Always Magic in the Air: The Bomp and Brilliance of the by Ken Emerson

By Ken Emerson

In the course of the overdue Nineteen Fifties and early Nineteen Sixties, after the surprise of Elvis Presley and earlier than the Beatles spearheaded the British Invasion, fourteen talented younger songwriters huddled in midtown Manhattan's mythical Brill development and a warren of workplaces a section farther uptown and composed the most beguiling and enduring entries within the nice American Songbook. Always Magic within the Air is the 1st thorough background of those popular songwriters-tunesmiths who melded black, white, and Latino sounds, built-in audiences earlier than the USA desegregated its colleges, and taken a brand new social attention to pop music.

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Extra resources for Always Magic in the Air: The Bomp and Brilliance of the Brill Building Era

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That’s what jazz genius looked like, circa 1927. In subsequent decades, a host of other influential jazz artists worked to expand the rhythmic vocabulary of the music, and knowledgeable audience members now rightly expect to hear advanced melodic structures that are almost never encountered outside of jazz—fresh and unconstrained phrases far beyond anything occurring (with very few exceptions) in popular or even classical music. A lot of behind-the-scenes work goes into this kind of rhythmic mastery.

He could turn it into a sensual moan, an aggressive growl, a bemused wah-wah, or a baby crying for Mama. The narrowness in the note selection hardly matters—in fact, it makes Oliver’s achievement all the more impressive. Music of this sort must have spurred a personal epiphany among countless fans (and certainly musicians) of that era. Here’s a revealing story. In 1946, jazz broadcaster Richard Hadlock arranged to take a saxophone lesson from New Orleans pioneer Sidney Bechet. Hadlock’s account of this session is invaluable, if only because very few of the people who created early jazz ever tried to convey what they did in a codified manner.

Have those who make these kinds of sweeping statements ever taught student musicians? Have they worked with young musicians and helped them develop over months and years, watching as they learn how to expand the range and depth of their improvised phrases— no different from an athlete working on strength and conditioning? Music teachers do this as a routine matter, and their mindset and ways of listening to a performance can serve as a touchstone for the critic or casual fan. Spend a day auditioning students for a jazz program, and you will no longer believe that all phrases are created equal.

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