If Italy has art, England has literature, and France has fashion, then America’ s cultural offering in the history of mankind is jazz. Its’ history as the one truly organic art form to emerge from America has been well chronicled and you needn’t look hard for an education on the subject. But harder to find are the lesser-known recordings—from the end of World War One through the prosperity of the 1920s. The music that America listened to before the movies learned how to talk –jazz that was dizzyingly fast and fun and syncopated–the soundtrack to the Jazz Age. Whether it be the ‘white’ jazz of Paul Whiteman and Jean Goldkette or the blazing, rule-breaking brilliance of Louis Armstrong and Fletcher Henderson, the music holds up remarkably well—if you know where to find it.
So the Kitty Packard Pictorial’s website of the week is the long-running, exhaustive jazz resource, The Red Hot Jazz Archive. Scott Alexander’s site is dedicated, not simply to the music, but the lives of the musicians who made them. His essays are peerless—an outstanding scholarly effort—and then there’s the music. Full-length recordings (you’ll need to download Real Player to enjoy them) abound in impressive numbers, pristine in quality and complete with recording date, locations and back story.
Red Hot Jazz is a veritable treasure trove of forgotten gems, where one find leads to countless others. Even if vintage music isn’t your particular cup of tea, the site is worth a visit if for no other reason than to see what passion for a subject really looks like.
Since it might be overwhelming to newcomers, here are some great artists to explore:
Louis Armstrong & his Hot Five
Duke Ellington & his Cotton Club Orchestra
Paul Whiteman & his Orchestra
Coon Sanders Nighthawks Orchestra
Jean Goldkette & his Orchestra
The Fletcher Henderson Orchestra
Joe Venuti & Eddie Lang
King Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band
(The Pictorial did a post a while back about some of the greatest names in jazz appearing onscreen for a fun-filled jam session– take a look at ’em in action)