Swing City: Newark Nightlife, 1925-50

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Author: Vincent Pelote
Date: Dec. 1993
From: Notes(Vol. 50, Issue 2)
Publisher: Music Library Association, Inc.
Document Type: Book review
Length: 1,114 words

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Barbara Kukla's Swing City: Newark Nightlife, 1925--50 is an enlightening book that documents the entertainment scene in Newark, New Jersey, from the Jazz Age through the Swing Era and into the bebop years. Kukla is the editor of "Newark This Week" at the Star-Ledger (one of the country's largest newspapers). She has obviously called upon her well-honed skills as a journalist, conducting extensive interviews with musicians, singers, dancers, comedians, bartenders, waitresses--practically anyone who could shed light on the heretofore undocumented history of entertainment in Newark.

It comes as no suprise that the music that is the main focus of this book is jazz. Among the many ethnic groups that called Newark "home" in the first half of the twentieth century (e.g., Irish, Germans, Jews, and Italians), blacks who migrated from the South made up a large part of the mosaic. Jazz historians have traditionally focused on New Orleans, Chicago, New York, and Kansas City as important hubs of jazz activity. But in addition to the ferment of the chief centers jazz (or some embryonic form of jazz) could be heard in any city in the United States with a large black populace. Thus Kukla's book is vital because it is a history of jazz in a city not considered one of the major jazz centers. Newark's importance to the history of jazz cannot be overlooked since such major talents as Sarah Vaughan and Ike Quebec started there. Also, two stride piano legends, Willie "the Lion" Smith and Donald Lambert, spent a lot of time performing in Newark clubs. Besides the famous names, Kukla's book is full of information on performers who never gained more than local fame.


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Gale Document Number: GALE|A15109343