The importance of jazz in society – Jazz is a musical style that was created by the black southern community in the 1910’s, but didn’t pick up until the 1920’s. It marked the beginning an era of cultural freedom and social change for the African Americans living in the United States. Slavery had been abolished about 50 years ago yet there was very little, if any, social change for the African Americans. Music and specifically jazz gave them a cultural and entertainment outlet while being suppressed in all other aspects of their lives. Public works were still strictly segregated and Jim Crow laws were still very much in effect. Arguably, jazz was the cultural glue that kept our society together during the 1920-30’s, an era defined by the hardships of the Great Depression and Prohibition. Jazz was the music of the young people, it defined the music of the “roaring 20’s”, and was what could be heard from the seedy speakeasies. The older generation hated it, claiming that it was a clear threat to the traditional family and community values, but jazz wasn’t defined by the breakdown of society. It was defined by the reconstruction of a broken society in a nearly hopeless age.1
But Why Corona?
The history of jazz in Corona is vastly understated when compared to the richly catalogued history of jazz in Harlem and downtown Manhattan, where the hot jazz clubs of the day were located. Jazz artists may have worked in Manhattan, but they lived in Corona. But why?
Clarence Williams, a jazz record producer, entrepreneur, and agent, is known by many jazz musicians as the one who started what became a long “chain migration” of jazz musicians to Corona. He intended to create a community of black musicians in Queens, where they could work and live peacefully amongst themselves, sharing their art with one another. The scarcity of hotels for African-Americans further backed Williams’ attempt to create a community for black musicians to live. 2
Notable Jazz Musicians that Resided in Corona