Volume X, Special Issue on Jazz

"Respectability and All that Jazz" by Péter Pallai

Born 1938 in Budapest, Hungary where he completed his secondary education and went to study at the Faculty of Law at Budapest University when the 1956 revolution broke out. Took part in the fighting and had to flee the country. Graduated from the London School of Economics and Political Science in 1961. Received Post-Graduate Certificate of Education in 1962 at the University of London Institute of Education. Taught Economics and History at Sloane Grammar School, London: 1962-1968. Producer-presenter BBC Hungarian Service: 1968-1988. Senior Producer: 1988-1996, also worked as BBC World Service producer at BBC World Service Popular Music Unit and at Topical Tapes. BBC Budapest Bureau Chief: 1996-1999. BBC WST Project Director: 1998-2001. Producer/presenter of jazz programmes on Civil Rádió Budapest: 1999-2013. Critic for Gramofon magazine: 1999 to date. Jazz Curator of the Hungarian Cultural Centre in London: 2001 to date. Programme Organiser at Budapest Jazz Club: 2008 to date. Email:

I love jazz. It’s my favourite art form. I’m devoted to this ever changing music that absorbs almost any influence and turns it into something uniquely different. For me jazz has always been the sound of freedom – it has uplifted and consoled me, cheered me up, made me rejoice and made me cry like nothing else could. No other form of musical expression conveys to me, in turn, the same degree of passion, compassion, zest for life, love, laughter, pain, sensuous abandon or even peace. It has been with me for the last 56 years of my life. Yet there is something about the attitude of jazz musicians and about the world’s and, especially some West European critics’ attitude, to them and their music that, to my mind, inhibits and stunts the further growth of this wonderful art form. A lot of jazzmen and women don’t seem to have made up their minds whether they belong on the concert stage or to the world of smoky dives where booze flows freely (and, in more extreme cases, joints are smoked, white powder is sniffed or even harder substances are injected) and where sexy women or men proliferate. In other words they are not sure if they are totally respectable. How did they get like this and is there a way out?

Actor/director and lifelong jazz fan, Clint Eastwood made a film, Bird, about the life of alto-saxophonist Charlie Parker, the man who had exerted the greatest singular influence on the development of modern jazz. In one of the – presumably imaginary but not unlikely – scenes the jazzman finds himself outside the garden of his idol, the modern classical composer, Igor Stravinsky. Parker went there to ask the master himself to tutor him in composition. It’s late at night and the saxophonist is standing motionless when, unexpectedly, Stravinsky comes through his front-door to do something in front of his house, not noticing Parker, who is rooted to the spot tongue-tied, unable to address his musical hero. And thus ends the meeting that never was. It matters neither that in real life Parker wanted to study with Edgar Varese, nor that in 1951 Stravinsky actually went to see Parker play in Birdland, the legendary New York jazzclub, and liked immensely what he heard. This fictitious scene neatly encapsulates the longing that some of the greatest jazzmen have always felt – that yearning for the same status and respect that their classical fellows enjoy.

The difference in esteem accorded to jazzmen and classical musicians is not really based on musical skills. Maybe at the beginning of the last century and perhaps right up until the mid-forties a lot of the self-taught or musically half-educated jazz-legends envied the thorough schooling their classical counterparts had received. But, since then, jazz as an art form has had nothing to be ashamed of and has given no reason for its purveyors to feel inferior. After all, it wasn’t just Stravinsky who was knocked out by Parker but classical musicians of the calibre of Gieseking, Rachmaninoff and Stokowski used to grab any chance they could to catch the blind genius of the jazz piano, Art Tatum, in action. Conductor André Previn is not just an avid jazz fan but a competent jazz pianist in his own right. The doyen of Hungarian jazz violinists, Csaba Deseő, for decades a viola player in the national State Symphony Orchestra, once confessed to having used classical music as a breadwinning ploy so that he could indulge his passion for jazz. Perhaps the most successful jazz bandleader of all times, at least in financial terms, Benny Goodman earned his classical laurels in the company of Béla Bartók and violinist József Szigeti as far back as 1941.The Boston Globe’s account of the event published ran as follows:

Benny Goodman went classical at Jordan Hall last night. He played the clarinet, but he did not have an orchestra with a strong ‘powerhouse’ behind him, and instead of swing, the program was a chaste list of ‘serious’ pieces. The concert was in the Chamber Music Series of Aaron Richmond, and presented, in addition to Mr. Goodman, Bela Bartok, Hungarian pianist and composer; his wife Ditta Pasztory, pianist; and Josef Szigeti, violinist. For his first appearance in Boston as a classical musician, Mr. Goodman played Debussy’s Rhapsody for clarinet and piano, partnered by Mr. Bartok, and joined him and Mr. Szigeti in Mr. Bartok’s ‘Contrasts.’ When the ‘King of Swing’ shuffled amiably upon the stage, midway of the program, he was faced not with a crowd of stamping, whistling hep cats, but the dinner coats and evening gowns of a Bostonian audience trained to sit up attentively during a Mozart Sonata and who know better than to applaud between the movements. (Boston Globe 5. Feb. 1941)

One of the great trumpet stars of our day, Wynton Marsalis, is the first man ever to have won the coveted ‘Grammy’ award both in the classical field and jazz. The current idol of jazz pianists, Keith Jarrett, is reputed to have suffered a nervous breakdown agonising over the choice between a career in jazz or classical music. And make no mistake, neither he nor Marsalis could have chosen jazz for financial reasons because, at the top of the tree, there’s far more money to be made from classical music than from jazz. The reason for that is simple. Serious art nowadays is not a serious financial proposition, it needs to be subsidised. These subsidies usually come from central and local governments or from some of the big corporations, and it’s clear that our political and financial masters think classical music a far worthier, infinitely more respectable cause to support than jazz. The figures speak for themselves. In Hungary jazz receives only 0.5% of the total financial support set aside in the government budget for music1. And this takes us back to square one. If some musicians and governments alike think that there’s something inherently inferior in jazz as opposed to classical music, then the future looks bleak indeed. One must tackle the question: why is jazz considered a not-so-respectable art form?

