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Re: [RedHotJazz] Roger Pryor Dodge (was: Re: Bernard Wolfe, Mezzrow, and Really the Blues and Bix)

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  • Howard Rye
    I think Roger Pryor Dodge was first and foremost a singular critic who very early knew so much better about Jazz music than his contemporary writers. He was
    Message 1 of 79 , Jun 14, 2009
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      I think Roger Pryor Dodge was first and foremost a singular critic who very
      early knew so much better about Jazz music than his contemporary writers. He
      was also of course a practitioner (a dancer) and was probably one of those
      who led the shift to what became the consensus view. Other writers who
      associated with the men who made the Harlem Renaissance got there early too
      and I think that¹s the ³somehow². I hate to find myself agreeing with James
      Lincoln Collier but his case against European pretentions to sole invention
      of the jazz canon, while overstated, does have legs, and Dodge is one of

      The question of why Europeans were left to finish the job opens another huge
      can of worms and I don¹t want to go there.

      on 13/06/2009 21:55, Tommer at tommersl@... wrote:

      > --- In RedHotJazz@yahoogroups.com <mailto:RedHotJazz%40yahoogroups.com> ,
      > Howard Rye <howard@...> wrote:
      >> >
      >> > A Comprehensive Guide to Jazz Metahistory is a brilliant concept, Patrice.
      >> > Let¹s make a start.
      >> >
      >> > This stuff is all rooted in the depths of the history of jazz criticism and
      >> > of the efforts of the young enthusiasts of the 1930s to establish a canon.
      >> > In the 20s most people who knew anything about it thought that Bix and his
      >> > followers were the only jazz that mattered. The rest was either
      >> > old-fashioned or crude. You can read reviews from the late 20s in which
      >> > works by Morton and Ellington are dismissed as worthless rubbish, sometimes
      >> > actually qualified by the usual offensive terms for their creators,
      >> > sometimes with a pretense to objectivity. As to Armstrong, well, what a
      >> > trumpeter, you could hardly call him crude, but ³Africa spoke² (actual
      >> > quote) and the wretched man would insist on singing.
      >> >
      >> > Then a new generation came along, led by the likes of Spike Hughes and
      >> > Hugues Panassié, who inevitably reacted to the opposite extreme. To some
      >> > extent this was just generational flip-flopping. They felt about the heroes
      >> > of those a bit older than themselves the way the blues mafia of the 1960s
      >> > felt about skiffle. I¹ve only thought of that as I¹m writing but it¹s a
      >> > pretty good parallel.
      >> >
      >> > Eventually a �consensus¹ emerged in Europe. It was agreed that
      >> Armstrong and
      >> > Beiderbecke were both geniuses and that it was utterly tasteless actually
      >> to
      >> > say which of them was the greater genius or even mention that it was a
      >> > question worthy of discussion. Different standards were adopted to judge
      >> > white jazz and black jazz at a less exalted level and everybody was more or
      >> > less happy. Some people still believed Red Nichols was much more important
      >> > than Natty Dominique (they are the Bixians and most of them probably didn¹t
      >> > know who Natty Dominique was), and some didn¹t (they mostly thought Red
      >> > Nichols wasn¹t important at all).
      >> >
      >> > One consequence of this in my observation is the tendency to massively
      >> > overrate white musicians perceived to be working in black idioms,
      >> especially
      >> > in comparison to those with individual voices derived from their own
      >> > heritage. French mainstream jazz hasn¹t really produced as many
      >> > near-geniuses as an uncritical reading of the writings of Panassié and his
      >> > followers might lead you to think.
      >> >
      >> > People agreed to pretend they didn¹t disagree and that if they did, it was
      >> > just a matter of taste. Jazz magazines published articles about the various
      >> > areas obviously written from different perspectives and critical standards,
      >> > but everyone agreed not to notice. Everyone was soon being distracted by >>
      >> > traditional v modern wars anyway and a lot of professionals had to pretend
      >> > to like music they really regarded as a lot of aimless noise if they wanted
      >> > to keep their jobs. (After reading his autobiography I strongly suspect
      >> that
      >> > Charles Delaunay really disliked bop much more than Hugues Panassié, who
      >> > could always relate to the residual blues content. It¹s always been mainly
      >> > about ideology.)
      >> >
      >> > The Bixians are alive and well in the States where there is still a large
      >> > sub-stratum of jazz enthusiasts, though most of them must by now be getting
      >> > pretty elderly, who are not really interested at all in Armstrong, and
      >> > knowing nothing and caring less about blues, don¹t really understand the
      >> > relationship between ³their² music and African-American music. Many of them
      >> > don¹t want to. They are not part of the consensus referred to and
      >> ironically
      >> > they are (and here I am merely expressing a personal opinion) actually
      >> right
      >> > that there is far less relationship between their music and
      >> African-American
      >> > music than the European compilers of the canon (as embodied in Hot
      >> > Discography, say) had agreed to pretend there was.
      >> >
      >> > Peace was reigning, but unfortunately the boat was rocked when some
      >> > African-Americans started taking an interest in their own heritage and
      >> said,
      >> > hey, what¹s Bix got to do with this. ³These same writers not only forever
      >> > intrude the name of Bix Beiderbecke into discussions about such seminal
      >> > blues-idiom trumpet players as Buddy Bolden, Bunk Johnson, Freddie Keppard,
      >> > and Louis Armstrong, but also make no outcry whatsoever about the
      >> numberless
      >> > articles that describe Benny Goodman as the King of Swing, or the polls
      >> > which rate Woody Herman and Stan Kenton over Duke Ellington and Count
      >> Basie²
      >> > (Albert Murray, Stomping The Blues, 1978). I think Albert was the first to
      >> > come out and say what so many had shied away from.
      >> >
      >> > But the Bixians, Patrice, are people who think George Barnes is a greater
      >> > guitar player than Charlie Christian, a judgement sustainable only by
      >> > writing blues out of the equation, and one quite possibly justified if you
      >> > do. Who cares? In their hearts they think Bix is greater than Louis too.
      >> >
      >> > It¹s rather important not to react to this by denying that Bix was a genius
      >> > but he was a genius who was a lot less good than Armstrong at touching
      >> those
      >> > around him with his genius and the reasons for that are mainly cultural or
      >> > mainly about roots if you prefer a different formulation.
      >> >
      >> > If there¹s anyone I haven¹t offended, please accept my apologies. It isn¹t
      >> > that I don¹t think you¹re worth arguing with.
      >> >
      >> >
      > Excellent reading! Thank you Howard. About early critics of the 1920's, what
      > about Roger Pryor Dodge? Was he part of a stream different than the Bixians,
      > or just a singular critic who somehow very early knew so much better about
      > Jazz music than his contemporary writers?
      > Tommer
      >> Howard Rye, 20 Coppermill Lane, London, England, E17 7HB
      >> howard@...
      >> Tel/FAX: +44 20 8521 1098

