ACT Reading Practice Test 105: HUMANITIES

DIRECTIONS: Each passage is followed by several questions. After reading a passage, choose the best answer to each question and fill in the corresponding oval on your answer document. You may refer to the passages as often as necessary.


HUMANITIES: This passage is adapted from the article "The Quiet Sideman" by Colin Fleming (©2008 by The American Scholar).

Near the end of his eight years as a recordingsession
musician, tenor saxophonist Leon "Chu" Berry
landed a short-lived spot with Count Basie's orchestra.
Standing in for one of the Basie band's two tenor
5giants, Berry took a Jead solo on "Oh, Lady Be Good,"
the 1924 Gershwin song that Basie had played for
years. In the 28 seconds that the solo lasted on
February 4, 1939, we are treated to no less than the
musical personification of mind and body working
10together in divine tandem. When you hear the recording
for the first time, you're likely to wonder why you've
never heard of Chu Berry before.

Why you've never heard of him is pretty simple: a
lot of bard-core jazz buffs don't know much about him.
15Berry was a solid session player who turns up on
recordings ,with Basie, Bessie Smith, Fletcher
Henderson, and Billie Holiday. But he did not cut many
sessions himself as a leader, and when he soloed, he
worked within the recording constraints of the era and
20the swing genre-fast-moving 78s with solos often lasting
for a mere 32 beats.

The people who loved Berry were, not surprisingly,
other tenor players, a situation leading to the
dreaded "musician's musician" tag. But that's not
25nearly praise enough to describe Chu Berry, who, when
given opportunity, displayed a musical dexterity that
would be envied by future generations of horn men.

Berry faced the lot of other horn players: having to
grind it out long and hard until something memorable
30burst through; the prejudices and expectations of the
listening public; and the accepted wisdom of what is
and isn't art in a given medium. In this case, swing was
fodder for dance parties, not music worthy of study.

Oddly enough, Berry's? geniality might help
35explain bis failure to court history's favor: it wasn't in
his nature to call attention to himself or his playing.
Born in 1908 into the black middle class in Wheeling,
West Virginia, the laid-back, affable Berry attended
West Virginia State in Charleston, where he switched
40from alto sax to tenor and exhibited the willingness to
fit in that.characterized his presence in so many dance
bands. He was the rare artist who refused to put his
interests above those of the band, even if that meant
playing ensemble passages rather than taking a healthy
45allotment of solo breaks.

College proved a training ground for Berry the
bandsman, as he teamed up with a number of amateur
outfits. He never played simply to show off. Instead, he
tried to bring out the positive attributes in any given sit-
50uatioo or setting. Later, when Berry is performing with
the Calloway ensemble, we hear some ragged, out-oftune
playing until Berry's first few solo notes emerge.
The other players, no longer languidly blowing through
their charts, immediately surge up behind him, all
55fighting-fit. Once Berry finishes his solo, the shenanigans
resume.

After making his way to New York, Berry immediately
became a presence and soon was in demand. The
great jazz orchestras of the swing era were fronted by
60musical directors/arrangers-Duke Ellington was preeminent-
who drew the acclaim. The sidemen were
musical traveling salesmen who sold someone else's
wares in the best style they could manage. It was with
Fletcher Henderson that Berry began to djtch some of
65the sideman's subservient trappings. For starters,
Henderson wrote in keys that were rare for the jazz
orchestras of the day, and bis somber, indigo-inflected
voicings were ideal for a player of Berry's introspective
approach to his instrument: Berry sounds as if he's
70being swallowed by his sax. "Blues in C Sharp Minor,"
for instance, is odd, haunting, and ultimately relaxing.
A Berry solo in it is slightly off mike, making the listener
feel as though he's been playing for some time
before we finally hear him. The effect is unnerving, as
75if we weren't paying close attention.

In June 1940, Cab Calloway granted Berry a showcase
piece, "A Ghost of a Chance," the sole recording
in Berry's career to feature him from start to finish. It
was his "Body and Soul," a response to Coleman
80Hawkins's famous recording, intended not as a riposte
to a rival, but as the other half of a dialogue. Its rubato
lines are disembodied from the music meant to accompany
it, which is spartan to begin with. This may be
Berry's one and only instance of indulgence on a
85record, a cathedral of a solo in its flourishes, angles,
ornamentations, reflexivity. If sunlight could pass
through music, "A Ghost of a Chance" would funnel it
out in the broadest spectrum of colors.

1. Based on the passage, how did Berry's personality affect his career?

A. His ambitious, competitive personality was offputting to other musicians, who were reluctant to play with him.
B. His genial personality endeared him to other musicians, but his career suffered when he spent more time socializing than practicing.
C. His modest and easygoing personality kept him out of the spotlight and, consequently, he received less attention as a peiformer.
D. His shy, introspective personality was misunderstood as snobbish arrogance, so he was offered few recording-session jobs.

2. The author mentions Berry's solo in "Oh, Lady Be Good" primarily in order to:

F. illustrate why most people haven't heard of Berry.
G. provide an example of Berry's musical excellence.
H. contrast Berry's later work with Berry's early work.
J. establish that Berry's solo was better than Count Basie's.

3. The author points out that many serious jazz enthusiasts know little about Berry primarily in order to:

A. criticize scholarship that has provided an unbalanced history of jazz.
B. demonstrate that the author is more knowledgeable than most jazz scholars.
C. illustrate the secrecy Berry demanded in order to preserve his family's privacy.
D. explain why it's likely that readers would be unfamiliar with Berry.

4. According to the author, Berry's solos as a recordingsession musician were often very short because be:

F. wasn't a very good saxophone player until late in his career.
G. drew more attention playing ensemble passages.
H. worked within the recording constraints of the era.
J. preferred playing many short solos to playing a few long ones.

5. The author indicates that during Berry's time as a musician, swing music was primarily regarded as:

A. an opportunity for soloists to show off their skills.
B. a genre to be most appreciated by young people.
C. musician's music that lacked a popular audience.
D. music for dance parties but not music for study.

6. As it is used in line 35, the word court most nearly means to:

F. seek to attract.
G. romantically pursue.
H. dangerously provoke.
J. pass judgment upon.

7. In the seventh paragraph (lines 57-75), the author compares sidemen to traveling salesmen in order to:

A. make clear bow often musicians had to travel.
B. indicate that musicians often had side jobs.
C. illustrate sidemen's supportive role in a band.
D. show how hard sidemen worked to get hired.

8. The author describes Henderson's "Blues in C Sharp Minor" as:

F. innovative, indulgent, and colorful.
G. fast-moving, memorable, and eerie.
H. artful, sublime, and unexpectedly upbeat.
J. odd, haunting, and relaxing.

9. According to the author, what is unique about the June 1940 rendition of the song "A Ghost of a Chance"?

A. It's the only recorded piece that features Berry from beginning to end.
B. Berry plays an alto saxophone instead of his usual tenor saxophone.
C. It was the only public performance Berry gave in 1940.
D. Berry showcases his unrivaled ability to play a solo that blends into the background.

10. The author uses the phrase "a cathedral of a solo" (line 85) most likely to create a sense that Berry's solo was:

F. an intricate, awe-inspiring masterpiece.
G. a somber, mournful hymn.
H. a crumbling remnant of Berry's once-great skill.
J. a testament to Calloway's band leadership.