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Classic Jazz

A Personal View of the Music and the Musicians

Floyd Levin

Publication Year: 2000

Floyd Levin, an award-winning jazz writer, has personally known many of the jazz greats who contributed to the music's colorful history. In this collection of his articles, published mostly in jazz magazines over a fifty-year period, Levin takes us into the nightclubs, the recording studios, the record companies, and, most compellingly, into the lives of the musicians who made the great moments of the traditional jazz and swing eras. Brilliantly weaving anecdotal material, primary research, and music analysis into every chapter, Classic Jazz: A Personal View of the Music and the Musicians is a gold mine of information on a rich segment of American popular music.

This collection of articles begins with Levin's first published piece and includes several new articles that were inspired by his work on this compilation. The articles are organized thematically, beginning with a piece on Kid Ory's early recordings and ending with a newly written article about the campaign to put up a monument to Louis Armstrong in New Orleans. Along the way, Levin gives in-depth profiles of many well-known jazz legends, such as Jelly Roll Morton, Duke Ellington, and Louis Armstrong, and many lesser-known figures who contributed greatly to the development of jazz.

Extensively illustrated with previously unpublished photographs from Levin's personal collection, this wonderfully readable and extremely personal book is full of information that is not available elsewhere. Classic Jazz: A Personal View of the Music and the Musicians will be celebrated by jazz scholars and fans everywhere for the overview it provides of the music's evolution, and for the love of jazz it inspires on every page.

Published by: University of California Press

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. 2-7


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pp. vii-xiv

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pp. xv-xvi

The music called jazz is blessed to have so many devoted friends and fans, none more faithful than Lucille and Floyd Levin. Throughout the years this dynamic duo, a familiar sight at musical events in Los Angeles and elsewhere, have always given their support and encouragement to the performers and promoters. ...

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pp. xvii-xxii

Aware that a book project would require months or perhaps years of preparation, I feared the task would disrupt my ongoing daily activities. They include conducting jazz history interviews; writing album notes; reviewing concerts, festivals, records, and books; corresponding with fans and musicians around the world; ...

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pp. xxiii-xxiv

Thanks to Don Foster. Without his gentle guidance, my musical tastes would have stalled with the sounds from the swing era. Don opened broad vistas that exposed me to the works of Django Reinhardt, Jelly Roll Morton, Coleman Hawkins, and many of the artists mentioned in this book. ...

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pp. 1-8

I am frequently asked how I, the owner of a housewares business, began writing about jazz. I am neither a professional musician nor a full-time journalist and thus lack the training one might expect a jazz writer to possess. So how did I break into the field? ...

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1. Kid Ory and the Revival Era

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pp. 9-63

My first published article, which appeared in a 1949 issue of Melody Maker, featured the legendary trombonist Kid Ory. How fitting that I should begin with him; for in many ways the story of West Coast jazz originates with this outstanding musical craftsman, who played a key role in a pair of important eras in jazz history separated by two decades. ...

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2. A Personal View of the Music

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pp. 64-96

In today’s world of compact discs and ’round-the-clock radio, it is hard to imagine a world without recorded music. Yet that is the type of world from which jazz came forth. By the time recorded music began to emerge, right after World War I, jazz was already thirty years old. ...

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3. A Personal View of the Musicians

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pp. 97-176

It has been my privilege and good fortune to know many outstanding jazz musicians personally. Some of them began their careers when jazz was in its infancy and helped to create the genre. Others came later, during the heyday of the Jazz Age, when the New Orleans sound captivated audiences throughout the nation and the world. ...

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4. The Influence of New Orleans Musicians on Classic Jazz

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pp. 177-217

The city of New Orleans has long been recognized as the birthplace of jazz. Although some pundits would challenge that claim, it cannot be disputed that great numbers of jazz musicians have emerged from the Crescent City since the final decade of the nineteenth century. ...

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5. The Great Louis Armstrong

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pp. 218-229

I met Louis Armstrong on his forty-eighth birthday—July 4, 1948. At least, that was the day he celebrated his forty-eighth birthday. As a waif in New Orleans, Armstrong probably did not know his exact date of birth, and Independence Day 1900 was likely an arbitrary choice. Drummer Zutty Singleton, his boyhood friend, told me: ...

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6. Jazz on the West Coast

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pp. 230-267

As the following chapter reveals, efforts to resurrect the spirited music that lost favor during the swing era occurred in various parts of the United States, Europe, and Australia. It was, however, on the West Coast where the most vigorous revival activity took place. Several independent record firms led the way. ...

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7. Unsung Heroes

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pp. 268-286

In every art form, there are many contributors who, regardless of their skills, never achieve proper recognition. This unfortunate disparity between talent and reward is especially prevalent in the music business. For every big-name player who enjoys popular acclaim and lofty financial gain, there are hundreds of musicians working in the trenches ...

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8. The Seven-Year Challenge to Complete the Louis Armstrong Statue

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pp. 287-312

My last conversation with Louis Armstrong, like my first, took place on his birthday: in this case, July 4, 1971. Lucille and I phoned him at his home in New York to extend our usual birthday greeting. He was very cheerful; his health was improving, he said, and the doctor had allowed him to blow his horn again after a long hiatus. ...

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pp. 313-314

Somewhere in a stack of treasured material there is a round tin containing fifty feet of 8mm movie film I shot while on a Mississippi riverboat cruise about thirty years ago. ...


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pp. 315-337

E-ISBN-13: 9780520928985
Print-ISBN-13: 9780520234635

Page Count: 358
Publication Year: 2000