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Jazz, Hot and Cold

As originally published in The Atlantic Monthly

July 1955

A veteran of nearly twenty years of successful writing for stage and radio, Arnold Sundgaard describes himself as a “journeyman writer.” He began his career with the Federal Theater and with Writers’ Projects in Chicago and New Orleans, and has since devoted himself principally to libretti and musical plays. In spare moments he has written a book, The Miracle of Growth, taught at three universities and a college, and worked with Leonard Bernstein on the Omnibus program about Beethoven. His work includes Everywhere I Roam, in collaboration with Marc Connelly; Down in the Valley, with Kurt Weill; three operas with Alec Wilder; and a jazz opera (composer unannounced) currently in progress. His long, close association with contemporary music well qualifies Mr. Sundgaard to discuss the position of jazz in 1955.

by Arnold Sundgaard

IN the record catalogues jazz has a place of its own. It follows “Popular Music,” which is a vastly longer list. You will find in the jazz section, just as in the folk division, no mention of composers as such. The names of Arlen, Berlin, Carmichael, Gershwin are omitted. Instead you will find the names of Armstrong, Basie, Condon, Dodds, Eldridge, Freeman, Getz–the men who make the stuff. These craftsmen are themselves composers in that they possess the remarkable gift of spontaneously scoring music as a group. From Atlantic Unbound: Flashbacks: “Jazz at the Crossroads” (February 26, 2003) Articles on Wynton Marsalis and the evolution of jazz shed light on where jazz has been—and where it may be headed. A song of itself is not jazz, no matter what its origin.


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