One underrated quality of the jazz scene in the 1940s and 50s was its racial integration. Music does that – it draws people together into common spaces. That it no perfect solution to a centuries-long legacy of systemic racism, but it does offer a hopeful alternative. Author and archivist Jeff Gold found a trove of photographs documenting jazz clubs of that era, and interviewed the musicians who were there. In this interview, he offers some important history of an unusual and hopeful era in American history.
‘Sittin’ In: Jazz Clubs of the 1940s and 1950s’ Opens a Portal to the Past, and a Dialogue
By Nate Chinen
“It really was a paradisical place to be, the jazz club.”
That relatably wistful sentiment is uttered by saxophonist Sonny Rollins at one point in a handsome new book devoted to the subject. Sittin’ In: Jazz Clubs of the 1940s and 1950s, recently published by Harper Design, is a testament to the bygone American nightlife culture that thrived at midcentury — years before the full realization of a Civil Rights Movement, but well into a more casual arc of racial integration.