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A galvanizing history of how jazz and jazz musicians flourished despite rampant cultural exploitation The music we call "jazz" arose in late nineteenth century North America--most likely in New Orleans--based on the musical traditions of Africans, newly freed from slavery. Grounded in the music known as the "blues," which expressed the pain, sufferings, and hopes of Black A galvanizing history of how jazz and jazz musicians flourished despite rampant cultural exploitation The music we call "jazz" arose in late nineteenth century North America--most likely in New Orleans--based on the musical traditions of Africans, newly freed from slavery. Grounded in the music known as the "blues," which expressed the pain, sufferings, and hopes of Black folk then pulverized by Jim Crow, this new music entered the world via the instruments that had been abandoned by departing military bands after the Civil War. Jazz and Justice examines the economic, social, and political forces that shaped this music into a phenomenal US--and Black American--contribution to global arts and culture. Horne assembles a galvanic story depicting what may have been the era's most virulent economic--and racist--exploitation, as jazz musicians battled organized crime, the Ku Klux Klan, and other variously malignant forces dominating the nightclub scene where jazz became known. Horne pays particular attention to women artists, such as pianist Mary Lou Williams and trombonist Melba Liston, and limns the contributions of musicians with Native American roots. This is the story of a beautiful lotus, growing from the filth of the crassest form of human immiseration.


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A galvanizing history of how jazz and jazz musicians flourished despite rampant cultural exploitation The music we call "jazz" arose in late nineteenth century North America--most likely in New Orleans--based on the musical traditions of Africans, newly freed from slavery. Grounded in the music known as the "blues," which expressed the pain, sufferings, and hopes of Black A galvanizing history of how jazz and jazz musicians flourished despite rampant cultural exploitation The music we call "jazz" arose in late nineteenth century North America--most likely in New Orleans--based on the musical traditions of Africans, newly freed from slavery. Grounded in the music known as the "blues," which expressed the pain, sufferings, and hopes of Black folk then pulverized by Jim Crow, this new music entered the world via the instruments that had been abandoned by departing military bands after the Civil War. Jazz and Justice examines the economic, social, and political forces that shaped this music into a phenomenal US--and Black American--contribution to global arts and culture. Horne assembles a galvanic story depicting what may have been the era's most virulent economic--and racist--exploitation, as jazz musicians battled organized crime, the Ku Klux Klan, and other variously malignant forces dominating the nightclub scene where jazz became known. Horne pays particular attention to women artists, such as pianist Mary Lou Williams and trombonist Melba Liston, and limns the contributions of musicians with Native American roots. This is the story of a beautiful lotus, growing from the filth of the crassest form of human immiseration.

