As Long as They Can Blow: Interracial Jazz Recording and Other Jive Before 1935

The best-known examples of interracial jazz recordings are the 1935 and ’36 sides cut by the Benny Goodman Trio which included black pianist Teddy Wilson. Goodman’s subsequent quartet added black vibraphonist Lionel Hampton. But in his new book, As Long as They Can Blow, author Steve Provizer meticulously documents that such interracial intermingling had been happening for decades in American recording studios. After Goodman’s multi-colored combos successfully hit the scene, “there was a gradual increase in racial mixing on bandstands,” Provizer writes. However, that’s not his primary concern. No, the author wants readers to realize what led up to that mid-’30s epiphany. “Interracial recording activity that had occurred during earlier important, formative periods of jazz remains relatively unknown and unrecognized,” he writes. “I wanted to put a spotlight on these.” Of course, before mixed bands took to the studios, black and white musicians had been working together live onstage in various “complicated” settings, he asserts. “Minstrel and vaudeville performances and companies were somewhat more racially mixed,” Provizer reports. Mixing was also common in more informal settings. “Musicians of different races met and interacted at after-hours jam sessions, rent parties and other unofficial spaces.” One of the most important, yet almost entirely f
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Russ Tarby is based in Syracuse NY and has written about jazz for The Syncopated Times, The Syracuse New Times, The Jazz Appreciation Society of Syracuse (JASS) JazzFax Newsletter, and several other publications.

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