By Jesse Bertel
The Jazz Journey returns for the next concert in its 2023 series of jazz music exploration, with “Jazz Influences in American Culture.” The Prescott Jazz Summit All-Star Combo will perform at 7 p.m. Saturday, April 8, in the Elks Theatre’s Crystal Hall, on the third floor of the Performing Arts Center, 117 E. Gurley St.
Throughout the 1920s, jazz worked its way into many aspects of American culture. Everything from style to literature to the Civil Rights movement was touched by its influence.
Trumpet player and band leader Mike Vax explained that popular music has always had a connection with jazz in this country.
“Most of the music, even up through today, most pop music came from jazz,” Vax said. “In the ’20s, Dixieland jazz, what we now call Dixieland jazz, was pop music. In the ’30s and ’40s, Big Band music was pop music.”
According to Vax, even rock ‘n’ roll and hip hop stem from jazz traditions.
“In the ’40s, rhythm and blues came out of jazz with Louis Prima and Louis Jordan and some of those people, and that was the precursor of rock ‘n’ roll,” he said. “Anything from the ’50s on, even up to today’s hip hop and rap, it really came from jazz.”
Not only has jazz influenced music but the language jazz musicians used and the clothing they wore has permeated American life.
“Some of the colloquialisms and slang that the jazz musicians have used over the years have become part of the regular slang of, you know, normal people,” Vax said. “A lot of times, especially in the ’40s, what the jazz musicians were wearing, like zoot suits and stuff, became popular with the general public. So, it’s amazing how much influence jazz has over our culture.”
During Saturday’s performance, the band will spark discussions about how the history of jazz coincides with the history of the United States, including the role jazz played in desegregation.
“Integration was really happening with jazz musicians before the general public,” Vax said. “In the ’20s, in a lot of places especially in the South, you couldn’t have a Black and white band, you couldn’t have an integrated band. In the ’30s, jazz musicians started saying, ‘No, this is not right,’ and of course, Benny Goodman was one of the famous, famous leaders who hired Lionel Hampton and Teddy Wilson, two Black men, to be in both his small group and his big band.”
The Jazz Journey series brings together musicians and singers from around Arizona to present evenings that will include not only the music but historical facts and anecdotes about the music and the musicians who have performed America’s True Art Form for over 100 years.
Beer, wine and other beverages are available for purchase at the performance. Parties of four or six will be given their own table (as available). Larger and smaller parties may be combined or divided to accommodate all guests. All seating will be assigned before entry. For special accommodations, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information and to buy tickets, visit www.prescottelkstheatre.org, or call 928-756-2844.
Jesse Bertel is a reporter/videographer for the Prescott News Network. Follow him on Twitter @ JesseBertel, email him at email@example.com, or call 928-445-3333, ext. 2043.