[Editor's Introduction: Chris]. This piece by David MacLeod is reposted from his website Dispensational Jazzology, a combination of dispensationalist theology and the study of jazz. For background on what the heck dispensational theology is exactly, see here. The basic version is the belief in a series of time-periods ("dispensations") within The Bible and later church history. David brilliantly applies the idea of dispensations to the history of jazz. This excerpt deals with the Creation of Jazz.
Being an Explanation of Principles Present in Dispensational Theology and Jazz Music and Relevant to Both.
BY DR. D.D. McCloidsman, Ph.D, D.D., L.S.M.F.T.
Genesis: The Creation of Jazz
1 In the beginning God created jazz. And jazz was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep [note: those days are still shrouded in darkness, as they are the days of pre-recorded jazz history]. And the Lord God formed Buddy Bolden of the dampness of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and Buddy was given Soul. And the Spirit of God moved on the face of the waters, in the city of New Orleans, which is as close to the Garden of Eden as you’re going to get in this life. And the Spirit of God carried the sound of Buddy’s trumpet over the hot and humid bayou, and the sound wafted over the Mississippi river, and people heard the sound, and it called to them. And God heard the Jazz that He had made, and behold, it was pretty good.
First Dispensation: Innocence (New Orleans)
2 And the music grew and developed. And Buddy Bolden begat Freddie Keppard and Joe “King” Oliver, and Joe “King” Oliver begat Louis Armstrong, on whom the Spirit of God came to rest.
The (mostly) “silent movie” segment below was compiled by McCloidsman Ministries to accompany the text above.
And the Lord God said, It is not good that the Pops should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him. And the Lord caused a deep sleep to fall on Pops. And as he slept, God took one of his ribs. And Pops dreamt of barbequed ribs, and when he awoke he was inspired to record Struttin’ With Some Barbeque.
And the rib, which the Lord God had taken from Pops, made he into Ferdinand Morton, who became as important to jazz on piano as Pops was on trumpet.
And they were both naked, and were not ashamed [though as naked pianists go, Pops preferred Lil Hardin].
This was the dispensation of Innocence. There was no knowledge of good or evil. There were no pretenses, and no self consciousness among these musicians about being “artists.” They just played the music they liked, and tried to make people happy. It was as simple and as pure as that.
Genesis 2:7: “And they were naked, and were not ashamed…”
[Note: An early high point in the history of jazz was the 1928 recording by Louis Armstrong and His Hot Five (including Earl Hines on piano) of West End Blues. Featuring an astounding opening cadenza by Louis, some great 'scat' singing (invented by Louis), and another incredible trumpet solo near the end of the recording.]
The Responsibilities of the Dispensation
And God said to them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and fill the Earth with Jazz, and subdue it – take Jazz up the river to Chicago, then to New York, to Kansas City, and beyond. And the Lord God took them, and put them into the Garden of Jazz to till it and to keep it.
And the Lord God commanded them, saying, Of every tree of the Garden thou mayest freely eat; But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it; for the day that thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die.
3. Now the snake was more subtle than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. [note: the snake is a type (a divinely purposed illustration of some truth). In this case, the snake is a type representing record companies and other commercial interests that exploited Jazz musicians.]
And the snake saith unto Ferdinand Morton, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the Garden? And Ferdinand said unto the snake, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the Garden; But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the Garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die. And the snake said unto Ferdinand, Ye shall not surely die; For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as God, knowing good and evil. And hey, if we taketh this fruit and make a jelly out of it, then spread it on a roll, verily, it is not like eating the fruit itself.
And when Ferdinand saw that the jelly roll was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and that it contained a fruit to make one wise, he took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto Pops, and he did eat. And the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons.
And the Lord God saw what had been done, and he said unto the snake, Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life, thou scumbag, thee![note: I swear, that's what the original Hebrew says.] And I will put enmity between thee and Ferdinand, and between thy seed and his seed. Unto Ferdinand he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and pain in musical conception, and thou shalt have difficulty in getting gigs, and thou shalt go by the silly name of ‘Jelly Roll.’ And unto Pops he said, Because thou hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded you not to eat, cursed is the musical ground thou shalt toil in, and thou shalt play with lesser musicians all the days of your life, or at least until thou formest the All-Stars.
[Note: Louis Armstong Plays W.C. Handy was recorded in 1954 by Louis and the All-Stars. In Downbeat, Nat Hentoff called it one of the greatest jazz recordings of all time. Beale St. Blues below, is from that album. Produced by the famed George Avakian]
In the sweat of thy face shalt thou play thy trumpet, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.
Thus the dispensation of Innocence ended in failure. The resentment between Jelly Roll Morton and the record companies and booking agents grew as they found him difficult to work with and too demanding for the money he felt he deserved, thus they pushed him aside. Louis Armstrong on the other hand, descended into playing banal pop tunes with unimaginative arrangements and inferior sidemen. It is important to note that there remain pockets of God’s grace in every human failure, hence moments of magic in every banal pop tune Louis ever played.
The video segment below, compiled by McCloidsman Ministries, features a short statement from composer/arranger Gil Evans about “moments of magic."
Hello Dolly is an example of a banal pop song, originally recorded “at the behest” of Louis’ manager as a publishing demo designed to help promote the Broadway musical. It was then released as a commercial single in early 1964, and succeeded in knocking the Beatles out of the number 1 slot on the Billboard charts, which they had held for 14 consecutive weeks with 3 different songs. Below is one of many live performances that were recorded over the years.
[Check out John Swenson's list of the Ten Best Louis Armstrong Albums Since 1945.]
Bonus Track #1: Kiss of Fire, an Argentine Tango written by Ángel Villoldo originally titled “El Choclo,” which premiered in 1903, and reworked as Kiss of Fire by Lester Allen and Robert Hill, and became a #2 Billboard hit for Georgia Gibbs in 1952, and#20 on the pop charts for Pops.
Bonus Track #2: Louis Armstrong – Pretty Good! 17 seconds of fun compiled by the staff of McCloidsman Ministries.
This post is an excerpt from the McCloidsman Study Bible, aka Dispensational Jazzology, and is the revival of an early, award winning World Wide Web project. New excerpts are expected to be posted monthly for the Beams and Struts Saturday Night Jukebox series. For more info, please visit Dispensational Jazzology.