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Letter: Doom for jazz

JAZZ WAS not KO'd by rock, as asserted by George Russell ("Lydian modes and all that jazz", 7 March). It was KO'd by James Caesar Petrillo, president of the American Federation of Musicians from 1940 until 1958. The two-year-long recording ban he called in 1942 spelled doom for the instrumental star bands, such as those of Count Basie, Benny Goodman, Jimmy Lunceford, Harry James and Artie Shaw, and paved the way for the current dictatorship of the vocalist - they, not being union members, had continued to record.

The coup de grace was administered by those intellectuals who saw that jazz was becoming unpopular and might therefore be Art. This led to 15- minute bass solos, sheets of sound, free jazz and other phenomena that only a musician's mother could love.

Wynton Marsalis may be misguided in trying to breathe life into the old corpse, but at least his heart is in the right place. As for the Lydian mode, I care not a jot - nor the Dorian, Hypophrygian or Paragoric. They don't mean a thing if they ain't got that swing.


London N1