Sunday, February 24, 2008

1938 Randall's Island: Count Basie And Lester Young

from jerry jazz musician
For a taste of the Count Basie Orchestra in 1938, go here. What was this event at New York's Randall's Island? In a 2005 interview at JerryJazzMusician, Dan Morgenstern, director of the Institute of Jazz Studies at Rutgers University, sheds some light:
"One event that would have been fascinating to attend was the Carnival of Swing on Randall's Island in 1938. This was really the first big outdoor jazz festival, although it wasn't called that then. It is an event that is not sufficiently remembered. It was sponsored by the Daily News and by Martin Block, who was basically the first important radio personality – you could say he was the first disc jockey. I believe there were twenty-four different groups, including the Count Basie band at its peak with Lester Young, and there was Duke Ellington playing Crescendo and Dimunedo in Blue, with the people dancing in the aisles to the point the cops had to calm them down. There was Stuff Smith, and there was John Kirby, and there was Hot Lips Page, and there was Roy Eldridge. This event led to a whole new way of presenting jazz, and it would have been something to see."

NY TIMES, SWING BANDS PUT 23,400 IN FRENZY; Jitterbugs Cavort at Randalls Island as 25 Orchestras Blare in Carnival Trek Begins at 8 A. M. Excitement Only Starts, May 30, 1938, Monday
For a full five hours and fortyfive minutes, 23,400 assorted jitterbugs and alligators-more conservatively known as swing music enthusiasts - cavorted yesterday at Randalls Island Stadium to the musical gymnastics of twenty-five swing bands, vainly bucking the lines of police and park officers who were sworn to protect the swing maestros from destruction by adulation.


kyle said...

If only we had a time machine to revisit this event. There has never been anything like this ever since. If only.... Thanks for the great info.

Anonymous said...

I just read an article about William Savory who is in the news because of his collection of selfmade records of jazz live concerts in the 30s. In that article is mentioned that he also "recorded via phone lines the
historic May 29, 1938, jazz marathon at Randall’s Island Stadium". His collection will be published by the National Jazz Museum, even "the copyright status of the collection is unclear because there was no arrangement for distribution of copies in contracts between performers and radio stations in the 1930s". Who knows, probably we will be able one day to hear parts of the event.


I am currently taking "The Evolution of Jazz" @ UCF - LOVED your page, and wanted to share the similar video we were shown with this great narrative! :D LONG LIVE THE MUSIC!!!!

amusicgem said...

This event is news to my ears-but such welcome news! I was thrilled to be present at what I thought was the First Randall's island Jazz Festivl in 1959. I was visiting a family in New Jersey when I learned of the event and got a ticket up in the stands--my first one of a few festivals. For all these years I thought of that time but never took the time to research this subject until I joined Wikipedia. So this morning I am finally able to get more info on these momentous events. I was not born until 1939 and shortly after I heard Duke's--So sorry, Strayhorn's
"Take The A Train", nee Take a train! (Lawrence Welk) by Duke Ellington's Jazz Orchestra! and beame a life-long Jazz Fanatic! Cudos to all who make the 'net' the place to go for history.