The Beginnings

The reasons are numerous and maybe one needs to start at jazz’s roots. Jazz was born on the streets, in the dance-halls and brothels of New Orleans. Buddy Bolden and Joe “King” Oliver, the founding fathers of jazz-trumpet, played in dance-halls, at street parades and funerals. Louis Armstrong, son of a prostitute and later, for a while, husband to another, used to deliver coal to the brothels of the red-light district, Storyville, as a child. Jelly Roll Morton, the man who claimed – quite baselessly – to have invented jazz single-handedly, although he was undoubtedly the first major jazz-pianist, earned his musical laurels in the bordellos of New Orleans. Honky-tonk clubs were popping up all over Storyville. Because black musicians were not allowed to play in "proper" establishments like their white counterparts, jazz became associated with brothels and other less reputable venues. Some of the early great jazz-compositions commemorate the thoroughfares and borders of Storyville, in such titles, like Basin Street, Rampart Street, Beale Street or Perdido Street.

In the 1920s jazz moved North, mainly to Chicago, New York and Kansas City. This move was not the work of some mythical force. In 1918 the US Naval Department decided to close down the bawdy houses of Storyville – possibly due to the same ill-considered fit of righteousness that was to lead two years later to the Prohibition. Alternately, with World War One at an end and a large number of sailors to be demobilised, the American government thought it no longer necessary to provide the same ‘rest and recreation’ that had been available for its seamen at the Port of New Orleans. This closure launched a northward migration of suddenly unemployed jazzmen. What began as a trickle became a cascade the following year with the passing of the Volstead Act, commonly known as the Prohibition. The place that provided the richest pickings for musicians coming up from the South was Chicago. The Windy City, with its proximity to Canada where the sale of alcohol remained unrestricted, became a smugglers’ paradise with a parallel and phenomenal growth in illegal breweries and distilleries. This ready availability tapped into increasing demand for alcohol from the fun-loving Americans, fuelled by their desire to let off steam following the privations of war, by their vastly increased earnings due to the post-war boom and by their resentment of any infringement of their liberties. Under the circumstances, the appearance of organised crime was inevitable. Illegally produced alcohol practically flooded Chicago and “speakeasies”, where illegal gin, rot-gut whisky or smuggled beer was served in prim and proper teacups, proliferated.

The Roaring Twenties became known as The Jazz Age as most houses of ill-repute, be they brothels, drinking holes or both, had jazz musicians playing in them because, at the time, there was a very thin dividing line between jazz and dance music. Most people weren’t even aware of the distinction and even the best of classical jazz was not only danceable but was generally danced to. So jazz made the transition from the dance halls, drinking joints and bordellos of New Orleans to the dance halls, drinking joints and bordellos of Chicago and, to a lesser extent, of New York. As Laurence Bergreen writes police raids were so frequent in some of the Chicago dives that when the Black Marias turned up the more seasoned jazz-musicians made a bee-line for the police vans hoping to get in first in order to secure the most comfortable places for an often not too comfortable ride.

Kansas City, although much further away from Canada, provided equal opportunities for drinkers, jazzers and gangsters to those of Chicago by dint of its legendary mayor, Tom Pendergast, whose name was a byword for corruption. New York, by its sheer size, by its importance in the American economy and hence by the enormous employment opportunities it offered Southern blacks in search of a better life, became the major cultural and, in time, the political centre for African Americans. New York also drew its perhaps less than fair but still considerable share of organised crime, illegal drinking joints and not necessarily crime-related dance halls. So, come the early thirties, the vast majority of the founding fathers of jazz were still employed in places where honest, upright, God-fearing citizens wouldn’t be seen dead.

But it wasn’t only where they played but also what they played and what was being danced to it that enraged respectable circles. Jazz and blues were considered the “devil’s music” by many a White Anglo-Saxon Protestant.

In 1918, the New Orleans Times-Picayune, reminds Lawrence W. Levine, declared jazz "an atrocity in polite society", and fulminated that "we should make it a point of civic honor to suppress it. Its musical value is nil, and its possibilities of harm are great." Early detractors like Thomas Edison, inventor of the phonograph, ridiculed jazz, saying it sounded better played backwards. A Cincinnati home for expectant mothers won an injunction to prevent construction of a neighbouring theatre where jazz would be played, convincing a court that the music was dangerous to foetuses (quoted by Baz Dreisinger).

To begin with, the reception of this new music wasn’t altogether positive in the Old World either. “Jazz is an awful infectious disease“ wrote Hjalmar Meissner, chairman of the Swedish Musicians’ Union in Scenen in 1921: “… and the poor musician who ‘jazzes’ 7-8 hours a day will pretty soon lose his artistic capacity, and if he continues for long with this, he will infallibly become an idiot.” The advent of Prohibition in 1920 brought jazz into gangster-run night-clubs — the only venues that served alcohol and hired black musicians. Whites and blacks began to mix socially for the first time in the Black and Tan clubs of Chicago. White youths from all social classes were drawn to jazz and the seductive dances like the Turkey Trot and the Charleston; they were moved by the music, figuratively and literally. This new-found physical freedom, combined with the illicit mix of races and the widespread belief that jazz stimulated sexual activity, caused opponents of jazz to step up their efforts. "Jazz was originally the accompaniment of the voodoo dance, stimulating half-crazed barbarians to the vilest of deeds," proclaimed Ann Shaw Faulkner, president of the General Federation of Women’s Clubs, a powerful alliance of women’s social and reform groups that launched a crusade against jazz in 1921. By the end of the 1920s, at least sixty communities across the United States had enacted laws prohibiting jazz in public dance halls, according to figures quoted by David Butler discussing Jazz Noir.

All That Dancing

With the advent of big band swing in the thirties and early forties, jazz reached the peak of its popularity. Swing – in jazzmen’s terms – is more than just rhythm. It’s a certain undefinable yet instantly recognisable drive that the music must have in order to be considered ‘swinging’. Undeniably though, it was the the hundreds of thousands of enthusiastic young and not-so-young dancers who made big band swing a paying proposition. With swing the music reached sufficient complexity and sophistication to call for excellent arrangers, highly competent, sight-reading sidemen and virtuoso soloists. Jazz became recognised as an art form, at least by its audience, when rows of youngsters crowded round the bandstand and, instead of dancing, just stood there and got intoxicated by listening alone. This new popularity called for the most popular bands to perform regular morning matinees in the movie theaters (cinemas – in the Queen’s English) of big cities. There were riotous scenes at some of these concerts with part of the mainly teenage audience starting to dance in the aisles and, not infrequently, demolishing the seats. This could be seen as the forerunner of teenage pop-culture, that was to be unleashed fully some twenty years later. The swing bands had such a fanatical following that the title ‘King of Swing’ was bestowed upon Benny Goodman, the rather aloof, bespectacled clarinetist with a decidedly professorial appearance – perhaps the least likely looking teenage idol ever. Goodman was undoubtedly the most popular bandleader of the day – and the majority of the dancing and record-buying audience was white, while during the thirties segregation was the rule rather than the exception even in the more liberal North. That’s why it caused such a sensation when principled white bandleaders, like Goodman himself, Artie Shaw and Gene Krupa started featuring black musicians on their shows.

