Search America's historic newspaper pages from 1777-1963 or use the U.S. Newspaper Directory to find information about American newspapers published between 1690-present. Chronicling America is sponsored jointly by the
National Endowment for the Humanities and the Library of Congress. external link Learn more
Image provided by: Washington State Library; Olympia, WA
Newspaper Page Text
The Origin of Jazz (BY MADGE R. CAYTON) Just what is jazz? One has a vague idea of a dis orderly number of sounds played entirely for dancing. But jazz has a far deep.r significance. It is an attempt to reproduce the marvelous syncopation of the African Jungle. It is the result of the savage musican's won derful gift of progressive retarding and acceleration which is guided by his sense of ewing. He who would play ja^z nnut have rhythmic aggressiveness. As one iran put it, ja: z music is the rtelirum tr mens of suyco pL.i'on. It n strict rhythm without melody. The words ja;, jazz, jazz, J&3Z, and jascz are of Afrcan origin but come direct form the Creole patois and idiom meaning "speed things up." For in th> old plantation days when the slaves were having one of their rare holidays an fun would languish, some West Coast African would say, "jazz hdT up," and then things would go fast and furious. Today "jazz her up," is still a slang expression with the same meaning. There are two types of jazz: One originating in China, which is called Siames 3 music, and the other originating in Africa having only a general name of jazz applied to it. Since the Siamese music or Oriental jazz, as it is often called, stay:d strictly in China and underwent no futher development it is not important. But the jazz that originated in Africa, or the Occidental jazz is known the world ov-r and because of its impor tance w> will trace its growth only. Occidental jazz first came to life on the West Coast of Africa. There big sturdy warriers danced to tli? music of throbbing Tom —Toms while the entire jungle was the accompanying orchestra. Then it spread, reaching Cuba thru deported slaves. It found a rich soil there for its growth, since the jungles of Africa were not so different from the swamps of Cuba. All of that "Hula Hula stuff," goes straight back to Africa for its origin. Then jazz was transplanted into America, entering from the south and creeping up until it covered all of America. About that time the war broke out and when our boys went to Europe and and especially to France they took their beloved jazz with them. So Paris was initiated into a new world of music over which they promptly went wild. But jazz has found her strongest support in the United States. When jazz arived in America via New Crleans it almost died leaving only a little spark fostered by the slaves and New Orleans underworld. For years jazz has ruled the New Orleans underworld resorts, thei>- natrons dancing to jazz for gladsome generations Ragtime and the new dances came from there. Then slowly, little by little, jazz crept up the Missippi from resort to resort until it landed in Chicago at Freiburg's whither it had been proceded by stanzas of "Must I Hesitate"? "The Blues", 'Frankie and Johnnie," and other classics of the levee underworld that seems to please the savage part of us. From there it spread like wild fire all over the United States, hitting the Middle West the hardest and the extreme East the lightest. Jazz has reigned supreme for some years and CAYTON'S MONTH! V most likely, will reign for many more for it has invaded our dance halls, theaters, and concert halls. Even our churchs have not escaped without their share of tem petious music. It has even snatched our very song», classical and popular, and taken them for its own use ragging them to death. One use to think of a band as a group of respectable looking beings usally with a splendid musical ability. But when one gazes upon a jazz band he sees a bunch of s .emingly demented men, contorting themselves and their instruments far better than a St Vitis dancer. For the modern jazz band is in reality a young army artillery. The howitzers of the band ara stationed in the trap drum, snare drum, cymbals, triangle, wooden blocks, xylophone, cow bells, rattles and whistles for the production of various weried noises. The trome bones represent the field guns, the clarinets, oboes, saxophones, auto homes and cornets furnish thol rapid lire batteries. The range being point blank one can easily s^e why the effect of the drum fire is so complete. Some say that jazz is sensual. If so why has it lived in America so long? For this reason: Jazz is of tho ravage and therefore clemntal in its appeal. It is bouterous, rough, but the very soul of kindly good humor and care free merriment. It is the music siren of the dance for while one is swept thru a neck breaking, whirl-wind measura his own cares and responsibilities are brushed aside. In America especially because we, ;00, are of a strenous nature, we nejd and must find some sort of energetic exercise as a conteractant. The old fashioned, dreamy waltez and graceful, measured minuets are things of the past. The tired business man, the worn out mother, the discouraged poet, as well as the impatient youths, seek and find relief in jazz. Then ddi not th « dough boys find a wonderful solace in their beloved jazz? For while under its throes they forgot the bloody battle field, the stench of decaying bodies; they even forgot there was such a thing as war. Then jazz is d mocratic. It is simple enough for any one to understand and enough of a vampire to coax every one into a world of oblivion. Can we not then say that jazz has existed for a purpose and has truly fulfilled that purpos;.? But on the other hand one must be careful that the alluring god of jazz, Mumbo Jumbo, does not lead us so far from the true god of music, Pan, that we fail to appr ciate the real classic. Might not one thus uncon sciouly sell his birth-right for a mess of pottage? Because jazz is elemental bringing the savage to the curface, it is dang rous. We cannot afford in our present stage of civilization to accept the standard of the savage even if it is only thru the giddy measure of a dance. True jazz belongs to the "forest primeval" and is mor: real and refined there than in a hall filled with dancer.3. The very fact that the growth of jazz las been thru the under world resorts of America is a E rong po'nt in i's disfavor. In embrasing what we now c..11 a necessary evil is there not a chance of jazz becoming the key to open our souls to the passions our fore fathers nave spent generations in trying to over come ?