The Jazz Age

The Jazz Age : Popular Music in the 1920's

3.62 (8 ratings by Goodreads)
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It all happened in America in the 1920s: blues, jazz, band music, torch ballards, operettas, and musicals. Louis Armstrong, Bix Beiderbecke, and Duke Ellington, Kern, Gershwin, Berlin, and Porter, all burst onto the musical scene in this decade. Harlem celebrated its own artistic and musical renaissance, while the world of prohibition, extravagant parties, and speakeasies produced timeless tunes such as 'Stardust' and 'Tea for Two'. Christened by F. Scott Fitzgerald and declared 'open' by Louis Armstrong, the Jazz Age saw the flowering of the most prolific musical talents of this century. Arnold Shaw's lively account embraces all the major personalities from instrumentalists to composers, and from singers to lyricists. The book includes a bibliography, a detailed discography, and lists of songs and films from the 1920s. Jazz enthusiasts and students of musicshow more

Product details

  • Hardback | 352 pages
  • 142.24 x 210.82 x 35.56mm | 612.35g
  • Oxford University Press Inc
  • New York, United States
  • 0195038916
  • 9780195038910

About Arnold Shaw

About the Author Arnold Shaw, two time winner of the prestigious ASCAP-Deems Taylor Awards, and author of such books as Honkers and Shouters, The Dictionary of Pop/Rock, Black Popular Music in America, and Fifty-Second Street, is Director of the Popular Music Research Center at the University of Nevada at Las more

Review Text

Vastly detailed, all-inclusive, but largely superficial and awkwardly organized: a survey of all the popular music in the 1920's, "when elements of black and white music first achieved a rich and permanent fusion." After a brief introduction that recycles familiar generalizations about the period, Shaw (Honkers and Shouters, Fifty-Second Street) profiles the major jazz innovators - from the New Orleans dixieland bands to King Oliver, Jelly Roll Morton, Louis Armstrong, and Bix Beiderbecke, along with nods to influential bandleaders "Pops" Whiteman and Fletcher Henderson. Then comes a short section on the Harlem Renaissance ("there was enchantment in the very air of Harlem") - touching on Duke Ellington, Ethel Waters, the Cotton Club, and stride piano, but emphasizing the proliferation of the blues while saluting both famous and little-known black songwriters. (One of Shaw's few interpretive notions - an iffy one - surfaces here: "That there was something desperate in the prolonged binge of the twenties was made most evident, I submit, by the vogue of the blues.") The bulk (nearly half) of the book, however, is devoted to a year-by-year "Tin Pan Alley" chronicle, 1920-1929, which details the top songs of each year, along with notable concerts, vaudeville shows, musicals and revues, radio/recording developments, plus thumbnail-sketches (rather arbitrarily inserted) of composers and performers. The result, though certainly informative, is chaotic, wildly repetitious, and occasionally even misleading. (Al Jolson, though a superstar from about 1918 on, isn't profiled until the chapter on 1928.) And more repetition follows - in a chapter on "The Musical Theatre," which somewhat oddly singles out Cole Porter (who may have had a 1920's sensibility but whose major work didn't come till the 1930's). Throughout, Shaw - whose own prose is sturdily pleasant at best - quotes extensively from such reliable sources as James Lincoln Collier, Alec Wilder, and David Ewen; also from memoirs and biographies (lots of familiar anecdotes). So there's little that's fresh or stimulating here. But, with a strong bibliography and a generous discography, it's a serviceable compendium in the Ewen tradition. (Kirkus Reviews)show more

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