The Book Of Jazz - online reference book

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

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Probably the most genuinely interracial of all, simply because no racial thinking of any kind was involved, was the big band assembled by John Gillespie early in 1956. Originally there were four white musicians; at times since then there have been as many as seven, at other times none, but at no point has there been any question of a quota system.
Gillespie's racial record is a long and honorable one; as far back as 1942 he had Stan Levey working with him in Phila­delphia, and throughout the natal years of bop white musicians intermittently formed a part of his personnel.
It was in tiie field of small combos such as Gillespie led during that period that the racial lines began to crumble. The clubs of West 52nd Street, then the jazz mecca of the world, opened their doors belatedly to Negro customers and their bandstands to mixed combos.* While talent agencies screamed that they could not book a mixed group, while night club owners whined that their patrons would object, the forces on either side of these barriers—the public and the musicians—saw eye to eye. Little by little the mixed combo, once an exception, became the rule. Today most of the remaining all-white and all-Negro combos retain their monochromatic format more through chance, laissez-faire or social relationships among the members than through any active desire to protect racial solidarity. Some Negro leaders understandably hire Negro sidemen because, realizing that the opportunities for the white musician still are much broader, they feel that he may need the job less than a Negro musician of equal skill. Some white leaders hire only white sidemen simply because they live in the same neighborhood or attend the same parties or play golf together. But as the social obstacles disintegrate, the professional and economic barriers slowly fade away.
A survey of combos during the past decade shows that Louis Armstrong has invariably had one or two white musicians in his sextet, and that all the others of any consequence have at one period mixed their personnels: the Shearing Quintet, the Brubeck Quartet, the groups of Eddie Condon, Jimmy McPartland,
• Cafe Society, the Greenwich Village night club, had paved th© way, from 1938, by encouraging integration botih in its clientele and its enter­tainment