Some black bands like those of Duke Ellington or Cab Calloway often played for good money to exclusively white audiences in segregated places like the legendary Cotton Club in New York. To make Ellington’s music more exotic for the white punter, they called it – detrimentally – “jungle jazz”. No wonder that Ellington later in his life, having gained universal acceptance, often bridled even against the use of the term “jazz”, because of its sexual connotations. After all, although no-one can say with absolute certainty where the word jazz originates from, it undoubtedly had vulgar connotations. Connie’s Inn, a basement club which catered for the out-of-town whites coming into Harlem for entertainment, was a frequent hangout for gangsters. It was instrumental in furthering the careers of Billie Holiday, Fats Waller and Louis Armstrong who performed there regularly. Small’s Paradise deserves perhaps more of a mention because it was racially integrated well ahead of its time. The large basement club featured a big band and floor shows and could accommodate 1,500 patrons. Customers vied for space on the postage-stamp-size dance floor while Charleston-dancing waiters brought Chinese food and bootleg liquor to the small tables. One waiter, who worked at Small’s in 1943 and went on to greater fame, was Malcolm Little, later known as Malcolm X.

But African-Americans had their own idols in their own dance halls, the most famous of which was the Savoy Ballroom in Harlem which bred aggressively competitive, brilliant acrobatic dancers and gave birth to the most incredible dance crazes like the gymnastic Lindy Hop. It also had two bandstands where competing orchestras took turns to see which one of them earned the bigger applause. This was known as the “battle of the bands”. Already in the ballrooms the judgement of the dancers and of those who just came to “dig” the music didn’t always correspond. The epic battle at the Savoy Ballroom between the house band of Chick Webb and the then (in New York) comparatively unknown Kansas City outfit led by Count Basie was won by the home team according to the dancers, while the listening crowd opted for the visitors from the Midwest. The Apollo Theater in the heart of Harlem was also hallowed ground for jazzmen. Anyone who scored a massive ovation in those days at the Apollo’s gladiatorial amateur contests was made for life. That’s the place where singers Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan and, in a later era, James Brown and Sam Cooke were discovered. Clustered between 125th Street and 135th Street, and between Lennox and Seventh Avenues in Harlem, over 125 entertainment venues were active during the 1920s and ’30s. There were speakeasies, cellars, lounges, cafes, taverns, supper clubs, rib joints, theatres, dance halls, and numerous bars and grills, all of them serving drinks and a lot of them giving employment to musicians who, more often than not, could also score drinks on the house.

The year 1938 proved to be a landmark in terms of the status of jazz. On 16th January a major swing concert was staged in the temple of classical music, New York’s Carnegie Hall. It featured the all white Benny Goodman Orchestra; the Benny Goodman Trio including the black pianist, Teddy Wilson; the Benny Goodman Quartet which was the trio plus another African American vibraphonist Lionel Hampton; and it ended with an epic, albeit organised jam session that featured the stars of one white and two black bands, those of Goodman, Basie and Duke Ellington. The concert, attended by an overwhelmingly white audience, was a roaring success. 1938 also saw the first ever open-air jazz concert featuring Duke Ellington and His Orchestra at Randalls Island, also in New York. Jazz finally reached the ears and minds of its audience as much as it did their feet.

The question is: did the shift from the dives and brothels to the dance halls and the concert stage make a difference to the lifestyles of jazzmen? Did artistic recognition and the beginning of racial integration change the way they lived? Before we answer that question, we also have to consider a “non-drinkable” temptation that came the way of jazzmen with the increased popularity of their music. Most jazz played in the thirties could be considered the pop-music of the day. Its purveyors therefore enjoyed the same status as pop-stars were to do two decades later. No wonder that trumpeter-bandleader Harry James married the blonde Hollywood bombshell, Betty Grable, whose legs were insured for a million dollars by her studio – an astronomical sum for those days! – while another immensely popular bandleader, clarinetist Artie Shaw, managed to accumulate eight wives in a lifetime, three of them (Ava Gardner, Lana Turner and Evelyn Keyes) film-stars. Women threw themselves, sometimes literally, at popular jazz musicians.

Stimulating It

At the beginning of the last century and during the thirties, playing in brothels, dance halls, speakeasies and other not so salubrious places, it almost seemed de rigeur for the musician to drink. With Prohibition ended in 1933 and ballroom owners of the Swing Era being not too keen to see musicians dead drunk on stage, one would have thought that the link between jazz and alcohol was weakened. Well, not a bit! First of all, old habits die hard. Secondly, small group jazz played in bars or more intimate surroundings did not die out during the thirties. But the most important watering holes for jazzmen proved to be the after-hour clubs where they tended to congregate after finishing their shows on stage. In places like the Cherry Blossom in Kansas City the drinking was as competitive as the blowing – especially since all three chief protagonists, Coleman Hawkins, Lester Young and Ben Webster, were legendary boozers themselves.

As for the use of drugs, marijuana had already been present before the First World War in New Orleans but the chief vice of some jazz musicians still seemed to be the demon drink well into the Thirties. Looking back in 1960, trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie had this to say to a panel of Playboy Magazine: “When I came to New York in 1936-1937, I didn’t know one musician who was an addict. And then we found out that one guy was using the stuff. We didn’t even know what it was.” Although Gillespie probably painted a somewhat rosy picture of the past it’s certainly true that the drug problem was still dwarfed in the late thirties by the use of alcohol. When in the early forties the rebellious young lions of jazz were trying to break the increasingly commercial mould of swing, they also tended to congregate in after-hours places of their own, like Minton’s Playhouse or Clark Monroe’s Uptown House in Harlem. Drinks at both these places were often on the house for musicians because at these historic jam sessions, where the progenitors of modern jazz first tried out their ideas, they usually played without a fee. Giving them freebies was economical for the owners who made their profit from the “insider” audience attracted by the new music.

