J. Press & All That Jazz

Here’s addenda to the introduction I penned for the hot off the press 2021 Fall & Winter Brochure featuring J. Press and Jazz, a syndrome I personally experienced during my misspent youth, although octogenarian memory of youthful high times begs forbearance with willing suspension of disbelief.

Before Elvis and the twist, Jazz Maestro Duke Ellington occupied the top of the charts after his triumphal appearance at the 1956 Jazz Festival in ritzy Newport, Rhode Island. The Duke drove the concert crowd of thousands into a frenzy prompting one of only five Time magazine covers dedicated to a jazz musician.

J. Press got into the act a couple of years before Newport. Our notorious and locally famous salesman George Feen, known around town as “Little Georgie Feen,” respected no bounds. His tentacles even extended to Harlem when he finagled an introduction to Duke Ellington after a concert at the New Haven Arena. He showed the elegantly dressed bandleader silk fabric books of Dupioni swatches. The Duke allowed him to take measurements after Little Georgie offered his J. Press business card promising the gift of a silk dinner jacket made from the luxurious Dupioni silk swatch he selected.

Feen travelled to Harlem to deliver on his promise. Ellington loved the tuxedo giving him more orders this time at regular price. The patronage lasted several more years. A more enduring relationship occurred when Billy Strayhorn, the Duke’s doppelgänger, arranger and lyricist (Take The “A” Train) admired the tuxedo and followed suit at the J. Press New York store years thereafter until his death in 1967.

The marriage between Dixieland Jazz and Ivy together with my own participation was consummated by two sold-out concerts in Carnegie Hall during the 1955 Thanksgiving vacation my freshman year at Dartmouth. Prince-ton’s Tiger Town Five, led by clarinetist Stan Rubin who had appeared on Steve Allen’s “Tonight Show” and previously gigged at Jimmy Ryan’s. Their Friday-night concert also featured Eli’s Chosen Six, from Yale.

The Saturday night concert began with the Williams College Spring Street Stompers. The Indian Chiefs followed intermission before an infamously boisterous Dartmouth-loaded audience that summoned NYC police to stop the show ordering a cease and desist to curb our enthusiasm.

The Heyday of Ivy Jazz is best recalled in “The Great Gatsby” by F. Scott Fitzgerald, Princeton idol of the flapper era:

All night the saxophones wailed
the hopeless comment of The Beale Street Blues
while a hundred pairs of golden and silver slippers
shuffled the shining dust.





PS my previous comment was in response to “mr. Caldwell’s” comment. I believe I incorrectly cited Mr. Morris

Kevin Wilson October 12, 2021

To Mr. Willis’s comment re: “begs”, I believe Mr. Press used the work quite appropriately. Now granted, I’m just a Rutgers guy …

Kevin Wilson October 12, 2021

Admire, beseech, entreat, implore, importune,supplicate. All seem to mean ask and normal synonyms. Picky, picky.

Vern Trotter October 12, 2021

As a highly intelligent Dartmouth man, you might want to explore the correct definition of “begs” in the context of your sentence. (Hint: It doesn’t mean “asks.”) Correct usage is as important as the proper tie. Nonetheless, I thoroughly enjoy your postings on Ivy style conventions. Thank you.

W.P. Caldwell October 07, 2021

I have been an avid Dixieland Jazz buff for years and when in New York I used to stop in the various clubs that played Traditional Jazz. I still have a card signed by Billy Butterfield, a trumpet player, who happened to be playing in Nick’s in the Village. Now I frequent New Orleans and head for The Palm Court Jazz Club for my style of music.
G. Richard Morris

G. Richard Morris October 05, 2021

Scott Fitzgerald mentioned jazz in THE GREAT GATSBY, but when he died on 21 December in 1940 (age 44) he was listening to CLASSICAL MUSIC on the radio, according to Shiela Graham, who witnessed his death. A superior choice.

Donald Robert Wilson October 05, 2021

Ellington and Strayhorn were always dapper. Speaking of jazz royalty, wasn’t Miles Davis also a regular in the 1950’s or early ’60’s?

Tom Ciantra October 04, 2021

Scott F. is widely believed to have coined the term “The Jazz Age,” with his book of the same name in 1922. Others point to an author with the name of Jeffrey Jeffrey in 1920 with his book, “Side Issues.” Hard to pinpoint.

Nice piece, Richard. You should make these a regular issue for us to anticipate!

Vern Trotter October 04, 2021

Nicely put, Dick. Those really were the days.

Chuck Sturdley October 04, 2021

I had no idea J Press had dressed jazz music royalty!

Well done.

Jim Steele, Afternoon Jazz Music Host
WSNC 90.5 FM

Jim Steele October 04, 2021

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