The Book Of Jazz - online reference book

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

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The total value of these predictions may be no greater than whatever might have been derived from a similar symposium conducted among members of the Original Dixieland Jass Band in 1917. All they seem to indicate in sum is that though they cannot be sure in which direction the jazz satellite will be travel­ing, the prophets share an anxiety to man a telescope for obser­vation of the flight.
The writer, who has been listening to jazz avocationally since 1929, professionally since 1933, can recall only a single prediction he made during the first years of listening that was ultimately to achieve realization: that jazz would prove to be playable in ternary time. Nothing else of consequence that has happened to jazz in all these years ever became evident until it was immedi­ately upon us. A reader glancing at these pages in 1984 will observe, it is reasonable to assume, that the quarter century be­tween now and then turned out to be no more predictable than the events in the previous generation.
A factor that occurred only to one of the musicians questioned (Quincy Jones), and may call for some expansion here, is the paradox that jazz has been subject, during its short but chaotic life, to what might be termed a Law of Diminishing Repute. This law, of which even the musicians directly concerned are only dimly aware, tends to bring each succeeding phase of the art along a descending path from esoteric origins to ignominious endings.
Dixieland jazz, for instance, played with a degree of conviction and musicianship comparable with that of the more highly re­garded figures of the late 1920s, today can be found in occasional jam session numbers by "square" bands like Sammy Kaye's and Freddy Martin's; in high school bands and in amateur groups whose members are insurance salesmen and Madison Avenue executives. The music of Jelly Roll Morton, held immortal in some jazz circles, provides suitably quaint, "corny" background music for silent movies on television. (No music is sacred to this medium, in which the Blue Danube waltz, equipped with special lyrics, now forms the basis of a commercial for dog food.) Swing arrangements indistinguishable from some of the best played in the 1930s are now heard backing dance acts on TV; even Spike