They Call it The JAZZ Age

For today’s Music Monday I ‘d like to ask one simple question; in what universe is the music of Jay-Z and Kanye West considered preferable to that of Duke Ellington and Cole Porter? I’m thinking it’s the bizarro world.

You are no doubt aware of The Great Gatsby movie that is currently in the theaters. In yet another film adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s literary classic, the movie stars Leonardo DiCaprio in the title role and was directed by Australian filmmaker Baz Luhrmann, in 3D no less. My mom and I had planned to see the movie on Mother’s Day but  at the last minute we decided to skip it. We had a lovely dinner at one of our favorite local restaurants instead. So I haven’t seen The Great Gatsby and am not here to offer a review. But film critic Rex Reed, in all his bitchy queen glory, ripped it to shreds.

What I do know is that the task of providing the music soundtrack for the film was placed in the hands of  music mogul Jay-Z and his cohorts. The geniuses in Hollywood thought it a wise decision to pass over the authentic, totally fabulous music of the Roaring Twenties – or “The Jazz Age” as it’s known – in favor of modern day hip hop. Now I’m not naive. I get it. The strategy was all about marketing and making the film more appealing to a younger demographic. Because, you know, the young people of America don’t have nearly enough exposure to Jay-Z and Beyonce. That was sarcastic, by the way 😉

Carroll Dickerson’s Jazz Band, floor show, Chicago, 1924:

DickersonJazzBand

I probably sound like an old fuddy-duddy, griping about music authenticity and giving the impression that I’m incapable of opening my mind to hip new styles and contemporary reimaginings of classic literature. But I assure you that that is not the case. Jay-Z’s soundtrack for The Great Gatsby really and truly is absolute dreck. But that should come as no surprise from the guy whose biggest hit was titled “Big Pimpin”.

As proof of the incredible treasure trove of actual 1920s music offerings – the ones cast aside in favor of Jay-Z – I had a hell of a time choosing a video for this post. Between Louis Armstrong, Ethel Waters, George Gershwin, King Oliver, Duke Ellington, Jelly Roll Morton, Kid Ory, and Cole Porter, it was really tough. So in a hat tip to my late father, a trumpet player, I finally decided on Bix Beiderbecke’s “At the Jazz Band Ball”. Ladies, put on your best flapper dresses, and have fun! THIS, my friends, is what The Jazz Age sounds like:

8 thoughts on “They Call it The JAZZ Age

  1. If the premise of the remake was to set the story in a 2013 setting, then there would be a good reason to use contemporary popular music — although I might still question the choice. But if it supposed to be in the 20s, as the costumes suggest, then it totally blows the illusion to be inconsistent with the music — sort of like using B-12 Stealth bombers in a reenactment of the Battle of Lexington.

    • artmodel says:

      Andrew,

      You’re totally right. It would have made more sense if the Gatsby story was just retold in a modern setting. If I remember correctly, in Baz Luhrmann’s “Romeo and Juliet” they kept Shakespeare’s dialogue but everything else was current, I think.

      Thanks for your comments!

      Claudia

  2. Freddie says:

    Well – you are no “fuddy-duddy”. Quite the contrary. You point out one of several excellent reasons to pass up this movie. (Casting is another). Too bad you weren’t consulted for the music, but you’re too classy for Hollywood anyway.

    • artmodel says:

      Freddie,

      Aww, thanks! You’re too kind. And I’d like to think I’m too classy for Hollywood 😉 As far as casting, Leo DiCaprio has gotten overall good reviews for his performance, but I’m not a fan of that Toby Maguire fella.

      Thanks for commenting!

      Claudia

  3. Bill says:

    I totally agree with you about the music but, then again, I actually am an old fuddy-duddy. One exception, though — I do like Beyonce. Of course, part of her appeal may be visual. . .

    I don’t think there’s any harm in skipping this movie. After all “Fast and Furious 6” is available — and it does have The Rock. I mean, really . . . if they had cast Dwayne Johnson as Gatsby, then you would have had something worth seeing. Maybe not good, but definitely worth seeing 🙂

    Great video — thanks. Classic.

    • artmodel says:

      Bill,

      You have put in my head the vision of The Rock as Jay Gatsby. Not sure I can ever forgive you! Just kidding 😆

      And I totally understand why you like Beyonce 😉 Heck, I like her too. Just seems like she’s everywhere these days.

      Thanks for your comments!

      Claudia

  4. derek says:

    I am a big fan if the jazz music, even though I have grown up in the 1960’s with the classics. I am a big fan of the early jazz of Scott Joplin and I especially like Jelly Roll Morton and Charlie Parker. BTW, did you know that Morton died in a poverty stricken hospital the all white hospital was so racist back then shame on them for not saving his life back in 1941. Charlie Parker was another one who left way too soon at 34 can you believe that? if only if he had clean himself from all those demons inside of him he would still be here. Don’t mean to bore you with all that history but I have seen documentaries about these blokes.

    There was jazz influences in rock music like Blood Sweat and Tears and Chicago Transit Authority (From the Terry Kath years) those were the days. You must have a great taste in music keep on putting whatever you like. Jazz music is very soulful music and it was also part of my childhood.

    • artmodel says:

      derek,

      You are a true jazz fan, as evidenced by your comments. Thanks for mentioning Charlie Parker. Although not a 1920s figure, “Bird” is a towering giant in music and pioneer of be-bop. Always a great favorite of mine. And yes he died way too soon.

      Great to hear from you!

      Claudia

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