The Brand New Beats
Louis Armstrong is one of the most popular names on the music scene of the Harlem Renaissance, but Bessie Smith, "The Empress of Blues," was one of the other well known but rarely mentioned voices of the period: she was allegedly discovered by the equally popular and neglected singer "Ma" Rainey and Bessie Quickly became one of the most widely spread Blues vocalists of her time. The Blues style of music, like Jazz, was an offspring of the Harlem Renaissance and though thick discords of racism between Blacks and Whites still existed, the style became instantly and immensely popular among both races. In the Savoy Ballroom, both Blacks and Whites gathered to hear Jazz and Blues music--the Jazz music was usually accompanied by dancers performing the "Lindy" or the "Lindy Hop," a jitterbug dance that was performed by many famous Black dancers such as Bill "Bojangles" Robinson and "Shorty George" Snowden.JJ
Famous Faces of the "Jazz Era"
Eubie Blake 1883-1983
A pioneer in the Ragtime Style of Jazz, Eubie Blake composed his first rag, "The Charleston Rag," at the age of 16 was actually commissioned to compose a new arrangement for Harry Truman's inaugural ceremony after Truman adopted Eubie's song, "I'm Just Wild About Harry," as his official campaign song and won. Eubie, however, was replaced by a white singer at the last minute and did not perform his arrangement for the president. Accompanied by the lyricist, Noble Sissie, he composed the first all-black musical comedy, Shuffle Along, which sparked some of his most enduring songs such as "Love Will Find a Way."JJ
Edward Kennedy "Duke" Ellington 1899-1974
Ellington was one of the few Black musicians who landed a job at the segregated Cotton Club with his Orchestra: he welcomed musicians with distinct styles and techniques in his orchestra and he featured them in all of his pieces.JJ
Fletcher Henderson 1897-1952
Henderson originally moved to New York to become a chemist, but he began to mix sounds rather than chemicals and he soon had his own orchestra. His compilations with Don Redman helped usher in the "Swing Era" and often he had a famous dancer or singer such as Bill "Bojangles" Robinson or Bessie Smith respectively accompany him and his orchestra.JJ
Bessie Smith 1894-1937
Bessie Smith was privileged enough to be mentored by the Blues singer, Ma Rainey,in her hometown of Chattanooga, Tennessee, and she soon rose to stardom and was given the name the "Empress of Blues." At over six feet tall and over two-hundred pounds, she was a shock to many white audience members; her appearance coupled with her intense drinking habits set her far apart from the normal petite white female singers.JJ
He is considered the most important improviser in jazz, and he taught the world to swing. Armstrong, fondly known as "Satchmo" (which is short for "Satchelmouth" referring to the size of his mouth) or "Pops," he had a sense of humor, natural and unassuming manner, and positive disposition that made everyone around him feel happy. With his infectious grin and instantly recognizable gravelly voice, he won the hearts of people everywhere. He had an exciting and innovative style of playing that musicians imitate to this day.
William Count Basie
He formed the popular band Count Basie Orchestra, and was considered as one of the most important jazz band leaders of his time. He is attributed with bringing many artists into the limelight, like the tenor saxophonists, Lester Young and Herschel Evans and trumpeters Buck Clayton and Harry 'Sweets' Edison. He won nine Grammy awards for the Best Jazz Performance by a Group (1958), Best Jazz Performance By A Soloist - Instrumental (1976), and four Grammy Hall of Fame Awards.