Sunday, February 24, 2008

Randall's Island 1938: Count Basie And Lester Young

video
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.

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