On November 11th, 1919, the first anniversary was celebrated of the Armistice that ended the First World War. For the occasion, a grand ball was held at London’s Royal Albert Hall. Top of the bill was the hugely popular Southern Syncopated Orchestra, one of the first jazz bands to visit Britain, Scotland, and Ireland. [Read more…] about Anxiety Over Jazz In Ireland Followed A Tragic Shipwreck
On April 6th 1917 America declared war against Germany. It was the first time in the nation’s history that the United States sent soldiers abroad to defend foreign soil. In May 1917, General John Joseph “Black Jack” Pershing was designated Supreme Commander of the troops in France. He assembled the American Expeditionary Forces (AEF) in July 1917 and its involvement on the battlefield tipped the balance in favor of Allied Forces towards the middle of 1918. [Read more…] about ‘Black Devils’ At War In Europe & At Home
When Paris first heard American jazz, it is – from our perspective – impossible to make sense of the cultural thunderbolt that must have hit audiences. This music was so wholly different to European ears that it was either scornfully rejected or eagerly accepted. [Read more…] about Harlem & The Hellfighter Band That Set France Jazz Mad
Throughout the nineteenth century, prostitution was rife in American cities. In 1820 there were an estimated two hundred brothels in New York, growing to more than six hundred after the Civil War. By the early 1840s the city was the nation’s whoring capital, its own Gomorrah.
Most houses of assignation before the Civil War were owned and controlled by women. Some madams made spectacular careers, nobody more so than Fanny White whose Mercer Street brothel was, from 1851 onward, a meeting place for Congressmen, dignitaries and diplomats – a Manhattan whoreocracy. [Read more…] about Manhattan ‘Flash’ Culture: Madams and Sporting Men
The modern banjo derives from mid-1600 instruments that had been used in the Caribbean by enslaved people taken from West Africa. The original version was made from a hollowed-out (hard-skinned) gourd and a varying number of horsehair strings. [Read more…] about Banjo Pickers and Harlem-On-The-Seine
Chaja Rubinstein was born in December 1872 in a Krakow ghetto, the eldest of eight girls. Having escaped from an arranged Orthodox Jewish marriage, she would become a dominant personality in business circles in London, Paris, and New York. [Read more…] about Lipstick & Lady Chatterly: Modernism, Feminism, and Cosmetics
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The new book Sittin’ In: Jazz Clubs of the 1940s and 1950s (Harper Design, 2020), by Grammy-winning historian, archivist, author, and record executive Jeff Gold offers a new look inside the jazz clubs from this era across the United States. Drawing on a trove of photos and memorabilia, Sittin’ In gives a glimpse at a world that was rich in culture, music, dining, fashion, and more. [Read more…] about New Book About 1940s-1950s Jazz Clubs
Born in 1799, Clemente Bassano (the family name originates from the Veneto region of Italy) settled in London and started his career as a fishmonger in Soho. By 1825 he ran a warehouse from Jermyn Street, St James’s, importing almonds, oil, capers, and macaroni.
His daughter Louise was an opera singer who toured with Franz Liszt on his London visit in 1840/1. Her brother Alessandro became a high society photographer with a studio in Regent Street. His portrait of Horatio Kitchener was used during the First World War for an iconic recruitment poster. [Read more…] about Harlem’s “Black Beauty” Mills; London’s Josephine Baker
Although much remains unclear about the origins of Cockney rhyming slang, there is a consensus that it stems from London’s East End, dates back to the 1840s, and is alive and thriving. One slang expression reads “on one’s tod,” meaning: on one’s own; all alone. The phrase is a shortened version of the original “on one’s Tod Sloan.”
In full, these four words offer a multi-colored mosaic of socio-cultural events involving Manhattan, London, and Paris. [Read more…] about Slang, Stirrups, Paris in the 20s, and the Invention of the Bloody Mary
Since the saxophone was invented and patented by a young man from French-speaking Dinant, in Belgium’s Walloon Region, American musicians have paid credit to the instrument by producing memorable performances which include John Coltrane’s “Love Supreme,” Dino Soldo’s smooth jazz solos, or Clarence Clemons’s relentless drive.
Over time, the sax has found its way into almost every genre of music with one exception. The saxophone is not part of the orchestral repertoire. It was and remains a rogue instrument. [Read more…] about The Saxophone: Born In Belgium, Raised In The USA