June is African American Appreciation Month.
As the 1930s drew to a close, swing mania was still going strong, but some fans were saying success had made the music too predictable. Their ears were tuned to a new sound, suffused with the blues—the Kansas City sound of Count Basie’s band, which ignited new musical adventures. By 1938, Basie and his men were helping Benny Goodman bring jazz to Carnegie Hall. Soon Basie’s lead saxophonist, Lester Young, was challenging Coleman Hawkins for supremacy, then teaming up with Billie Holiday for a series of recordings that revealed them as musical soul mates—although Holiday eventually wound up back in New York, pouring outrage into the antilynching ballad, “Strange Fruit.” With war looming in Europe, Duke Ellington was hailed as a hero and Coleman Hawkins startled the world with a glimpse of what jazz would become. Distributed by PBS Distribution. Part of the series Jazz: A Film by Ken Burns. (110 minutes). Distributed by PBS Distribution.