From Jazz to Swing: African-American Jazz Musicians and Their Music, 1890-1935

Thomas Hennessey, Author
Thomas Hennessey, Author Wayne State University Press $39.95 (217p) ISBN 978-0-8143-2178-2
Reviewed on: 05/30/1994
Release date: 06/01/1994
Paperback - 224 pages - 978-0-8143-2179-9
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Hennessy's detailed examination of early American jazz chronicles the music's evolution from its humble roots in Southern African American traditions to its mainstream acceptance by the white American middle-class as swing in the 1930s. Hennessy has collected a formidable mountain of information on this important and intriguing period in American musical and cultural history, but while musicologists and scholars of African American studies may find it riveting, its appeal for a more general audience is limited. Hennessy clearly respects these jazz pioneers and their music. But in his enthusiasm he clogs his text with more details than the casual reader can (or will want to) assimilate--e.g., ``After the Bearcats left for a tour. . . territory bands like Zach Whyte's from Cincinnati, Roy Johnson's from Richmond, Ike Dixon's from Baltimore, and Alonzo Ross's from Florida had brief runs at the Savoy.'' Though he provides a synthesis at the end of each chapter, Hennessy never adequately addresses the impact of broader cultural phenomena such as prohibition, feminism or the rise of car culture. The author has a clear understanding of the facts of jazz's early growth, but not the reasons behind it. (Aug.)
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