The Book Of Jazz - online reference book

Its Nature, Instruments, Sources, Sounds, Development & Performers

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Chapter 1
"All music's gotta be 'folk" music: I ain't never heard no horse sing a song '                                             —Louis Armstrong
With the belated emergence of jazz from its long-suffered role as the Cinderella of esthetics, and with its gradual ac­ceptance in many previously closed areas, the definition of its nature, always disputed among critics and to some extent among musicians and the public, has become a near-impossibility.
Until recently, most of the literature on the subject approached it from an academic viewpoint, usually that of a well-meaning, factually informed historian with no inside knowledge of jazz. A seemingly inevitable corollary was the insistence on recogniz­ing jazz only as a folk art, one in which almost all the prac­titioners played in sporting houses—simple, unlettered folk whose great spirit lifted their work out of the constrictions of squalid surroundings.
A more realistic view of jazz shows that the conceptions of its early creators were hampered more often than helped by such material factors as the lack of social acceptance and musical knowledge as well as the lack of good instruments and intona­tion; and that as far back as the early 1920s such pioneers as Ellington and Henderson were becoming aware of the value of musically educated control over natural artistry. If the definition of jazz as folk music held true for almost 100% of what was played before their time, it described perhaps 25 to 50% of what