Black and Tan Fantasy

Artist: Duke Ellington Album: Early Ellington: The Complete Brunswick Recordings (1926-1931) The black-and-tan drink existed when Duke Ellington recorded what would become one of the most frequently performed Ducal standards, but the connotation here is racial — a reference to speakeasies that permitted or even encouraged interracial mingling. Driven by trumpeter and co-composer Bubber Miley’s spellbinding performance, Ellington’s composition captures the strange, ominously dreamy atmosphere of 1920s decadence; in retrospect, Read More

Just a Little Drink

Artist: Paul Whiteman Album: Sweet and Low Down: Vol. 3, Original 1925-1928 Recordings Bix Beiderbecke had not yet joined the massive orchestra of Paul Whiteman, a.k.a. the 1920s “King of Jazz,” when this tune was waxed in 1925. Whiteman’s musical legacy from this era remains underappreciated: He was hobbled by the hype of his nickname, though many excellent jazz musicians and arrangers passed through his ranks, his orchestra’s forays into Read More

Davenport Blues

Artist: Bix Beiderbecke Album: Bix Restored, Vol. 1   Young man with a horn, young man with a bottle: Cornetist Bix Beiderbecke may enshrine the mythology of jazz’s Prohibition years better than any other musician. In January 1925, friend Hoagy Carmichael drove Beiderbecke to the Gennett recording studios in Richmond, Ind., to make this date, which included a young Tommy Dorsey on trombone. It also included three quarts of gin, which Read More

Five Jazz Sides For The Age Of Prohibition-by David Brent Johnson

It’s easy to romanticize or oversimplify the relationship between jazz and Prohibition, but the banning of alcohol and the subsequent rise of speakeasies clearly played a role in the music’s evolution during its early days. Jazz musicians found ample employment opportunities in the numerous new nightclubs, formed friendships with gangsters (who were sometimes their biggest fans and occasionally their foes or protectors), and benefited from vital scenes that flourished in Read More

Narcotics and the Jazz Musicians Part Two

  • KENTON: It’s hard for the average person who isn’t in creative work to know what a terrible insecurity exists within some one who has dared to be different, and you have to dare to be different if you’re going to create anything fresh To just conform and belong to a group in a pattern of living is not creativity. And believe me, when you deviate and move away Read More