Hitler’s Jazz Band

Terrific piece by Mike Dash for Smithsonian Magazine on the Nazis’ jazz band.

Goebbels knew he needed to engage—with an increasingly war-weary German public, and with the Allied servicemen whose morale he sought to undermine. This clear-eyed determination to deal with reality, not fantasy, led him to some curious accommodations. None, however, were quite so strange as his attempts to harness the dangerous attractions of dance music to Hitler’s cause. It was an effort that led directly to the creation of that oxymoron in four-bar form: a Nazi-approved, state-sponsored hot jazz band known as Charlie and His Orchestra.

The decrees by which jazz had to abide have to be seen to be believed; they’re listed in full in the article.

(Via Scott.)

Henry Threadgill’s In for a Penny, In for a Pound Wins the Music Pulitzer

I’m coming to this almost comically late; the prizes were announced on April 18th. Threadgill is only the fourth African-American artist to win the Pulitzer (eighth, as Will Robin points out, if you count the Special Prizes and similar awards given posthumously to Scott Joplin, Duke Ellington, John Coltrane, and Thelonious Monk).

Interestingly, and very much exemplary of my last post, the album is on Bandcamp, where you can listen to two of the tracks for free and then, if you like them, buy the album. (I do, and I will.)

The awarding board writes:

In for a Penny, In for a Pound is the latest installment in saxophonist/flutist/composer Henry Threadgill’s ongoing exploration of his singular system for integrating composition with group improvisation. The music for his band Zooid—Threadgill’s main music-making vehicle for the past fourteen years and the longest running band of his illustrious forty plus-year career—is no less than his attempt to completely deconstruct standard jazz form, steering the improvisatory language towards an entirely new system based on preconceived series of intervals. His compositions create a polyphonic platform that encourages each musician to improvise with an ear for counterpoint and, in the process, creating striking new harmonies.

Jamaaladeen Tacuma’s memories of Ornette Coleman

Tacuma, writing on New Music Box:

So we started. I struggled to play this finger buster melody, and we stopped. In my mind I knew that I did not nail this melody as it should have been played, but something clicked with Ornette and, with that sly look that he sometimes had, he said to me, “I want you to come to Europe with me.”