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[History] History of Jazz

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Post time: 19-12-2017 21:56:04
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Editado por Pedro_P en 17-1-2018 04:09 AM





Jazz is a musical genre with a very interesting and exciting story, and that has had a positive evolution and influence in other musical genres and in the musical history of humanity.
Please, let us all accompany @Basston in his narration of this amazing story and share your comments and opinions here.
Thank you all for your participation.

@Pedro_P






   




One hundred years ago The Original Dixieland Jazz Band (ODJB) was a Dixieland jazz band that made the first jazz recordings in early 1917. Their "Livery Stable Blues" became the first jazz record ever issued.
This project, celebrating 100 years of jazz recordings, is a comprehensive guide of the leading musicians, works, history, styles and culture that have shaped the history of jazz from about 1900 to this day.
I hope that I will be able to inform this project by the same open-minded curiosity that drew me to jazz in the first place and will gain interest to those who already know jazz as well as those who are new to jazz.
Following this project, you will no doubt learn about the musical, historical, and human context of jazz so that you can form your own opinions.
Given that this project will be long lasting, it will be divided in 5 main parts. Each part will have many chapters including the description of the styles, artists and their instruments short biographies. However, no documentation about jazz is complete without listening to jazz, I will add some audio files with the representative songs of each period and listening recommendations with links for downloading the full albums of the artists.
Considering the fact that this project will be very challenging for me, I invite you to join together in this wonderful jazz journey.



Introduction to Jazz

Of all the musical forms to emerge during the twentieth century, jazz was by far the most significant. In the early years of the century it spread first throughout the United States of America like wildfire, and then quickly to the rest of the world, where its combination of syncopation, unusual pitching, vocal tones, and raw energy touched the hearts and minds of people across the entire spectrum of social and racial backgrounds. Its message was universal, and it stood for something new, something revolutionary, something risque that overturned the old orders of art music and folk music alike.
The first references to it in print come from the West Coast of the United States, where the San Francisco Bulletin of March 1913 used the term to describe a dance music full of vigor and "pep." By the time it came into general use, the word "jazz" was mainly used to describe the syncopated bands from New Orleans that played in pre-1920s Chicago and then New York, but it carried with it scatological connotations that the related forms "ragtime" and "blues" did not. As a consequence, jazz gained a disreputable image that has never entirely disappeared — and when the word came to be applied to define the "Roaring Twenties" as the "Jazz Age" it stood for decadence, late nights, illegal booze, licentious dancing, and a host of dubious pleasures indulged in by societies the world over who were recovering from the trauma of the Great War.
Because the music had African-American origins, the question of race also was bound up in it from the start, and to a white public it symbolized something "other," something daring and exotic, while, simultaneously, to a black public it was a unifying force, an aspiration.
A lot of what we think we know about jazz is the result of a small body of information being passed on from one generation of historians to another, much of it being accepted uncritically by each succeeding generation. During the half century or so from the first serious attempts to document jazz to the point where the whole of the music's first hundred years can be surveyed, the assumptions that underlie what might be regarded as the mythology of the emergence of jazz have seldom been tested rigorously.
Some vital questions are still unanswered: first, how did a completely new direction in popular music emerge so rapidly? And why and how did this music spread so widely in the first two decades of the century?
Another conundrum in trying to understand how jazz began is a consequence of historians being slow to ask the musicians who actually created the music what went on. Few of the first generation of jazz players were bom earlier than the 1880s. Many of the most significant were not born until the start of the twentieth century itself. Despite this, and the fact that the first scholarly historians of jazz, writing in the late 1930s, had direct access to a wide range of pioneers, the origins of jazz remain remarkably obscure. Oral history was in its infancy; much of the early investigation of jazz was done by record collectors who were at one remove from the creators of the music. But above all it was not seen as anything more than a branch of ephemeral popular music for a long period of its early development.
The mythology of jazz is not restricted to its origins. A long-running debate about the critical reaction to jazz, and whether this took hold in Europe or the United States in the first instance, has tended to occlude the extraordinary rapidity with which jazz spread around the world.
Underlying all of this is a complex question of definition: just what does the word "jazz" actually mean? It is easy to see how, with a plethora of different styles claiming to be jazz, and all kinds of cross-overs into world music, rock, blues, and other forms, it is so difficult to define the music today. Yet in many ways this definitional question has been omnipresent throughout jazz history. The definition of jazz depends on the listener's perception of whether the kind of ingredients are present.
Furthermore, jazz continues to shape all the music around it. Rock, funk, soul, show music, movie music, television music, and a good deal of modern concert music are filled with elements drawn from jazz. Indeed, it is almost fair to say that jazz is the foundation on which modern popular music has been built.




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 Author| Post time: 19-12-2017 21:58:56
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 Author| Post time: 19-12-2017 22:04:55
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Edited by Basston at 19-12-2017 07:41 PM


PART I

EARLY DAYS

Chapter 1

The African Roots

This social element comes into jazz through its African heritage. But despite its African elements, however fashionable it may be to say so, jazz is not an African music. Too much of it descends from European music to justify that claim. Its instrumentation, basic principles of harmony, and formal structures are derived from Europe rather than Africa. As a matter of fact, many of the most important jazz pioneers were not members of the black subculture but were the half-caste black Creoles who came from a subculture that was more European than black. African tribesmen who have not been previously exposed to the music find it as incomprehensible as jazz musicians find African music at first listening. Jazz is a true fusion, combining principles and elements drawn from both European and African music. Just as green is something of itself, not merely a variation of the yellow or blue of which it is compounded, so is jazz neither a variety of European nor African music; it is sui generis.


But the principal makers of jazz were black. And for the black, the beginning was Africa.
Africa is a continent four times the size of the United States, containing a wide diversity of environments and cultures. But despite this diversity, there are certain common characteristics that underlie most African cultures. One of these is a social intensity, often found in tribal societies, which most of us in our Western, or Europe-based, culture find difficult to grasp. Much of our lives, especially in America where individual freedom has been so emphasized, is built around ourselves. We find the essence of ourselves in our "private" lives. The African, on the other hand, is much less likely to distinguish his private life from his public one. A lot of activities, such as birth, death, marriage, even sex, which we see as "private" or "family" matters, are for the African more a concern of the entire group. The birth, the puberty rite, the wedding, are celebrated by the community as a whole. John Storm Roberts, in his book Black Music of Two Worlds, says:
The Malwaian Dunduza Chisiza, writing on the question of an "African personality" in the Journal of Modern African Studies in 1963, contended that there are common features found in most African communities. He noted that Africans are not inclined to meditative-ness like Eastern peoples, nor "inquisitive searchers" like Europeans, but primarily "penetrating observers," relying more on intuition than on the process of reasoning, and "excelling in personal relations." Chisiza also found them to be in pursuit of happiness rather than "truth" or "beauty." The ideal African life is communal, he wrote, based on strong and loving family relations shading into a general compassion (the Swahili expression for "my house" translates as "our house"). All activities, from hunting and harvesting to leisure pursuits, are communal. Generosity and forgiveness are encouraged, malice and revenge abhorred. Moreover, Africans are renowned for their sense of humor and dislike of melancholy.
The African feels strongly bonded to the group. He identifies with his tribe the way a boy will identify with a particular athletic team: its triumphs and defeats are personally felt. For the African, what concerns the tribe concerns him; what concerns him concerns the tribe.
This sense of oneness with the group is expressed in Africa, as in most cultures, in ritual. There is a ritual for marriage, for burial, for the hunt, for the harvest; but there is also ritual for much more commonplace activities, like prayer and even the butchering of meat.


Besides ritual, the African has another device for affirming his bond with the group: music. His music is woven as thickly through his life as a rose vine through a trellis. To be sure, there is plenty of music in our own lives, but we have nothing like the constant, deep preoccupation with music that the African has. Music is a social glue; it is a way for him to act out many of his feelings for his tribe, his family, the people around him. There is in Africa a certain amount of music intended for aesthetic pleasure only, but it is relatively rare. Most African music has a ritual or social function. That is to say, it is meant to provide a framework for, or add intensity to, some other activity. It serves, often, as a means for expressing the emotions that activity conjures up.
Given this, it is not surprising that African music comes in a wide variety of forms, each appropriate to a certain activity. There are ritual songs, which are sung or played at births, puberty rites, deaths, and such. There are occasional songs, used to inspire courage in hunters or warriors, to mourn those fallen in battle, or to celebrate a victory. There are songs for all sorts of minor events as well; some tribes, for example, have a song to celebrate the loss of a child's tooth. There are work songs, each tailored to a given task – the drawing-in of fishing nets, the flailing of grain, the hoeing of the field, the chopping of trees. There are praise songs sung by professionals for a fee, and songs of insult that can be used to revenge a slight. There is a great deal of music belonging to special groups. Because of the social nature of the African, his societies are honeycombed with subgroups: clubs, fraternal organizations, burial societies, hunting associations, and a great many others. These organizations usually have their own special songs and dances to accompany their activities: special funeral dirges for a deceased member, music for hunting rituals, songs and dances to celebrate admission of the initiates into full membership.


African music is, more than anything, a vocal music. Not all Africans can drum or play other instruments, but all Africans sing – as soloists, in groups like work groups, or in response to a leader. In the main, African singing is done in unison, with little true harmony.
But though vocal music dominates in Africa, there is no shortage of instrumental music. The drum, as every schoolchild knows, predominates, ranging from tiny hand drums to the big four- and five-footers, which the drummer sits astride when he plays. Besides the drums is a raft of clappers, scrappers, bells, rattles so-called ideophones, which are used essentially as rhythm-makers. In contrast, instruments on which melody can be played are less highly developed. They consist mainly of a few types of simple reed instruments of limited range; horns of conch, elephant tusk, and the like, which usually can play only one or two notes; and a variety of stringed instruments, xylophones and similar instruments, which also are likely to be limited in range to half a dozen notes (although some large xylophones may range over two or three octaves).
The reason for this paucity of melodic instruments, in contrast to the battery of horns, strings, and keyboard instruments we possess, is quite simple: African music is at bottom rhythmic.

