From its emergence in the early years of the 20th century, the syncopated dance music known as jazz whipped up a hysteria that no music since has matched. Anti-jazz sentiment was usually racist. In 1921, even the usually bland Ladies Home Journalfulminated: ‘Jazz . . . stimulated the half crazed barbarian to the vilest deeds. It is harmful and dangerous, and its influence is wholly bad.’
Jazz became synonymous with all that was decadent and un-patriotic. In 1934, there was an anti-jazz campaign in Ireland, with thousands marching under the banners ‘Down with Jazz’ and ‘Out With Paganism.’ The ‘jazz’ they were attacking appeared to be any form of popular music enjoyed by young people. One campaigner attacked the state broadcaster, Radio Eireann (which sometimes played jazz) accusing the Minister of Finance of ‘selling the musical soul of the nation for the dividends of sponsored jazz programmes. He is jazzing every night of the week.’
As a rule, dictators hate jazz – Hitler, Stalin and Franco all did, though Mussolini was much more half-hearted. Although his regime paid lip service to anti-jazz rhetoric, he himself listened to jazz in private and his son Romano became one of post-war Italy’s most celebrated jazz musicians, playing with Dizzie Gillespie, Duke Ellington and Chet Baker – and marrying Sophia Loren’s sister.
If it has more than three chords, it’s jazz.
The word 'cool' has meant 'calmly audacious' since 1825, and 'fashionable' since 1933. It was popularised by jazz musicians in the 1930s and was later self-consciously adopted by the West Coast school of relaxed jazz, led by Miles Davis (whose album Birth of the Cool was released in 1957).
'Groovy' has a similar history: it was first used (in the form 'in the groove') by black jazzers in the 1930s and may refer to the grooves on gramophone records; the sound comes out right when the needle is in the groove; when you’re playing well you’re 'in the groove' (although an alternative explanation is that it’s a sexual metaphor). By the 1940s the word was applied by teens to non-musical things: love, lifestyle, and so on. The earliest jazz recordings have no drums because sudden loud impacts would cause the recording stylus to jump out of the groove.
'Hip' or 'hep' meaning 'informed' is black American slang from 1904, and 'cat' meaning 'fellow' from 1920. Other words with a modern ring to them include: 'dig it' (1935), 'boogie' (1917), 'right on' (1925), 'chick' (1927), 'dude' (1883), 'foxy' (1895), 'heavy' (1937), 'wicked' (1920, F. Scott Fitzgerald) and 'babe' (1915).
The Original Dixieland Jass Band recorded the first jazz (originally ‘jass’) record in New York in February 1917. There had been dance crazes before, but the new technology meant that music was no longer dependent on live performance. When American jazz arrived in post-war Europe, because the bands wanted to fit whole songs on to a single side of the record, they tended to play a lot faster in the recording studio to squeeze their numbers onto a 10-inch 78rpm disk (which only allowed for three minutes play per side). This created the taste for ‘hot jazz’ – particularly in Europe – so, when they toured, the bands were encouraged to play faster live as well.
Jazz is not dead, it just smells funny.
The word muggle, way before it was popularised by JK Rowling, was 1930s slang for marijuana.
John Coltrane, a legendary jazz musician, has a church named after him in San Francsico.
The word jazz probably derives from the Creole patois 'jass' meaning 'strenuous activity', especially 'sexual intercourse'.
Louis Armstrong chose five of his own records when he appeared on Desert Island Discs.