Roger Pryor Dodge
1898 – 1974

Man in the White Costume, 1934
Costume & choreography by Roger Pryor Dodge
Music: East St. Louis Toodle-oo by Duke Ellington
Photo: DeCamp Studio, New York

 

Hot Jazz and Jazz Dance
Roger Pryor Dodge
Oxford University Press, 368 pp., 1995

 

 

The collected writings, from 1929-1964, were selected and edited by Pryor Dodge, son of the author.  Introduction by Dan Morgenstern, Director, Institute of Jazz Studies at Rutgers University. Preface by Pryor Dodge.

Long before Martin Williams, Gene Lees, or Gunther Schuller, Roger Pryor Dodge was writing seriously about jazz. A ballet, vaudeville, and jazz dancer, Dodge turned his critical attention to the music in the 1920's, helping to build the respect jazz has long since achieved. Now, for the first time, the essays and reviews of one of America's first great jazz critics have been collected in one volume. Hot Jazz and Jazz Dance gathers over thirty years of Dodge's writing, from 1929 to 1964, offering a remarkable chronicle of the changing music and one writer's ever-growing appreciation of it.

The classically trained Dodge came to jazz in the early 1920's; he quickly developed a love for the authentic, non-commerical sounds of Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Jelly Roll Morton, and scores of lesser-known musicians. His work was often provocative, placing him at odds with prevailing attitudes. In these essays, we share highly personal yet professional encounters with the music – including a moving profile of "Bubber" Miley ("the greatest trumpeter in jazz history – in fact, the greatest musician of them all"), who died of tuberculosis at age thirty. Dodge ranges across the musical spectrum, from the Cuban sexteto to the blues of Leadbelly.

 

Roger Pryor Dodge with "Bubber" Miley, 1931, performing to "East St. Louis Toodle-Oo" by Duke Ellington

 

 

"East St. Louis Toodle-Oo"

(Duke Ellington/Bubber Miley) film of Roger Pryor Dodge and Mura Dehn
dancing a Dodge choreography, New York, 1937

 

This collection also contains many of his articles on everything from mambo to Nijinsky (the author owned one of the largest and most important collections of photographs of the great dancer's work, and donated it to the New York Public Library) to a short essay on the young Elvis Presley ("without his having all the necessary elements that combine to make a great dancing talent, he does have the stance of a very great performer"). In addition, this volume offers Dodge's significant writing on classical music, including a piece on Baroque playing styles. Almost forgotten today, Roger Pryor Dodge was an essential force in making America's music critics take hot jazz and jazz dance seriously. A must for any jazz fan or student of modern culture, this collection deftly captures Dodge's excitement and critical insight.

 

Preface by Pryor Dodge

Roger Pryor Dodge with Mura Dehn, New York 1938

 

June, 1995

 

Published articles on theatre:

The Image and the Actor, English Miscellany: A Symposium of Literature, History and the Arts, Edited by Mario Praz, Vol. 17. Rome: Edizioni di Storia e Letteratura (for the British Council), 1966, pp.175-209

Shakespeare in Proper Dress, English Miscellany: A Symposium of Literature, History and the Arts, Edited by Mario Praz, Vol. 23. Rome: Edizioni di Storia e Letteratura (for the British Council), 1973, pp.75-112

 

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