All about Jazz by an American priest
By HILAIt V KNIGHT
pRON1 the moment I started
reading a little paper-back of 98 pages entitled "Introducing Jazz Talks to a Catholic Youth Club," by D.J.L. (St. Paul's Publications, as. 6d.), I have been unable to put it down. It is absolutely fascinating—especially for those who, like me, know very little about the origins and development of jazz. It is written in the form of talks given by an American priest to an English Catholic youth club. Jazz. as the blurb says,,is a word calculated to arouse strong reactions whether for or against. But today, no-one's education can be considered complete without some knowledge of this contemporary music of American origin (and not only American origin, but American negro origin in the days of slavery).
and this book gives it totally unbiased introduction to the subject.
The word "unbiased" is important because, as the blurb says, there exists "a certain prejudice against jazz on the grounds of its being dangerous, culturally or morally. It is hoped that this introduction will help to dispel such misapprehensions and to assist the younger generation towards a greater understanding and discriminating in their experience of jazz."
THE booklet traces the origins of jazz from the ballads and work songs and music of the American slaves, through the great creative age of New Orleans in the first 30 or so years of this century. The careers of pioneers like King Oliver and Louis Armstrong are described. Then we have the emergence of Swing in the 'thirties, and a careful explanation of all the contemporary forms of jazz—modern. traditional, mainstream—and the influences from which each has
sprung. At the end there is a selected list of LP. records to illustrate points made in the text.
Most fascinating to me was the picture of those small-group improvised bands of the early New Orleans days, all-negro of course. where no written music existed; all was improvisation. And the distress into which those musicians were plunged by the joint blows of the American depression and the advent of Swing in the 'thirties.
TN the 'forties. when 1 interest in traditional jazz eas reviving. a band-leader wrote to a famous pioneer of the old days, Bunk Johnson, to lind out what had become of him and
enlist his services again. Butilea answer is unforgettable:
"Dear Friend. I am here. only making out now. For work, we have work only when rice harvest is in, and, that over, things go real dead until come harvest. I drive a truck and trailer, and that only pays me $1.75 a day and that do not last very long. So you all know for sure how much money that I make now. I made up my mind to work hard until I die as I have no one to tell my troubles to, and my children cannot help me out in this case . .
'I have been real down for about five years. My teeth went bad in 1934. so that was my finish playing music ... You all do your very best for nte and try to get me on my feet once more in life. Now here is just what I mean when I say the word 'on my feet'. I mean this: I wants to become able to play trumpet once more, as know I cart really stomp trumpet Yet. Now here is what it takes to stomp trumpet, that is a real good set of teeth. And that is just what I am in deep need for. Teeth and
good trumpet and old Bunk can really go'
The author of this most workmanlike little book brings us right up to the post-rock and post-skiffle period.
ANOTHER GOOD BUY ANOTHER book which I have for review this week is "The Small Missal" (Burns Oates, 6s. 6d.), which may seem like the opposite extreme— but it isn't the opposite extreme from the deeply religious negro spirituals which also have their place in the origins of jazz—particularly of the Blues.
For a long time it was impossible to buy a good comprehensive missal for anything under a guinea, and this handy, beautifully printed one (which seems to have everything except the I.atin of the Gospels and Epistles) is excellent.
The only adverse comment I could possibly make concerns the English version of the Anima C'hriAti. The strength of that wonderful prayer seems to me to lie not only in its content but in its form. The Latin goes: Anima Christi, Sandifica Me; Corpus Christi, sancrifica . ." and so on, each line consisting of the imperative and "me."
I think the English version should follow the same strong pattern; "Soul of Christ, sanctify me;
Body of Christ, save me . " and so on. Much is lost by "Soul of Christ, make me holy; Body of Christ, be my salvation; Blood of Christ, let me drink thy potent wine . . . " and so on. There is no rhythm.
This excellent. cheap missal strikes me as being a good Christmas present, for many sorts of people.