The setting is the Royal Gardens Cafe. It's dark, smoky. The smell of gin permeates the room. People are leaning over the balcony, their drinks spilling on the customers below. On stage, King Oliver and Louis Armstrong roll on and on, piling up choruses, the rhythm section building the beat until tables, chairs, walls, people, move with the rhythm. The time is the 1920s. The place is South Side Chicago, a town of dance halls and cabarets, Prohibition and segregation, a town where jazz would flourish into the musical statement of an era.
In Chicago Jazz, William Howland Kenney offers a wide-ranging look at jazz in the Windy City, revealing how Chicago became the major center of jazz in the 1920s, one of the most vital periods in the history of the music. He describes how the migration of blacks from the South to Chicago during and after World War I set the stage for the development of jazz in Chicago; and how the nightclubs and cabarets catering to both black and white customers provided the social setting for jazz performances. Kenney discusses the arrival of King Oliver and other greats in Chicago in the late teens and the early 1920s, especially Louis Armstrong, who would become the most influential jazz player of the period. And he travels beyond South Side Chicago to look at the evolution of white jazz, focusing on the influence of the South Side school on such young white players as Mezz Mezzrow (who adopted the mannerisms of black show business performers, an urbanized southern black accent, and black slang); and Max Kaminsky, deeply influenced by Armstrong's "electrifying tone, his superb technique, his power and ease, his hotness and intensity, his complete mastery of the horn." The personal recollections of many others--including Milt Hinton, Wild Bill Davison, Bud Freeman, and Jimmy McPartland--bring alive this exciting period in jazz history.
Here is a new interpretation of Chicago jazz that reveals the role of race, culture, and politics in the development of this daring musical style. From black-and-tan cabarets and the Savoy Ballroom, to the Friars Inn and Austin High, Chicago Jazz brings to life the hustle and bustle of the sounds and styles of musical entertainment in the famous toddlin' town.
"Kenney, both a jazz musician and an associate professor at Kent State University, employs all his diverse expertise in creating this highly detailed study of a crucial chapter in the story of America's homegrown music. Kenney's short book is a serious and valuable work of scholarship, drawing heavily upon source material to describe and explain social and historical aspects of this period."--Los Angeles Daily News
"Concise and informative...traces the social and economic emergence of jazz in Chicago from its inception through the Depression, with particular emphasis on the 1920s, when Chicago became a major jazz center."--Publishers Weekly
"Kenney's scholarship should increase his cultural history's appeal for readers who aren't professional historians as well as for those who aren't amateur jazz scholars....Always authentic."--Booklist
"An entertaining and well-documented account of Chicago jazz in the Roaring 20s....Kenney's talent for vivid description makes the era come alive."--Library Journal
"Kenney's meticulously researched and carefully thought through book is a paradigm of what jazz scholarship ought to be. Jazz fans and scholars alike will find here a whole new view of this formative early period."--James Lincoln Collier, author of Benny Goodman and the Swing Era, Duke Ellington, and Louis Armstrong
"William Howland Kenney's detailed, superbly written investigation of the 1920s Chicago jazz scene is a model historical study of a community bound together by a cultural practice....The musicians are presented here with a new clarity, and Kenney's meticulous research shows how the Chicago jazz heyday was molded, and soon swept away, by larger historical trends. This finely-tuned critical exploration is a valuable contribution to the cultural history of jazz
and the 1920s."--Burton W. Peretti, author of The Creation of Jazz: Music, Race, and Culture in Urban America
"A concise and persuasive interpretation of the intersections of race, demographic shifts, urban culture and music that made Chicago, during the 1920s, a carefully-selected anthology of well-known and fugitive pieces, offers multiple perspectives on an elusive, sardonic and mocking genius who transcended the constraints of white racism and paternalism. Mark Tucker, an authority on Ellington's early life, provides succinct introductions to this and another
hundred 'Selections' in a compilation which is both a joy to read and an indispensable addition to American Studies, Ellingtonia, and jazz criticism."--John White, University of Hull