Although there is no hard evidence for it, jazzmen must have come into contact with drugs through the pushers who began to frequent the same demi-monde establishments that often employed these musicians. It can also be assumed that since most of the bands were almost constantly on the road in those days, some musicians often needed increasingly strong stimulants to cope with a very demanding work-schedule and the nomadic lifestyle that went with it. Ellington was often described as being on tour with his band for the last 43 years of his life. The following excerpt from an article by John S. Wilson published in The New York Times makes the point:

On a June night in 1957, Duke Ellington’s orchestra pulled into Carrolltown, Pa., a small agricultural community in the Alleghenies about 200 miles west of Philadelphia, to play for a dance. Several hours later, the musicians climbed back into their bus and moved on toward their next one-night stand.
Carrolltown was just one stop on the Ellington band’s steady grind of touring. In the heyday of big bands before World War II, those stops sometimes lasted for several weeks. But by the 50’s they had become predominantly one-nighters. That night in Carrolltown might easily have become just part of the blur of endless bus stops that was the life of a road band.

And that was the lot of the best known jazz orchestra in the world during the fifties! Most bands travelled up and down the United States by bus. Finishing their gigs late at night or early in the morning, the musicians would then get on the bus to take them to their next booking, often hundreds of miles away. Some could, some couldn’t sleep on the bus. By the time they reached their destination and checked into their hotel or lodging house, it was often midday or later. Again, some could sleep and some couldn’t. By 8 o’clock in the evening or ten at the latest, they had to be on the bandstand where they often played, with short intermissions, well into the early hours of next day. These were frequently one-night stands and the following day they had to move on. If those bands weren’t of the same calibre as the Ellington, Basie, Goodman or, later, the Kenton or Woody Herman outfits, they were lucky to get bookings that lasted a couple of days in the same place. This itinerant lifestyle led to some musicians feeling they needed a stimulant to stay on top of their job, or even to stay awake. Many found the wrong and often tragic answer in drugs.

The blocks of New York’s 52nd Street between Fifth Avenue and Seventh Avenue were renowned in the mid 20th century for the abundance of jazz clubs and lively street life. The street was convenient to musicians playing on Broadway and the "legitimate" nightclubs and was also the site of a CBS studio. Musicians who played for others in the early evening played for themselves on 52nd Street. In its heyday from 1930 through 1960, 52nd Street clubs hosted such jazz legends as Charlie Parker, Billie Holiday, Miles Davis, Louis Prima, Dizzy Gillespie, Art Tatum, Thelonious Monk, Fats Waller and many more. Although musicians from all schools performed there, 52nd Street was central to the dissemination of bebop, the first truly modern jazz-style. And it was here that drug peddlers descended as 52nd Street rapidly became the new Mecca of jazz.

Let There Be Bop

To see how the musicians’ self-regard was changed by the new music, it’s important to note that bebop was an increasingly undanceable form of jazz. After the Second World War the big bands went into gradual decline. To keep big bands on the road or, for that matter, to hire them became increasingly uneconomical once musical fashions started to change after the war. On top of that, the cream of the young musicians didn’t want to play swing any more. It was people like Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie and Thelonious Monk who rang the changes. Bebop, the new music that took shape in places like Mintons and Monroe’s Uptown House, was original, demanding, iconoclastic, unsentimental, fast and furious and rather harsh in comparison to swing. It took a great deal of harmonic and rhythmic sense and also a great deal of virtuosity to play. Although people like Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Ventura tried to make it danceable, for obviously financial reasons, bebop was music primarily for listening. Not only was it difficult to dance to but it was well nigh impossible to hum to or whistle. And this was the music that eventually invaded 52nd Street. It became a sort of intellectual fashion to appreciate or, for the cloth-eared, to be seen to appreciate, modern jazz. It was the music of rebellion. It attracted a fanatical and rather clannish minority following and it also spread to Europe. Although swing bands and dance bands, even revivalist bands playing in the classic style of New Orleans, carried on playing, jazz was never to be the same again. The new generation of musicians looked to people like Parker and Gillespie to lay down the musical norm. They also looked to them for an unconventional life-style to imitate. From Gillespie they not only tried to copy his advanced harmonics and intense high-note playing but also his beret, his dark sunglasses, his goatee beard and his loud ties – soon to be the uniform of beboppers the world over. The less ebullient, surprisingly well read and well informed Parker, apart from working out a rhythmically fiendishly difficult but perfectly coherent way of playing left perhaps the greatest imprint on modern jazz. Pianist Lennie Tristano, the forerunner of the so-called cool school is quoted by Leonard Feather as saying after Parker’s death that “had there been laws against plagiarism in improvised music, then Bird could have sued all of us during the last ten years.” Unfortunately Parker also seemed to have proved that one could play unbelievably brilliant and original music while under the combined influence of drugs and alcohol. Less experienced players and musicians of lesser talent often took to drugs in the mistaken belief that their music would soar like Bird’s did. When Parker died of the above mentioned combination in 1955, not yet 35 years of age, the doctor called to certify his demise took the body to be that of a sixty-year old. The warning came far too late for many of his followers. They were hooked. And drugs seem to have afforded them momentary escape from their financial plight in a shrinking market and, in the case of black artists, from the almost daily humiliations doled out to them in a still largely prejudiced and racist society. The widespread use of drugs by jazz musicians dragged out well into the fifties and sixties and, to some extent, it is with us even today. The well-publicised addiction of some of the jazz giants couldn’t but give a bad name to all the other musicians, many of whom would never touch the needle or sniff the white powder and yet played brilliant music.

Many classical players and opera singers had the morals of an alley cat but selfishness, monstrous egos, spectacular tantrums and voracious sexual appetites were not punishable by law. Drug taking and, during the Prohibition, drinking alcohol was. The press, far more prudish during the first half of the last century than now, often treated the private lives of some of the great classical artists with kidgloves. On the other hand, the drink or drug busts of jazz musicians usually ended up in court and made headlines when jazz was still popular and jazzmen were still newsworthy. Not surprisingly, in the eyes of their detractors the lifestyles of jazz players were as disgusting as their music or the dances their music accompanied. Was this generalisation justified? Their workplaces, mainly night clubs, certainly encouraged a less than respectable mode of living. Hungarian jazz expert, György Kerekes in his highy informative and entertaining two volume work Jazz portrék (Jazz portraits), illustrates the development of the genre from its early days to the end of the last century through the life and work of thirty-four style-setting jazz greats. Taking a look at the list and the lifestyles of those included might throw some light on the matter, out of the 34 jazz legends, nearly half, 16 to be exact, were either alcoholics or unreasonably heavy drinkers (not all alcoholics are certified as such), took drugs or could be reasonably suspected of taking them and/or lived off the earnings of prostitutes.

