Chicago And New York Jazz Essay Research

Chicago And New York Jazz Essay, Research Paper The 1920’s was a huge decade for the phenomena known as “Jazz”. Due to the closing of the seaport in New Orleans, musicians were

Chicago And New York Jazz Essay, Research Paper

The 1920’s was a huge decade for the phenomena known as “Jazz”.

Due to the closing of the seaport in New Orleans, musicians were

forced to travel up the Mississippi to find work. Two of the cities

most affected by this move were Chicago and New York.

Chicago was home primarily for New Orleans traditional music

during the 1920’s. From this New Orleans style came four major types

of jazz: Boogie-Woogie, Chicago Jazz, Urban Blues, and Society Dance

Bands. Because of the ever-growing popularity of nightclubs during

Prohibition, these styles of jazz thrived so musicians were guaranteed

jobs. The popularity of the phonograph also provided a huge boost to

the music industry during the 1920’s.

Boogie-Woogie was a style of improvised piano music played during

the ’20’s in Chicago. It got its start in the mining areas of the

Midwest. The rolling, repetitious style was the beginning of the

Midwestern shuffle style.

The second type of jazz popular during this time was Chicago

Jazz. It was played mostly by white musicians. Chicago Jazz tended

to be very aggressive and usually ended abruptly. Since Chicago had

more nightclubs than New York, it held a bigger attraction for

musicians. It was only after the stock market crash in 1929 that New

York replaced Chicago as a jazz capital. This style of jazz was

tighter and more rehearsed than others.

The next kind of jazz to emerge during the 1920’s was Urban

Blues. This was played primarily in an area known as the “bucket of

blood.” This referred to an area along the South Side of Chicago.

The clubs there were known to hire the “who’s who” of blues musicians.

The last major style of jazz to emerge from Chicago during the ’20’s

was Society Dance Bands. These bands were usually big with plush

arrangements. They were located downtown and were slower paced and

had no improvisation. They were designed mainly for dancing. They

had a more sophisticated sound that was copied by other bands because

it was so successful.

Following is a list of some of the major mover and shakers to

come out of Chicago during the 1920’s.

Joe Oliver (1885-1938)

The “King” played the cornet and was one of the most important

pure jazz musicians. He is mostly known for his time spent with his

Creole Jazz Band. Recognition should be given to the fact that Louis

Armstrong got much of his fame when he played with Oliver’s band as a

“hot jazz” specialist.

Louis Armstrong (1901-1971)

Armstrong is known as the “father” of the jazz trumpet. He was

responsible for making the trumpet popular in jazz. He is also

considered to be the first serious soloist in jazz. It is thought

that Armstrong’s time in a reformatory gave him the social “tools”

necessary to survive and also gave him his rough ragtime trumpet


Meade Lux Lewis (1905-1964)

Lewis was one of the leading boogie-woogie pianists. He was the

third member of one of the biggest jazz boogie-woogie trios in

history. He worked as a cab driver during the day and played gigs at


Pete Johnson (1904-1967)

Also a boogie-woogie piano master, Johnson unfortunately had

trouble handling the business side of music. He therefore had to

often take day jobs to sustain himself.

Benny Goodman (1909-1986)

Known as the “King of Swing”, Goodman played the clarinet. His

band was originally thought of as a dance band. But with the help of

Fletcher Henderson, along with others, Goodman’s band took on the

characteristics of a true jazz orchestra.

Paul Whiteman (1890-1967)

Whiteman is credited for introducing more people to jazz during

the 1920’s than any other person. He originally played violin, but

ended up being a bandleader full time. His huge success allowed him

to be one of the very few bandleaders to continue working after the

stock market crash.

Leon “Bix” Beiderbecke (1903-1931)

Leon is considered to be the only white trumpet player to have

ever come close to capturing Louis Armstrong’s amazing popularity.

His style of playing was more European than most trumpeters of that

time. Unfortunately, he was often unable to play due to his addiction

to alcohol.

New York was the other city greatly affected by the close of

“Storyville”. During the 1920’s New York was known for two main

reasons: the Harlem Renaissance and the Harlem Big Bands. Spasm bands

also became popular in this area.

The Harlem Renaissance was a shift in the jazz industry from

Chicago to New York. This occurred during the mid 1920’s. The Harlem

Piano School was surrounded by small clubs featuring solo piano acts.

One major difference between Harlem and Boogie-Woogie piano players

was that the Harlem players were usually better trained. This is also

the time period when African-American art and culture entered the

mainstream. Secondly, the Harlem Big Bands were a new phenomena in New

York during the 1920’s. The major idea behind these big bands was to

make the arrangements sound as close to an improv performance as


Here is a list of prominent names to come out of New York during

the 1920’s.

Art Tatum (1909-1956)

Tatum was among the most successful pianists to come out of the

Harlem Piano School. Interestingly, he was almost totally blind and

taught himself to read. He was said to have an understanding far

beyond his contemporaries. This is due, in part, to the fact that he

was born into a musical family.

James P. Johnson (1891-1955)

Johnson was another big piano player to come from the Harlem

Piano School. He spent a lot of time working in clubs in Hell’s

Kitchen district of New York City. He wrote Broadway musicals and in

the mid ’20’s he began composing large-scale orchestral works. Also,

he was known for his great improvisation.

Eubie Blake (1883-1983)

Blake began playing at age six when his parents, both former

slaves, bought a piano for their home. He began composing songs as a

teenager. He is remembered for his ragtime style of jazz.

Willie “The Lion” Smith (1887-1973)

Smith, who played piano, was also a product of the Harlem Piano

School. He earned his nickname while serving in the army. He led his

own band in Harlem during the early 1920’s.

Duke Ellington (1899-1974)

The “Duke” is considered by many to be the most important

American composer in the history of jazz. What makes him unique is

that he composed music individually for the members of his orchestra

instead of lumping them all together. Ellington’s opening of the

Cotton Club is considered to be one of the most important jazz events

of the 1920’s. It was there that he and his band gained their

international reputation as one of the best jazz orchestras in the


Fletcher Henderson (1898-1952)

Henderson was a man of many talents. Not only did he succeed as

a pianist, composer, and arranger, but he also had a double degree in

chemistry and math. One of his main contributions was his

introduction of the “swing formula”. As an authentic blues artist, he

wasn’t very good but, he was representative of many of the

well-trained bandleaders.

In conclusion, Chicago and New York were the two most important

cities for jazz during the 1920’s. The music was a sophisticated kind

of New Orleans jazz. Sometime it had a blues feeling and sometimes it

didn’t. The 1920’s are when jazz seriously made a name for itself.

Society knew good music when it heard it- and, with out a doubt, the

1920’s proved that.