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Traces of the Jazz Age

The Jazz Age came and went without waking Tallahassee. There is scant evidence for flappers or speakeasies hereabouts but in the Knott family record collection there are clues that it didn’t pass completely unnoticed. Tucked away on the B-side of a Latin dance tune from 1925 is a Charleston!

The disk is labeled for both English and Spanish speaking audiences and suggests a dance style, the foxtrot. For a mechanical recording this sounds pretty good. By the end of the Gramophone era recording engineers had become experts at positioning members of a band to balance the loudness of their instruments. This experience would prove valuable later when microphones replaced the recording horn.

The Charleston was created in 1923 by James P. Johnson for the all-black Broadway review Runnin’ Wild. It practically defined the era. Johnson bridged the formality of ragtime to the looser rhythms of jazz. His compositions were popular as sheet music and piano rolls and he established the school of piano players now known as stride piano. His disciples included Duke Ellington, Fats Waller and Thelonious Monk. There are few performances by these or any other black musicians in the collection.

Don Bestor (1925)

A: Summer Nights

B: Charleston Baby of Mine