Paul Whiteman is not a universally admired figure in jazz history.
That’s about as neutral a way to put it without rehashing arguments about the popular bandleader being called “the king of jazz” or the ratio of jazz content to symphonic or popular elements in his music. Suffice it to say that much of Whiteman’s extensive recorded work is not listed in discographies focusing on jazz.
Still, here’s an interesting record that does not appear to have made the cut:
The gliding full-chorus trombone and growling muted trumpet take up a good portion of the side. Yet even without the ample solo space that defines jazz for many listeners, as an experiment in the wonders of so-called “two-beat jazz,” tap a steady two-beat pulse along with this record. See if your finger, foot, head, etc., is hitting at the same time as the band’s feel. Try to stick to just two steady beats. There’s a lot more going on here rhythmically, even without improvisation.
The first 20 seconds of the record alone are a buffet of syncopation: the intro bouncing between the trombone’s jabbing lead and the band’s upswing; the verse hinting at a bouncing duple even as the sax section’s responses pull at the pulse, and then the chorus hammering the downbeat while the brass lifts the upbeat (and likely dancers’ feet). Even the winding oboe obbligato in the middle of the trombone solo has its own little lilt—not to mention creating an interesting texture.
Whiteman is now associated with texture and symphonic heft, but other than the dramatic interlude between the soloists, this side focuses on rhythm and melodic clarity. It was waxed in October of 1923, around the same time King Oliver and His Creole Jazz Band were recording in the Gennett, Okeh, and Columbia studios.
What a fascinating coupling of bands this must have been to pick up at your local record vendor and appreciate back-to-back at home! Imagine contemporary jazz appreciation being as catholic as pre-war music consumption!