19 - Classically Trained Musicians Take Boogie Woogie Seriously
by John Tennison — History of Boogie Woogie
In 1940 in the Introduction (page1) to “Boogie Woogie Piano Styles—No. 1 The History, Development and Art of Playing the Boogie Woogie Style,”17 Alec Templeton wrote:
“It was just ‘ragtime’ back in the post-world war days. Later they called it ‘jazz.’ In 1934 ‘swing’ became the thing. Today there is increasing popular interest in the style of music known as ‘Boogie Woogie.’”
“Ragtime, jazz, and swing each contributed materially to the progress of American dance music and I feel that boogie woogie, too, is destined for a permanent niche in the music field and that it will leave its mark as a purely American development, not only on dance music but on more serious music as well.”
“Already numerous ‘classical’ musicians of my acquaintance have accepted boogie woogie. They realize, as do I, that the Negro playing this peculiar style has achieved something actually creative. Many see in the simple harmonic structure of boogie woogie, with its unlimited possibilities of variations, the starting point of a much needed trend toward individualized, contrapuntal music, a conclusion to which I also subscribe.”
“Today, America is boogie woogie conscious. Dance bands throughout the land are featuring it. Dozens of phonograph records are being issued, featuring boogie woogie artists. I have found it a most interesting style myself, and must confess I derive unusual enjoyment playing it.”
In 1939 in Chapter VIII (“Boogie Woogie”) of Jazzmen1, William Russell wrote the following on page 205:
“The Boogie Woogie has made its influence felt in present-day orchestration, and many leading orchestras have their version of the Boogie Woogie. But it is fundamentally a piano style and is most effective when played on this solo instrument. Although the Boogie Woogie was originally dance music, it transcends any secondary function as mere accompaniment to words or movement and today has come to be recognized in its own right.”
Conlon Nancarrow is another classical musician who has appreciated and composed in a complex Boogie Woogie style. See section on Nancarrow below.
William Russell’s Chapter VIII in Jazzmen1, (titled “Boogie Woogie”) is possibly the first formal historical book chapter written specifically about the history of Boogie Woogie. However, other sections of Jazzmen besides Russell’s chapter also discuss Boogie Woogie.