Tag Archives | jazz

Sun Ra at 100: ‘A Joyful Noise’

This year we celebrate the 100th birthday of the cosmic reign of the avant-garde jazz musician Sun Ra whose official birthday is celebrated on May 22. For those who know the man’s music, there is no need for an introduction here. For neophytes, here is a sampling of the story from the Sun Ra Arkestra’s official website:

Eclectic, outrageous, sometimes mystifying but always imbued with a powerful jazz consciousness, the music of Sun Ra has withstood its skeptics and detractors for nearly three generations. And well it should, since Sun Ra has been both apart of and ahead of the jazz tradition during that time.

Like Duke Ellington and swing-era pioneer Fletcher Henderson, Sun Ra learned early on to write music in an arranged form that showcased the specific talents of his individual Arkestra members, and he has retained the services of some of these musicians to this day: John Gilmore, Marshall Allen, and Julian Priester for example since they first joined in the 1950′s.

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Hitler’s Very Own Hot Jazz Band

via Smithsonian Lutz Templin

Amid the collection of thugs, sycophants, stone-eyed killers and over-promoted incompetents who comprised the wartime leadership of Nazi Germany, Joseph Goebbels stood out. For one thing, he was genuinely intelligent—he had earned a doctorate in Romantic literature before becoming Hitler’s propaganda chief. For another, he understood that his ministry needed to do more than merely hammer home the messages of Hitler’s ideology.

Goebbels knew he needed to engage—with an increasingly war-weary German public, and with the Allied servicemen whose morale he sought to undermine. This clear-eyed determination to deal with reality, not fantasy, led him to some curious accommodations. None, however, were quite so strange as his attempts to harness the dangerous attractions of dance music to Hitler’s cause. It was an effort that led directly to the creation of that oxymoron in four-bar form: a Nazi-approved, state-sponsored hot jazz band known as Charlie and His Orchestra.

By the late 1930s, swing and jazz were by far the most popular music of the day, for dancing and for listening.
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The Strange Story Of Nazi Jazz

Nazi-propaganda-posterJazz aficionados may think they know cool jazz, bebop, hard bop, and every other style, but what about Nazi bop? Though they had already passed laws criminalizing “Jewishly gloomy lyrics”, drum and horn solos, “Negroid excesses in tempo”, and plucked bass lines, the party realized that dance music was needed to reach the masses. Via Smithsonian Magazine:

Hitler’s propaganda chief Joseph Goebbels’ strangest effort was the creation of that oxymoron in four-bar form: a Nazi-approved, state-sponsored hot jazz band known as Charlie and His Orchestra [headed by] Karl “Charlie” Schwedler, an employee of the German Foreign Ministry, who discovered he had a talent for crooning.

As “Charlie,” Schwedler—who at least posed as a convinced Nazi—penned lyrics that generally followed a fixed pattern. The first verse of each song would remain untouched, perhaps in the hope of luring in listeners. But the remainder of the lyrics would veer wildly into Nazi propaganda and boasts of Aryan supremacy.

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