Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The Roaring 20s – and all that Jazz

I wasn’t around in the roaring twenties. I wasn’t even a gleam in my daddy’s eye. In fact, he was barely a glimmer himself. But I’ve always viewed the 1920s era as fun, lively, and provocative.

And then there’s all that jazz, born out of sorrow, etched in the grips of pain, and lifted by hope. The music itself cuts right to the chase and pierces all hearts to the core. Sensual, soothing, and awash with tales of grief and woe; the horns wail with sexual vibrato. Black and white keys are fingered first tentatively and then raucously like a kitten at play running, pawing, tickling the ivory and the ebony.

Listeners sway in the moonlight or play the music as background to intimate foreplay. Clarinets wrap the listeners in warm steam, soaking through the flimsy cover of inhibitions and prudish pride. Raw, earthy, and wonderful, the sounds are so integrated in our culture that it has become an integral part of American history, right up there with country music and bluegrass. In some quarters, you can hardly tell the difference.

My daughter, Holly, was given some old sheet music from the 1920s. She showed it to me on a recent visit. I fell in love with the covers. Using stark red, black and white, the artwork captures the wild craze of that era from Betty Boop to Minnie the Moocher. And unforgettable songs like "Give me a little kiss, will you huh?" "The Best Things in Life are Free," and "Happy Days." Here's a fun link from YouTube:

In the next few weeks, I will do my own renditions of some of these covers. I’ll try to capture the fun, the color, and the feel of this timeless period in history. Your comments and contributions are more than welcome: Please share a link, some artwork, a piece of music…and all that jazz!

Here is a wonderful link to the Pittsburg State University in Kansas. Kansas City and the surrounding areas are well known for the best BBQ and the best jazz in the country. There are other links on this site, and notables like Ma Rainey, Bessie Smith, and Billie Holiday. Great!