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Book Review by Larry Reni Thomas: Jazz and Justice; Racism and the Political Economy of the Music.
(Published: November 21, 2019)

Jazz and Justice: Racism and the Political Economy of the Music by Gerald Horne, an eminent scholar and a well-known, well-appreciated historian, is an excellent, easy-to-read, well-researched, highly-recommended book whose main theme, lesson and message is that gangsterism pays, especially if you are an European-American or an Euro-American (mainly Italian-Americans and European-Americans of the Hebrew faith) as Horne calls the parasites, thieves, the Mafia-types and mobsters who have made money off of jazz musicians and their music since its inception around the turn of the 20th century. According to Dr. Horne, a University of Houston professor, and author of almost forty books, the beat goes on, and on, right up to today's state of the "jazz industry."

His cast of shady, super-crooked characters who benefited financially from the blood, sweat, tears and talents of African-American musicians, reads like a FBI Top Ten Most Wanted poster. It includes the Kansas City mob boss Tom Pendergast; Prestige Records owner Bob Weinstock who paid his recording jazz artists with heroin; booking agent Joe Glaser, who was called " a shark" by trumpeter Miles Davis; and Irving Mills, who "managed" Duke Ellington's career, stole most of Duke's music, and who couldn't read a note of music, even if was put on a big billboard in front of him. That's just the names of a few notable knuckle heads. The book exposes and reveals a long list of blood suckers, including Al Capone.

Jazz and Justice also sheds light on some African- Americans who were just as wrong as their European-American shysters. The bandleader and vibes player Lionel Hampton, who was well-known as a bad pay master, was apparently so cheap and rude to his employees that he told them that if they didn't like the conditions, they could go to some other band and perform. He could say that because he knew and everybody else knew that his was the only band that would hire musicians of a darker hue. One of the members said he and his bandmates were treated like slaves. Apparently, according to the book, one of Hamp's most well-used words were: "Where else can you play? If you don't like it here, I've got 500 other musicians waiting in line to play in this band."

This book also does a masterful job of including oral history with excellent, powerful quotes that really make the work stand out as something special. It reads like a sometimes funny, sometimes not so funny journal. It makes you feel like you are listening to the cats talk freely and very realistically, like they sometimes do backstage.

The late vocalist Toledo, Ohio native Jon Hendricks, born in 1917, was quoted as saying; "in Toledo, during the 1940s, it was the Niccovoli mob. In Detroit it was the Purple Gang. I worked at the Chateau La France for the Niccovoli mob. I would have to spend my time in the back by the kitchen door. I would watch this big pack of touring cars drive up. These men would get out with the big overcoats and the big Borsalino hats. They would take off their overcoats, take these big shotguns out from their overcoats and stack them in a barrel by the door. At times, they would rub my head since it was considered good luck in those days to rub a nigger's head...that was degrading and it was awful. I would feel so mad. Adding insult to injury, then they would put a wad of money in my hand."

"Drummer Freddie Moore, born in 1900, endured an experience that was hardly atypical. He was playing during the 1920s with the cornet player/bandleader King Oliver, in Duncan, Oklahoma for a group of Euro-American customers, when one among the group-a ‘cracker' in his words-pulled a blackjack and began to club him in the head. King Oliver grabbed the assaulter's wrist while shouting ‘Don't do that, don't kill my drummer. That's the only drummer I have'."

Jazz and Justice should definitely be required reading for any serious jazz history course because it doesn't give a whitewashed, fake or buffalo-chip version of the history of American Classical Music, commonly called "jazz." It was published in the summer of 2019 by Monthly Review Press (New York), contains 456 pages, a notes section, and an index.

More Information: http://monthlyreview.org/press/

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lrt0393@hotmail.com


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