The following book review, which I wrote, was commissioned by the L.A. Times in 1995, but was never published. Probably space was tight that week, a new edition of The Olivia DeHavilland Macrame Cookbook had just been published and probably took precedence. I came across the review---along with a handful of old snow---in the same desk drawer that I uncovered the letter to the editor in Happy Birthday pt 1 (see below). Hmmmm, come to think of it, did I ever get that "kill" fee?
When "A Life in Ragtime" was first published, it cost $30; now AMAZON.COM is selling it for the new list price of $40. How can they afford to do that? The same answer as usual: volume Volume VOLUME!
A Life in Ragtime: A Biography of James Reese Europe by Reid Badger
Oxford University Press, 328 pp.
by Bill Reed
On the evening of May 2, 1912, African-American composer-conductor James Reese Europe---the subject of Reid Badger's A Life in Ragtime--- oversaw a "Concert of Negro Music," at Carnegie Hall, a hallowed venue that seldom if ever before had opened its doors to jazz. A presentation of the black musical fraternity, the Clef Club, Europe's trans-cultural experiment took place more than ten years before white band leader Paul Whiteman received a great deal more attention with almost the exact same kind of program at New York's Aeolian Hall in 1924 "'Rhapsody in Blue" etc.). At the time, faux "King of Jazz" Whiteman got all the credit for --- in the sad parlance of the times--- "making lady jazz respectable."
But Europe did eventually secure his quarter-hour in the spotlight; not, however, for his musical liberation of the Eurocentric concert hall (the 1912 Carnegie Clef Club occasion was the first of a number of like events held there under Europe's aegis). Nor was it because of his role as musical director for the sensational dance team of Vernon and Irene Castle who---in novelist Ishmael Reed's words---"inspired a generation of young women to cast aside their corsets and petticoats" (and bob their hair). Rather, it was as a World War One hero that Europe finally caught the fancy of the American public. MORE
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