As jazz became ‘art music’, the advent of rock’n‘roll in the mid-fifties further decimated its following. Among the young, mainly the graduates and the beatniks with intellectual pretensions remained faithful. Jazz, especially New Orleans style or swing, was still being danced to at university hops and college parties both in Britain and the United States through the fifties. But once the Twist came in, lonely narcissistic giration became the order of the day even at establishments of higher education. Jazz audiences became thin on the ground. Crowds were still attracted and real money was still being made by stellar names like Oscar Peterson, Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, Duke Ellington and Erroll Garner and also by the stars of the cool school. The Modern Jazz Quartet, the Dave Brubeck Quartet or the pianoless Gerry Mulligan Quartet were still appreciated by university students, graduates and more mature audiences. But further down the scale life became increasingly more of a struggle.

Falling Behind

The sixties saw the rise of rock music and the jazz world was further divided by the arrival of the new iconoclasts, the free players of the avant garde. As far as lifestyle was concerned the bad boys and girls of rock took off from where the bad boys and girls of jazz had left off. Heroin and cocaine became far more prevalent in the rock world than it had ever been in jazz circles. Groupies jumped into the beds of rock stars in far greater numbers than their predecessors ever graced the sheets of jazzmen. In numbers and in financial terms, partly due to the advent of television, rock became a far bigger business than jazz in the Swing Era had ever been. Consequently the eyes and ears of the media came increasingly to concentrate on the pop world. Who cared that John Coltrane went cold turkey and cured himself by sheer will power of his addiction in the days when Mick Jagger had one of his well publicised drug busts or Jim Morrison of The Doors, obviously under the influence of one thing or another, whipped out his equally well publicised organ in front of a live audience. When Morrison, Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin all died of the same causes within a year (1969/70), the passing of Coleman Hawkins and clarinetist Pee Wee Russell, two brilliant jazzmen, incidentally both of them epic drinkers, practically alcoholics, hardly merited press attention.

Elsewhere in the world, in the one-time totalitarian states like Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, jazz was officially frowned upon or, for long periods, banned outright, while amongst opponents of the regime, which in East and Central European Communist states under Stalin meant the silent majority, the young embraced it with fervour. Michael Dregni, biographer of the legendary Gipsy jazz guitarist, Django Reinhardt, described the Nazi propaganda minister’s rather complex attitude to jazz as follows:

Goebbels knew the power of music/…/ As self-proclaimed arbiter of culture, Goebbels was quick to vilify swing: He denounced it as “niggerjazz, jazzbazillus, cultural bolshevism, and modernism”/…/ Goebbels feared jazz and its potency./…/ he did work to control it. He banned certain songs, he banned all of the American recordings, and he also put the Nazi seal of approval on certain bands that were allowed to record in Germany and other parts of Europe under Nazi control.(Dregni, 157)

Alexey Batashev, the first chronicler of jazz in the Soviet Union is quoted in the brochure of the Vilnius Jazzfest by Soejima Teruto: “Because jazz was considered to be third-rate entertainment, it was not an object to be criticized as literature and classical music were.” In 1948, under the notorious directive of the Party’s cultural overlord, Andrey Zhdanov, all new cultural forms were banned in the USSR. Jazz was severely condemned as “the people’s enemy” because it was a bourgeois music born in the USA. Richard Stites states: “The deadly purge of American jazz was a by-product of the cultural pogrom. Jazz bandleaders were arrested, jazz groups dissolved of toned down and, in 1949, confiscated. What Max Lerner once called ‘the American instrument’ was to Soviet high priests the evil emblem of an alien civilisation.” Many mass media organs carried out anti-jazz campaigns, saying things like “today’s jazz musician will betray our country tomorrow” and “it’s just a small step from the saxophone to the knife". Jazz musicians were forced underground, and people had to listen to jazz records in secret.

The Nazi and Bolshevik attitude to jazz, perhaps unintentionally, turned the love of the genre into a political statement, into a form of anti-regime rebellion. It was amazing, during the darkest years of oppression, in the early fifties, just how many Hungarian secondary school pupils (including the author) were turned into avid jazz fans by their hunger for the forbidden fruit. Radio sets at home were scanned by eager schoolboys for crackling Western stations systematically jammed at incredible expense by Communist governments, while just listening to those stations was a punishable offence in itself. Stations like RIAS Berlin from the then American Zone of occupation, or the American Forces Network in Munich and Stuttgart and even stations like Zagreb, Lyublyana or Novi Sad in Communist but anti-Soviet Yugoslavia were broadcasting a regular stream of jazz that was just audible on the other side of the Iron Curtain. Finally, American diplomacy recognised the political impact of this uniquely American art form and in 1955 launched regular “jazz hours” on the government sponsored station, the Voice of America. Willis Conover, presenting those programmes became a cult-figure among the youth of the Eastern Bloc.

The initial Communist reaction was to denounce jazz as decadent and degenerate and to drive it underground. During Stalin’s reign while jazz had finally made it to the concert halls in Western Europe and America, Soviet and East European jazz musicians were forced to play sanitised dance music in ballrooms, “houses of culture” and restaurants. Although later – with the post-Stalinist thaw, under the relatively more tolerant Khrushchev regime, with goulash communism in Hungary and with the advent of détente – jazz became tolerated and in some of the Communist bloc countries like Hungary and Poland even came to enjoy some official blessing, financial state support and a modicum of respectability.

During the period of détente the value and therefore “official” respectability of jazz musicians greatly hinged on their recognition in the West. The jazz festivals of Warsaw and Debrecen became a sort of meeting ground for musicians from capitalist and communist countries. The Mediawave Festival at Győr in Western Hungary managed to bring together for the first time two giants of free jazz: multi reed instrumentalist Anthony Braxton from America and pianist György Szabados of Hungary. However, the centralised management of East European players wasn’t market-oriented enough and, despite their abundant talent, very few of them caused a real stir in the West. The virtuoso Hungarian bassist, the late Aladár Pege, spellbound audiences both at the Montreux and the Yatra Jazz Festival but was reluctant to pull up his roots and stayed in his native land. Those who emigrated or were allowed to spend long spells abroad stood a far better chance of being ranked in accordance with their abilities. The Czech musicians, Jan Hammer, Jiri Mraz and Miroslav Vitous, also Michal Urbaniak and Urszula Dudziak from Poland fell into the latter category. Leo Feigin, an emigré from Leningrad working for the Russian Service of the BBC in the 1980’s doubled as a one-man record company specialising, in the beginning, on the avant garde of the then Soviet Union. It was his label, Leo Records, that alerted Western fans to the unique sounds of the Ganelin Trio, the late Sergey Kuryokhin, Valentina Ponomareva or Sainkho Namchylak.