When the black man reached the New World he had with him nothing but the clothes on his back and what he carried in his head. A few slaves brought musical instruments; the death rate during the so-called middle passage from Africa was appalling, and many slavers felt that music helped to keep the black man from drifting into fatal despair. But by and large the black man came to America empty-handed.
Slavery, colonialism, and exploitation are significant and uncomfortable elements in the development of African-American music. Romantic, evocative descriptions of slaves in the fields conceal harsh and unpalatable truths about the buying and selling of human lives and the conditions under which people were forced to live and work.


The first generation of jazz musicians were all born at a time when slavery and all that it stood for was well within living memory, and reminders of that era were omnipresent in the early years of the music. Even the most successful would look back in later life with, at best, a matter-of-factness about this unpleasant era of America's past. “My grandfather kept us informed of what had happened to the family in its creative stage,” recalled pianist, arranger, and territory bandleader Jesse Stone, born in 1901, who was, in his old age, a wealthy man as the result of his compositions like Shake, Rattle and Roll. He told me:
We were slaves, and we were owned by the Stone family from which we took our name. The way we got from Tennessee to Kansas was that, after slavery was abolished, one of the Stones gave my grandfather a wedding present. He bought him 600 acres of land in Kansas at 75 cents an acre, and that’s how we got to where I was born in Atchison. All the rest of my family were born in Tennessee, and they were all musicians, including my cousins, the Browns, Caters, and Stones. I started on violin, and then kept switching from instrument to instrument.
Music was deeply ingrained among those whose families had lived on the plantations during and after slavery. But so too were experiences of the exploitation and abuse of slaves by their white owners. Trumpeter Doc Cheatham, whose family came from the same area of Tennessee as Stone, remembered: “I guess back in those far off days there was a lot of panky going on, between the Indians, the black folks, the white folks.” Cheatham said it would need a book to tell the story straight about his own family's complex origins, which included a native North American grandfather on his father's side.
Some families knew their background; others simply knew it was confused, and there were some who did not find out the whole truth for many years, or even a generation or two. For example, it was not until he reached the age of 42, in 1959, that Dizzy Gillespie, from Cheraw, South Carolina, discovered that the white slave owner who bought his grandmother (herself the daughter of a Nigerian chief) at auction had been his own grandfather. He laughed it off to a newspaper reporter: “I said,‘Just call me your majesty. My . . . grandfather was a white man, and this white man there now calls me‘cousin.’

In the early years of the twentieth century, although slavery had long been abolished, not every aspect of it had disappeared from poor rural communities, and plantation owners operated a micro-economy which allowed them to dispense with money and control the price of goods. One musician who experienced this at first hand was “Cousin Joe” Pleasant (also known as Pleasant Joseph), a blues and jazz singer born in 1907 (later famous for his 1940s recordings with clarinetist Sidney Bechet), who grew up in the fields of rural Louisiana.


As a boy of seven or eight, he joined his extended family in the rice fields, rising at three o'clock in the morning to be out in the fields as the sun came up, in order to avoid the searing main heat of the day.
We didn't get paid in money on that plantation. . . . They'd give you a book with coupons in it, and in this book they had coupons for five cents, ten cents, twenty-five cents, fifty cents, and a dollar. . . . They had a company store on that plantation, they sold everything from soup to nuts in that store. You could buy anything . . . just give them a coupon.
Yet despite these conditions of carefully controlled hardship, where everyone aspired to work in the sugar refinery, which paid its workers in real money, there was one omnipresent feature:
Only one person had to start singing and the whole bunch would fall in line. Now, these in this section might be singing spirituals, and these, in this section, might be singing the blues. Or just humming, not singing any particular words. Just a tune.
Some historians of jazz have seen the emergence of jazz in the postslavery era as a revolutionary act, a collective musical response to the appalling and inhumane treatment of people who had been treated as chattels and investments rather than human beings. Such treatment was exacerbated in the Southern states, where “slave codes” did not admit the granting of any human rights to slaves. Under the Civil Code, setting out the legal relationship between master and slave in Louisiana, an individual slave “can do nothing, possess nothing, nor acquire anything, but what must belong to his master.”
The attempt to create a new nation brought to the fore the schism between North and South on the slave question. In the South, the reaction to the threat of the national abolition of slavery was a defensive tightening of the noose. The concept of the black freedman began to die out. There was a push toward segregation, and in part this took the form of driving the black out of the churches. Blacks in their turn were often glad to go, tired of being second-class citizens in the house of God, and around the beginning of the nineteenth century separate black churches began to spring up. These churches, of course, needed music. At first the new black congregations adopted wholesale the white gospel hymns. But as time passed and the influence of the white culture dwindled, the musical system developing principally in the work songs began to creep into the hymns. It is difficult to date this change with any precision, but it probably began early in the nineteenth century, not long after the black churches were established, and would certainly have been completed by 1850. In this way, church music picked up the procedures of black-American folk practice.


Church songs and work songs constituted the largest part of slave music, but they were by no means all of it. The black, according to his tradition, brought music into his life wherever he could.
By 1890, blacks were engaged in an enormous range of musical activities. There were the millions of unknown blacks singing their own music in church. And at some time, out of the melange, there emerged a new musical form that was still to be profoundly affecting music all over the world nearly a century later. That was the blues.
The evolution of the blues is a story that will probably never be fully told. Where, when, and how it grew there is no report. There is, to my knowledge, no use of the term "the blues" in any of the nineteenth-century writings on black music, and there is no description of any music that really resembles the form.
It has usually been suggested that the blues evolved from the spirituals, because both were "sad." As a matter of fact, spirituals were often joyous, and the blues, if not generally joyous, are sometimes comic and often filled with sexual innuendo. Clearly, the blues evolved not from the spiritual but from the common musical practice that encircle the work song, the prison song, the street cry, as well as the spiritual.


It is no wonder that the jazz musician has gone back to it again and again. For nearly a hundred years it has captivated him, and even today he returns to it again and again to refresh himself.



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 Author| Post time: 19-12-2017 22:15:52
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Edited by Basston at 19-12-2017 09:29 PM

Chapter 2

Scott Joplin and the Ragtime Craze

The blues was a cornerstone on which jazz was built, and continues to inform the music today. But a second black musical form, developing about the same time as the blues came into being, was equally important in giving jazz its initial shape. This, of course, was ragtime.
Searching out the development of ragtime is no easier than discovering how the blues was made. Fortunately, we have one good source work in They All Played Ragtime, written by jazz authority Rudi Blesh and Harriet Janis. The collaborators did their research primarily in the 1940s, when some of the early ragtime players were still alive, and they were able to get firsthand accounts of the period of the ragtime boom. An earlier time, when ragtime was evolving from its predecessors, however, we can see only cloudly.
Although ragtime has been played on virtually every instrument that exists, as well as by full-scale bands and orchestras, it is essentially a piano music. Its roots lie in the attempt by American blacks of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries to replicate in their music something of the cross-rhythms that were at the heart of African music.



Blesh and Janis quote a rag player who was born in 1875, Walter Gould, known as One Leg Shadow, as saying, "Old Man Sam Moore was ragging the quadrilles and schottishes before I was born... He was born 'way before the Civil war." In any case, it seems certain that by the 1870s, and most probably earlier, players with names like Jess Pickett, Sam Gordon, Sammy Ewell, Jack the Bear, One-Leg Willie Joseph, and dozens of others who have disappeared from the record were working out complete compositions, using ragged figures laid over some sort of ground bass in the left hand.
These men were travelers. Many of them were amateurs or part-timers – the singer or banjo player who entertained his fellow workers on the docks or in the railroad camps in the evenings. But others were professionals. These men moved back and forth across the country with minstrel and vaudeville shows. Some of them worked the riverboats, the handsome old paddle-wheelers that often carried orchestras for the amusement of the passengers. The elite among them were the piano players, the ivory-tinkling "professors" who moved through the brothels, gambling joints, saloons, and clubs of the big city ghettos, entertaining a clientele that was often racially mixed.
There was a comradeship, a sense of fraternity, among these men. Musicians encouraged each other; they showed each other their special effects; they taught their friendly rivals their best tunes. In particular, the older, more experienced, or better-trained musicians were expected to help their juniors in age or skill.
By 1890 a group of men, including Tom Turpin, James Scott, Artie Matthews, Scott Hayden, and Eubie Blake, had begun to create the body of formal rags that has survived until today. Who the first ragtimer was we do not know. The earliest use of the term seems to have been on "Ma Ragtime Baby," by Fred Stone, published in 1893, but Stone was a popular entertainer, not a ragtimer. In any case, whoever was first, the greatest of them all, by universal critical opinion, was Scott Joplin.


