Dangerous Music

jazz band

The 369th Infantry Regiment band led by James Reese Europe playing in the courtyard of a Paris hospital for wounded Americans. Credit Library of Congress.

In 1919, jazz, or “jass,” as some still called it, was a peculiar word with musical and sexual connotations. It could be noun, verb or adjective, indicating pep, liveliness and noise. Jazz was the new counterculture dance music replacing ragtime — but more dangerous, disorderly and discordant, consisting of random, wrong-sounding musical obstreperousness and percussive turmoil. The music had been considered a scourge on polite society, particularly by whites, even if many of them had no idea what the word meant. Now, thousands — both white and black — cheered [James Reese Europe’s] “jazz” band [as they marched in a post-WWI victory parade in Manhattan].

(David Sager, “Jazz on the Edge of Change,” NYTimes, 2-18-19)

(c) 2019 JMN.

About JMN

I live in Texas and devote much of my time to easel painting on an amateur basis. I stream a lot of music, mostly jazz, throughout the day, and watch Netflix and Prime Video for entertainment. I like to read and memorize poetry.
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