Harlem Renaissance Music
Who was Louis Armstrong?
He was one of the most famous jazz musicians in the first half of the 1900s. He was famous for scat singing, a style of singing which involved singing nonsense syllables in the place of actual words. He was eventually called the King of the Cornet. His nickname was Satchmo. He cut holes in his mouthpiece so that he could easily find his embouchure, but these holes resulted in a satchel mouth which produced cuts in his mouth and his lower lip hanging down. Satchel + mouth = Satchmo. He was the 2nd trumpet in Joe Oliver’s band but eventually left to form his own band. He was known for being a great showman.
Where did Jazz originate?
Jazz was born in New Orleans not Harlem. In the South, specifically New Orleans, there were thousands of white and black musicians. Jazz was essentially a synthesis of Western Music with Western African music.
Who was Joe Oliver?
He was Louis Armstrong’s mentor. He was called the King of the Cornet before that title belonged to Armstrong. He was also dubbed the most skilled musician in New Orleans. As a part of the Great Migration during the 1920s he moved to Chicago and became famous.
What is “West End Blues”?
This was a song performed by Armstrong in 1927. It was considered jazz, it had swing, emphasis on 2&4 (syncopation), improvised solos, call and response element, and scat singing. It was recorded in 1927 by Louis Armstrong and the hot five in Chicago.
Describe Joe Oliver’s West End Blues.
This was the original version, performed by the mentor in 1922. HIs version was faster than Armstrong’s, and his intro had a little more variation despite the fact that it was more/less the same melody (improv but not really improv). His version was more chaotic because everybody came in at once and he took a faster tempo.
Describe Louis Armstrong’s West End Blues.
The protege’s version of this song, in 1927 was taken at a slower tempo, more laid back, calm and deliberate. The slower tempo was meant to allow the performer to showcase his ability to hold pitch and create style of every note. The instruments also come in one by one which creates a sense of anticipation but also fluidity. There are a lot more details in the protege’s version which makes this version more interesting. His version was also more fluid and organized.
Compare Oliver’s technique to Armstrong’s.
Oliver’s technique was sloppier whereas Armstrong’s was precise, brighter, distinct, clear articulations, tonal clarity, and a style to each one of his notes. He could also hit much higher notes than Oliver. Armstrong’s technique was superior to Oliver’s and Armstrong surpassed Oliver as the King of the Cornet.
The musical style started in New Orleans at around 1900. It was a blend of French, Spanish, Western, and West African music. Jazz is similar to ragtime in that it contains the concepts of folk music of black spirituals (of the black church) but applies those concepts to the bigger band. Black spirituals would eventually morph into blues then marching band music. The emulation of tonalities of spiritual music was evident Jazz.
How did the Great Migration affect Jazz?
This geographic movement caused by social and economic reasons (Jim Crow + promise of jobs) brought jazz to Harlem, Chicago, Baltimore, and D.C. Life was not amazing in Harlem but it was much better than in the Jim Crow south.
What were the various music venues in Harlem during the Harlem Renaissance?
One of the venues in Harlem was called The Clef Club, which was led by James Reese Europe. Another venue was The Apollo, which hosted amateur night which discovered great musicians such as Ella Fitzgerald and Jimi Hendrix. Another venue was the Savoy, famous for its integrated audience and leadership by drummer Chick Webb and singing from Ella Fitzgerald. The last venue was The Cotton Club, featuring Duke Ellington. Besides the Savoy, all of the audiences were black performers who performed for rich white audiences.
Who was Duke Ellington?
Born Edward Kennedy Ellington, he became of the most famous jazz pianists of the Harlem Renaissance. His journey started when he came to Harlem at the age of 19, failed, went back to DC then returned to Harlem when he was 21 and became famous for Harlem Stride Style.
What was Harlem Stride Style?
This was a type of piano style popularized by Ellington in the 20s which was used in parties that were thrown by musicians in their own house. These parties would have an entry fee to help musicians pay for their rent, and the musician would just play all night.
Briefly describe Finger Buster.
In this piece performed by Ellington, the left hand is doing chord changes through big octave jumps. The left hand is accompanied by the right hand which is playing the melody, which is the recognizable “stride” part of Harlem Stride Style.
What were examples of how black culture was exoticized during the Harlem Renaissance?
In 1927 Ellington was the paid to be the leader of a series of shows at the Cotton Club called the “Jungle Shows,” which was considered to be his first big break. This is an example of how black culture was exoticized and exploited during the Harlem Renaissance. The dancers for this show could not be shorter than 5’6, no older than 20 and had to be black. But no just black, The Cotton Club had its brown paper bag rule, which said that if a potential performer’s skin was darker than the color of a paper bag, they could not perform at The Cotton Club. Despite this the exoticism of black culture and blatant racism, Ellington was able to create beautiful Jungle music by using the orchestra as if it was his own instrument, he added flavor in the timbre.
Describe Black and Tan Fantasy.
This was a song by Duke Ellington in 1927. Cooty Williams, the trumpet player used a plunger, this plunger make the trumpet voice sound vocal. There is wavering on each note, slides between notes were not distinct, producing a wua wua wua of the wavering effect makes it sound like scat singing,and it had a raspy quality. In his improvised solo, Williams was having fun with it, clearly excited, he comes in slow then ups the anti every couple of bars, shows his goofy personality, and is making the audience feel something through the music. The sax player was Johnny Hodges, his play is characterized by syncopation and its effortless quality.
How was individualism connected with the Harlem Renaissance?
The Harlem Renaissance redefined black identity, and these improvised solos represented the new assertion of black identity, aesthetic, and modernism. The attitude about jazz was “this is our black music, and we’re going to play music but we are going to do it our way.”
Who were the people involved in the Cotton Club after Ellington’s departure?
After Ellington left the Cotton Club in 1931, Cab Calloway took over. He brought in the famous tap dancer Bojangles Robinson and the tap dancing brothers, the Nicholas Brothers. The Cotton Club leads to the idea of a show like atmosphere which eventually leads to the idea of music videos, and an artist having to be a complete entertainer. The Cotton Club also influenced Broadway Musicals, so the Cotton Club has contributed to all of today’s theatrical shows.
Who was William Grant Still?
He was a black symphonic composer who wrote scores and operas. One of his operas was the first opera by a black composer performed at the Met.
Describe Afro-American Symphony No.1.
This piece was composed by William Grant Still in 1947. Its a mixture of blues sound with more traditional instruments, such as strings. There are jazz highlights through the a call and response pattern. There is an idea of layering and overlapping which created polyphony/imitative counterpoint and almost sounds like a fugue. The trumpet uses a harmon mute, an example of an effected instrument in which the timbre is modified. This piece goes into a march band feel but it is not a marching band piece but rather a funeral march in which the first part is the body being put down (not in the ground) and the second part is a party celebrating the persons life.