The Bryan Ferry Orchestra, ‘The Jazz Age’
by Bob Boilen, First Listen February 04, 2013
This is just about the most surprising album in recent memory, and a complete joy. The singer for Roxy Music, Bryan Ferry has also enjoyed a long solo career, both as an interpreter of songs by others — Bob Dylan, The Beach Boys, Sam Cooke, Cole Porter, Lou Reed and many more — and as an extraordinary songwriter who’s released 13 solo albums, each with its own strengths.
Still, nothing prepared me for The Jazz Age, an instrumental album which re-imagines Ferry’s work and the songs of Roxy Music as if they were performed by a 1920s jazz band.
Colin Good, who arranged the album (working with Ferry and The Bryan Ferry Orchestra), is a British composer and arranger known for his work in theater and television, as well as with a 1930s-style orchestra known as Vile Bodies. The result of the collaboration sounds incredibly fresh, capturing both the eccentricity that has always been a part of Ferry’s music and the romance conjured up by the vintage sound.
Warmly recorded and wonderfully performed, The Jazz Age (out Feb. 12) works on many levels. If you don’t know the songs, the melodies stand on their own, and if you do, prepare yourself for an absolute thrill.
Bryan Ferry: The Jazz Age
Struggling to regain our equilibrium
The lifestyles of young men and women in the 1920s were as shocking to their Victorian-era parents as the 1960s “hippie” generation was to Americans who came of age during World War Two, or as “Generation Next” is to parents who grew up in the 1970s. Each succeeding generation seems to be born to shock its parents, and the children of the twenties were no exception.
In reaction to uncontrollable forces around them – war, science, society – young people everywhere sought answers in places once considered unthinkable, both morally and physically. Ellen Welles Page, a young woman writing in Outlook magazine in 1922, tried to zxplain why this was:
“Most of us, under the present system of modern education, are further advanced and more thoroughly developed mentally, physically, and vocationally than were our parents at our age. … We have learned to take for granted conveniences, and many luxuries, which not so many years ago were as yet undreamed of. [But] the war tore away our spiritual foundations and challenged our faith. We are struggling to regain our equilibrium. … The emotions are frequently in a state of upheaval, struggling with one another for supremacy.”
Bibi Andersen: Girls will be boys, boys will be girls
Flappers were a “new breed” of young Western women in the 1920s who wore short skirts, bobbed their hair, listened to jazz, and flaunted their disdain for what was then considered acceptable behavior. Flappers had their origins in the liberal period of the Roaring Twenties, the social, political turbulence and increased transatlantic cultural exchange that followed the end of World War I, as well as the export of American jazz culture to Europe. (Wikipedia)
They’re all desperadoes, these kids, all of them with any life in their veins; the girls as well as the boys; maybe more than the boys.” from “Flaming Youth,” by Warner Fabian
With short hair and a short skirt, with turned-down hose and powdered knees – the flapper must have seemed to her mother (the gentle Gibson girl of an earlier generation) like a rebel.
No longer confined to home and tradition, the typical flapper was a young women who was often thought of as a little fast and maybe even a little brazen. Mostly, the flapper offended the older generation because she defied conventions of acceptable feminine behavior. The flapper was “modern.” ( The Jazz Age)
The Flapper is an American icon. Born from post World War I feminism, she freed herself from stuffy Victorian ways and became the new “modern” woman. The flapper engaged in frivolty and recklessness. She was a rouge wearing rebel- a fast living, rule breaking, beautiful young woman. Flappers did what only men had done before them….
The new, wild dances of the Jazz Age required women to move more freely. As a result, flappers stopped wearing corsets, and this became a focus of controversy. During the 1920’s, corsetlessness was thought to be dangerous and evil. Flappers broke all the rules and started wearing a new type of undergarmet called a “step-in.”
Without the curve-enhancing corset, the flapper’s figure was straight and boyish. The corset wasn’t the only change in Flapper Fashion. Young women chopped off their traditionally long hair and died it jet black. They wore short, modern “bobs” or “shingle” cuts. Their hem lenghts were chopped off too.
Flappers wore dresses just below the knee and exposed their legs for the first time ever. These baggy dresses were sleeveless and had modern waist lines that rested on the hips.
Flappers were vibrant and youthful. They wore bright rouge, lipstick, and thick eye makeup. Because of this, their style is often misunderstood as being hot and sexy, when in fact, they they had a very boyish look. They even wrapped tight strips of cloth around their chest in order to flatten it and appear younger…
by Dorothy Parker
The Playful flapper here we see,
The fairest of the fair.
She’s not what Grandma used to be,
You might say, au contraire.
Her girlish ways may make a stir,
Her manners cause a scene,
But there is no more harm in her
Than in a submarine.
See also: Why the Jazz Age still has us in its sway – The Telegraph, 3-2-1013
The youthful Jazz Age rebels who let rip between the wars make the perfect subject for a new BBC TV drama.