News

Undergraduates Celebrate Second Consecutive Virtual Housing Day

News

Dean of Students Office Discusses Housing Day, Anti-Racism Goals

News

Renowned Cardiologist and Nobel Peace Prize Winner Bernard Lown Dies at 99

News

Native American Nonprofit Accuses Harvard of Violating Federal Graves Protection and Repatriation Act

News

U.S. Reps Assess Biden’s Progress on Immigration at HKS Event

SWING

By Harry Munroe

Whether "Young Man With a Horn" and "Send Mc Down" had succeeded or not in presenting the average reader with a just interpretation and evaluation of jazz, they undoubtedly awakened in many a soupeon or two of curiosity about the music which gave each book its background, just as "The Grapes of Wrath" evoked a nation-wide sigh of sympathy for the Okies. But neither novel contained enough purple passages to inspire anyone to tear around to the nearest music store and buy up all the Louis Armstrong records on the shelves.

At best, a jazz novel can only favorably dispose the unenlightened reader toward hot music. To learn to appreciate it, one must hear it, and under proper circumstances. The commonest method, of course, is to spend a year of discipleship under a Glenn Miller until the realization dawns that the acme of musical perfection in the four-beat tempo is hardly a deliciously impeccable saxophone section. But potentially there are other ways of putting jazz in a more satisfactory light with the general public, particularly through the medium of the theatre and the screen.

Leaving a discussion of the misadventures of jazz in Hollywood to a later column, I am afraid that Broadway has paid even scantier attention to hot music than the film capital. But at least, the stage has not tried to commercialize all music as the movies insist on doing. It would seem that the greater powers of realism, within limits, and of characterization which the theatre still possesses would offer an opportunity to tell a convincing story in which something of the essence of jazz might be reflected. The great obstacle, of course, has been the inclusion of jazzmen, obviously not the best actors in the world, in the cast, so that a realistic jazz performance might be included in the play.

A few years ago Vinton Freedley meddled with such an idea when he tried to dramatize "Young Man With a Horn" starring Burgess Meredith. Eddie Condon and various other top-ranking men were actually signed up, but after a few weeks the pristine enthusiasm over the idea faded and no more was heard of the matter. But apart from the brief appearance of Louis Armstrong and Benny Goodman in a minor extravaganza entitled "Swingin' the Dream," which caught at best a fleeting glimpse of Broadway, jazz and its exponents have not since been given a chance to ennoble the buskin'd stage.

Want to keep up with breaking news? Subscribe to our email newsletter.

Tags