True or false?
1. Jazz is based on European harmony.
2. Barbershop quartet music started around the 1890s aka “The Gay Nineties”
3. Barbershop quartet is a sub-genre of music developed by Americans of European descent.
False on all three.
Examples of barbershop quartet music have been documented as far back as the 1840’s, when it was perceived as an African-American invention and preserve, and its distinct harmonies predate the appearance of similar harmonies in European music.
It goes even deeper:
Scott Joplin, WC Handy, Sidney Bechet, Earl Hines, Louis Armstrong and others all sang in “barbershop quartets” as kids and Armstrong said in a 1960 interview that’s where he learned how to create solos!
Edmund Wise, a friend of Buddy Bolden (b. 1877), said Bolden took his lead and learned his music by listening listening to singing groups.
Guitarist Louis Keppard (b. 1888) who played with King Oliver said his band’s harmonies were based on the model set down by vocal groups.
Trombonist George Bruinis (b. 1902), the foremost trombonist of his generation, said in a 1958 interview that barbershop provided the early roots for jazz harmony.
And on it goes, hidden in plain sight.
Satchmo Festival, New Orleans, 2019
An in depth Jazz on the Tube interview with Vic Hobson from 2018
Jazz on the Tube examples of the “barbershop” influence in early jazz
– Ken McCarthy
Jazz on the Tube
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