In full disclosure, Antique Melody Show wouldn’t qualify as a pure jazz band. And that’s alright with us. Not that we’re knocking jazz, on the contrary, we celebrate the notion that many of the songs we play are born from Pre-WWII jazz connections and have fundamental melodic progressions that are rooted in many jazz formulas. We also play a fair share of jazz standards. Or, are they early American popular standards, or both? This considered, what is Tin Pan Alley and how does that fit with all of this?
Some would consider this equation more complex than shall be described here, but the short version is that Tin Pan Alley is a stretch of Manhattan on West 28th St., between fifth Avenue and Broadway, where scores of music publishers once set up shop to write and sell music between 1885 and the 1930s - with some arguing that it went well into the 1950s.
The origin of the label, “Tin Pan Alley” is also debatable. However, many historians agree that the euphemism came from the echoing sound of numerous pianos that could be heard plunking away within the alleyways that separated brownstone apartments, converted into publishing businesses.
In its heyday Tin Pan Alley was a flourishing industry for songwriters and publishers. Many Americans who owned pianos needed songs to sing and music to play. Tin Pan Alley became a clearinghouse for sheet music and it memorialized some of its greatest composers, including Gus Kahn, Hoagy Carmichael, Harold Arlen, Irving Berlin and George and Ira Gershwin. Tin Pan Alley is arguably a time and place where some of America's greatest songs were written and composed - Songs we now refer to as Jazz Standards or early American Popular Music.
Here are some links on the subject of American popular music, Tin Pan Alley and Jazz:
Constructing Tin Pan Alley: From Minstrelsy to Mass Culture
How Tin Pan Alley Transformed The Popular Music Industry
Here is a glance at one of our favorite Tin Pan Alley writers, Harold Arlen. He composed over 400 songs including every song for the motion picture, The Wizard of Oz. He also composed a wealth of other memorable tunes including, It's Only A Paper Moon, Stormy Weather, I've Got the World on A String, and Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive.
His most famous song,"Over The Rainbow" was named song of the Twentieth Century.