Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Essay 'Classic Jazz' by Scott Yanow Highlights Roles of James P. Johnson & Duke Ellington

[Victory Stride: The Symphonic Music of James P. Johnson; The Concordia Orchestra; Marin Alsop, Conductor; Music Masters 67140 (1994). The Definitive Duke Ellington; Sony 61444 (2000)]

James P. Johnson and Duke Ellington are profiled at, which focuses on their classical works such as Johnson's Yamekraw: A Negro Rhapsody and Ellington's Harlem and Suite from The River. Today we present excerpts from an essay on their role in the development of jazz by Scott Yanow:
Wednesday, November 3, 2010
“However classic New Orleans jazz was soon overshadowed by the rise of the great soloists. James P. Johnson, called 'the father of the stride piano,' was a brilliant pianist whose complex left-hand patterns ('striding' up and down between bass notes and chords) inspired youngsters such as Fats Waller and often scared away his potential competitors. His first recorded piano solos were in 1921 and even now few listeners probably realize that this multi-faceted talent composed 'Charleston.'”
“As far the rhythm section went, James P. Johnson's followers and contemporaries at nightly jam sessions included Fats Waller, Willie 'The Lion' Smith, Earl Hines (in Chicago) and the young Duke Ellington.”

“By the end of the 20's, jazz was a major part of popular music and Duke Ellington's innovations with his Cotton Club Orchestra were leading the way towards the future. Jazz, although hardly considered respectable by the middle class, was being utilized at least to a small degree by nearly every commercial dance orchestra and it was the vocabulary of talented musicians at after-hours jam sessions who indulged in freewheeling dixieland-oriented solos and of territory bands from outside the major metropolitan areas. In addition, the spontaneity of jazz by 1927 had become the soundtrack of the freewheeling 1920's.

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