California State University, Long Beach

Jazz Composers, Arrangers and Performers


The Hollywood film and recording studios served as a magnet, attracting many talented jazz and commercial musicians to Los Angeles. Yet little is known of the role that Los Angeles played in the development of jazz, especially the early extension of New Orleans, Chicago and Kansas City jazz. For example, Paul Whiteman's first major success came with his appearance at the Alexandria Hotel in downtown Los Angeles in 1919, and in the early 1920s, nearly every major New Orleans figure who went to Chicago also appeared in Los Angeles. By the 1930s, Louis Armstrong was in Los Angeles (1931-32) making records, and Benny Goodman and his band appeared here in 1935 in an event that several jazz historians mark as the beginning of the popularity of the swing era. Lionel Hampton had been in Los Angeles since 1925, the year that radio station KFI did the first Los Angeles to New York radio broadcast. Many of the early jazz musicians were Black, and Los Angeles had a small, but thriving Black community dating back to the late 19th century. Yet, there is virtually no reference in the Los Angeles Times either to Black musicians or to jazz and popular music until after World War II. Additionally, until a merger in the 1950s, there was a separate Black musicians union local. Following World War II, and especially with the growth of the television and recording industries, jazz gained more currency in the general culture. Jazz performers and composer/arrangers enjoyed weekly appearances on television and radio broadcasts, often becoming celebrities themselves. These developments led to crossovers in careers, and the distinction between jazz, studio, and classical musicians begin to fade. Jazz, rock-'n-roll, blues, popular and classical genres also began to blend. The interviews in this series provide valuable historical accounts both of the earlier jazz scene, as well as the trends and careers of musicians who practiced their art from the 1950s to the present, many of them earning their living through work in the radio, television and film industry. A set of interviews conducted in the late 1970s by Gordon Neal Herman as part of a research project focus on the earlier jazz scene, while more recent interviews (2003) by jazz Master of Art students Gerhard Guter and Keith Bishop cover the later period. With the growing interest in oral history among jazz students, additional interviews will be added to the series as these become available

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