May 3, 2023 Publication Date
In 1938, 30 years before the civil rights movement, Benny Goodman, the legendary White jazz clarinetist, brought on stage at Carnegie Hall in New York City a jazz orchestra that included pianists Teddy Wilson and Count Basie, vibraphonist Lionel Hampton, saxophonist Lester Young, and half a dozen other Black musicians. This outrage to the acceptable that demolished segregation, if only for one night, was the starting point of a phenomenon that could never be undone by legislation because it was caused entirely by music.
The renowned men's fashion author G. Bruce Boyer had the good fortune to live his teens and his twenties in the 1950s and '60s, the thick of a wondrous two decades when musical giants walked the earth (blew the sax, pounded the piano, scatted the ballad, composed the classic), and Boyer brings them all listen-ably, dance-ably, singalong-ably alive in Riffs, Random Reflections on Jazz, Blues and Early Rock. His love of music is unconditional, and he writes about the joy he felt experiencing this musical eruption with an excitement and wit that are contagious.
If you have ears to hear, a heart to feel, feet to bop, there's a Spotify list at the end of Riffs of recordings of the work of the musicians Boyer brings to life, and I'm taking bets that more than once you'll put down Riffs, jump up, and dance.