Wednesday, July 30, 2014

John McWhorter -Three Little Bops The lost world of popular jazz.

John McWhorters' book review of Marc Myers' "Why Jazz Happened" 

In 1957, a Looney Tune cartoon called "Three Little Bops" recast the Three Little Pigs tale in jazz, with the pigs as a beret-wearing trio of jazzmen and the wolf as an interloping trumpeter trying to sit in despite his lack of talent. The entire seven minutes is set to a jazz beat, narrated in song, hipster-style. Amidst the snazzy novelty of the short, something stands out, albeit in the background: in the clubs that the pigs play in, the patrons are not countercultural beatniks but smartly dressed white people, of the same kind who had been depicted dining and dancing at nightclubs in musical films of recent decades.

One might wonder: if the cartoon was reflecting any kind of social reality, just who were those people supposed to be? It's one thing to see them attending a midcult club like Ricky Ricardo's Tropicana on I Love Lucy in the same era—but out listening to serious jazz?

Marc Myers' Why Jazz Happened sheds light on a question like that, seeking to show how jazz has adapted to popular tastes to survive.

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