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Every week the Town Crier blog will look back at Seattle’s near-forgotten Town Crier magazine to see what was happening then and talk about what’s happening now. One of the largest sections of the original Town Crier was “What People Are Doing,” highlighting things like, “July first ushered in a new month and what a month!,” and, “The more advanced members of the feminine contingent are expanding their skirts from the late string-bean mode into something more nearly approaching the lima-bean style of architecture.” In this series we’re revisiting the old column and tying it to our community’s current happenings, asking: “what are people doing?”
Town Crier writers, in July of 1919, did not like jazz. A story on jazz begins, “Le Matin of Paris is claiming the honor of having invented that syncopated horror, the jazz, and with all haste compatible with dignity we are placing the ragged and wilted laurel wreath of honor on the brown of our dear ally. With our hand on our heart we say with deep feeling – ‘After you, our dear Alphonse!’ Far be it from us to dispute your claim. Personally we had reason to believe that it was ‘something the cat brought in,’ but if you want it – take it with our blessing.”
They did not like jazz one bit. The story takes an even darker turn. “It has added its quota to the horrors of war and our lives would not be hopelessly saddened if we never hear its ear-splitting shrieks again nor have to watch fat people gyrating solemnly to its wails.” Town Crier writers suggest Le Matin take OTHER things that they want no part of, including “Fat men in jitneys,” “Dresses buttoned down the back with large violet buttons,” “Douglas Fairbanks,” “Men’s illustrated underwear advertisements,” “German helmets,” “Jokes about serious matters like Prohibition,” “Capes,” “Knitted ties,” “White shoes on large feet,” and “Hair ear-muffs.” There’s no telling what a Town Crier writer would do, heart attack maybe, had they seen someone with white shoes on large feet dancing to jazz with a cape on. Goodness.
Good that jazz has stuck around in Seattle 100 years hence. Seattle has a rich jazz history. Ray Charles played here. Ernestine Anderson, too. Quincy Jones played. Earshot Jazz, Seattle’s venerable institution, has a mission statement that reads, ‘Earshot Jazz cultivates a vibrant jazz community to ensure the legacy and progression of the art form by engaging audiences, celebrating artists, and supporting arts education.” Just recently Earshot Jazz teamed up with Town Hall to produce “Courtois, Erdmann, Fincker: Love of Life,” a jazz trio whose music was inspired by the writer Jack London. They’re teaming up again on September 27, with Grammy Award-winning drummer and composer Brian Blade, performing Town Hall’s Forum.
Some other jazz organizations in Seattle include Seattle JazzED (a music education program for any child in grades 4-12 at all levels), Seattle Repertory Jazz Orchestra, and the Seattle Women’s Jazz Orchestra.
More syncopated horrors, please and thank you.