All That (White) Jazz
The history of modern American popular music is in large measure the story of jazz, a music whose origins have long been the subject of intense controversy. Jazz is thought to have emerged in nascent form around the turn of the 20th century; by the time it was first documented on phonograph records in 1917, it had already taken recognizable shape. But what happened in between?
Not until much later did researchers begin to investigate the early development of jazz, and only in recent years has it become the subject of serious academic scholarship. Unfortunately, however, most of the key first-generation jazzmen were dead by 1940, and though a number of second-generation figures lived into the 70’s and beyond, relatively few of them published memoirs or were interviewed by oral historians competent to question them in close detail about their life and work.
About the Author
Terry Teachout is COMMENTARY’s critic-at-large and the drama critic of the Wall Street Journal. Satchmo at the Waldorf, his first play, runs through November 4 at Long Wharf Theatre in New Haven, Connecticut.