Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Classic Blues Style in the World of Jazz During the Prohibition

by Georgeanne Palmer 321004325

A strewn out voice of tune that lingers around nightclubs in booming cities and around the hearts of those listening to the saxophone trembles to their sweet ears with the words of men and women who have suffered through life's good and evil times.  In 1920 the prohibition law was passed eliminating the sale of alcohol, thus men and women pursued ways to oversee the law by partaking in speakeasies with alcohol, smoke, and jazz to uplift their souls.  Political changes enabling African Americans as well as whites to migrate mainly from a rural to urban setting enabling several new cultures to emerge and progressively integrate into something else was a way that jazz was moved into new ways of music.  William Barrow in his article pronounces that, "The Jazz Age or the Roaring Twenties, was a period of significant cultural upheaval on both sides of the color line."  Thus, segregation and music was probably one of the only things that brought people of different color together.   Nevertheless, both black and white bands flourished and attracted blacks and whites from all corners of the city.  At this point the classic or city blues emerged in the 1920's where women singers especially with a full sized jazz band roared on the stages of brilliant nightclubs throughout the city, similar to vaudeville.  The two sub-styles that came from the classic blues were the vaudeville and southern style, used similarly to the country style which focused on the vocal sound more than putting on a show focused around a one man band. Shown in the video below is an example of what a night club looked like in the 1920's.


One of the most inspirational city blues artists was Bessie Smith; who developed a prestigious name for herself by enduring an incredible voice that tugged at the hearts of thousands while taking the nickname “Empress of the Blues”.  In the article based on the blues and jazz, Christopher Brooks declares that,  “In the final recording sessions of blues singer Bessie Smith, selections like “Gimme a Pigfoot,” “Do Your Duty,” “Take Me for a Buggy Ride,” and “Down in the Dumps” she establishes a clear marriage of the new swing style and traditional blues.”  The age of Bessie Smith was one that we look to today as the soul and heart of jazz during the prohibition, shown in the video below.   

Here is another example of Bessie Smith with Louis Armstrong who was also a very influential jazz artist that played during the 1920's and the prohibition.

                                                                    Works Cited

"Blues and Jazz." The African American Almanac. Ed. Christopher A. Brooks. 11th ed. Detroit: Gale, 2011. 1173-1242. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 18 Nov. 2012.

Barlow, William. "African American Review." African American Review. n. page. Web. 19 Nov. 2012. <http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.2307/3042311>.

Keepnews, Peter. "PLAYING FOR KEEPS." The New York Times Book Review 25 Oct. 1987. General OneFile. Web. 20 Nov. 2012.

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