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Cadenza: New York’s Lofty Intentions

New York City has served as the primary locus for jazz’s evolution for 80 years, without quite engendering the mythological resonance of the cities that enjoyed intense associations with specific periods: New Orleans, Chicago, Kansas City and even, during its brief flirtation with coolness, Los Angeles. Yet no matter where they came from or how much hometown renown they had achieved, most great American jazz musicians had to conquer New York City to cement a genuine, enduring success.

The business of entertainment had taken root in NYC in the late 19th century, creating an infrastructure that involved night clubs and saloons, concert halls and theaters, radio and television, newspapers and magazines, monolithic record labels, music publishers, songwriter unions, managers, agents, bookers and publicists. In luring the best and brightest, New York innovated, honed and facilitated an alliance with Tin Pan Alley (the first fusion), stride piano, ballroom dancing and orchestrated jazz, bebop, hard bop, Afro-Cuban and avant-garde.

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Originally Published

Gary Giddins

Gary Giddins is the author of 12 books, including Rhythm-a-Ning: Jazz Tradition and Innovation (1985), Visions of Jazz: The First Century (1998), Weather Bird (2004), and the three-volume biography Bing Crosby: Swinging on a Star, of which two volumes have been published to date. Between 1974 and 2003, he wrote a regular jazz column for The Village Voice, winning six ASCAP Deems Taylor Awards for excellence in music criticism. From 2002 to 2008, he wrote JazzTimes‘ Cadenza column.