Paul Whiteman was the most commercially successful and highly-paid band leader of the 1920s. He believed that jazz could be made more “sophisticated” and “respectable” by eliminating improvisation in favor of “sweet” orchestral-style arrangements. His designation as “The King of Jazz” has been widely criticized since the 1930s for both marginalizing the African American musicians who created and developed jazz and for appropriating the jazz label for music that many have argued had little to do jazz. While some view Whiteman as a signifier of the longstanding appropriation of black culture by white musicians, others, including Duke Ellington, have defended his music, arguing that he brought together jazz and symphonic music in new and novel ways.
Is Paul Whiteman’s music an egregious example of musical appropriation? Can it be considered jazz? How should we view Paul Whiteman today? In this 300-350 word response paper, you should take a clear stand on this issue. You may argue that his music represents the worst example of appropriation of black music, or you may argue in support of his music, or you may posit a nuanced reading of your own. In writing your response, you need to reference:
- at least one (1) of his musical works
- the Elijah Wald reading
- the “Man who made a lady out of jazz” article (from Keeping Time)