PCS Blog

Jazz at Home

Posted by Katie Watkins | 27 October 2014

“Jazz is a marvel of paradox: too fundamentally human, at least as modern humanity goes, to be typically racial, too international to be characteristically national, too much abroad in the world to have a special home. Jazz isn’t music merely, it is a spirit that can express itself in almost anything. The true spirit of jazz is a joyous revolt from convention, custom, authority, boredom, even sorrow—from everything that would confine the soul of man and hinder its riding free on the air. The earliest jazz-makers were the itinerant piano players who would wander up and down the Mississippi from saloon to saloon, from dive to dive. Seated at the piano with a carefree air that a king might envy, their box-back coats flowing over the stool…they would “whip the ivories” to marvelous chords and hidden racy, joyous meanings, evoking the intense delight of their hearers…these humble troubadours knowing nothing of written music or composition, but with minds like cameras, would listen to the rude improvisations of the dock laborers and the railroad gangs and reproduce them, reflecting perfectly the sentiments and the longings of these humble folk. Jazz has come to stay because it is an expression of the times, of the breathless, energetic, superactive times in which we are living, it is useless to fight against it…America’s contribution to the music of the past will have the same revivifying effect as the injection of new and in the larger sense, vulgar blood into dying aristocracy…The jazz players make their instruments do entirely new things, things finished musicians are taught to avoid. They are pathfinders into new realms.”

By Langston Hughes

O, silver tree!
Oh, shining rivers of the soul!

In a Harlem cabaret
Six long-headed jazzers play.
A dancing girl whose eyes are bold
Lifts high a dress of silken gold.

O, silver tree!
Oh, shining rivers of the soul!

Were Eve’s eyes
In the first garden
Just a bit too bold?
Was Cleopatra gorgeous
In a gown of gold?

O, silver tree!
Oh, shining rivers of the soul!

In a whirling cabaret
Six long-headed jazzers play. 


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