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Jazz. New York in the Roaring Twenties


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Jazz. New York in the Roaring Twenties
Robert Nippold, Hans-Jürgen Schaal
ISBN: 3836545012

The period in the 1920's America is known as the Jazz Age, the Golden Twenties or the Roaring Twenties. The history books say that this decade after the WWI was a prosperous one, where the nation's total wealth nearly doubled in between 1920 and 1929 which resulted in an unprecedented expansion in industry, technology and consumerism. It was the great writer F. Scott Fitzgerald who actually coined the term "Jazz Age" said of the 20s "The pace was faster, the shows were broader, the buildings were higher, the morals were looser, and the liquor was cheaper." During that time the prohibition was in effect, and at nightclubs and speakeasies across the land a new sound was becoming more and more popular: jazz. The traumatic WWI brought many changes where the old perceived social conventions were destroyed and the new decade introduced great social changes, and jazz music was there to add its many colors and fun.

Jazz. New York in the Roaring Twenties is an astounding collection of illustrations, portraits of jazz musicians and sceneries provided by illustrator Robert Nippold along with written contributions by writer Hans-Jürgen Schaal that in a magical way capture the spirit of a bygone era that still echoes today. This book is one of the most freshly original and delightfully imaginative works of art about jazz music that have appeared in a long time. A picture can say a thousand words and this book masterfully balances both pictures and words. What makes this collection exceptional is Nippold's wonderful and impressible illustrations. The art is simple and elegant but deep and striking, and it evokes comic book writer Hugo Pratt's drawing style. The backgrounds are simple in texture and have an intense palette, while the figures displayed on them have an appealing simplicity. On the other hand, Schaal's writings are a perfect match. His texts are simple and economical but are imbued with a multitude of unusual stories about the characters and the times, and their unusual approach throughout enlivens the experience of this decade.

Both Nippold and Schaal portray the road jazz has taken starting from the streets of New Orleans to Chicago and eventually to New York. New Orleans is always seen as the cradle of jazz as some of its most distinguished jazz musicians like Jelly Roll Morton, Sidney Bechet and Louis Armstrong came from there. Due to its central position in the cotton trade many immigrants from all corners of the world came there while the freed slaves lived in the city's ghettos where they enjoyed more freedom and opportunities than in other American cities. If it weren't for the changes that caused rapid deterioration, like the discrimination in the South, failing crops, search for a better living and especially during the WWI when millions of African- Americans began to flood the North that needed manpower, the jazz would have remained a local specialty. The gradual migration of musicians to the city of Chicago, which at the time after WWI was the capital of jazz, was symbolized by the passage of steamers that plied from New Orleans to Chicago. During the prohibition Chicago became a center for elicit alcohol trade and due to the official clampdown on illegal drinking that caused many nightspots in Chicago to shut down musicians moved eastward to New York.

In general, the Roaring 20's were marked by significant changes in lifestyle and culture. There were innovations in film, as that was the period when the popularity of Hollywood films boomed and the silent movies were replaced by talking movies, and there was a growth in downtown movie theaters. Further, there were innovations in visual arts, architecture, fashion and the rise of intellectual movements, like the Harlem Renaissance. After the American Civil war, what followed was a period of increased education and employment for black Americans, and as result this created the first black middle class in America. During the early 1900, this class began pushing a new political agenda that advocated racial equality and the epicenter of this movement was in New York. What marked this movement was the idea of challenging racism and stereotypes through intellect and production of literature, art and music. As a result, all of that would promote progressive politics, and social and racial integration. Art and literature would serve to uplift the race.

Like any era of any genre of music regardless of fashions so was this one full of colorful characters that contributed to the popularization and development of this music. It was an era of astounding achievements in jazz, which was the dominant popular music of the era, and this book celebrates and salutes people starting from Jelly Roll Morton, Fats Waller, Fletcher Henderson, Willie "The Lion" Smith to Duke Ellington, Glenn Miller, Louis Armstrong, Coleman Hawkins, Bessie Smith, to name but a few.

Nippold's illustrations are simple and striking. There is a pleasing simplicity to his artwork with a sense of order in these images that are imbued with warmth and spirit where each page seems to dance to this beguiling music from that era. Full with a colorful assortment of supporting characters and symbols that are inserted within the texts in the form of phonographs, cars, vinyl, instruments, record covers, various objects that can be found everywhere but mostly they serve to enhance the beautiful and informative writings. Intricate sketches of various sceneries and cityscapes further enhance this prepossessing work. While the birth of jazz is often attributed to African Americans, its rise in popularity can be attributed both to black and white Americans. The rise of its popularity also coincided with major changes and advancements of recording technology, and the rise of radio broadcasts. With the help of radio jazz quickly spread all over the US and quickly found plenty of supporters. Also one of the places where jazz was blossoming were the speakeasies or illegal establishments for serving illegal alcohol. One of the best and best known was the famed Cotton Club in Harlem, opened by boxing champion Jack Johnson, a club that when it was taken over by another owner, changed into a "whites-only" residence, and it had the look and feel of a Southern plantation. While African-Americans could play there only white guests could enter. Some of the most popular jazz musicians of the era played there like Duke Ellington, Cab Calloway, providing entertainment to visitors. Even high profile visitors such as Cole Porter or Bing Crosby regularly visited this place in order check the most talented black musicians of the day. This wonderful book not only captures the times and the people of the era by illustrations and words but by music also as it comes with a fine selection of music (vinyl replica cd) by each of the musicians that are mentioned or portrayed here. This era ended abruptly with the collapse of stock values on Wall Street in 1929 which put many people worldwide in the 1930's out of work, a period known as the Great Depression.

Taschen books are art onto themselves as they provide the complete experience regardless of the subject. It is a well known fact that this publisher takes pride in the quality of its publications and they are both educational and fun to read. This book is a time machine and little window of illumination on this era when jazz music and the accompanying lifestyle rose to power for the first time.

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