Jazz on the River
Simply put, when jazz went upstream, it went mainstream, and in Jazz on the River, William Howland Kenney brings to life the vibrant history of this music and its seduction of the men and women along America's inland waterways. Here for the first time readers can learn about the lives and music of the levee roustabouts promoting riverboat jazz and their relationships with such great early jazz adventurers as Louis Armstrong, Fate Marable, Warren "Baby" Dodds, and Jess Stacy. Kenney follows the boats from Memphis to St. Louis, where new styles of jazz were soon produced, all the way up the Ohio River, where the music captivated audiences in Cincinnati and Pittsburgh alike.
Jazz on the River concludes with the story of the decline of the old paddle wheelers-and thus riverboat jazz-on the inland waterways after World War II. The enduring silence of our rivers, Kenney argues, reminds us of the loss of such a distinctive musical tradition. But riverboat jazz still lives on in myriad permutations, each one in tune with our own times.
“By locating jazz ‘on the river,’ Kenney draws a picture of the Jazz Age that shifts attention from the nightclubs and dance halls of major cities, broadening the social and occupational histories of the first four decades of jazz performance. His portrait of aspiring musicians who used the river to enhance their social mobility also brings a new dimension to our understanding of the Great Migration. For Kenney, the shifting racial and cultural tensions communicated through jazz resound as jazzmen riff on the ever-shifting currents of these great heartland rivers.”
Introduction: Playing Changes: Music, Movement, and the Performance of Power on "America's River Nile"
1. "Masters of the River": Streckfus Steamers, Inc. and the "Swan Complex"
2. Fate Marable, Musical Professionalism, and the Great Migration
3. Groovin' on the River: Louis Armstrong and Riverboat Culture
4. From Beale Street to Market Street: Music and Movement Through Memphis and St. Louis
5. "Blue River": Bix Beiderbecke and Jess Stacy on the Mississippi
6. Steamin' to the End of the Line: Jazz On, Along, and Beyond the Ohio River
Epilogue: The Decline and Fall of Excursion Boat Jazz in St. Louis
Appendix A: Excursion Boat Musicians
Appendix B: River Songs and Tunes