Jazz in Germany

An overview of the evolution of Jazz music in Germany reveals that the development of jazz in Germany and its public notice differ from the "motherland" of jazz, the USA, in several respects.

The 1920s

One of the first books with the word "jazz" in the title originates from Germany. In his book Jazz - Eine Musikalische Zeitfrage (Jazz - A Musical Issue) of 1927, Paul Bernhard relates the term Jazz to a specific dance. When dancer Josephine Baker visited Berlin in 1925, she found it dazzling. "The city had a jewel-like sparkle," she said, "the vast cafés reminded me of ocean liners powered by the rhythms of their orchestras. There was music everywhere." Eager to look ahead after the crushing defeat of World War I, Weimar Germany embraced the modernism that swept through Europe and was crazy about jazz. In the dancing mania of the post-war period, there were not only modern dances such as the tango and foxtrot, but in 1920 also the Shimmy and in 1922 the Two-step. In 1925 the Charleston dominated the dance halls. Even when under great criticism Bernhard Sekles initiated the first academic jazz studies anywhere at the Hoch Conservatory in Frankfurt in 1928 - the first courses in the United States were started in the mid-1940s. The director of the jazz department was Mátyás Seiber. The jazz studies were closed by The Nazis in 1933.[1][2][3]

The first mass-produced jazz records came out in the United States in 1917. By January 1920, "Tiger Rag" had already been marketed by a German record company. In the early 1920s, the clarinetist and saxophonist Eric Borchard was making recordings in Germany. Borchard's first recordings show a heavy influence of Alcide Nunez; he soon developed his own style. By 1924 his band was comparable to good American bands such as the Original Memphis Five. Borchard's band included New Orleans trombonist Emile Christian. From 1920 to 1923, due to both economic turmoil and inflation, larger German jazz orchestras that played the new jazz dances were a rarity. Initially, a trio with a pianist, a drummer and a "Stehgeiger" (standing violinist), who also played the saxophone, was most common. Only after 1924 an economic stability was achieved, and an economic basis for larger dance orchestras was possible, like those founded by Bernard Etté, Dajos Béla, Marek Weber, Efim Schachmeister, and Stefan Weintraub.[4] It was the predominant element of improvisation that was met with a lack of understanding in Germany, where people had always played concrete written notes; Marek Weber, for example, demonstratively left the podium if its nightly band played jazz interludes.

In 1920-23, there was a period of economic turbulence and inflation in Germany, until 1924 when the market stabilized and money was invested in entertainment. Consequently, the mid-1920s brought forth a growth of larger bands who agreed to play jazz music. The two most popular German bands that showed the influence of American jazz were Eric Borchard's small combo, and Stefan Weintraub's Syncopators.[5]

Radio also had a role in jazz. In 1926, the radio began to regularly play jazz music, and as time progressed, by 1930, artists such as Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Paul Godwin's band, Red Nichols and Peter Kreuder became popular with German audiences. The listeners were particularly partial to American black musicians such as Armstrong and Ellington, instead of their own German jazz musicians.[5] In the 1920s, jazz in Germany was primarily a fad. The "Salonorchester" turned to the new style, because dancers wanted it so. By 1924, the first jazz could be heard on the radio; after 1926, when Paul Whiteman enjoyed sensational success in Berlin, regular radio programmes were broadcast with jazz played live. His music was also available on record and in sheet music. The Weintraub Syncopators were the first hot jazz band in Germany at their summit beginning around 1928. Musicians from many musical backgrounds, composers of classical music concerts such as Paul Hindemith, Ernst Krenek and Kurt Weill, turned to the new music genre that came from America and incorporated it into their musical language. For the classical composers, the orchestral casts, the timbre, syncope, and blues harmonies of jazz were a synonym for the modern era. This new music genre was recognised not only as a fashion and entertainment music, but as real art. However, as early as in 1927, the composer Karol Rathaus called it somewhat prematurely a Jazzdämmerung (jazz twilight). Theodor W. Adorno criticized the popular jazz of this period as predominantly functional music (Gebrauchsmusik) for the upper classes, having little if any connection to the African-American tradition.[6]

Jazz was found as an uncommon link between the blacks and Jews. Jews at that time were recognized in jazz, not just as musicians and composers, but also as commercial managers, serving as the middlemen of the music. After the Great War in Germany, Negrophobia coalesced with the preexisting anti-Semitism and flourished, especially since Jews were often depicted as having a racial affinity with blacks, possessing similar objectionable qualities. Jews were prevalent figures in new art forms such as jazz, cabaret, and film. Often, a great number of jazz band leaders were Jews, many from Eastern Europe, including Bela, Weber, Efim Schachmeister, Paul Godwin, and Ben Berlin.[5]

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