Dworkin explains jazz's roots in Europe

6/28/2007 7:00:00 AM

Not many would think that the great Jazz era had roots in Europe, let alone Paris. Most would probably guess that it originated in the prominent "jazz" cities such as Chicago or New Orleans.

But in his upcoming lecture, "How African Americans Saved the West: Jazz in 1920s Paris," Professor Dennis Dworkin, chair of the University's department of history, will show the jazz era's roots in Paris and  show that this music-movement saved the European civilization that was depleted after World War I. The lecture will be Thursday, June 28, from 12:10 - 1 p.m. in the William J. Raggio Building, Room 2003.

Dworkin, who studied European history, has listened to Jazz since he was 14. He always wanted to do something with his love of jazz and in the early 1990's he read a book that influenced his connection between jazz and Europe.

He developed his lecture, which will be held on Thursday, June 28 at noon in room 2003 in the Raggio Building, while he taught core humanities at the University. He was pleasantly surprised to find there was a lot of European history connected with jazz.

"Most people think jazz is specifically an American phenomena but a lot of famed musicians went to Europe to make a living," said Dworkin.

More musicians could go overseas because of the fact that Paris was known to be more racially tolerant than America in the 20's and 30's. Famed musicians who moved to Paris include saxophonist Sidney Bechet and dancer, singer and actress Josephine Baker; both became national icons in France.

"African Americans could become highly successful in Europe because they did not have to deal with the racial segregation," said Dworkin.

The French were enthralled by the jazz music. The musicians came at just the right time. Spirits were low after the war and people needed something that brought them hope and happiness.

"There was a lot of pessimism in Paris after the war," said Dworkin. "Jazz was a breath of fresh air."

Dworkin also hopes to show his audience that jazz was not only an era of music but also a sign that all of our cultures are interdependent.

"I always ask, whose history is it," said Dworkin. "Is it American, or European or African American history? I believe it is all of them."

Dworkin said he believes that national boundaries are more fluid than most think and that jazz can show people how our cultural impacts others and vise versa.

"In a world of globalization, jazz has shown us how our cultures flow together."

For more information on this and other lectures please visit the summer session website.


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