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Chicago Jazz

The setting is the Royal Gardens Cafe. It's dark, smoky. The smell of gin permeates the room. People are leaning over the balcony, their drinks spilling on the customers below. On stage, King Oliver and Louis Armstrong roll on and on, piling up choruses, the rhythm section building the beat until tables, chairs, walls, people, move with the rhythm. The time is the 1920s. The place is South Side Chicago, a town of dance halls and cabarets, Prohibition and segregation, a town where jazz would flourish into the musical statement of an era. In Chicago Jazz, William Howland Kenney offers a wide-ranging look at jazz in the Windy City, revealing how Chicago became the major center of jazz in the 1920s, one of the most vital periods in the history of the music. He describes how the migration of blacks from the South to Chicago during and after World War I set the stage for the development of jazz in Chicago; and how the nightclubs and cabarets catering to both black and white customers provided the social setting for jazz performances. Kenney discusses the arrival of King Oliver and other greats in Chicago in the late teens and the early 1920s, especially Louis Armstrong, who would become the most influential jazz player of the period. And he travels beyond South Side Chicago to look at the evolution of white jazz, focusing on the influence of the South Side school on such young white players as Mezz Mezzrow (who adopted the mannerisms of black show business performers, an urbanized southern black accent, and black slang); and Max Kaminsky, deeply influenced by Armstrong's "electrifying tone, his superb technique, his power and ease, his hotness and intensity, his complete mastery of the horn." The personal recollections of many others--including Milt Hinton, Wild Bill Davison, Bud Freeman, and Jimmy McPartland--bring alive this exciting period in jazz history. Here is a new interpretation of Chicago jazz that reveals the role of race, culture, and politics in the development of this daring musical style. From black-and-tan cabarets and the Savoy Ballroom, to the Friars Inn and Austin High, Chicago Jazz brings to life the hustle and bustle of the sounds and styles of musical entertainment in the famous toddlin' town.
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About the Author

William Howland Kenny is a jazz clarinetist and Associate Professor of History and American Studies at Kent State University.


Social historian Kenney provides an entertaining and well-documented account of Chicago jazz in the Roaring Twenties. Although many books have addressed the subject, this is evidently the first to emphasize the music's social context. Kenney describes dance halls and cabarets, explaining the popularity of interracial dancing. He cites the autobiographies of musicians to account for why white musicians found black jazz so attractive. Analyzing recordings by King Oliver, Louis Armstrong, Earl Hines, and Jelly Roll Morton, Kenney describes the structure of their musical arrangements. Kenney's talent for vivid description makes the era come alive. This study will benefit specialists and is recommended for academic libraries serving students of jazz and popular culture.-- Paul Baker, CUNA Inc., Madison, Wis.

In this concise and informative academic study, historian Kenney traces the social and economic emergence of jazz in Chicago from its inception through the Depression, with particular emphasis on the 1920s, when Chicago became a major jazz center. The author, who teaches American studies at Kent State University, recounts African American migration into the city, and shows how nightclubs and cabarets helped to cultivate the evolving musical form. Out of South-side Chicago came such legendary black musicians as King Oliver, Louis Armstrong and Earl Hines. But Kenney maintains that white Chicago jazz musicians, such as Jimmy McPartland, Art Hodes and Frank Teschemacher, deserve more credit than is normally given. All Chicago jazz, he concludes, responded not only to tensions between the races, but also to the rise in prominence of the city. Photos not seen by PW. (May)

CHICAGO JAZZ is a good example of the new historical writing in the field. This is a well written and thoroughly researched book, and ought to appeal to anyone interested in the general history of jazz and popular music. * Jim Burns, Beat Scene , No. 23 * a meticulously researched and minutely detailed work of jazz scholarship that impressively enhances our understanding of how jazz developed, and the mileu in which it prospered. Aficionados will find this fascinating. * Trevor Hodgett, Irish News * William Howland Kenney ... writes vividly and effectively ... Chicago Jazz remains the definitive account for the foreseeable future * Times Literary Supplement *

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