Jazz is the untamable offspring from the turn of the twentieth century. Fueled by the ever-escalating emotions of Blues, Ragtime, Swing, and Dixieland all swirled together, Jazz erupted onto the scene throughout the Southern U.S., riding an uptempo whirlwind of inspiration and improvisation. It was birthed from all the sounds and songs that preceded it, but where Jazz really came from was the gut, a free-flowing genre that ebbed and flowed with the mercuriality of the artist. As volatile as it was beautiful, early Jazz gave a howling voice to those that had been silenced for far too long. America was in flux, and Jazz was the beast that ran wild across the ever-evolving streets of this country. As the Prohibition Era was ushered in, Jazz became the soundtrack for revelry and sheer joy in the face of suppression and flat out boredom. It was the music of the passionately misunderstood, and the understandably passionate, played by those who couldn’t find the words to express themselves, but could certainly find the notes.
After throwing up yesterday’s finicky post on the formal, I figured something with a bit more levity (and brevity) was in order. I decided it was only right to shift focus towards The Beat Generation, a rough grouping of young New Yorkers in the fifties and beyond whose veins pulsed with a volatile mixture of desire, angst, discomfort, passion, and booze. Their lives were a constant battle between comedy and tragedy, Shakesperian not only in how they lived them, but how they recorded them. These men (and women) were the great storytellers of the fifties, capturing a post war era rife with feelings of curiosity, unease, and displacement in a world that was rapidly evolving far out of their control. William S. Burroughs, Jack Kerouac, Neal Cassady, Gary Snyder, Allen Ginsberg, and so many others, these were the men that gave meaning to the term counterculture.