      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
    • Howard Rye
      Sadly, I have to report that ³the sweeter side of King Keppard² was a discographical misattribution on which Rudi Blesh built a flight of fancy. This
      Message 79 of 79 , Jun 16, 2009
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        Sadly, I have to report that ³the sweeter side of King Keppard² was a
        discographical misattribution on which Rudi Blesh built a flight of fancy.

        This particular piece of tosh is to be found in the ŒPostscript¹ appended to
        later editions of Blesh¹s ŒShining Trumpets¹. Keppard isn¹t even on the
        record cited as proto-Beiderbecke, Doc Cook¹s ŒI Got Worry¹. The trumpeter
        is probably Elwood Graham, whose presence is confirmed by his file
        attribution as a member of the vocal trio on ŒHum and Strum¹. As the date
        is 1928 comment on the likely direction of influence is probably
        superfluous. This is a showband doing what showbands do (giving the public
        what it wants). It would be an exaggeration to call ŒI Got Worry² a
        Whiteman-imitation but they are aiming at the same territory and Graham
        plays in the style he or the arranger considered appropriate for that job. I
        seriously doubt that anything more compliacted is happening.

        Incidentally despite what discographies say about the personnel of this
        session, Doc Poston is certainly present since the files name him as one of
        the vocal trio too, unless there really was a musician called ³Postum² in
        the band.

        on 16/06/2009 18:01, Tommer at tommersl@... wrote:

        > --- In RedHotJazz@yahoogroups.com <mailto:RedHotJazz%40yahoogroups.com> ,
        > "Tommer" <tommersl@...> wrote:
        >> > I didn't read this Murray but IMO improvisation on Blues texture (hot) is
        >> different than improvising on the something that wraps the Blues (sweet).
        >> >
        >> > IMO Louis' "West End Blues" the piano is sweet. They also don't swing much.
        >> On the other hand the piano on Johnny Dodds' "New St. Louis Blues" is hot and
        >> they swing. I was reffering to the piano but it is more or less what I feel
        >> about the whole of each of the two.
        >> >
        >> > What I prefer? The hot!
        >> >
        >> > Tommer
        >> >
        > I have to add something accordingly. I think that one of the problems in
        > understanding among Jazz listeners the connection between Jazz and Blues is
        > that because unfair argues. Like, saying anything Louis did was hot which is
        > not true. What those that like "West End Blues" is the virtuoso trumpet thing,
        > but in terms of hot music it is not so much.
        > Why I mentioned this is complicated to explain, first because I saw that West
        > End is regarded by Albert and I am sure others think the same as one of the
        > two (with Singin the Blues) most important records of the 1920's, and for me
        > this record is a symbol to the end of the most powerful Blues era in Jazz,
        > because this as well as Singin are records that goes from collective efforts
        > on Blues texture to virtuoso use of Blues for other things.
        > And I don;t mean 12-bar Blues, because 12-bar can play without improvisation
        > on the texture, as much as other forms can be played inside the texture.
        > What I believe is that because assuming everything Louis did was "hot" is why
        > Rudi Blesh claimed that Bix wasn't influenced by Louis but, he was influenced
        > by the sweeter side of King Keppard.
        > Because assuming everything Louis was doing at the time was hot, causes a
        > problem, how can a always hot musician influence so much a musician Blesh
        > believed was sweet?
        > And this is what confuse people! Because there are romantic descriptions to
        > deal with this.
        > So, Murray omitting Oliver or for that same matter any list is questionnable,
        > at the time Bunk and George Lewis were rediscovered they weren't as able to
        > deal with Blues texture too much. That era is over since the 1920's are over.
        > But, Murray could say that on Bunk because Bunk was from the old times!
        > However, Oliver had Jazz Babies Blues and Alligator and Krooked Blues and
        > Canal Street Blues, and other that were some of the best Blues in Jazz ever
        > recorded IMO. I don't believe he omitted Oliver, maybe he didn't hear the
        > right records or just forgot about him or had a short selevtive or
        > representative list.
        > Tommer

        Howard Rye, 20 Coppermill Lane, London, England, E17 7HB
        Tel/FAX: +44 20 8521 1098

        [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
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