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Student Handout

The Story of Jazz (Unit 2)

In Chicago there was jazz everywhere
Why, the music just filled up the air
People danced and had fun
Until up came the sun
It just seemed that they hadn't a care.


The 833 mile train ride we have taken from New Orleans to Chicago is much the same route taken by many African Americans during the Great Migration (1910-1920). Hoping to escape the racism of the South and to find better employment opportunities as well as improved living conditions millions of people made this move. Our visit today will be to Chicago, Illinois - the time is the mid 1920s. Chicago was and still is very much alive with jazz and other entertainment. We will stop in a few of the many clubs that were operating on Chicago’s South Side in the 20s.

At the Lincoln Gardens Café, Chicago’s largest dance hall, we find on the bandstand Louis “Satchmo” Armstrong and his All Stars Lincoln Gardens Café. The Lincoln Gardens Café was previously called the Royal Garden Café and the tune they are playing is called the "Royal Garden Blues." It was written about the jazz played in this place (click here to hear the tune). In the audience are Bix Beiderbecke, Jimmy McPartland, Bud Freeman and Eddie Condon, all young white jazz musicians who have come to listen and learn from Armstrong and also King Oliver when King Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band plays here. The lyrics of this tune even describe the music. Play "Royal Garden Blues" again (click here) and see if you can hear how the following lyrics would fit with the music.
Hon, don’t you hear that trombone moan? Just listen to that saxophone. Gee, hear that clarinet and flute, Cornet jazzin’ with a mute.
Our next stop is the Sunset Café, a private club known as a speakeasy. We won’t be allowed to enter if we don’t know the secret code word. You can get the code word by correctly answering the following question: What instrument did Louis Armstrong and Joe King Oliver play: drums, clarinet, or cornet? Did you pick "cornet"? Good! You can enter. The Sunset Café is known as a "black and tan" because it was integrated and admitted both black and white customers. Earl ‘Fatha’ Hines is playing the piano as the customers are dancing. Oh look! Here comes James P. Johnson to play piano for a while. He is playing Charleston - a composition he wrote and named for the new dance everyone is doing (click here to listen). Can you feel how the steady beat of the music is good for dancing?

The next group to take the stage is led by Freddie Keppard, playing trumpet. Notice how he has a handkerchief over the valves of the trumpet - some people say that he was afraid someone would copy his style if they saw how he played.

To get to our next stop, let’s hop in our brand new Model T Ford. This car was one of the first manufactured on a moving assembly line and was affectionately known as the Tin Lizzy. It sold brand new in 1924 for $290. It isn’t very far to the Gennett Record Company in Richmond, Indiana where King Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band with Louis Armstrong are going to make their first recordings. The place doesn’t look anything like today’s recording studios. Instead of a microphone there is a big megaphone to pick up the sound. Look at where Louis Armstrong is standing. He plays so much louder than the others that they’ve asked him to stand way in the back so the recording will sound more balanced. Let’s listen as they record "Dipper Mouth Blues" (click here to listen).

Well, here we are back in Chicago. If you are curious about some of the other types of jazz that have been popular, we can take a ride in the Time Machine and check that out. Wow! Here we are in the 1960s and we have happened in on a performance by the Art Ensemble of Chicago. They are playing a style of jazz known as Free Jazz (click here to listen). They are also members of a larger group based in Chicago: the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM), a cooperative organization that arranges bookings and concerts for jazz musicians. That’s about all for today, so let's purchase our tickets for our next journey. We’ll need to get a seat on the riverboat that will take us to Kansas City. See you on the next trip!

The Great Migration

The growth of industry in the Northern part of the United States offered employment opportunities to African Americans as well as others living in the South. The invention of the moving assembly line by Henry Ford made manufacture of automobiles faster and less costly. As the population of African Americans increased in Northern cities, cultural activities grew as well.

Musicians who had worked in New Orleans came to cities such as Chicago for the opportunity to earn more money and escape segregation practices of the South. They discovered that racial prejudice and discrimination were also present in Northern cities. Performance of the new music which had not yet been named “jazz,” attracted the attention of musicians and all citizens in these cities. As more musicians with backgrounds from all over the United States began to play jazz, it began to change.

For further background information, visit the Jazz Resource Library on this web site, and read about Chicago.


black and tan: A night club with customers of all races.

cornet: a type of trumpet

Free Jazz: A jazz style in which performers improvise without restrictions as to melody, harmony, or other musical elements.

Great Migration: The movement of thousands of African Americans from the South to the North beginning about 1910. The were looking to escape racism and find better opportunities for employment and lifestyle.

megaphone: A large funnel-shaped horn used to increase the volume of the voice.

microphone: an instrument for magnifying sound

moving assembly line: A row of workers and machines along which work is passed until the product is made.

speakeasy: A nightclub which operated illegally during prohibition. Many musicians found employment in speakeasies.

steady beat: Pulse of the music.

trumpet: Musical instrument in the brass family. Tone is produced by blowing into a small mouthpiece.
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