The fourth episode of Ken Burns’ documentary JAZZ begins with the stock market crash of 1929. Jobs were lost, fortunes were lost, and the glitz and glamor of the of the roaring twenties was suddenly very far in the past. The Jazz Age ended when the Great Depression began, but jazz did not. This episode shows how “Jazz would be called upon to lift the spirits and raise the morale of a frightened country.”
Like in so many other eras, people found refuge and joy in music. New York’s popular Savoy Ballroom employed two bands at once so the music never stopped, and the floor was so warn from dancing it had to be replaced every two years. Louis Armstrong played his first gig for a White audience, in the pit for Broadway’s Ain’t Misbehavin’, and audiences called for him to get up onstage. Record companies suffered from hard economic times, but new music was alive, and new audiences listened for free on the radio.
Musician Matt Glaser (who is a colleague of Yoko’s at Berklee College) said of Armstrong’s playing, “This was a new way to experience the modern world and all its hectic movement: just relaxation and freedom. Jazz has been dealing with this concept since Louis made this record, and still to this day.”
It’s true, isn’t it? Music helps us through the problems of every day, whether it’s disturbing events on the news or being late for work and stuck on a jam-packed subway train that isn’t moving. Whether you are listening through headphones throughout your busy day or unwinding by seeing a show, we hope the driving chords and reflective melody of “The Day We Said Goodbye,” or the sparkling trills of “Mr. B.G.,” help you feel the same way, soaring over the hectic parts of life.
Happy Spring, and remember to get your tickets for the Yoko Miwa Trio’s April 18 show at The Regattabar.