The Book Of Jazz - online reference book

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

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or recently freed, and since this gave him advantages of environ­ment and heredity, the Negro became a musician.
Almost immediately, through his music, he was able to estab­lish with some of the more liberal-minded whites a rapport never before possible. Though Jim Crow and music have been partners for decades in a shotgun wedding, with Uncle Sam in charge of the arsenal, the alliance has been an uneasy one from the start. As early as 1880 J. B. T. Marsh, in The Story of the Jubilee Singers, wrote that "People who would not sit in the same church pew with a Negro, under the magic of their song, were able to get new light on questions of social equality." Nevertheless, even during the Reconstruction years, the singers had to submit to an endless round of dining room and hotel accommodation refusals; it was only during their triumphal tours abroad that they were allowed to feel like completely free and equal human beings.
While there is no agreement among theoreticians concerning the birthdate of ragtime, of the blues or even of the first music lcnown as jazz, it is commonly accepted that white performers, from the beginning, were playing similar though not identical music. Though the white and Negro musicians heard each other, there were few opportunities to play together. In a few rare instances light skinned Negroes or Creoles "passed" into white bands. Early examples were Achille Baquet, the clarinetist who once worked in a jazz band led by Jimmy Durante, and trom­bonist Dave Perkins, who along with Baquet was a member of Jack Laine's Ragtime Band in the early years of this century.
Generally, though, in the first two decades of ragtime, Negroes and whites lived apart, worked and played apart, thought apart, and thus grew culturally apart. That two separated bloodstreams were flowing in the veins of jazz can be confirmed by a com­parison of the records of Duke Ellington or Louis Armstrong with those of Ben Pollack and Red Nichols. A Jim Crow society had produced Jim Crowed music, and it was to take a full gen­eration for the blood lines to reunite.
The appearance of a Negro musician with a white band, even in the seclusion of a recording studio, was a rarity until as late as 1933, a commonplace among small jazz combos by 1937, still an exception among large studio orchestras through the 1940s.