42 review for Jazz and Justice: Racism and the Political Economy of the Music

  1. 4 out of 5

    Randall Wallace

    After the Civil War, the disbanding of confederate brass bands left many of those instruments in pawn shops around New Orleans – those cheap used instruments soon needed for getting paid playing in the very busy red-light district. New Orleans was the bordello capital of our country then, and given their thin walls and high ambient noise, many loud bordello bands were needed for client distraction. Jim Crow’s criminalization of Black life, being meant walking or talking anywhere could be a risk, After the Civil War, the disbanding of confederate brass bands left many of those instruments in pawn shops around New Orleans – those cheap used instruments soon needed for getting paid playing in the very busy red-light district. New Orleans was the bordello capital of our country then, and given their thin walls and high ambient noise, many loud bordello bands were needed for client distraction. Jim Crow’s criminalization of Black life, being meant walking or talking anywhere could be a risk, but often, a risk you had to take. The Jim Crow antidote, was improvising music - a risk, yes, but this time it is was of YOUR own agency, and it was a remunerative authentic expression of your emotions, hopes and fears. The ground was set: the hotter your music, the greater the income for the house, and your job is for your band to sound hipper than your competitors. A factory for new musical ideas to bring in more customers. While Jim Crow demanded your inauthentic self, demanded you take risks for others, improvising demanded your authentic self, and taking risks for yourself. On stage, you were truly free. So why not act free? In a world of Stephen Foster and Souza marches, it wouldn’t take much for black artists with repurposed instruments (no longer playing square confederate tunes to rally racists) to create a music where listeners might feel uplifted like in church – might want to smile, nod their head, or tap their foot. Jazz musicians during the book’s timeline were largely politically astute and politically active. In Europe or Japan, black artists quickly found they were finally respected and validated, “You had to go into another country to even be able to be treated like a man if you were in a black band.” “Jazz in every country except the United States is put on a pedestal.” In Europe, your salary doubled. One estimate states in 1953, there were 19,114 jazz pianists in the U.S. The point being, with so many jazz pianists, you’d have to be amazing to get work in Paris. Still, I’ve love to hear an audio tape of the worst player in 1953 – “and now my 10-minute medley from Annie Get Your Gun!” I love that Gerald reminds us the price of greatness, Jimmy Owens practiced all day. Gerald says that Charlie Mingus practiced 17 to 18 hours a day every day; that would leave only 6 hours to sleep, eat, talk, and bathe. Charlie said, “I practiced fifteen hours without not any doubt about it.” Enjoy the jazz work schedule: “We worked from nine to three… then uptown in Harlem we worked from four until eight or nine o’clock the next morning, seven days a week as well.” Ron Carter and Dave Liebman would practice for 8 hours a day to get great. Kenny G would sometimes practice for a full hour before breaking for a latte. Bird was known to do 15 hour days, and Coltrane basically was the king of not-stopping practicing. His was “Utter devotion” to mastering one’s horn. In fact, Jackie McLean thought Coltrane died from practicing too much. He’s do an hour and fifteen minutes on just one tune, go home practice, sleep, practice, rinse and repeat. Jackie says at the end of Coltrane’s life, “his mouth was bleeding.” There is a great discussion on how playing wind instruments take such a toll on the teeth. Many players hurt themselves with faulty technique: this book mentions Louis Armstrong and I know from a Miles Davis alum that Freddie Hubbard was a particularly sad example (blowing your lip out and not waiting for it to heal). Great fact: there were 22,000 speakeasies in Manhattan alone. Then the book explains the mob connections to music performing and the uneasy alliance between performer and shady employer. They were called the Jazz Slave Masters. They owned you, if you think they didn’t, they did to you what they did to Lena Horne and her manager (who was beaten unmercifully). Gerald reminds us how the hippest clubs like the Cotton Club didn’t allow blacks as customers. Jam sessions became a critical release and an act of defiance and community. Chicago at the time had three times as many blacks as New York because of the Great Migration. Chicago played a big role in Jazz catching on, and Armstrong put in time there with the Mob also threatening him for a piece of his action. At one point, there were 250 Jazz Clubs just in Kansas City. Kansas City had a wildly XXX-rated night life which Bird was in the middle of for a time. Prohibition comes to an end and the Mob moves to narcotic sales. Duke Ellington said the only basis for racism was economic. Dizzy and Bird got nasty responses in L.A. to their music. They quickly realized the difference between Los Angeles and yogurt - yogurt had an active culture. Attacks on dancing led to jazz for listening, a.k.a. bebop. Record labels would cheat and addict artists without marketing plans, said the ever-hip pianist Billy Taylor. In 1946, the Jim Crow South was referred to, by right-on Louis Armstrong as “Germany”. As the U.S. kept pointing its finger at communism, the world pointed its finger back at Jim Crow. Lena Horne “began to dread mealtimes” and being poisoned by a racist. Performing in Miami was: you couldn’t pee until all the white guys left the bathroom, and you would get questions on the bandstand like, “When are you niggers going to get hot?” There was no place to jam in Vegas, and black artists couldn’t be dealers there and were instead trapped working as parking attendants. Racism in the classical world led top black classical players like David Baker to have to switch to Jazz in order to get employment. In 1954, the Newport Jazz Festival thoughtfully opens in a former slave port. George Wein said Newport “could be as tough for blacks as a Southern town.” Eric Hobsbawn has shown that the waltz and polka both came from the lower classes. Jim Crow meant the lure of good money to perform in humiliating southern segregated venues - referred to as “the price of success.” Art Farmer said, “In America we are still viewed as ex-slaves. The Europeans never had us as slaves, at least not to the same extent.” James Moody nailed it: “I pledge allegiance to a flag who wouldn’t let me go into a restaurant and eat.” “He was stunned to find that German prisoners-of-war could eat where he could not.” You cannot help but wonder, as he did, “What have I done?” How much money did Miles Davis’s drummer Jimmy Cobb get for playing on Kind of Blue? Answer: “way under $500.” After Coltrane dies, McCoy Tyner was driving a taxi. Coltrane was planning on being a construction worker when his career took off. A big performance problem was constant audience noise and drunk patrons in the club atmosphere. Irving Mills and Joe Glaser were the dominant exploiters of Jazz artists. Sly Stone says to Miles, “Yeah man, I worked in…. Madison Square Garden last night. I made 83 Grand.” The next time he sees Miles, Jimmy Cobb (who heard the Sly comment) says he had all these fancy suits and wah-wah pedals, “Boy, he went all out.” John Hammond said, Miles was smart “to maintain contact with the young.” Classical orchestras were ethnic: New York Phil was German, Toscanini had an Italian orchestra, Boston Symphony was a French orchestra, and the Electric Light Orchestra was British. Dave Liebman said he picked up soprano sax to get away from Coltrane. No one told him that Coltrane also played soprano. He let flute go because he felt you had to play every day to get a good sound. He went back to tenor sax because for him soprano was hard to play and annoying. Don’t tell Jan Garbarek that. I wanted the book to focus on just racism within the Jazz world, specifically against black jazz performers. But, this book talks quite a bit about black musicians packing weapons (guns or shanks) and getting many drug arrests and I’m not sure why. Although, I sure did enjoy the quote, “Everybody in Benny Moten’s band had guns… the reed section all had automatics and the voice section all had revolvers…. I had a 45.” I feel like some white guy might abuse such info and say, “see, black jazz musicians were drug addicts with weapons” without understanding how many performers were paid with drugs, or forced to carry weapons in order to simply get paid, or enforce their rights. I think the worst racist act in all of jazz history was Harry Anslinger’s treatment of Billie Holiday in the last two weeks of her life. I wish that story (described in Chasing the Scream, by Johann Hari) was present in this book. “Anslinger’s men, sensing a macabre opportunity, showed up at her hospital bedside, handcuffed her to the bed, took mugshots, removed gifts that people had brought to the room—flowers, radio, record player, chocolates, magazines—and stationed two cops at the door. Anslinger’s men prevented hospital staff from administering any further methadone. She succumbed to death within days.” If Frank Sinatra was forced to die alone handcuffed in a hospital room away from his friends, that just might be national news. But Billie’s forced last two weeks alone for racist reasons, gets zero mention outside of Hari’s book. For that reason, I recommend that readers also google – “Billie Holiday Johann Hari Anslinger” and get the Holiday story this book needed. And journalist Brandon Weber adds to his story in The Progressive, that Billie’s father died because he was denied treatment at age 39 in an all-white hospital. Because of that, Billie would think about her father when publically singing “Strange Fruit”. All important details that could have added to this already excellent book. This is the fourth book of Gerald’s I’ve read and reviewed. I have deep respect for his work.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Andy Oram

