some small...

  15. 11 Jazz Hangs On
    (pp. 225-228)

    Jazz faced new challenges after 1972 from an expanding range of music forms, and it benefited yet again from opportunities presented by business, technology, and cultural trends. Jazz-rock fusion continued to grow in popularity, becoming a sophisticated alternative to hard rock. But new music forms appeared, altering the direction of jazz. The rise of soul artists with sociopolitical messages—including Gil Scott-Heron, Curtis Mayfield, Marvin Gaye, and Isaac Hayes—compelled jazz artists to integrate soul and soul-protest elements into their music.

    Disco’s rise in the mid-1970s was also influenced by jazz, thanks to the many jazz arrangers and artists who...

  16. Notes
    (pp. 229-248)
  17. Index
    (pp. 249-267)
  18. Back Matter
    (pp. 268-268)