Emerging, Again

The fall of communism finally exposed jazz musicians of the one-time Soviet Empire to market forces – not always to their financial advantage. The severe reduction in state support – far more drastic in the case of jazz than of ‘serious’ music – was a telling indication of the loss of officially bestowed prestige. But before we examine the present situation Hungarian jazz artists find themselves in and their consequent, somewhat schizoid, attitude to their own place in the scheme of things, we should take a look at how the status of jazz changed from the fifties onwards in its homeland and in what’s called the Western world.

The first incarnation of modern jazz known as bebop, the music of Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Thelonious Monk and their followers, was a revolutionary departure. It meant new phrasing, a replacement of melodic improvisation by a harmonic approach, it created a new language in music that demanded greater aptitude and concentration not just from the players but from the listeners too. It also attracted a new audience. Although even early jazz had had an intellectual following during the Swing Era the bulk of the audience was often made up by jitterbugging youngsters. Bebop attracted the forerunners of the hippies, the beatniks – some with intellect, some with intellectual pretensions. Bebop was the musical creed of Jack Kerouac, the literary prophet of the beat generation. A new generation of critics rose who were capable of dealing with the complexities of the new music. When bebop imperceptibly turned into cool – a harmonically similar but more deliberate, more introspective and compositional version of modern jazz, it began to be accepted as part and parcel of mainstream culture. Dave Brubeck, Gerry Mulligan, the Modern Jazz Quartet and their ilk drew an increasingly educated, predominantly white middle class audience.2

The status earned by them reflected favourably on the whole of the genre. If highly respectable Time magazine is anything to go by, Louis Armstrong made its front cover in 1949, Dave Brubeck in 1954, Duke Ellington in 1956 and Thelonious Monk in 1964. Side by side with the birth of cool came the charismatic bandleader’s, Stan Kenton’s experiments with what he called ‘Progressive Jazz’, an heroic – at times fascinating, at others ludicrous – attempt at fusing jazz with classical music – a trend later to reassert itself in Gunther Schuller’s Third Stream and today’s ‘crossover’. Cool and progressive approaches to jazz, under different guises, are also making a comeback today, especially in the music of contemporary European, predominantly Scandinavian, jazzmen. These were and are conscious, deliberate attempts to lend virtues to jazz that have been hitherto attributed to classical music. These attempts at ‘crossover’ – to use modern terminology – were rarely seamless. Kenton had a very carefully thought-out policy of producing danceable, hummable hit-tunes with his band in order to generate money for his undanceable, unhummable and, on the whole, unprofitable “progressive” experiments which at times involved mammoth-size bands of forty, including strings.

Jazz, or a lot of jazz, became intellectualised by the mid-fifties. The title of one of Dave Brubeck’s successful albums, ‘Jazz goes to college’ is very telling. Jazz concerts and international tours rather than club or dance-hall bookings became the real money-makers for the biggest names in jazz. And it wasn’t only the modernists who made it to the concert stage. Even the still active giants of the Swing Era, like Benny Carter, Lester Young, Roy Eldridge, Ben Webster, Coleman Hawkins and their ilk, were taken on tour by entrepreneurs like Norman Granz, performing institutionalised jam sessions (a massive contradiction in terms!) to seated audiences. Performances by the Duke Ellington or Count Basie orchestras regularly filled concert halls in New York, London, Paris, Stockholm, Berlin – or practically anywhere they went. Jazz became partly a bums-on-seats art form. But only partly. As we saw earlier, Ellington also played dance dates in the late fifties and practically all the stars of Norman Granz’ travelling jazz circus, known – very tellingly again – as ‘Jazz at the Philharmonic’, also had to do club dates when not on tour. By and large, they and even the exponents of bebop and cool were musicians who had come into their own in the thirties and forties, many of them self-taught or half-taught who had picked up and perfected the mastery of their instruments as they went along. Most of them had spent their early careers playing in mob-owned, smoky, alcohol-fuelled dives with lots of pretty women throwing themselves at them. And most of them still felt at home in that sort of atmosphere.

When, due to the advent of pop-music and rock and also to the increasingly less accessible nature of jazz, popularity of the latter took a nosedive, some of the older players and even the younger ones playing in the tradition were marginalised. The new generation had to choose between the even less accessible road to free jazz or other forms of radical experiments and the opportunities offered by the jazz-rock fusion popularised and sanctioned by the trumpeter Miles Davis who, from 1945 until his death in 1991, managed to ride the crest of every wave in the genre. In the sixties and seventies only the really successful and the truly dedicated stayed the course.

During the 1980s and 1990s the fortunes of jazz revived to a certain extent. Most of the younger players were conservatory- or academy-trained – the mastery of their instruments hadn’t been acquired on the road or in dingy cellars stalked by dealers. By and large, their music tended to be more academic, more conscious, more thought-out than that of their predecessors. Also, formal conservatory education, although not a guarantee for keeping one on the straight and narrow, tended to distance more of the new crop of musicians from the dissolute lifestyle of previous generations. As for the venues, the big name clubs gradually changed their nature. Jazz had acquired over the years an intellectual tag, a musical respectability. Also, at club level radical chic was being gradually replaced by managerial chic. For overpaid executives it became the done thing to take either their clients or their sexual partners to prestigious jazz clubs like the Village Vanguard in New York, Ronnie Scotts in London or the New Morning in Paris. The late Ronnie Scott, a tenor-sax player of some stature himself, admitted to the author that the second and still existing incarnation of his club, was set up with rich clients and tourists in mind because only on that basis could he afford to hire regularly the cream of American and English players.3

On the concert circuit, those jazz musicians who could still command a massive audience often gave just one concert in any town because, for that, they were assured a full house for which they could command astronomical fees. (Keith Jarrett and Sonny Rollins are good examples.) Jazz festivals and concerts came to be subsidised in many countries not only by culture-conscious local authorities and central governments but also by business enterprises with an eye for the potential custom of the affluent middle class (like Matav, the forerunner of Hungarian Telecom or Raiffeisen Bank). In oil-rich Norway the state is most munificent which is part of the reason for the incredibly vibrant and varied jazz life of that cold country with half the population of Hungary.

However, artistically coming of age and acquiring the respectability its early masters craved so much created new problems for jazz. One of the problems is that in the respectability stakes jazz still finds itself half-way between classical music and the rest. Most jazz musicians at club level still work into the early hours of the morning at places where mainly drinks are sold. The world famous Hungarian classical pianist, András Schiff never has to play to drunken punters. There is still a respectability gap that explains that Hungarian jazz subsidies amount to roughly 0.5%, as mentioned above. In addition, having transformed itself into a sort of art-house music, jazz has never regained and has no hope of regaining the widespread popularity it enjoyed in the thirties and the early forties. Lots of youngsters stay clear of it because it’s considered “too intellectual”.

