New Orleans music

The music of New Orleans had a profound effect on the creation of early jazz. Many early jazz performers played in venues throughout the city; the brothels and bars of the red-light district around Basin Street, called “Storyville”. was only one of numerous neighborhoods relevant to the early days of New Orleans jazz. In addition to dance bands, numerous marching bands played at lavish funerals arranged by the African American and European American community. The instruments used in marching bands and dance bands became the basic instruments of jazz: brass and reeds tuned in the European 12-tone scale and drums. Small bands mixing self-taught and well educated African American musicians, many of whom came from the funeral-procession tradition of New Orleans, played a seminal role in the development and dissemination of early jazz, traveling throughout Black communities in the Deep South and, from around 1914 on, Afro-Creole and African American musicians playing in vaudeville shows took jazz to western and northern US cities.

The Bolden Band around 1905.

The cornetist Buddy Bolden led a band often mentioned as one of the prime movers of the style later to be called “jazz”. He played in New Orleans around 1895–1906. No recordings remain of Bolden. Several tunes from the Bolden band repertory, including “Buddy Bolden Blues”, have been recorded by many other musicians. (Bolden became mentally ill and spent his later decades in a mental institution.)

Afro-Creole pianist Jelly Roll Morton began his career in Storyville. From 1904, he toured with vaudeville shows around southern cities, also playing in Chicago and New York. His “Jelly Roll Blues”, which he composed around 1905, was published in 1915 as the first jazz arrangement in print, introducing more musicians to the New Orleans style. In the northeastern United States, a “hot” style of playing ragtime had developed, notably James Reese Europe’s symphonic Clef Club orchestra in New York which played a benefit concert at Carnegie Hall in 1912. The Baltimore rag style of Eubie Blake influenced James P. Johnson’s development of “Stride” piano playing, in which the right hand plays the melody, while the left hand provides the rhythm and bassline.
The Original Dixieland Jass Band made the music’s first recordings early in 1917, and their “Livery Stable Blues” became the earliest released jazzrecord. That year numerous other bands made recordings featuring “jazz” in the title or band name, mostly ragtime or novelty records rather than jazz. In September 1917 W.C. Handy’s Orchestra of Memphis recorded a cover version of “Livery Stable Blues.” In February 1918 James Reese Europe’s “Hellfighters” infantry band took ragtime to Europe during World War I, then on return recorded Dixieland standards including “Darktown Strutters’ Ball”.


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