    Most music lovers today, I think, know the outlines of the oppression that African-Americans faced, but Horne documents how it was (and may still be) much worse than we thought. These musicians were at high risk of violence by people ranging from racist audience members to gangsters working for management. Not only were the musicians paid miserably and had their rights stolen by publishers and recording companies, but they often weren't even given what they were promised. Touring and playing sch Most music lovers today, I think, know the outlines of the oppression that African-Americans faced, but Horne documents how it was (and may still be) much worse than we thought. These musicians were at high risk of violence by people ranging from racist audience members to gangsters working for management. Not only were the musicians paid miserably and had their rights stolen by publishers and recording companies, but they often weren't even given what they were promised. Touring and playing schedules were deadly. The political opening of the 1960s had led to only a limited improvement. But this book is superficial, serving up endless anecdotes while avoiding analysis beyond the usual themes of racism and political oppression. The book could have been half the length and twice as informative. If Horne wants to repeat incessantly that horrible living and working conditions had an effect on the music--one would certainly expect they did--he should try to trace and document these effects. I know the book is about history and politics, not musical analysis, but Horne should still have looked beyond obvious suggestions, such as that someone "played angry" after a confrontation. In that regard, I noticed three intriguing suggestions in the book about the influence of musicians' lives on musical development, each stressing economic factors. First, leading black musicians may have developed bebop to create technically difficult pieces that would be harder for white musicians to steal. (White musicians and managers, supposedly, struck back in the 1950s by creating West Coast jazz and excluding black musicians.) Second, the racist persecution of dance halls may have driven musicians to develop bebop to encourage more sophisticated listening. Third, Miles Davis may have changed styles radically every few years because it was the only way to keep the interest of recording companies. (But another story suggests that his "chameleon" style was just a way to copy lucrative trends in pop music.) Lousy writing, unfortunately, weighs down this verbose text. In general, the style is readable and even perky, while handling sources responsibly (one jazz critic might have accused Horne of harboring a "footnote fetish"). But the writing suffers from ad nauseam repetition, non-sequiturs and muddled organization, poor word choices, and even incorrect grammar. No editor is listed in the book; I believe it should have gone through another three or four revisions before being given to us.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Holland Howell

