|Visit Us On FB
Jazz and Race
Charlie Ventura, Nat Cole, Lennie Tristano, Miles Davis, Stan Getz, Gerry Mulligan, Chico Hamilton, Charlie Parker, Buddy De Franco, Red Norvo, Terry Gibbs. There was a precedent-setting example of dual interracial leadership when Jay Jay Johnson and Kai Winding formed their quintet in 1954.
The stubbomest barrier of all, involving implicit defiance of the mongrelization tabu against which Southern politicians had inveighed in the race for white votes, fell in 1952. Helen Merrill, unmistakably blonde, sang for three months with Earl Hines* Sextet (her white saxophonist husband also was a member of the combo). The following year Lionel Hampton, who has made free use of white musicians, took on Janet Thurlow, an inconspicuous brunette who doubtless was assumed by Southern audiences not to be white; for it is inconceivable to the white cracker mentality that a red-blooded, white, true-blue American girl singer would of her own volition join a Negro band.
The result of the freer association of white and Negro artists on a professional level (and of the greater social mixing occasioned by such factors as the gradual opening up of hotels to Negro patrons hi many cities) was, predictably, a breaking down of stylistic lines. Less and less, with the passing of the postwar years, could "white jazz" and "Negro jazz" be said to exist. Roy Eldridge, returning from a long sojourn in Europe and imbued with some of the cultural confusion still manifest in critical circles in France, made a bet with the author that he would be able, in a blindfold test, to distinguish white musicians from Negroes. At the end of the test he admitted that he had been wrong; he had failed even to achieve the 50% ratio of correct guesses to which the law of averages entitled him.
Eldridge at that time, embittered by his experiences with white bands, vowed never again to play in one; the traumatic, nerve-wracking events that are part of a Negro's life in a predominantly white orchestra were described in an interview with this writer for Down Beat:
**We arrive in one town (with Krupa) and the rest of the band checks in. I can't get into their hotel, so I keep my bags and start riding around looking for another place where someone's supposed to have made a reservation for me. I have a heavy load