When Edward "Duke" Ellington played in packed opera houses across Europe in March 1939, he played to audiences of thousands. Approximately 300 people sat in Campbell Hall on Friday night to watch "On the Road with Duke Ellington" and "Jazz: the Intimate Art" as part of UCSB’s celebration of Black History Month.

"On the Road with Duke Ellington" – released in 1967, seven years before Ellington’s death – made the audience laugh with its references to jazz as "the new, far-out sound, the new thing." The music, however, was greeted with silence and applause.

By-and-large, the audience was white and middle-aged. How many Isla Vistans would pay $5 to spend their Friday night watching a hoary old movie about dead jazz guys – guys who could never tell them who let the dogs out?

Jazz is African-American music. The beginnings came from Africa along with slavery. Once in America, the music mixed with Christian hymns to form spirituals. After the Civil War, ragtime and blues emerged. However, saying a what point jazz appeared is almost impossible. The sound itself came out of Harlem, New York and the Creole communities of New Orleans, Louisiana. After World War I, white America began to notice jazz.

Jazz is the American art form. It is impossible to talk about American music without talking about jazz.

"What’s the difference?" Associate Professor of Black Studies Earl Stewart said.

The current American fixation with jazz was helped along by Ken Burn’s "Jazz" documentary series on PBS. Now, white audiences can laugh at the white audiences pictured in "Jazz: the Intimate Art," without a sense of irony.

"What’s new?" a friend once asked Louis Armstrong.

"Nothing," Armstrong said. "White folks still ahead."

At the turn of the century, middle-aged white folks were convinced the sounds of jazz were deflowering every young maiden in the land. Now middle-aged white people have "Jazzercise" bumper stickers. Microsoft Word’s spell checker not only recognizes "Jazzercise" – it has synonyms.

Ellington composed over 2,000 jazz pieces in his lifetime. The number is probably higher, but he did not write all of his music down. His pieces, like "Take the A-Train," could be only 3-4 minutes long, while others were almost symphonies, meant to be played in churches.

"I like any and all of my associations with music – writing, playing and listening," Ellington once said. "We write and play from our perspective and the audience listens from its perspective. If and when we agree, I am lucky."

When he was young, Ellington played like he was laughing with the keys, but the Ellington of 1967 played like he was weeping into the ivory.

Louis Armstrong’s public persona was as easygoing as Ellington’s was elegant. Born in New Orleans in 1904, Armstrong wore the nickname "Satchmo" for his smiling "satchel-mouth." He got a tour of the whole city working odd jobs as a boy, giving him a chance to hear blues in Storyville and brass bands playing in parades and funerals. His first formal music training was at the Colored Waif’s Home for Boys, where he spent a year and a half for firing blanks into the air on New Year’s Eve.

In 1925, Armstrong made his first record as a bandleader with his Hot Five (later his Hot Seven). In 1929, he hit Broadway. That same year he recorded "Ain’t Misbehavin’," the first pop tune translated to jazz. Armstrong was planning tours until two days before his death on July 6,1971. Near the end of his life, he recorded "We Have All the Time in the World" for a James Bond film.

"Without Louis Armstrong, I don’t think there would have been any of us," Dizzy Gillespie said in "Jazz: the Intimate Art."

Jazz legends like Armstrong were once at the heart of youth music. Walking around UCSB, there is not a lot of jazz to hear.

"I can’t think of a single instance when I’ve been walking around Isla Vista and heard jazz," junior global studies major Jeff Beckman said. "Maybe in a coffee shop or something."

There are, however, classes on jazz. Black Studies Professor Douglas Daniels and Professor Stewart teach a popular class called "The History of Jazz," which Daniels is teaching this quarter. There are also two upper-division black studies courses that focus on jazz.

"It’s difficult to gauge [student reaction]," Stewart said. "Large courses are generally attended by people who want grades and not people who want to learn. That’s just a difficult reality. I think, generally speaking, [jazz courses have] been received favorably."