Jazz is unquestionably one of the best gifts from the African-American community to this world. A tangible extension of one’s soul, this genre is loved for its inexplicable complexities accompanied by numerous, effortless improvisations. This is why April has been dedicated to celebrate this music genre, all month. Throw a little jazz in the middle of a mundane crowd, and watch the magic work its way from soul to soul, compelling the most placid of personalities to break into a soul-driven jazz square. Every city in this world that gives soil for the cultivation of jazz has a little pixie dust magic that no other city does.
The Dawn of Jazz
The swaying notes of jazz can be traced back to New Orleans in the 20th century. Another city that played an almost equally important role in the growth and dissemination of jazz was the city of New York. The 1920s of New York was a decade to be envied, for jazz was the electric wire that coursed through the city back in the day. The bright lights of the Big Apple helped carry jazz far and wide and gave life to pioneer artists like Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington. The Roaring Twenties of New York roared primarily because of the music that transformed and polished every facet of the city till it shone. Carnegie Hall was responsible for feeding new yorkers their daily dose of the smoky-sweet tunes. Speakeasies thrived in every dusty corner of the city. After all, New York was, and always has been, the concrete jungle where dreams come true!
Relics of Jazz in New York
A few dusty bottles from the bar shelves of the RoaringTwenties still dwell in the folds of New York. The Back Room, for instance, is one of the oldest speakeasies in New York City. Originally known as ‘The Back of Ranter’s’, this speakeasy saw the hair of women go from bobs to straightened and coloured; actors, musicians and even the rowdiest of gangsters drink and groove to jazz tunes fresh off the streets of New York. Even today, stepping into this place, you can feel the magic of the 20s still bottled up in a little corner of New York City.
Another treasure chest left behind by the jazzmen of the 20s is Bill’s Place. The little brown stage here (also breathing since the 20s) staged the mellifluous Billie Holiday back when she was no older than an ambitious teen. In 2006, legendary Harlem jazz saxophonist, Bill Saxton, finally opened his speakeasy after 30 years of performing with big shots in the business at home and abroad. Today, jazz flourishes in this century-old basement on 'Harlem’s original swing street'. Live 'in your face' jazz started playing with Duke Ellington on the ivories in a room stuffed with jazz enthusiasts in the 20th century, and with Saxton on Friday, it hasn’t stopped since!
New York has always been a gold mine for broadway stars, fervent musicians and some of the finest artists the world has seen. As Sidney Lumet said, “ In Hollywood, actors learn to from watching television. In New York, people learn to act by walking down the street.” The city oozes arts and artists! Although visiting New York as a tourist is nowhere close to living in a shoebox apartment cramped amongst others stacked untidily, one of the best ways to taste the essence of the city is by indulging in its music. When in New York, sing like you’re on Broadway and dance like there’s jazz in your feet.