We know Joplin principally through the Blesh-Janis book, although there have been other writings on the subject, the most important an unpublished dissertation by Addison Walker Reed. Joplin was born in 1868 – in Texar-kana, a town in the northeastern corner of Texas. His father, a railroad worker, played the violin; his mother sang and played banjo; and not surprisingly the three Joplin boys, Will, Robert, and Scott, were drawn to music. As it happened, there was a piano in a neighboring house – probably a place where Mrs. Joplin worked as a domestic – and Joplin began fooling around with it. It quickly became apparent that he had promise, and his father scraped together the money to buy an old-fashioned square grand piano. It was not as unusual as it might seem for a poor black family to own a piano. The United States underwent something of a piano craze in the last decades of the nineteenth century. Poor black parents with ambitions for their children might buy a piano as poor parents in our time might invest in an encyclopedia. In any case, Joplin began to work at the instrument. Word about the talented black boy started to seep through the neighborhood, and in time he acquired a teacher – according to Blesh and Janis a German who took Joplin on as a scholarship student. Whoever the teacher, we know that Joplin was formally trained in the European tradition and possessed a fairly broad acquaintance with the major European composers of the early nineteenth century and before. Joplin was, from the beginning, a schooled musician with a solid grounding in theory. He certainly knew the black musical tradition, the one of the ring shouts and work songs, for he used some of these forms in his opera Treemonisha. But his principal repertory was the Romantic music of nineteenth-century Europe, which has been drummed into hundreds of thousands of American schoolboys and -girls from Joplin's day up to ours.
Joplin's mother was apparently a formidable influence in his life. She seems to have been largely responsible for encouraging him in his music, and probably Treemonisha, which is centered on a Joan of Arc figure, was in part a tribute to her. She died in 1882, when Joplin was fourteen, and shortly afterward Joplin left home to become one of those itinerant musicians following their work across America.
But Joplin was not simply another traveling piano player concerned with good times and money to spend. He was never the sort of high-liver some of his peers were. A quiet, reserved, even shy, round-faced man with a dark skin, he was a good and loyal friend, generous in helping others. Underneath this ordinary exterior he possessed a driving ambition to become somebody, to achieve something of significance in what he termed his art.
In this sense he was probably the first American black to conceive of himself as an artist working in a black musical form.


Joplin's wanderings brought him, by about 1885, to St. Louis, which was to remain his base for nearly two decades. He worked throughout the surrounding area, sometimes ranging farther afield, filling whatever engagements came along and eventually developing a reputation through the Midwest and Southwest as one of the leading pianists in his school. For two periods during this time he lived in the town of Sedalia, a railhead in the center of Missouri. How serious he was about his music is made evident by the fact that in the latter part of the 1890s, when he was nearly thirty, he enrolled at George Smith College for Negroes, an institution operated in Sedalia by the Methodist church. What he studied is not known, but the school offered fairly advanced courses in music theory, and it is presumed that he took them. At the same time he was playing cornet in a small brass band, running a dance band, and occasionally touring with a vocal group called the Texas Melody Quartette – it included his two brothers – which he organized and conducted. It is obvious from all this activity that Joplin was, by the age of thirty, a thoroughly schooled musician, teaching, conducting, arranging music, singing, and probably playing a number of instruments, after a fashion, in addition to the piano.
He was also beginning to compose. His first pieces were sentimental songs typical of their time, and no better than thousands of others like them. But by 1897 the ragtime boom was beginning to sound. It was a genuine craze, another one of those popular forms drawn from black folk music and Europeanized. Like similar explosions, such as the jazz boom of the 1920s, the swing band craze of the 1930s, and the soul boom of the 1960s, it was associated with a dance; in this case, the cakewalk. Whites of course got into it quickly, and between about 1900 and 1915 it dominated popular music in America. There were ragtime contests with prizes ranging up to $25,000, schools of ragtime, ragtime instruction books. The movement spread to Europe, and composers began to insert ragtime themes in their work, the most famous of which is Debussy's "Golliwogg's Cakewalk."
Joplin was caught up in the boom. In 1899 he showed some rags to a publisher. One of these was "Original Rags," which the publisher took. Among those he turned down was one Joplin had named for the Maple Leaf Club, a Sedalia honky-tonk. Joplin knew better than the publisher. He told a friend, "The 'Maple Leaf will make me king of the ragtime composers."


Shortly after, by chance a small-time sheet-music salesman named John Stillwell Stark heard Joplin play the tune at the Maple Leaf Club. He liked it, offered to publish it, and Joplin accepted the offer. The meeting was crucial in the lives of both men. John Stark, born in 1841, grew up on a farm in Kentucky. First a farmer, then an ice-cream salesman, and next a peddler of cottage organs and pianos around Chillicothe, he eventually landed in Sedalia, where he opened a music store. In the relationship between Stark and Joplin we are for once dealing with something other than the white man exploiting the black one. Stark was a man of honor and principle. He not only paid Joplin an advance of fifty dollars for "Maple Leaf Rag" – a reasonable figure for the time – but he signed a contract giving Joplin regular royalties on sheet-music sales. The song was an instant hit, selling several hundred thousand copies in six months, and on the strength of it Stark moved his business to St. Louis. For the next ten years he remained Joplin's publisher, friend, and confidant.
From this point on Joplin was, if not rich, at least financially secure, and if not celebrated, at least well known. The "Maple Leaf Rag" was the single most popular of all rags, and remains today the best loved by students of the form. Joplin himself was recognized, as he had predicted, as the preeminent ragtime composer. Although he always continued to perform in public, the success of "Maple Leaf" allowed Joplin to give up the sporting clubs and to devote himself mainly to composing and teaching.
All told, Joplin published thirty-three rags, two dozen or so songs, waltzes, solo pieces, and an instruction book; and he left, when he died, another ten pieces, which were not published until recently. These pieces were hardly dashed off. In a good year Joplin might write four rags and perhaps a couple of songs. He was deadly serious about his music, and he worked hard at it. As the years passed, the texture of his rags grew thicker, and the syncopation began to grow sparser. This was an artistic, not a commercial, choice. The way to make money on rags was to keep them easy enough so that the amateur pianist could get through them without difficulty. Only the really good amateurs attempted Joplin's later work, and skill is required to play properly even "Maple Leaf Rag."
Although ragtime drew on many sources, especially dance forms like the quadrille, lancers, and schottishe, unquestionably it owed more to the march. The marching band has a long history in the United States, and, as we have seen, was important to blacks for decades. The march was a major popular musical form, one utterly familiar to black musicians, and it is hardly surprising that it played a vital role in forming the rag. Indeed, many rags are specifically called marches on the sheet music. Lamb's "Champagne Rag" and Scott's "The Fascinator" were both described as marches.


By the time of America's entry into World War I, the steam was already leaking out of the ragtime boom. Overexposure, the rising popular interest in jazz and the blues, boredom with what was at base a fairly limited form, all combined to deflate it.
But Joplin himself had already turned to other matters. He had left St. Louis about 1907 in part because of emotional turmoil brought on by the death of a baby daughter and the dissolution of his marriage. He moved to New York, where Stark had already established himself, and remarried, this time to a woman who supported him loyally, Lottie Stokes. And he began to give up ragtime in order to concentrate on composing in the European manner. In 1909 he published five rags; in the remaining eight years of his life he was to publish only five more.
He had already, in 1903, written a ragtime opera, A Guest of Honor, which was performed once or twice and subsequently disappeared, possibly during the disposition of Joplin's papers after his death. He now began to devote himself to a new opera, Treemonisha.


Joplin's concern with this work was obsessive. Stark refused to publish it because he knew it could not make money, so in 1911 Joplin himself arranged to have it published. For years he sought backers in order to have it performed. Nobody would undertake it. To some degree this was owing to musical snobbery in the white musical establishment, which was not willing to admit a black man as an equal. But that was not the whole story. Black musical theater did exist in New York: as early as 1898 Clorindy, a musical show written by Will Marion Cook and the black poet Paul-Laurence Dunbar, had appeared in New York and London. The truth was that Treemonisha was a flawed work. But Joplin was convinced of its worth, and in 1915 he put on the opera by himself, without scenery and with the music provided by him at the piano. The Harlem audience, mainly black, sat on its hands, and at the end of the evening Joplin's spirit was broken. He was, in any case, already in the grip of an emotional disability brought on by tertiary syphilis. After that year he worked very little, and on April 1, 1917, he died in a mental institution. He was not unmourned, however; his Harlem funeral was impressive and expensive. He may have failed in his great dream, but his rags had made his name.
Joplin's death would be a fitting point at which to mark the demise of ragtime, but in fact ragtime was not quite dead. Over the next few decades a handful of enthusiasts kept it alive. They formed clubs, printed newsletters, searched out old manuscripts, and played the music whenever possible. Their devotion was rewarded. In 1971 a musicologist and pianist named Joshua Rifkin, who had been a jazz fan as an adolescent, became enamored of Joplin's work and recorded an album of his pieces for Nonesuch, a small label, with which he was connected, that specializes in Baroque and Renaissance music. The record, to everybody's surprise, became a hit. A movie producer happened on the small ragtime boom, and used Joplin's "The Entertainer" as background music for a movie called The Sting. A ragtime boomlet was on; and it brought with it the production of Treemonisha, first in 1972 at Atlanta's Memorial Arts Center and then, in 1975, on Broadway, where it received kind, if not unmixed, notices. Joplin had finally made it. But in truth, it is his rags that will give him his enduring fame. Ragtime has found a permanent place for itself as a music of real value – not a great music perhaps, but one that at its best has a graceful and translucent charm and a distinction of its own.


Representative Songs








Listening Recommendation

Scott Joplin - Maple Leaf Rag


Scott Joplin - Treemonisha



Watching recommendation















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 Author| Post time: 19-12-2017 23:34:54
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Edited by Basston at 19-12-2017 09:25 PM

Chapter 3

The New Orleans Background

The standard legend about jazz is that it was born in New Orleans, and moved up the Mississippi River to Memphis, St. Louis, and finally Chicago by way of the paddle-wheel boats. It is more fashionable today to insist that jazz emerged more generally from the black subculture in a number of places, especially New York, Kansas City, Chicago, and St. Louis.
Yet, in truth, the old legend is almost certainly correct. Jazz was indeed created in New Orleans and its environs, and did in fact move out from there, although not necessarily via the riverboats, to the rest of the country. There are several reasons for believing this version of the story. The first is the testimony of the older musicians. The ones alive at the time jazz was emerging from the ghettos invariably say that New Orleans musicians were playing a different kind of music, which other musicians were quick to copy. A Memphis clarinet player, Buster Bailey, says that in his town musicians began to improvise only after they heard the jazz records by New Orleans players, and that the word "jazz" was never used by them until that time. Another clarinet player, Garvin Bushell, in an account published in Jazz Panorama, a collection of pieces edited by Martin Williams, offers similar evidence, claiming that Northern blacks learned jazz from the New Orleans players.
Probably the most persuasive evidence that New Orleans was the birthplace of jazz lies in the character of the city itself.