World Jazz

The genre itself is fragmenting faster than ever earlier. Perhaps it’s in the very nature of jazz to go forth and multiply. Jazz has become universal, part of our general cultural heritage. Following the long line of jazz masters, starting from Stan Kenton and Dizzy Gillespie up to Esbjörn Svensson, György Szabados and Mihály Dresch had started to explore with startling originality the rich folk heritage of not just Hungary but the whole Carpathian Basin and even part of the Balkans for the purposes of improvisation long before the phrase ‘ethno-jazz’ was coined. The virtuoso French Gipsy guitarist, Bireli Lagrene, rediscovered the magic of his great forerunner, Django Reinhardt and Gipsy Jazz became fashionable in Europe, although an earlier and certainly the most inventive exponent of that school is the great Hungarian pianist, Béla Szakcsi Lakatos who reached new peaks with his New Gipsy Jazz outfit in 2005. Electronics have also made an impact on the music starting with the introduction of the Moog synthesiser into the jazz world by Sun Ra right up to today’s electronic outings by Bugge Wesseltoft or the thrash-jazz of John Zorn and his friends, not to mention the extremes of “death jazz” as performed by British groups like Acoustic Ladyland and Led Bib, or Supersilent from Norway. There is an infinite variety of fusion, not just between rock and jazz but between all genres. The tabla, the sitar, the cimbalom, the kaval, the oud, the tárogató and multiple ancient folk instruments have claimed legitimacy in jazz during the past few decades. At the other end of the spectrum, some avant-garde jazz is practically indistinguishable from contemporary music. The music of Anthony Braxton and György Szabados – reunited at the Kanija jazz festival in Serbia – almost defy definition. The doggedly individualistic and brilliant Hungarian pianist, Károly Binder, incidentally Head of Jazz at the Ferenc Liszt University of Music, once said to the author that “if you wrote down what free improvisers play it would pass as contemporary music. If you play it from your head, it’s jazz.”

At jazz festivals nowadays one finds an amazing variety of music. There are still the brilliant, fiery hard bop players alongside the ultra-serious, self-absorbed almost classical sounding Scandinavians and the European ethno-jazzers who use their own folk heritage as a springboard for improvisation much the same way Afro-Americans used the blues. Festival organisers are more than conscious of the fact that, outside of the great household names, jazz is not an easily saleable commodity and, for that reason, they augment their programmes with a lot of blues, Latin and world music acts. The audience has become as fragmented as the field itself. This, in turn, has elevated the status of critics whose knowledge, expertise and skills have matured with the genre itself anyway.

Although jazz carries within itself the constant need for renewal, critics’ expectations tend to accelerate change even further and make it practically mandatory for all jazz musicians to reinvent themselves on an almost daily basis. Many critics, especially in Western Europe, tend to declare passé those who still play bebop or hard bop. Yet Kálmán Oláh, the brilliant Hungarian pianist, grand prize winner of the 2006 BMI-sponsored Thelonious Monk International Jazz Composer’s Competition, said in an interview that “bebop is the common language of jazz”. Bebop or hard bop played well is a raw and emotional music still rooted in the blues but far more sophisticated and requiring a sound mastery of one’s instrument. As the noted American jazz critic, Gary Giddins wrote: bop as initially presented, was surely the most demanding virtuoso music ever to take root in the American vernacular, much as rock and roll, as initially presented, was very likely the most elemental. True, it ran its course and its mould had to be broken by the next generation in order for jazz to move on. Clarinetist Tony Scott put it succinctly when he said Charlie Parker opened the door, showed the world, and then he shut the door behind him.

So what do we do now with bebop? The foreword of The Illustrated Encyclopaedia of Jazz, co-authored by Stan Britt and Brian Case has stuck in my mind forever. The authors argued that for an outsider to find out something about the essence of jazz, he or she should not go to a concert hall to hear some American jazz giant do his routine stuff on the umpteenth stage of his world tour but, instead, should head for the nearest local jazz club where probably less skilful but far more enthusiastic musicians are playing their hearts out and therefore transmitting far more effectively the emotional impact of the genre. In my observation, bebop or hard bop is eminently suitable for that.

The lesson to my mind is as follows. Bold experiments are the lifeblood of musical development but bold experiments belong to the laboratory, to workshops, to intimate gatherings of musicians and to the handful of initiates who know enough about the music to appreciate those experiments. Jazz needs constant experimentation, ergo experimental musicians need subsidies but critics should not create an atmosphere in which, people – especially the young – would be discouraged from playing in the tradition, in which audiences who fall short of appreciating Cecil Taylor or the late works of John Coltrane (and his music is forty years old!) are being talked down to. An atmosphere where constant innovation at all costs has become the norm is cutting off the roots of jazz without which new shoots will never grow to survive. And a good deal of the soil in which those roots could flourish should be made up of a paying audience.

So, how do we get back to our starting point, to respectability and all that jazz? A large part of the above mentioned paying audience has been lost to jazz because the music has become too intellectually respectable. Am I suggesting that jazz turns commercial and reduces itself to the needs of teenyboppers? Not a bit. But I do suggest that the fun element and the easily approachable parts are not expelled from the genre by some of the critics and “those-in-the-know”. They should only be knocked if they are played badly or without inspiration. If people feel like dancing to jazz, they should not be discouraged or considered intellectually crippled.

Interviewing Sonny Rollins in 2011 for the Hungarian magazine, Gramofon, the author asked the artist whether he would consider it disrespectful if the audience started to dance to some of the tunes during his performance. Rollins replied:

It would give me a kick and I’d enjoy tremendously because I love it when people dance. As far as I’m concerned I wouldn’t at all consider it out of place or impolite. As a matter of fact, not long ago I played for a hospital charity in front of a dining audience at a smaller venue not far from where I live. It wasn’t the usual concert hall. The people were dancing there and I had a really great time because I’d been brought up to play in front of dancing audiences. And I think that’s just right. If one wants to listen to the music, one should do so. If he wants to dance to it, then he should dance. Many people say that the music I play is very danceable. So, far from me opposing it, I’d consider it a compliment if people danced to my music. (Pallai 65)

One should take cognisance of the fact that jazz will never be accorded the status of classical music. And so what! It seems to me that a lot of brilliant and otherwise serious musicians could and often did play for fun. Dizzy Gillespie, Clark Terry, Cannonball Adderley, Erroll Garner and even Mingus did on a good day. On our own turf, György Vukán, Szakcsi Senior, Béla Szalóky and a host of others can produce wicked fun and the audience laps it up. None of these musicians have lost credibility by doing it. But they belong to the ‘holy cow’ category.

