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History Unplugged Podcast

with Scott Rank

Meet Nathaniel Clark Smith, the Melchizedek of Jazz—Bill McKemy

00:00 01:14:21
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Jazz is the most American of musical genres. But its origins are shrouded in mystery. Some like to think that Louis Armstrong and his bluesmen friends were sitting at a bar in New Orleans, when a solar eclipse and Haley's Comet occurred at the same time, causing the musical troupe to start using a swing rhythm. But musicologist Bill McKemy thinks that the origins of jazz can be traced more directly to one man. That is Nathaniel Clark Smith: The Melchizedek of Jazz. Smith was African-American musician, composer, and music educator in the United States during the early decades of the 1900s. Over the next 30 years he would lead bands in Chicago, Wichita, Kansas City, the Tuskegee Institute, and in St. Louis. He was an important educator for many of the prominent early Jazz musicians from Kansas City, Chicago, and St. Louis. And man was his life hard. To make ends meet he played in a minstrel show in the 1890s. He threatened lynching by having Tuskegee students play classical music and other forms of “non-black” music, against the wishes of Booker T. Washington. He risked his life to embrace the slowly emerging new opportunities for non-whites in the United States.  
December 11, 2017
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Meet Your Host
Scott Rank is the host of the History Unplugged Podcast and a PhD in history who specialized in the Ottoman Empire and modern Turkey. Before going down the academic route he worked as a journalist in Istanbul. He has written 12 history books on topics ranging from lost Bronze Age civilizations to the Age of Discovery. Some of his books include The Age of Illumination: Science, Technology, and Reason in the Middle Ages and History’s 9 Most Insane Rulers.. Learn more about him by going to scottrankphd.com.
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