How Early Jazz Got America's Ear
The emergence of jazz out of New Orleans is part of the American story, but the creation of this music was more than a regional phenomenon: it also crossed geographical, cultural, and technological lines. Court Carney takes a new look at the spread and acceptance of jazz in America, going beyond the familiar accounts of music historians and documentarians to show how jazz paralleled and propelled the broader changes taking place in America's economy, society, politics, and culture.
Cuttin' Up takes readers back to the 1920s and early 1930s to describe how jazz musicians navigated the rocky racial terrain of the music business-and how new media like the phonograph, radio, and film accelerated its diffusion and contributed to variations in its styles. The first history of jazz to emphasize the connections between these disseminating technologies and specific locales, it describes the distinctive styles that developed in four cities and tells how the opportunities of each influenced both musicians' choices and the marketing of their music.
“A significant contribution to understanding the growth of a jazz audience and its relationship to modernity, race, and culture in 1920s America.”
—Journal of Southern History
“An excellent synthesis that should be sought out by those seeking an introduction to Jazz as a historical phenomenon.”
—Journal of Social HistorySee all reviews...
“Illustrates how daringly and successfully black popular artists and writers were able to alter aspects of American culture.”
—Reviews in American History
“A valuable and engaging narrative of the dissemination and acceptance of jazz, as mediated through the advance of technology.”
—Journal of American History
“Carney's writing is rich with musical detail and historical explanation. He maintains the easy narrative style of a storyteller entertaining an eager audience.”
“With grace and precision, Carney synthesizes two generations of scholarship to tell the story of how jazz became the soundtrack of modern America.”
—Joel Dinerstein, author of Swinging the Machine: Modernity, Technology, and African-American Culture between the World Wars
“A fascinating account of how the confluence of media technology, an evolving art culture, and urbanization enabled Americans to recognize their hybrid identity through jazz. ”
—Bruce Boyd Raeburn, author of New Orleans Style and the Writing of American Jazz History
“A compelling narrative of jazz’s creation, dispersal, and acceptance.”
—John Gennari, author of Blowin’ Hot and Cool: Jazz and Its Critics
“Emphasizing the vicissitudes of the white reception of this new music, Carney’s richly contextualized synthesis transforms the familiar story, showing us how the rise of ragtime interlinked with the mass production of pianos, how the development of radio challenged segregated neighborhoods and musicians’ unions, and, above all, how sheer musical power overcame racist resistance and jazz became America’s music.”
—Barry Shank, coeditor of The Popular Music Studies Reader
“Takes its place alongside the growing list of works that shed much-needed light on the development of jazz in America—as well as America itself—in the early twentieth century.”
—David Ake, author of Jazz CulturesSee fewer reviews...
Carney begins his journey in New Orleans, where pioneers like Jelly Roll Morton and Buddy Bolden set the tone for the new music, then takes readers up the river to Chicago, where Joe Oliver's Creole Jazz Band, featuring a young Louis Armstrong, first put jazz on record. The genre received a major boost in New York through radio's live broadcasts from venues like the Cotton Club, then came to a national audience when Los Angeles put it in the movies, starting with the appearance of Duke Ellington's orchestra in Check and Double Check.
As Carney shows, the journey of jazz had its racial component as well, ranging from New Orleans' melting pot to Chicago's segregated music culture, from Harlem clubs catering to white clienteles to Hollywood's reinforcement of stereotypes. And by pinpointing specific cultural turns in the process of bringing jazz to a national audience, he shows how jazz opens a window on the creation of a modernist spirit in America.
A 1930 tune called "Cuttin' Up" captured the freewheeling spirit of this new music-an expression that also reflects the impact jazz and its diffusion had on the nation as it crossed geographic and social boundaries and integrated an array of styles into an exciting new hybrid. Deftly blending music history, urban history, and race studies, Cuttin' Up recaptures the essence of jazz in its earliest days.