New Orleans was an anomaly in the United States. Founded in 1718 by Jean-Baptiste le Moyne, Sieur de Bienville, from its inception it faced south, a member of the Franco-Spanish culture of the Caribbean rather than of the Anglo-Saxon world to the north. Its spiritual homeland was France. There was a libertarian spirit in the city, which manifested itself in the indulgent attitude toward pleasure that was the mark of the French court. The town saw itself as a sort of Paris-sur-Mississippi and attempted to act the part.
Henry A. Kmen, in a carefully researched study called Music in New Orleans, draws a picture of a city that for nearly two centuries was drenched in music and dancing.
At times there were as many as three opera companies playing in the city, astonishing for a town of fewer than fifty thousand people, and there were always symphony orchestras in abundance, including, in the 1830s, the Negro Philharmonic Society.
What is most interesting about this teeming musical activity is the extent to which it was biracial. Dance orchestras, which might run to fifteen pieces, were more often than not black at both black and white dances. (They may even have been mixed; the Negro Philharmonic Society, when short-handed, occasionally filled out with white players.)
We should not be deluded into thinking that the black was in any sense considered the social equal of the white, or that the largest part of the black population was not condemned to a life of heavy toil. New Orleans was still the South. But for nearly a century and a half, from the city's founding until the Civil War, music and dancing provided occasions when whites and blacks did mix, if not as social equals, at least on a social basis.
New Orleans was different from other American cities in a number of respects. It was tolerant of pleasure, it was rich with music – undoubtedly it was the most musical American city – and it offered the black man a little more room for expression than was generally true of the South. Perhaps more important, from the standpoint of the jazz historian, it possessed a unique subculture, the black Creoles.
The Creoles were people of French or Spanish descent who were born in the New World, as opposed to those who immigrated. One aspect of their culture to which they clung was music. To be able to sing or play a piano or other instrument was a mark of cultivation, and Creole youngsters were encouraged to study music. The black Creole wanted his child to be musical; but that meant attending the opera, playing the piano in the parlor for friends, or playing, as an amateur, in some sort of concertizing ensemble. Given this attitude, it was inevitable that black Creoles refused to have anything to do with black folk music. The Creoles were mainly, although not entirely, urban people. They had no tradition of the work song and the field hollars; and, as Catholics, they did not attend the sanctified church, with its African-influenced spirituals and ring shouts. The black Creole was what was called a "legitimate" musician. He was familiar with the standard repertory of arias, popular songs, and marches that would have been contained in any white musician's song bag.
The blacks of New Orleans had, of course, their own music. Despite the city's sophisticated urban culture, the African tradition had hung on in New Orleans. The African dancing at Congo Square continued until 1855, and went on under cover for a considerably longer period, so it is possible, and indeed probable, that some of the early black jazz musicians had firsthand experience with this neo-African music.


New Orleans blacks probably had less experience than other blacks with the field hollar, although some of them came and went between town and the plantations; but they knew the work song from labor on the docks and levees, and they made a specialty of the street vendor's cry. The black, unlike the Creole or the white, had no compunction about becoming a professional; playing music was an easier way to make a living than sweating in the hold of a banana boat. Even if he did it only part-time, it brought him prestige, good times, and a little extra cash.
By 1890 New Orleans was a city filled with a rich diversity of musical forms. There were the operas and symphonies, the chamber music groups, of both whites and Creoles. There were a number of well-known black Creole concertizing orchestras, like John Robichaux's Lyre Club Symphony Orchestra, a twenty-five-piece ensemble that played the standard classical repertory, or the Excelsior Brass Band, which lasted from about 1890 to the Depression.




There were numberless semiorganized or pickup groups, drawn from a pool of black and black Creole musicians, that played marches for parades, dirges for funerals, and popular songs and rags for picnics and parties. There were the pianists working in the cabarets, honky-tonks, and brothels. Music was everywhere.
For the jazz historian, one of the critical movements of the years before the turn of the century was the emergence of the blues as an instrumental, rather than a vocal, music. Concomitant with the arrival of the instrumental blues was that other important musical movement of the day, the ragtime boom.
What we are seeing, then, in the years from, let us say, 1895 to 1910 is the development of a cadre of New Orleans musicians who were at home in a variety of musics – the blues, rags, marches, popular songs, in many cases themes from overtures and operas, and specialty numbers. In general, the black Creoles shied away from the blues in favor of more formal music, while the blacks, usually unable to read, inclined toward rougher forms, inflected with the ragged rhythms of the black folk tradition. The streams were converging; march, ragtime, work song, blues, overtures – Europeanized African music, Africanized European music – began to blend together, and one day there came into being a music that had never existed before, a music that, in three decades, was to move out of the honky-tonks, the picnic grounds, the streets of New Orleans, and capture the entire world.
As unlikely as it seems that so specific a date can be given for the creation of jazz, there were things happening in New Orleans that suggest that jazz did indeed emerge from the music around it between 1900 and 1905. One important fact is that with the conclusion of the Spanish-American War in 1898 there came onto the market a flood of used band instruments sold off by the army when the troops were broken up. New Orleans was one of the American ports nearest to Cuba, and many units were broken up there. Thus, from about 1900, the secondhand shops of the city contained a plethora of clarinets, trombones, drums, and cornets, which even a very poor black could afford to buy. In the decades after the Civil War, when the ordinary Southern black lived in the kind of poverty we find difficult to grasp today, the acquisition of a real musical instrument was by no means easy, especially for a child. Most musical blacks of the South made their instruments: guitars of cigar boxes and wire, drums of canisters, basses of wash-tubs and broom handles. The flood of surplus army instruments that came into the city around 1900 thus made it possible for increasing numbers of black children to begin experimenting with cornets and trombones.
Another thing that fertilized the new music was New Orleans large brothel district. The city already had a history of being a good-time town. As the only major city in that part of the country for a long time in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, it was a magnet for trappers, loggers, and rivermen, who came there to sell their goods and go on a spree. From the other direction came the sailors of the seagoing ships that used the city as a port, and eventually there was a United States naval base there. All these men looking for a good time generated a thriving business in prostitution, liquor, gambling, and drugs. In 1897, in order to control the traffic in sin, the town fathers established the brothel district, which was quickly named Storyville, after Joseph Story, the alderman who sponsored the legislation that created it. (Actually, local musicians invariably called it "the District").


It was mainly the pianists who worked the brothels; the bandsmen might play occasional gigs in Storyville and at times some of them held down regular jobs in the biggest of the cabarets, but most of the playing done by the jazz pioneers was at parades, picnics, private parties, funerals, and the like. Yet Storyville did provide employment for musicians, and it gave those who worked there an opportunity to develop their skills and refine the music itself.
But both the opening of Storyville and the freshet of musical instruments pouring into the city were secondary forces in the creation of jazz. The main event was the coming together of the blacks and the black Creoles. The blacks had the black-American musical tradition, specifically the blues. The Creoles had the instruments, the formal training, and the European musical tradition. Prior to 1900, though there unquestionably existed black bands playing the standard band repertory, in all probability most of the music made by blacks in New Orleans was vocal or played on homemade instruments. It was the Creole bands that held sway on the streets, in the dance halls, at the picnic grounds. But as the Creoles were driven into ever-closer alliance with the blacks, the two groups began to mix in both the bands and the audiences. At that point it remained only for the diverse musical practices of these two peoples to fuse.
Many Creoles refused to adopt black techniques. But this fusing of black and European musical practices, begun about 1900, had gone far enough by 1910 or so for the musicians to recognize that here was something new. They did not call it jazz; they still called it "ragtime," or "playing hot." It was probably not until the next decade that the term "jazzing it up" came into use.
This early jazz was built primarily around three forms: rags, marches, and the blues. Many of the early jazz players did not swing very much, especially the older Creoles. But others did swing, and the best known of them was Buddy Bolden.

Buddy Bolden and the Growth of Jazz


Buddy Bolden, often cited as the first jazz musician, may well be the most mysterious figure in the annals of New Orleans music. No recordings survive of this seminal figure – despite the rumored existence of a cylinder recording from the turn of the century – and no mention of his music appeared in print until 1933, two years after his death, and some three decades after Bolden contributed to the revolutionary birth of a new style of American music.
In 1877, the year Bolden was born, President Rutherford Hayes removed the last federal soldiers from Louisiana, signaling an end to the Reconstruction era in New Orleans and its surroundings. The apparent return to normalcy was deceptive: Bolden, the son of a domestic servant, was raised in a society that would never match the prosperity and general well-being of prewar New Orleans. In 1881, four years after Bolden's birth, his sister Lottie, five years of age, died of encephalitis; two years later, Bolden's father died, at age thirty-two, of pneumonia. These personal tragedies reflected a broader, more disturbing social reality.
In the mid-1890s, Bolden began playing the cornet, initially taking lessons from a neighbor, and was soon supplementing his income as a plasterer with earnings from performing.
Unlike many New Orleans horn players, Bolden's initiation into the public music life of the city came not through the brass bands that figured prominently in the local social life, but instead as a member of the string ensembles that entertained at dances and parties. The personnel and instrumentation of Bolden's band underwent constant shifts, but its general evolution tended to emphasize the wind instruments at the expense of the strings. By the closing years of the century, Bolden's band was gaining increasing notoriety for its daring move into the syncopated and blues-inflected sounds that would prefigure jazz.


