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You can listen to the playlist here.
While jazz is not central to the narrative of Rules of Civility, the music and its various formulations are an important component of the book’s backdrop.
On the night of January 16, 1938, Benny Goodman assembled a bi-racial orchestra to play jazz to a sold-out Carnegie Hall--the first jazz performance in the hallowed hall and one which is now famous for bringing jazz (and black performers) to a wider audience. I am not a jazz historian, but for me the concert marks something of a turning point in jazz itself--from the big-band, swing-era sound that dominated the 1930s (and which the orchestra emphasized on stage that night) towards the more introspective, smaller group styles that would soon spawn bebop and its smoky aftereffects (ultimately reaching an apogee with Miles Davis’s Kind of Blue in 1957). For it is also in 1938 that Coleman Hawkins recorded the bebop antecedent "Body & Soul" and Minton’s Playhouse, one of the key bebop gathering spots, opened in Harlem. By 1939, Blue Note Records was recording, and Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker and Thelonious Monk were all congregating in New York City. From 1935-1939, Goodman himself was stepping out of the big-band limelight to make more intimate improvisational recordings with a quartet including Gene Krupa and Lionel Hampton.
My assertion of this as a turning point (like most such assertions) is rough, inexact and misleading, but it helps give shape to an evolution and bring into relief two ends of a jazz spectrum. On the big-band front, the power of the music naturally springs from the collective and orchestration. In numbers like "Sing, Sing, Sing," the carefully layered, precisely timed waning and waxing of rhythm and instrumentation towards moments of unified musical ecstasy simply demand that the audience collaborate through dance, cheers, and other outward expressions of joy. While in the smaller groups of bebop and beyond, the expressive power springs more from the soloist and his personal exploration of the music, his instrument, and his emotional state at that precise moment in time. This inevitably inspires in the listener a cigarette, a scotch, and a little more introspection. In a sense, the two ends of this jazz spectrum are like the public/private paradox of Walker Evans’s subway photographs (and of life in the metropolis itself.)
If you are interested, I have created an playlist of music from roughly 1935-1945 that spans this transition. The playlist is not meant to be comprehensive or exact. Among other items, it includes swinging live performances from Goodman’s Carnegie Hall Concert as well as examples of his smaller group work; there are precursors to bebop like Coleman Hawkins and some early Charlie Parker. As a strange historical footnote, there was a strike in 1942–1944 by the American Federation of Musicians, during which no official recordings were made. As such, this period at the onset of bebop was virtually undocumented and thus the records of 1945 reflect something of a culmination of early bebop rather than its starting point. The playlist also reflects the influence of the great American songbook giants (Cole Porter, Duke Ellington, Irving Berlin, Rodgers & Hart, the Gershwins), many of whom were at the height of their powers in the 1930s. --Amor Towles
Excellent read. A fascinating story that will make it difficult to put the book down without turning the next page. i highly recommend this to people who love good literature.Published 18 hours ago by mareander mare'
I really wanted to like this story, but it had to plot and what little excitement happened, (SPOILER: the accident) happened too early on. Read morePublished 2 days ago by albinobrunette
I absolutely loved this book. Smart, funny, beautifully written, and chock full of timely lines like (and I'm paraphrasing) "He had a mustache like Charlie Chaplin and Hitler,... Read morePublished 2 days ago by L. Jaeger
This is a good story that keeps your interest as it builds on the characters and their relationship to one another. Read morePublished 5 days ago by jbsanty
I just joined our neighborhood book club & this was the 1st book. I thought it was going to be boring or depressing, as most book club selections can be, but it was wonderful, I... Read morePublished 8 days ago by NOLa Foodie
Loved the book, loved the shipping speed... didn't like the sticker on the cover.Published 9 days ago by Lindsay Williams
New york is the canvas for this glimpse of life in the city at the end of the 1930s. It draws you into the world of the rich, the not so rich, the common people, the fancy ones in... Read morePublished 10 days ago by Monique
FIVE stars to the first half of the book. ONE star to the rest. The plot didn't so much unravel as drop with a thud. Read morePublished 11 days ago by Reader
I feel that the story lines were left dangling. The epilogue was the best part of the book because it tied it all together. To me, the story was just ok.Published 11 days ago by Patricia Moss