We have a lot of brilliant young players in Hungary. On tenor- and soprano sax Gábor Bolla, bassist Krisztián Pecek Lakatos, guitar-player Márton Fenyvesi or pianist Dezső Oláh are hardly out of their teens but are already displaying a terrifying maturity and brilliance. Some in their late twenties and early thirties have already turned into world class players and are probably missing world-fame for lack of management and on account of being born on the wrong continent. Pianists Dániel Szabó, Gábor Cseke, János Nagy, cimbalom player Miklós Lukács, bass-player Mátyás Szandai, saxophonists Kristóf Bacsó, Viktor Tóth, Zoltán Zana, percussionist András Dés and literally dozens of others come to mind. (This is not to forget the giants of the middle generation like percussionist Kornél Horváth, sax-player Mihály Borbély, the brilliantly unique violinist Zoltán Lantos or that extremely inventive guitarist, Gábor Juhász – and again, one could go on, but this writing is not meant to be a Hall of Fame for Hungarian jazz musicians.) Coming up hard on the heels of these established stars, one can hear numerous little tenor-players morphing from Rollins into Coltrane, teenage bassists making the journey from Ray Brown to Scott LaFaro, pianists coming out of Bud Powell’s eggshell to grow into mini Keith Jarretts before they find their own voice. Their ability and their technique is stupendous. Not so long ago, the doyen of Hungarian jazz violinists, Csaba Deseő was listening to some of these young lions going through their motions and he said, referring back to the mid-sixties, You know, these kids are terrific. This is how the cream of the crop used to play in the heroic age at the Dália. And there is something almost atavistically jazzy about these kids, even if they are not black Americans. When they find a basement or cellar to play in where the lights are low, drinks are served and the audience is in their face, they love it – provided the audience is receptive to what they play. Their heroes at this stage are still mostly dead musicians who grew out of places like these and our kids seem to be imbued with the legends that went with their music. Of course they want to graduate to the concert stage that means greater recognition, more kudos and better money, but those dimly lit clubs with their shady ambience still exercise a strange attraction both for them and their audience. These places seem to go with the music in which the devil’s imprint is still discernible.

There are not many places like these. A lot of what’s left is vastly overpriced, expecting the punter to lay out for supper and/or drinks on top of the music, they start late and finish even later, thereby adding the taxi fare to the already vastly inflated bill – a surefire recipe to exclude the ordinary working man, students, young people at the beginning of their careers, people with young families or older fans who exist on small pensions – in short, they lock out the bulk of the actual or potential audience for jazz. And when one looks at what tickets cost for the concerts of American stars on a lightning visit, the impression is reinforced that jazz has become a rich man’s game. But there are not enough of them to keep the music alive. Critics, sponsors, music educators, record companies, concert organisers, club-owners, local and central governments and, indeed, the fans all have a shared responsibility not only for letting accessible jazz live but also for making jazz accessible to those on meagre incomes. That would mean subsidised affordable entrance fees to small clubs with an intimate atmosphere where there is no compulsion to consume and where the music starts and ends at a time that makes the use of public transport and, the following day, getting to work or school possible. That way jazz will be able to shed the heritage of the brothels, the speakeasies, the almost mandatory drinking, the drug-fuelled sessions while retaining and, hopefully, gaining an audience. That will be the day the devil’s music might turn respectable.


Works Cited

  • Bergreen, Laurence. 1997. Louis Armstrong: An Extravagant Life. New York: Broadway Books.
  • Butler, David. 2002. Jazz Noir: Listening to Music from Phantom Lady to The Last Seduction Westport CT: Praeger Publishers.
  • Case, Brian and Stan Britt. 1978. The Illustrated Encyclopaedia of Jazz New York: Salamander Books.
  • Feather, Leonard. 1960. The Encyclopedia of Jazz. Boston: Horizon.
  • Dregni, Michael. 2004. Django: The Life and Music of a Gypsy Legend. Oxford/New York: Oxford UP.
  • Dreisinger, Baz. 2008. Near Black: White-to-Black Passing in American Culture UP of Massachusetts.
  • Giddins, Gary. 1998. Visions of Jazz: The First Century. Oxford/New York: Oxford UP.
  • Stites, Richard. 2004. “The ways of Russian popular music to 1953” in: Edmunds, Neil (ed.) Soviet Music and Society under Lenin and Stalin: The Baton and Sickle. 18-31. New York: RoutledgeCurzon.
  • Gillespie, Dizzy. 1960. The Playboy Panel: Narcotics And The Jazz Musicians The Playboy Magazine, November, 1960.
  • Kerekes, György. 2005. Jazz portrék I-II [Jazz portraits] Budapest: Pro Die.
  • Levine, Lawrence W. “Jazz and American Society” The Journal of American Folklore, Vol. 102, No. 403.
  • Pallai, Péter. 2011. “A zene felülírja a boldogságot: exkluzív interjú Sonny Rollins szaxofonos legendával” [Music ranks higher than happiness – exclusive interview with saxophone legend Sonny Rollins]. Gramofon Klasszikus és Jazz 2011 (Fall) No. 3. 64-67.
  • Soejima, Teruto. 2013. “The free jazz scene in the former USSR: between Vilnius and Arkhangelsk” Vilnius 26 Vilnius Jazz Festival, 2013. Translated by Yoshiyuki Suzuki and Cathy Fishman.
  • Stites, Richard. 2009. “The ways of Russian popular music to 1953” In: Edmunds, Neil, ed.: Soviet Music and Society under Lenin and Stalin. London: Routledge.
  • Wilson. John S. 1984. “Vintage 1957: A Night Of Dance With the Duke” The New York Times January 8.



An earlier version of this essay was translated into Hungarian and published in Kalligram No. 4, 2009.

1 Personal communication of the author in 2005 with percussionist Kornél Horváth, who at the time was the Vice Chairman of the Association of the Hungarian Jazz Artists, a lobbying organisation. Since then all indications show that the situation has worsened.

2 An interesting cultural clash between the “old” and “new believers” was witnessed by the author at the 1959 Randalls Island Jazz Festival in New York where a good 70% of the audience was black from across the river in Harlem. When the high priests of cool, the almost classical sounding Modern Jazz Quartet, all four of them Afro-American musicians, started playing, the blacks in the crowd grew restive and eventually gave the MJQ the slow handclap, a sign of impatient disapproval and started shouting “swing it, man!”

3 See Pallai 2011.