Bolden's single biggest contribution to jazz may have been his focus on the blues. He was likely incorporating the blues sensibility and structure into his music around this same time.
Certainly Bolden, even if he did not invent jazz, had mastered the recipe for it, which combined the rhythms of ragtime, the bent notes and chord patterns of the blues, and an instrumentation drawn from New Orleans brass bands and string ensembles.
  Bolden's career would span only a few years. By 1906, his playing was already on the decline, aggravated by the cornetist's heavy drinking and increasing mental instability. In March of that year, he was arrested after assaulting his mother-in-law with a water pitcher – an event that led to the only newspaper articles mentioning this jazz icon during his lifetime. A second arrest, in September, and a third one the following March resulted in Bolden's being declared legally insane and committed to an asylum in Jackson. For the next twenty-four years, Bolden remained at this institution, his condition deteriorating into pronounced schizophrenia. On November 4, 1931, Bolden died at the age of fifty-four – according to the death certificate, from cerebral arterial sclerosis – only a few years before growing interest in the early history of jazz would lead researchers back to this seminal figure.
Although Bolden has been typically heralded as the progenitor of jazz, such simplistic lineages ignore the broader musical ferment taking place in turn-of-the-century New Orleans. Many musicians – mostly black, but also Creole and white – were experimenting with the syncopations of ragtime and the blues tonality and applying these rhythmic and melodic devices to a wide range of compositions. What began as experimentation eventually led to formalized practice.
Whether Bolden was the decisive figure or merely one among many to spur this transformation remains a matter for speculation. In any event, all our research indicates that sometime around the end of the nineteenth century, a growing body of musicians in New Orleans were playing a type of music that, with benefit of hindsight, can only be described as jazz.
Some twenty years transpired between Bolden's glory days and the release of the first jazz recordings. Nor do these first commercial discs simplify the historian's task. If anything, the opposite is true: the history of recorded jazz was initiated with an event that remains to this day clouded in controversy. And, as with so many of the loaded issues in the story of the music, the question of race lies at the core of the dispute. In an ironic and incongruous twist of fate, the Original Dixieland Jazz Band (ODJB), an ensemble consisting of white musicians, was the first to make commercial recordings of this distinctly African American music.

Watching Recommendation

Buddy Bolden Documentary








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 Author| Post time: 20-12-2017 00:10:54
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Edited by Basston at 20-12-2017 10:56 AM


Chapter 4

Early Jazz Recordings

The Original Dixieland Jass Band

February 26,1917, five white New Orleans musicians went into the Victor studios in New York City and made the first jazz record. It was the single most significant event in the history of jazz. Within weeks after this record was issued, on March 7, "jazz" was a national craze and the five white musicians were famous. They called their band the Original Dixieland Jass Band, and the song they cut that day were "Livery Stable Blues.”


For decades, jazz writers have been exasperated by the fact that the honor of making the first jazz record went to this particular group rather than to a black band. Like many other things in jazz, it was largely a matter of chance.
The band was theoretically a cooperative group, but in fact it was dominated by cornetist Nick LaRocca, who not only provided much of the musical leadership but acted as its business manager as well. LaRocca was born on April 11, 1889, the son of an immigrant Italian shoemaker who played a little amateur cornet.
He began playing around New Orleans and surrounding towns with the juvenile "kid" bands that were abundant in the city, mostly for food and drink or insignificant amounts of money. During his adolescence he belonged to a loose fraternity of white musicians playing hot music, which paralleled the larger group of black musicians. Among his comrades were Larry Shields, later to be clarinetist with the Original Dixieland Jazz Band, Leon Rappolo – an influential clarinetist, and the Brunies brothers. In time LaRocca began to work with Jack Laine, a prominent New Orleans leader. Self-taught, LaRocca could not read music, but his musicianship was reasonably good, and because of his natural strength as a leader, Laine used him to front bands.
Then, in December 1915, a Chicago nightclub owner named Harry James, who was in New Orleans to witness a prize fight, happened to hear a hot band, led by drummer Johnny Stein, that included LaRocca. The Stein band was booked into a Chicago nightclub early in 1916. It was not the first hot band to come north. Another white group, Tom Brown's Ragtime Band, had been in Chicago two years before, and black bands had begun to fan out from New Orleans as early as 1912. But Stein's band caught on, partly because the club was a hangout for show business people, who helped to spread the word about this novel music. The band stayed in Chicago for several months. Stein was eventually forced out in a salary dispute, the name was changed to the Original Dixieland Jazz Band, and then, early in 1917, it was booked into an important New York restaurant and dance palace, Reisenweber's, located at Fifty-eighth Street and Eighth Avenue.
Within two or three weeks the group was the sensation of New York. Its fee soared to a thousand dollars a week. There were bookings everywhere, and, because of the fame, those first records. At this point the personnel consisted of LaRocca, trombonist Eddie "Daddy" Edwards, Larry Shields, Henry Ragas on piano, and Tony Sbarbaro. The first record sold over a million copies, an extraordinary accomplishment for those days. In the next few years the band issued about a dozen records, toured England, grew more and more commercial, and fell apart in the mid-1920s, due to personality conflicts and, finally, the emotional disintegration of LaRocca. The band was successfully revived in 1936, but it had no particular impact and shortly collapsed.


The one bothersome question that remains is how well the music of this band reflected the music of New Orleans blacks, or for that matter, other whites. It is probably best to categorize it as some kind of advanced ragtime. LaRocca insisted that the group's music was not derived from the black tradition but was invented by the group. Undoubtedly these men and others like them thought they were playing ragtime, or some variant of it, and did not recognize the role of blacks in the making of ragtime. Despite LaRocca's denials, the black tradition was there, all right; but it was more a reflection of the New Orleans ambience than a specific aping of black ways.
But it would not be correct to deny that in some respects it was a jazz band. For one thing, the instrumentation was the classic New Orleans one, taken from the march band, of cornet, clarinet, and trombone front line supported by a rhythm section. For another, although various members of the group, especially LaRocca, claimed authorship of the featured tunes, in fact they were mainly pastiches of themes from marches, rags, and traditional tunes that were part of the known New Orleans repertory, much of it developed by blacks. And, finally, if the band does not really swing in the true jazz fashion, at times it comes very close.
However elusive the music, there is no doubt of its influence. Jazz suddenly was a hot commercial commodity. Within five years after the issuance of "Livery Stable Blues," thousands of aspiring young players, entranced by the new music, had put together hundreds of bands, most of them atrocious from any point of view, that began playing at dances, in nightclubs, and eventually in recording studios.
The diaspora of jazz musicians from New Orleans, begun early in the second decade of the century, was given impetus in 1917, when the Storyville brothel district was closed down under pressure from the United States Navy, who had a naval base in the city. Although the effect on employment for musicians was less drastic than some writers have claimed, it had a symbolic effect, and this, coupled with the economic suck exerted by the developing black ghettos of the North, eventually pulled most of the leading New Orleans jazz musicians out of the city. Two of these were in time to have marked influences on the history of jazz. They were Joseph "King" Oliver and Sidney Bechet.

Sidney Bechet


Sidney Bechet is an anomalous figure in jazz. Most jazz musicians are cliquish. Bechet was essentially a wanderer, drifting from New Orleans to Chicago to New York to London to Paris and back, playing in whatever musical contexts he found.
Bechet attempted to dominate every musical situation he was in, and usually succeeded. This did not, obviously, make him a well-loved figure among his fellow musicians. But he was by no means the cold, aloof figure this makes him sound. Prickly and demanding, he was passionate in his life and in his music. His distance from other players stemmed not so much from reserve as from the feuds he became involved in. He was once deported from London for getting into a fight with a prostitute and then being too outspoken with the magistrate before whom he appeared, and he spent eleven months in a French prison for a gun fight with another musician outside a Paris cabaret. He had a brief but tumultuous love affair with the great blues singer Bessie Smith. Bristly and difficult he may have been; but he responded to the world with passion, and this warmth is evident in his music.
Given his nature, it is not surprising that Bechet proved to be the most individual player in the history of jazz.
Sidney Bechet was born in 1897 to a typical black Creole family. His father was dark-skinned, but his mother was light enough to passeblanc. They had, like most Creoles, aspirations to gentility. Bechet speaks with pride of his father's having gone to a "pay" school, where he learned to read and write both English and French – that is, the Creole patois ( English-based language with West African influences). He played a little cornet, but he made his living as a maker of "fine" shoes.
Bechet's older brother, Leonard, later a dentist, played clarinet and trombone. According to Sidney, he learned to play the clarinet by sneaking his brother's instrument out of a bureau drawer and practicing on the sly. By the time he was eleven or twelve he was playing regularly around New Orleans with kid bands and apparently, on occasion, with adult ones as well.
At fourteen or so he began to wander. By 1918 he was in Chicago, where he was heard by Will Marion Cook, the well-known black composer and band leader who had written the music for the all-black show Clorindy, in 1898. Cook took Bechet to New York, and then, in 1919, to Europe, with a relatively large group that was not so much a jazz band as a concertizing orchestra that probably played overtures as well as ragtime and popular pieces. Bechet, who was featured as an improvising soloist, proved to be the star.
He played with Cook's and other groups in London and Paris, and it was in London that he ran across an instrument he had never played before, the soprano saxophone.
As we shall see later, saxophones were, in 1920, still novelty instruments, only just beginning to be taken seriously by musicians. Bechet mastered it very quickly, and thus became the first saxophonist of any importance in jazz. He played the saxophone more and more often – although he never gave up the clarinet entirely – until he made it his own instrument.



Bechet returned to the United States in the early 1920s, after his various problems in London and Paris, and for the next two decades worked mainly in the United States. He snuck into Paris with the Noble Sissle band in 1929, and played in both Germany and Russia in the 1930s in the company of trumpeter Tommy Ladnier, but these were brief excursions. He returned to Paris finally in 1949, for a concert, with some trepidation. The French, to whom he was by now a known figure, welcomed him with open arms. He was, after all, a Frenchman himself. And in 1950 he settled permanently in France, where he died in 1959, full of honors.
Bechet made his first records in 1923, after his return from his first European sojourn, with a group called the Clarence Williams Blue Five.


