Discovering the Jazzy Sounds of Paul Whiteman

Sneak Peeks — Apr 4, 2018

Universal Pictures pulled out all the stops for its 1930 musical revue King of Jazz, an early-Technicolor extravaganza starring the bandleader Paul Whiteman, one of the biggest celebrities of his day. Long available only in incomplete form, but now restored as closely as possible to its original splendor, the film moves briskly from one number to the next, all of them spectacularly staged by Broadway innovator John Murray Anderson. At the heart of this extravagant revue is Whiteman’s orchestra, which formed in 1919 and found success with an infectious blend of jazz and dance-band elements. In this excerpt from a supplemental feature on our recently released edition of the film, musician Michael Feinstein—an acclaimed interpreter of, and expert on, the Great American Songbook—talks about digging into Whiteman’s records as a young 78 rpm collector and examines how the bandleader incorporated the fundamentally improvisatory style of jazz into his own lushly orchestrated sound.

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