Jazz has become a part of America like apple pie and baseball, but Court Carney’s Cuttin’ Up: How Jazz Got America’s Ear shows a period in time when Jazz wasn’t accepted. Carney describes how the original people who created Jazz had to be sucked out of the art form so that it could become popular. Jazz was a highly criticized music genre, due to its elements that combine other genres of music. Carney performs CPR onto the art form by injecting the people and the history back into the shell of what popular Jazz became.
Court Carney divides his book into three parts (creation, dispersion and acceptance) but what is more interesting to me was how the author divided the book into four cities that had influence on Jazz. New Orleans was the beginning; illustrating how the blues and ragtime musicians of New Orleans influenced Jazz creation. With the beginning of the Great Migration, many Jazz musicians also moved from the south to the north. Cutting Up, tells how Chicago, New York and Los Angeles became hubs for the Jazz culture with New York being the Jazz Mecca. Harlem clubs like the The Cotton Club (photo above) and the Savoy (below) were showcases for Jazz musicians, featuring Black dancers and Jazz bands performing for white audiences. Chicago was known for its recording of Jazz, New York for its broadcasting and Los Angeles brought Jazz to the big screen.
Carney ends, by describing Benny Goodman and his swing band performing at Carnegie Hall and simultaneously, pays tribute to all the music genres that influenced his swing. This is my favorite part of the Cuttin’ Up: How Early Jazz Got America’s Ear because even after all the descriptions of how Jazz was disrespected and its ancestors were disregarded, this performance Carnegie Hall shows that there were still musicians who knew the history they have stepped into. Now don’t get me wrong, this book is easily meant for an Introduction to Jazz class at City College, but if you wish to be more than a jazz enthusist, then you need to read Court Carney’s Cuttin’ Up: How Jazz Got America’s Ear.
By Janee Nesbitt