Williams was one of a growing group of black music business professionals who led bands, organized record dates, wrote – or adapted from the black music around them – songs, and published sheet music. Clarence Williams was a pianist who started playing the Storyville clubs and brothels and touring as a minstrel man, and then came to New York to be at the center of the music business. During the 1920s he organized a great many record dates, on most of which he played, either as band pianist or accompanist to blues singers, among them Bessie Smith. He had known Bechet in New Orleans and used him frequently on records.
One of the first of these was "Shreveport Blues," made under the title of the Clarence Williams Blue Five. Bechet stands head and shoulders above his companions on this record.
Throughout his life he was noted for his unending inventiveness; he hardly pauses for breath as the ideas flow effortlessly out through his fingers, and this characteristic is evident right from this early record. He is not yet, however, a finished jazz player. Bechet was, in 1923, still trying to shake off the ragtime chrysalis. And by 1924 he had done so.
The evidence lies in an important recording, made by the Red Onion Jazz Babies, of "Cake Walkin' Babies," which included a friend of Bechet's from down home, the blossoming Louis Armstrong. Despite the strength of Armstrong's playing, Bechet dominates the record. It is safe to say that at this early period he was the best horn player in jazz.
Bechet continued to record widely through the 1920s and into the thirties, during which time he made a considerable number of records, with a variety of small groups, for Victor.
The late 1930s were bad times for small band jazz. By 1938 Bechet was in retirement, working in a tailor shop for a living. He was eager to play, however, and he tried to get a major record company to let him record the Gershwin classic "Summertime." His company refused, but Alfred Lion, owner of Blue Note, a new, small company specializing in jazz, agreed to record it. It became, so far as a jazz record ever does, a hit. At the same time there was a revival of interest in the now-dated New Orleans jazz style. Bechet benefited from both the recording and the new interest, and became, during the 1940s, a celebrated jazz figure, playing regularly at concerts, on radio programs, and in the Blue Note recording studios. In 1944 he made for Blue Note a clarinet solo called "Blue Horizon," one of his finest recorded performances.
It is difficult to measure Bechet's influence. Nobody ever tried to challenge him on the soprano saxophone, and very few even attempted to emulate him. But all throughout the twenties and thirties – and even into the forties – jazz musicians were conscious of his presence. Sidney Bechet was, without question, one of the seminal figures in jazz, and he left us one of the finest bodies of work in the music.

King Oliver's Creole Jazz Band

A man who left New Orleans at the same moment, and who came to match him in influence, was just the opposite – a team leader who believed that the whole was greater than the sum of its parts. This was Joseph Oliver, one of a series of New Orleans cornet kings, who, like Bechet, had an all-pervasive influence on the burgeoning art.


Character has as large a role in the history of art as genius. For the jazz musician the problem has always been that, unlike most other artists, he must work in close conjunction with other men, whose temperaments may be quite different from his own, often enough difficult. The trouble is compounded by the fact that his art dwells inside the entertainment industry, the goals of which are usually not his. The problem of maneuvering through this thicket of personalities is something the writer or painter has to worry about only occasionally; for the jazz musician it is a daily concern, and his final reputation may depend as much on his ability to deal with it as with his own talent.
In Oliver we have a man who could cope with his professional environment. He was a big man, and confident. He drank little (he chewed tobacco and kept a spittoon on the stand, which he sometimes used to beat time with). He was reliable and businesslike in his dealings, though later in life, it is said, he became stingy and perhaps a little suspicious of his musicians. Most important, he had a clear conception of how he wanted his band to sound and was able to make his men hew the line.
Oliver's biographer was the late Walter C. Allen, a leading authority on New Orleans jazz, Oliver and Jelly Roll Morton in particular. He gives Oliver's birthplace as Dryades Street in New Orleans and the date as 1885. Oliver's mother died when he was fifteen, and he was raised thereafter by an aunt. Some time in his youth he received an injury to his left eye. In about 1900 he began to play with a neighborhood brass band. During the earliest years of jazz he understudied Bunk Johnson and then went on to play with several of the important black and Creole bands – the Henry Allen Brass Band and the Original Superior Orchestra, among others. By about 1910 he was working in Storyville as well, and at one time or another played with almost the entire roster of New Orleans jazz pioneers. By 1915 or there-abouts he was considered one of the leading jazz musicians in the city.
Then, early in 1918, not long after the Original Dixieland Jazz Band records had had their first impact, New Orleans bassist Bill Johnson was asked to supply a jazz band for a Chicago cabaret called the Royal Gardens. He sent for cornetist Buddie Petit, but Petit didn't want to leave home at the time, so Johnson asked Oliver to join the band. For the next two years he played around Chicago in various bands with shifting personnel. In 1922 they opened at the Lincoln Gardens, which was the old Royal Gardens with a new name. The personnel of the band, called King Oliver's Creole Jazz Band, was now Johnny Dodds on clarinet; his brother, Warren "Baby" Dodds, on drums; Honore Dutrey on trombone; Lil Hardin on piano; and Bill Johnson on bass.
For reasons that are not well understood, Oliver decided to add a second cornet to the group. Possibly he was growing lazy; possibly he found himself tiring at the end of the evening; possibly he simply liked the two-cornet combination. In any case, the man he chose to join him was the twenty-two-year-old Louis Armstrong. And in 1923 this band began to make one of the most important series of records in jazz history.


Armstrong left the band in 1924, and there were other personnel changes. For a year or two Oliver endured a slack period, and then, in 1926, he went back into the recording studios with a band called the Dixie Syncopators.
By 1928 he was having trouble keeping his band together, and in 1930 he ran out of work in Kansas City and was stranded there. The problems were many. The Depression had arrived, ruining the recording business and damaging the cabarets. He was suffering from a bad case of pyorrhea, which eventually cost him his teeth (a brass player uses his teeth to support his lip). And, most important, the classic New Orleans style was beginning to be pushed aside by new currents. During the early years of the 1930s he led obscure dance bands, touring around the small towns of Tennessee and the Kentucky mountains for tiny fees.
Oliver moved to Savannah in 1936, where he ran a fruitstand and then became janitor in a pool hall. His health was going; he was coughing all the time and his blood pressure was high. Then, on April 8, 1938, he suffered a cerebral hemorrhage and died. He was buried in Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx, in New York City, where his sister lived. Before he died he wrote a series of letters to his sister. He was working fifteen hours a day in the pool hall for a pittance, yet he can write his sister, "I've started a little dime bank saving. Got $1.60 in it and won't touch it. I am going to try and save myself a ticket to New York." It was a ticket that he never bought. Shortly before he died he wrote that he was having trouble getting treatment for his high blood pressure because of money problems." "I may never see New York again in life . . . Don't think I'm afraid because I wrote what I did. I am trying to live near to the Lord than ever before. So I feel like the Good Lord will take care of me. Good night, dear ..."
In the end, of course, Oliver got his revenge on life. Today his records are listened to everywhere in the world, especially in Europe, where he is better remembered than in the United States. More important, the New Orleans style of which he was one of the prime exponents is the base on which traditional jazz, one of the most widely played jazz forms over the world, was built. Oliver's Creole Jazz Band was the first important jazz group to have its work systematically recorded. As the impact of the Original Dixieland Jazz Band faded, those who had been drawn to this new music began to realize that the heart of the matter lay in the Oliver band. It was never widely popular, but its influence on young jazz musicians of the 1920s was immense. This, they understood by 1925, was jazz.
What is perhaps most significant about the stories of Bechet and Oliver is the indication that somewhere around 1923 a true jazz was about to come into being. Bechet, in 1923, still showed occasional traces of ragtime stiffness. Armstrong, though already a forceful and inventive player, was far from the loose, springy player he was to become.
But 1923 was the year in which jazz finally came to be widely recorded. The record companies had little idea of what jazz was, but they were discovering that there was a large market among blacks for their own music. Totally without system, they recorded whatever they could find. Now musicians, both black and white, had a stock of examples before them, and very quickly began to study them.
Among the most influential of the players being recorded were two clarinetists from New Orleans, Johnny Dodds and Jimmy Noone.

Johnny Dodds


For many listeners Johnny Dodds's playing epitomizes the New Orleans clarinet style. In the days when the music was first being recorded he seemed to have been everywhere. He was on the influential Oliver Creole Jazz Band cuts, he recorded with Freddie Keppard, Jelly Roll Morton, and innumerable small groups of his own; most important of all, he was Armstrong's clarinetist on the majority of the Hot Five and Hot Seven records, which turned jazz around. Anybody who listens to any significant amount of New Orleans jazz will find the sound of Dodds's clarinet clinging so tightly in the ear that it becomes the model for all such playing. It is not surprising, then, that in the hagiography of early jazz Dodds was for a long time considered its finest exponent on his instrument; according to some writers, superior even to Bechet. Today his reputation has diminished somewhat, but he was a player of great consequence.
Johnny Dodds was born in 1892 and he was thus, with Morton and Oliver, one of the founding fathers of the music. He worked with various bands around New Orleans, toured with Billy Mack's Touring Minstrels, worked a stretch on the riverboats, and finally, in his early twenties, began playing with Kid Ory's band, considered by early players perhaps the finest of the New Orleans jazz bands. He left New Orleans in 1918 and eventually landed in Chicago, where he joined the Oliver band at the Lincoln Gardens. When the band broke up in 1924 Dodds went into a club called Kelly's Stable, where he remained in residence until 1930. He recorded steadily during this period with several groups – Jimmy Blythe's Washboard Bands, the New Orleans Wanderers, the New Orleans Bootblacks, and various groups with his own name. By this time the Depression was on and work increasingly harder to get, but Dodds managed to support himself with his music all through the thirties, playing in obscure clubs around Chicago and recording only infrequently. He died in 1940 of a cerebral hemorrhage, just missing out on the New Orleans revival.
Dodds was a reserved and serious man who, in a hard-drinking profession, was something of an oddity because he was a teetotaler. This is surprising because, more than most New Orleans clarinetists, he was a passionate player. The New Orleans clarinet style as expressed by Jimmy Noone or Morton's favorite clarinetist, Omer Simeon, was easy and controlled, a light liquid warble that flowed, rather than being driven, through the propulsive trumpet line. Dodds did at times use this easy manner, as, for example, in his "Bull Fiddle Blues," with Johnny Dodds's Washboard Band.
Unquestionably the best known of Dodds's work are the some four dozen sides he made as a member of Armstrong's Hot Five and Hot Seven recording bands. One of the finest examples of his work is on the tune made as both "Gully Low Blues" and "S.O.L. Blues." It is a prime example of New Orleans clarinet playing at its best. Dodds, however, was not as technically skilled as others among the early clarinetists, but he was, we must remember, one of the inventors of the art.

