Blues & Jazz (and punk!)
Louis N Proyect
lnp3 at columbia.edu
Wed May 29 12:38:35 MDT 1996
On Wed, 29 May 1996, zodiac wrote:
"Who is Duke Ellington playing for in A Train? "
Louis: There's a terrific 2-record set called "One night stand in Fargo,
South Dakota" which is a live performance of the Ellington band in the
early 1950s. It's clear from the liner notes that the audience was white
and working-class. Most of the people who used go to venues where Basie,
Ellington, etc. performed went to dance. Performances at Carnegie Hall
were exceptions to the rule.
The deep Blues as a living art form began to die out when the rural
conditions of life in places like Mississippi, which were deeply
oppressive, began to become transformed.
Sharecroppers became urban factory workers and the music began
to change to reflect new concerns and influences. Robert Johnson evolved
into Muddy Waters. However, in the 1960s Chicago-styled blues began to
lose its connections to the urban working-class as urban contemporary
sounds like Aretha Franklin and Al Green became more popular. Today this
type of music descended from R&B is more like muzak.
Jazz lost its connection to a proletarian audience as soon as bebop became
entrenched. Night-clubs moved from Harlem to Greenwich Village and the
audiences became white and middle-class. Jazz is at the end of a long
creative cycle today and the most popular musicians like Wynton Marsalis
simply offer a pastiche of the styles of 30 and 40 years ago.
The most interesting music being made today is in Africa and Latin America
where popular artists continue to explore and improvise on the dance
style of the working-class: Zairean soukous, Brazilian samba, Cuban rumba,
etc. The minute popular music starts to lose this connection, it starts to
lose its vitality.
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