I'm Jack Hale of Swingin' SophistiCats and Six Shooter, two popular bands in S.California that perform at ballrooms, jazz and dance clubs, festivals, county sponsored entertainment, private and corporate events!
I'm also a guitarist, pianist, writer, arranger, band leader. My first musical instructor was the jazz bassist master Monty Budwig prior to moving on to a host of local talents including Ron Anthony, Herb Ellis, Joe Pass and other greats but lesser known.
Swing dance has been and still is growing in S.Cal since the retro-swing revival on the 1990's. However, the dancers no longer appreciate retro-swing and are enthused with original music of the 1920's through early 40's! Many well known bands in S.Cal and from other locations in the country perform at local ballrooms and dance clubs.
In downtown Los Angeles, there are 9 clubs that feature vintage jazz (1920's through 1930's) at least one night weekly. Some feature only vintage jazz! When I consult with patrons frequenting straight-ahead jazz clubs, I have found that no more than one in ten are even aware that this fascinating vintage jazz exists today, let alone dozens of locations where to hear a variety of vintage/classic performers live!
My guess is that even JazzTimes is not aware, or any other jazz related publication as I have searched and have never found any article or wrting on the subject. How sad this is because I have also found that through vintage jazz, many club goers that would never consider going to a jazz club, now do.
My thoughts regarding this occurance follows. The jazz songs of this early period, 1920's, were of course written in a simpler style. These songs had very few key changes if any, the music was the popular listening and dance music of the day, and easily understood by the average music ear. By average music ear I refer to the people overall, not the musicians. The chords were basic, not extended with substitutions and alterations that became more common with the swing era of the 1930's and beyond to what we hear today.
A typical pop music enthusiast of today can see and hear a vintage jazz performance, and understand it! The rythm is different of course from today's pop music, as well as the melodic approach and other musical elements, but it's very simple compared to modern jazz. It's understandable to the average music enthusiast. We all know why modern jazz is not appreciated my the masses, as unfortunate as it be. It's too difficult for the average person to understand what's going on!
With vintage jazz being appreciated and liked by so many and growing, it eases the transition into appreciating modern jazz. This of course does not happen with everyone. Modern jazz still remains the highest form of musical art in my opinion, but remains 'difficult' to understand for the average person.
On a typical Thursday night in S.Cal, thousands of dancers are attending ballrooms and dance clubs playing vintage jazz and swing music. Most with live music! I would guess that more patrons are attending vintage jazz and swing venues than all the straight-ahead jazz venues combined in the same region.
If jazz magazines, newspapers sections, web sites, etc. promoted vintage jazz in their respected communities where it is available, jazz overall would be promoted for the benefit of all.
I realize that all regions of the country may not have this fascinating music available live as we do in S.Cal, but any publication that does not recognize this and promote the music is missing an apportunity to expand jazz appreciation overall.
As a musician, it's very fun to play! My smaller band Six Shooter with 3 horns (septet) is playing true jazz, not reading arrangements. We're leading the path in S.Cal and other groups are now changing their sound to keep up. We sound like we were born in 1910 playing authentically.
By the way, very very few modern jazz musicians can play this music correctly. With a proper amount of woodshedding it can be accomplished, the tools are available.
The problem is at the Universities and other jazz schools. This opinion is not for every school of course, but most. The emphasis on modal playing, a short-cut to improvisation that 'fit's' the song whatever one plays, is the reason. Very few schools, if any as I can't name one, emphasize the foundation of improvisation from the chords and associated arpeggios, as was the approach back in the day. Blowing notes up and down scales does not work with vintage jazz. A melodic approach with strong ties to the chord tones is essential. One might correctly think that these classic jazz styles would be very simple. Try it! Most (over 95%) can't do it! Sure you can play the song, but does it sound like a 78rpm recording from the era? It's more difficult than playing modern jazz because you have to think of the music at that time and eliminate 85% of what you learned in school restricting what you can and cannot do musically.
Just one's opinion that's easily proven as fact. By the way, the popular vintage jazz peformers in S.Cal are working 3 or 4 times more gigs than the most popular modern straight-ahead performers. I do both!
Hope you all learned something of value and if you're truly a jazz enthusiast, than all spectres of jazz should be covered. The most popular jazz in some regions is not what jazz publications write about!
More Articles in Community Articles
Tony Adamo Miles of Blu Five out of Five Stars/ Amazon.com
KCC Productions presents Jowee Omicil and the Core
Michael S. Harper: Communication 102
New Look and Vibe for This Year’s Brubeck Institute Jazz Quintet
Arturo O’Farrill’s Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra “From Bagels to Bongos” Highlights DC Jazz Festival June 9
Chuck Redd, Honoree at L.A. Jazz Society Vibe Summit, June 9