Jimmy Noone


Although Dodds had the larger reputation among jazz fans at the time, Jimmy Noone had a greater reputation with musicians, and today we are able to see not only that was he as influential, but that he was a better musician. Indeed, most jazz clarinet playing since has flowed from Noone.
He was a Creole, raised in the tradition of legitimate musicianship. He studied with Bechet and the much-admired Lorenzo Tio. Like Dodds, he worked around New Orleans in his youth, and, like Dodds, came to Chicago around 1917 or 1918. He worked and recorded with Oliver, Cook's Dreamland Orchestra, a highly reputed band of the day, and with Tommy Ladnier and Freddie Keppard. By the middle of the decade, however, he was working mainly with groups of his own, most of them small bands that featured as lead his clarinet or an alto saxophone rather than a trumpet. Then, like Dodds, he fell on hard times during the Depression and worked in music only sporadically through the thirties. With the New Orleans revival at the end of the decade, he was again recording, and eventually working on the West Coast with the revived Kid Ory band, which was building a considerable following. And yet once more like Dodds, he did not live to enjoy the fruits of the revival; he died in 1944.
But if Dodds and Noone had similar careers, there were considerable differences in their playing styles. Dodds came from the black folk tradition and was self-taught; Noone was a Creole, respected sound musicianship, and studied as a youth and as an adult. In Chicago his teacher was Franz Schoepp, a symphonic clarinetist who also taught the very young Benny Goodman. As a consequence, in the mid-1920s, Noone was not only one of the best-trained clarinetists in jazz; he was among the best-trained players in the music. His ability to play in tune with speed and flexibility, at a time when these skills were in rare supply, impressed other musicians, and clarinetists especially made a point of listening to him. But Noone was not merely a slick player; his melodic conception was sound, and his treatment of the rhythmic elements in jazz was in advance of that of most of the players around him. Noone was, as early as 1927, phrasing in a manner that stood in a halfway house between the New Orleans style and swing. Thus, because he was a fine technician, an inventive improviser, and a leader of the jazz vanguard, he was widely emulated. From him came a whole school of players, including Morton's Omer Simeon, Ellington's Barney Bigard, the St. Louis player Buster Bailey, and others; and out of this school came the swing clarinetists of the 1930s and 1940s – Goodman, Artie Shaw, Irving Fazola, Peanuts Hucko, Joe Marsala, and a host of others.
Because of his technical proficiency, Noone was able to take advantage of the natural fluidity of the clarinet; he played with an easy grace rare in jazz of any time. In comparing Dodds with Noone we can see most clearly the differences between the purely black tradition and the black Creole tradition: the one hard-driving and replete with blue notes and the coarse tone that descends directly from African practice, the other based on a European conception of tone, pitch, and technical facility.
For a man of his reputation Noone recorded surprisingly infrequently. The major body of his work is with a group under his leadership generally called Jimmy Noone and His Apex Club Orchestra, after a club where he worked for a long time.


The Apex sides were made with a group consisting of Noone, alto saxophonist Joe "Doc" Poston, and various rhythm sections. The cream of them consists of about a dozen sides made in 1928 (some second masters have been reissued) with Johnny Wells on drums, Bud Scott on banjo, and Earl Hines, who was about to become the most influential pianist in jazz through the next decade. The best known are a hard-swinging "Monday Date," "Apex Blues," and a fast "I Know That You Know," which features a Noone solo that became a test piece for other clarinetists.
These records constitute one of the most satisfactory small bodies of work in early jazz, and are as fresh today as the day they were made.
It was, then, these players – Noone, Dodds, Oliver, and Bechet, along with Morton and Armstrong – who were bringing jazz up out of New Orleans and exposing it to the world. Suddenly musicians all over the United States were hearing the new music, and quickly it became clear to them how jazz was different from what had gone before, especially ragtime. In a word, they were learning to make a distinction between what "swing" and what didn't. Not all of them were able to repeat what they were hearing, but they were hearing the distinction between jazz and other kinds of popular music. Jazz was no longer a music of New Orleans; it had come to the attention of the world.

Representative Songs


     




                             

               
   
                     
                           


Listening Recommendation

Original Dixieland Jazz Band


Sidney Bechet - Original Recordings


King Oliver's Creole Jazz Band


Johnny Dodds

Jimmy Noone





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Edited by Basston at 19-12-2017 10:52 PM

Chapter 4

Early Jazz Recordings

The Original Dixieland Jass Band

February 26,1917, five white New Orleans musicians went into the Victor studios in New York City and made the first jazz record. It was the single most significant event in the history of jazz. Within weeks after this record was issued, on March 7, "jazz" was a national craze and the five white musicians were famous. They called their band the Original Dixieland Jass Band, and the song they cut that day were "Livery Stable Blues.”


For decades, jazz writers have been exasperated by the fact that the honor of making the first jazz record went to this particular group rather than to a black band. Like many other things in jazz, it was largely a matter of chance.
The band was theoretically a cooperative group, but in fact it was dominated by cornetist Nick LaRocca, who not only provided much of the musical leadership but acted as its business manager as well. LaRocca was born on April 11, 1889, the son of an immigrant Italian shoemaker who played a little amateur cornet.
He began playing around New Orleans and surrounding towns with the juvenile "kid" bands that were abundant in the city, mostly for food and drink or insignificant amounts of money. During his adolescence he belonged to a loose fraternity of white musicians playing hot music, which paralleled the larger group of black musicians. Among his comrades were Larry Shields, later to be clarinetist with the Original Dixieland Jazz Band, Leon Rappolo – an influential clarinetist, and the Brunies brothers. In time LaRocca began to work with Jack Laine, a prominent New Orleans leader. Self-taught, LaRocca could not read music, but his musicianship was reasonably good, and because of his natural strength as a leader, Laine used him to front bands.
Then, in December 1915, a Chicago nightclub owner named Harry James, who was in New Orleans to witness a prize fight, happened to hear a hot band, led by drummer Johnny Stein, that included LaRocca. The Stein band was booked into a Chicago nightclub early in 1916. It was not the first hot band to come north. Another white group, Tom Brown's Ragtime Band, had been in Chicago two years before, and black bands had begun to fan out from New Orleans as early as 1912. But Stein's band caught on, partly because the club was a hangout for show business people, who helped to spread the word about this novel music. The band stayed in Chicago for several months. Stein was eventually forced out in a salary dispute, the name was changed to the Original Dixieland Jazz Band, and then, early in 1917, it was booked into an important New York restaurant and dance palace, Reisenweber's, located at Fifty-eighth Street and Eighth Avenue.
Within two or three weeks the group was the sensation of New York. Its fee soared to a thousand dollars a week. There were bookings everywhere, and, because of the fame, those first records. At this point the personnel consisted of LaRocca, trombonist Eddie "Daddy" Edwards, Larry Shields, Henry Ragas on piano, and Tony Sbarbaro. The first record sold over a million copies, an extraordinary accomplishment for those days. In the next few years the band issued about a dozen records, toured England, grew more and more commercial, and fell apart in the mid-1920s, due to personality conflicts and, finally, the emotional disintegration of LaRocca. The band was successfully revived in 1936, but it had no particular impact and shortly collapsed.


The one bothersome question that remains is how well the music of this band reflected the music of New Orleans blacks, or for that matter, other whites. It is probably best to categorize it as some kind of advanced ragtime. LaRocca insisted that the group's music was not derived from the black tradition but was invented by the group. Undoubtedly these men and others like them thought they were playing ragtime, or some variant of it, and did not recognize the role of blacks in the making of ragtime. Despite LaRocca's denials, the black tradition was there, all right; but it was more a reflection of the New Orleans ambience than a specific aping of black ways.
But it would not be correct to deny that in some respects it was a jazz band. For one thing, the instrumentation was the classic New Orleans one, taken from the march band, of cornet, clarinet, and trombone front line supported by a rhythm section. For another, although various members of the group, especially LaRocca, claimed authorship of the featured tunes, in fact they were mainly pastiches of themes from marches, rags, and traditional tunes that were part of the known New Orleans repertory, much of it developed by blacks. And, finally, if the band does not really swing in the true jazz fashion, at times it comes very close.
However elusive the music, there is no doubt of its influence. Jazz suddenly was a hot commercial commodity. Within five years after the issuance of "Livery Stable Blues," thousands of aspiring young players, entranced by the new music, had put together hundreds of bands, most of them atrocious from any point of view, that began playing at dances, in nightclubs, and eventually in recording studios.
The diaspora of jazz musicians from New Orleans, begun early in the second decade of the century, was given impetus in 1917, when the Storyville brothel district was closed down under pressure from the United States Navy, who had a naval base in the city. Although the effect on employment for musicians was less drastic than some writers have claimed, it had a symbolic effect, and this, coupled with the economic suck exerted by the developing black ghettos of the North, eventually pulled most of the leading New Orleans jazz musicians out of the city. Two of these were in time to have marked influences on the history of jazz. They were Joseph "King" Oliver and Sidney Bechet.

