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The Recordings of Andy Kirk and his Clouds of Joy$
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George Burrows

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780199335589

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: July 2019

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780199335589.001.0001

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‘Walkin’ and Swingin’’

‘Walkin’ and Swingin’’

Signifyin(g) in Elegant Hot Swing, 1936–1941

(p.73) Chapter 2 ‘Walkin’ and Swingin’’
The Recordings of Andy Kirk and his Clouds of Joy

George Burrows

Oxford University Press

This chapter focuses on the hot-swing numbers that the Clouds of Joy recorded in the period between March 1936 and July 1941. It shows that despite evident qualities of the hot-jazz styles of New York and Kansas City, the swing records of Kirk’s band display a comparatively restrained but elegant character. Unlike other black swing bands, the Clouds of Joy do not impress with rhythmic drive, unusual sonorities, or sheer volume. Their swing style is more subtle, unobtrusive, and refined. So, this chapter asks, how can we account for the distinctively restrained-but-elegant quality in the swing recordings of the Clouds of Joy? This central question is addressed with reference to social dancing, but it is as much about race as style: Kirk and his band continued to develop a black-jazz style that ensured their music appealed to Decca’s race-records market while also Signifyin(g) stereotypes of blackness associated with swing music in a subversive way.

Keywords:   swing, Kansas City jazz, social dancing, blackface, Bennie Moten, Lindy Hop, ‘Walkin’ and Swingin’’, ‘Moten Swing’, ‘Christopher Columbus’, ‘A Mellow Bit of Rhythm’

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