Monday, January 2, 2012

Jazz Jamboree

In 1918, ten years before George A. Borgman was born here is how jazz was being written about. This article entitled Jazz Jamboree comes from Gulian Lansing Morrill's book On the Warpath.

One o'clock Sunday morning we gazed into a notorious cabaret where the revelers jazzed, boozed, soaked, stuffed and danced while a police officer looked on to see that order was observed while drink orders were served.

If music is the language of the angels in heaven, the jazz suggests the grunts of the Inferno. It is music gone mad — a big noise, a slambang, or, to quote Milton, "Such music (as 'tis said) before was never made."

Saul grew mad and threw a javelin at David when he played the harp. If he had heard this band harp on their string, bone, wood, brass, and skin instruments he would have thrown some sticks of dynamite at the bass drum and blown them all up with one bang. It was murderous music, and we felt "fit for treasons, stratagems and spoils." This night's music was not like the "Twelfth Night," "Sweet sound that breathes upon a bank of violets." but like a hurricane blowing on an onion patch. The band was hired to invite and promote eating and drinking, but jazz excess surely sickens appetite with its crash, twang, strain and "dying fall." The fiddling fiend of a leader who jumped around, turned a somersault and held the bow in his teeth, proved himself to be, not a real virtuoso, but a ragtime "vicioso." As he rasped the strings we felt like stringing him up. The sliding trombone skated around, charged the air, stabbed empty space and made a noise full of fury signifying nothing. The pianist took a head dive through a wave of melody and played a St. Vitus dance with sharp lightning, treble and thunder bass. The drummer was the whole thing behind his cheeseshaped drum. He pelted the skin with savage blows. He was no dub, this rub-a-dub fellow, this drummer traveling across the borderland of sound from the jingle of the triangle, smash of the cymbal, crow of the rooster, cry of the baby, and whistle of the train to the final cataclysmic crash. The cornetist blew himself red in the face, splitting his lips and the ears of his hearers, and exploding air to the very crack of Doom. A jazz band is madness set to music.

In far away lands I have seen savages jump, play and shout. About the only difference between them and this band was that these jazzers wore dress suits. I am sure if they made a tour through the jungles of darkest Africa they would make a hit with the wild animals and savages. Their sheet music was torn into rag time and they tore a passion to tatters.

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