Jazz has never been popular with stiff-necked politicians who hold rigid beliefs about anything and everything. And back in the late ’30s when the “swing” branch of jazz was rolling high, wide and handsome, a little European dictator with a mustache took aim at it by publishing his “rules” regarding jazz.
I was first introduced to this by a jazzman back in the 1990s. He had the list, and it did set my hair on fire, JazzBabies. Here are a few excerpts:
So-called jazz compositions may contain at most 10% syncopation; the remainder must consist of a natural legato movement devoid of the hysterical rhythmic reverses characteristic of the barbarian races and conductive to dark instincts alien to the German people (so-called riffs);
Also prohibited are so-called drum breaks longer than half a bar in four-quarter beat (except in stylized military marches);
The double bass must be played solely with the bow in so-called jazz compositions;
Plucking of the strings is prohibited, since it is damaging to the instrument and detrimental to Aryan musicality;
Musicians are likewise forbidden to make vocal improvisations (so-called scat);
All light orchestras and dance bands are advised to restrict the use of saxophones of all keys and to substitute for them the violin-cello, the viola or possibly a suitable folk instrument.
The 1993 movie, Swing Kids, which was advertised with the line, “Young people risked their lives for it,” offered a look at the extent to which those young people went for jazz and featured a soundtrack with some solid licks. It was not a major movie and, like most movies, had its flaws, but the music wasn’t one of them. Here’s a note from a paper out of the University of Virginia’s American Studies program about that music:
“The soundtrack’s first selection is Goodman’s wildly popular “Sing, Sing, Sing, opening with the familiar driving drumline, accented trombone figure, and trumpet fanfare. Goodman’s solo is faithfully played (only one note is altered), and the band’s phrases are note-for-note the same on both recordings. The modern version, however, departs from the classic “Sing, Sing, Sing,” in the very first measure, and most of the departures on this song exist in the other updated Swing tunes on the soundtrack, as well.
“A comparison of the two introductory drum solos reveals a glaring contrast: Gene Krupa’s original solo sounds sparser, for he doesn’t utilize bass drum and high hat cymbal to create a stronger beat, as his ’90s counterpart does. The new solo is also sixteen measures long, taking more time excite the dancers and impart the rhythm before the band kicks in, whereas Krupa only played eight. As the band begins playing, Krupa plays simple eighth notes which he occasionally embellishes with short rolls or taps, but the modern version contains a constant “ride” cymbal pattern and slightly more elaborate fills between phrases.”
Here’s that opening scene from the movie – lots of great dancing, and you might recognize one of the leads as Robert Sean Leonard, otherwise known as the friend and antagonist of one Dr. House. Who woulda thought?
It’s easy to see why jazz can so rattle stiff-necked politicians. Try to imagine any one of them out on that dance floor, JazzBabies. Just try.