    One of the poorest writers I have ever encountered. A topic will be introduced, and two or three sentences later he's on to something else. I read as much of it as I could. I'm a lifelong jazz fan so the subject matter was an attraction, but even at that, cannot tolerate such poor writing. On the dust jacket : "one of the great historians of our time" -- Cornell West. And easily one of the poorest writers of our time.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Kurt Gottschalk

    Review in the September issue of the New York City Jazz Record. http://www.nycjazzrecord.com Review in the September issue of the New York City Jazz Record. http://www.nycjazzrecord.com

  5. 4 out of 5

    Johnny Holiday

    I've been a "jazz man" since the early 1950s. I saw Louis Armstrong, Earl Hines, Jimmy Rushing and Big Bill Broonzy play in London. I had a great collection of vinyl records. I've also been a strong supporter of human rights for many years, so the theme of a book that marries these passions in my life was very exciting. I ploughed through the first four chapters of Jazz and Justice but it was like reading a laundry list of names, dates and a few comments about the person's musicianship and how th I've been a "jazz man" since the early 1950s. I saw Louis Armstrong, Earl Hines, Jimmy Rushing and Big Bill Broonzy play in London. I had a great collection of vinyl records. I've also been a strong supporter of human rights for many years, so the theme of a book that marries these passions in my life was very exciting. I ploughed through the first four chapters of Jazz and Justice but it was like reading a laundry list of names, dates and a few comments about the person's musicianship and how they fared in the "business" of music in the early days of the twentieth century. It just didn't hang together. A book that I was keenly interested in reading was in a word, boring. It was not worth my time and effort to continue to torture myself further. Sadly, I quit part way through. If I could ask for my money back, I would.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Mark Schulz

    I learned a good deal about jazz and the exploitation of jazz artists by organized crime and the music industry. Just importantly I learned push back against this exploitation. Finally, I learned about the contribution of jazz artists to struggle against injustices beyond the music industry. The book follows the chronology of jazz and a number of the chapter titles are jazz classics of the historic time period covered in chapter.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Ben

    Interesting ideas and anecdotes, but lacking in structure. I admired the ambition, but felt the author - and his editor - had lost interest halfway through.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Paul Manoguerra

    Deeply researched but a narrative mess.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Vince

    Based on this book, I suggest potential readers of Horne (born 1949), approach with care. 'The Apocalypse of Settler Colonialism' for example, is very good if somewhat academic in writing style, but as another reviewer noted, this one reads more like a laundry list. Good for a general reference guide and the notes are quite extensive, so I assume his research was good, but the history just isn't developed coherently here.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Matthew

  11. 5 out of 5

    Michael Totten

  12. 4 out of 5

    Matthew Karnstedt

  13. 5 out of 5

    Roger Mckenzie

  14. 5 out of 5

    Rosie Scroggie

  15. 4 out of 5

    Kimya

  16. 5 out of 5

    Eko Marzuki

  17. 5 out of 5

    Colbyw

  18. 5 out of 5

    Janie Davis

  19. 4 out of 5

    Severi Saaristo

  20. 5 out of 5

    Kendra Egly

  21. 5 out of 5

    Cherisse

  22. 4 out of 5

    Annelisa

  23. 4 out of 5

    Ethan Everhart

  24. 5 out of 5

    Melvin Cade Jr.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Jonathan Sung

  26. 5 out of 5

    Anup Gampa

  27. 4 out of 5

    G

  28. 4 out of 5

    Carlos Martinez

  29. 5 out of 5

    Marija

  30. 5 out of 5

    Evan

  31. 5 out of 5

    Tina Ligon

  32. 5 out of 5

    Derek H

  33. 4 out of 5

    Red Steel

  34. 5 out of 5

    McPhaul M.

  35. 5 out of 5

    Paul

  36. 4 out of 5

    Hayden

  37. 4 out of 5

    Nashat Nimer

  38. 4 out of 5

    Joey Valdez

  39. 4 out of 5

    Jessica Velazquez

  40. 5 out of 5

    Gazmend Kryeziu

  41. 4 out of 5

    Armmand

  42. 5 out of 5

    Eric Feudner

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