The Book Of Jazz - online reference book

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

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bands in the 1930s; the orchestra repeating the piano's explo­sions in Lionel Hampton's Boogie Woogie in the 1940s; and the new outburst of instrumental and vocal juxtaposition along call-and-response lines in the commercialized rock *n' roll ceremonies of the 1950s. Some of the traditional work songs have been re­corded by the late Huddie Ledbetter, better known as ''Lead-belly," and in a slightly more urbanized style by Josh White.
Contemporaneous with the development of the work song was the religious music of both Negro and white Americans. Barry Ulanov points out that: "A comparison of the so-called white spirituals and the so-called* Negro spirituals shows enormous exchanges of melody, rhythm, and lyric."5 Fortunately this area of jazz genealogy is more adequately documented than most. An 1881 edition of The Story of the Jubilee Singers, documenting the career of the Fisk University choral group, provides a fasci­nating and relevant case history. The Jubilee Singers almost singlehandedly spread the spiritual and the work song from a limited audience in the southern United States to a peak of international acceptance that did much to spread the influence of this music with its peculiar melodic implications.
Opened as a school in 1866, Fisk was chartered the following year as a University. George L. White, the treasurer, organized a school chorus that gave its first public concert in 1867. Four years later the group, composed of six female and five male stu­dents, left Nashville on a fund raising tour and ultimately at­tracted so much enthusiasm, despite many racial obstacles, among white church and lay organizations, that within a year or two the group was on its first tour of England and per­formed for Queen Victoria. For decades the Jubilee Singers remained a symbol of the branch of music they represented.
An examination of the music reproduced in the book devoted to their story, transcribed from their hitherto undocumented performances, reveals that many of the tunes are simple diatonic melodies that must have gained their quality from the accent and rhythmic nuances of the performances. As the book's editor points out, a noticeable feature of the songs is the rarity of the occurrence of triple time, which he attributes to the "beating of the foot and the swaying of the body which are such frequent