Sidney Bechet


Sidney Bechet is an anomalous figure in jazz. Most jazz musicians are cliquish. Bechet was essentially a wanderer, drifting from New Orleans to Chicago to New York to London to Paris and back, playing in whatever musical contexts he found.
Bechet attempted to dominate every musical situation he was in, and usually succeeded. This did not, obviously, make him a well-loved figure among his fellow musicians. But he was by no means the cold, aloof figure this makes him sound. Prickly and demanding, he was passionate in his life and in his music. His distance from other players stemmed not so much from reserve as from the feuds he became involved in. He was once deported from London for getting into a fight with a prostitute and then being too outspoken with the magistrate before whom he appeared, and he spent eleven months in a French prison for a gun fight with another musician outside a Paris cabaret. He had a brief but tumultuous love affair with the great blues singer Bessie Smith. Bristly and difficult he may have been; but he responded to the world with passion, and this warmth is evident in his music.
Given his nature, it is not surprising that Bechet proved to be the most individual player in the history of jazz.
Sidney Bechet was born in 1897 to a typical black Creole family. His father was dark-skinned, but his mother was light enough to passeblanc. They had, like most Creoles, aspirations to gentility. Bechet speaks with pride of his father's having gone to a "pay" school, where he learned to read and write both English and French – that is, the Creole patois ( English-based language with West African influences). He played a little cornet, but he made his living as a maker of "fine" shoes.
Bechet's older brother, Leonard, later a dentist, played clarinet and trombone. According to Sidney, he learned to play the clarinet by sneaking his brother's instrument out of a bureau drawer and practicing on the sly. By the time he was eleven or twelve he was playing regularly around New Orleans with kid bands and apparently, on occasion, with adult ones as well.
At fourteen or so he began to wander. By 1918 he was in Chicago, where he was heard by Will Marion Cook, the well-known black composer and band leader who had written the music for the all-black show Clorindy, in 1898. Cook took Bechet to New York, and then, in 1919, to Europe, with a relatively large group that was not so much a jazz band as a concertizing orchestra that probably played overtures as well as ragtime and popular pieces. Bechet, who was featured as an improvising soloist, proved to be the star.
He played with Cook's and other groups in London and Paris, and it was in London that he ran across an instrument he had never played before, the soprano saxophone.
As we shall see later, saxophones were, in 1920, still novelty instruments, only just beginning to be taken seriously by musicians. Bechet mastered it very quickly, and thus became the first saxophonist of any importance in jazz. He played the saxophone more and more often – although he never gave up the clarinet entirely – until he made it his own instrument.


Bechet returned to the United States in the early 1920s, after his various problems in London and Paris, and for the next two decades worked mainly in the United States. He snuck into Paris with the Noble Sissle band in 1929, and played in both Germany and Russia in the 1930s in the company of trumpeter Tommy Ladnier, but these were brief excursions. He returned to Paris finally in 1949, for a concert, with some trepidation. The French, to whom he was by now a known figure, welcomed him with open arms. He was, after all, a Frenchman himself. And in 1950 he settled permanently in France, where he died in 1959, full of honors.
Bechet made his first records in 1923, after his return from his first European sojourn, with a group called the Clarence Williams Blue Five.


Williams was one of a growing group of black music business professionals who led bands, organized record dates, wrote – or adapted from the black music around them – songs, and published sheet music. Clarence Williams was a pianist who started playing the Storyville clubs and brothels and touring as a minstrel man, and then came to New York to be at the center of the music business. During the 1920s he organized a great many record dates, on most of which he played, either as band pianist or accompanist to blues singers, among them Bessie Smith. He had known Bechet in New Orleans and used him frequently on records.
One of the first of these was "Shreveport Blues," made under the title of the Clarence Williams Blue Five. Bechet stands head and shoulders above his companions on this record.
Throughout his life he was noted for his unending inventiveness; he hardly pauses for breath as the ideas flow effortlessly out through his fingers, and this characteristic is evident right from this early record. He is not yet, however, a finished jazz player. Bechet was, in 1923, still trying to shake off the ragtime chrysalis. And by 1924 he had done so.
The evidence lies in an important recording, made by the Red Onion Jazz Babies, of "Cake Walkin' Babies," which included a friend of Bechet's from down home, the blossoming Louis Armstrong. Despite the strength of Armstrong's playing, Bechet dominates the record. It is safe to say that at this early period he was the best horn player in jazz.
Bechet continued to record widely through the 1920s and into the thirties, during which time he made a considerable number of records, with a variety of small groups, for Victor.
The late 1930s were bad times for small band jazz. By 1938 Bechet was in retirement, working in a tailor shop for a living. He was eager to play, however, and he tried to get a major record company to let him record the Gershwin classic "Summertime." His company refused, but Alfred Lion, owner of Blue Note, a new, small company specializing in jazz, agreed to record it. It became, so far as a jazz record ever does, a hit. At the same time there was a revival of interest in the now-dated New Orleans jazz style. Bechet benefited from both the recording and the new interest, and became, during the 1940s, a celebrated jazz figure, playing regularly at concerts, on radio programs, and in the Blue Note recording studios. In 1944 he made for Blue Note a clarinet solo called "Blue Horizon," one of his finest recorded performances.
It is difficult to measure Bechet's influence. Nobody ever tried to challenge him on the soprano saxophone, and very few even attempted to emulate him. But all throughout the twenties and thirties – and even into the forties – jazz musicians were conscious of his presence. Sidney Bechet was, without question, one of the seminal figures in jazz, and he left us one of the finest bodies of work in the music.

King Oliver's Creole Jazz Band

A man who left New Orleans at the same moment, and who came to match him in influence, was just the opposite – a team leader who believed that the whole was greater than the sum of its parts. This was Joseph Oliver, one of a series of New Orleans cornet kings, who, like Bechet, had an all-pervasive influence on the burgeoning art.


Character has as large a role in the history of art as genius. For the jazz musician the problem has always been that, unlike most other artists, he must work in close conjunction with other men, whose temperaments may be quite different from his own, often enough difficult. The trouble is compounded by the fact that his art dwells inside the entertainment industry, the goals of which are usually not his. The problem of maneuvering through this thicket of personalities is something the writer or painter has to worry about only occasionally; for the jazz musician it is a daily concern, and his final reputation may depend as much on his ability to deal with it as with his own talent.
In Oliver we have a man who could cope with his professional environment. He was a big man, and confident. He drank little (he chewed tobacco and kept a spittoon on the stand, which he sometimes used to beat time with). He was reliable and businesslike in his dealings, though later in life, it is said, he became stingy and perhaps a little suspicious of his musicians. Most important, he had a clear conception of how he wanted his band to sound and was able to make his men hew the line.
Oliver's biographer was the late Walter C. Allen, a leading authority on New Orleans jazz, Oliver and Jelly Roll Morton in particular. He gives Oliver's birthplace as Dryades Street in New Orleans and the date as 1885. Oliver's mother died when he was fifteen, and he was raised thereafter by an aunt. Some time in his youth he received an injury to his left eye. In about 1900 he began to play with a neighborhood brass band. During the earliest years of jazz he understudied Bunk Johnson and then went on to play with several of the important black and Creole bands – the Henry Allen Brass Band and the Original Superior Orchestra, among others. By about 1910 he was working in Storyville as well, and at one time or another played with almost the entire roster of New Orleans jazz pioneers. By 1915 or there-abouts he was considered one of the leading jazz musicians in the city.
Then, early in 1918, not long after the Original Dixieland Jazz Band records had had their first impact, New Orleans bassist Bill Johnson was asked to supply a jazz band for a Chicago cabaret called the Royal Gardens. He sent for cornetist Buddie Petit, but Petit didn't want to leave home at the time, so Johnson asked Oliver to join the band. For the next two years he played around Chicago in various bands with shifting personnel. In 1922 they opened at the Lincoln Gardens, which was the old Royal Gardens with a new name. The personnel of the band, called King Oliver's Creole Jazz Band, was now Johnny Dodds on clarinet; his brother, Warren "Baby" Dodds, on drums; Honore Dutrey on trombone; Lil Hardin on piano; and Bill Johnson on bass.
For reasons that are not well understood, Oliver decided to add a second cornet to the group. Possibly he was growing lazy; possibly he found himself tiring at the end of the evening; possibly he simply liked the two-cornet combination. In any case, the man he chose to join him was the twenty-two-year-old Louis Armstrong. And in 1923 this band began to make one of the most important series of records in jazz history.


Armstrong left the band in 1924, and there were other personnel changes. For a year or two Oliver endured a slack period, and then, in 1926, he went back into the recording studios with a band called the Dixie Syncopators.
By 1928 he was having trouble keeping his band together, and in 1930 he ran out of work in Kansas City and was stranded there. The problems were many. The Depression had arrived, ruining the recording business and damaging the cabarets. He was suffering from a bad case of pyorrhea, which eventually cost him his teeth (a brass player uses his teeth to support his lip). And, most important, the classic New Orleans style was beginning to be pushed aside by new currents. During the early years of the 1930s he led obscure dance bands, touring around the small towns of Tennessee and the Kentucky mountains for tiny fees.
Oliver moved to Savannah in 1936, where he ran a fruitstand and then became janitor in a pool hall. His health was going; he was coughing all the time and his blood pressure was high. Then, on April 8, 1938, he suffered a cerebral hemorrhage and died. He was buried in Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx, in New York City, where his sister lived. Before he died he wrote a series of letters to his sister. He was working fifteen hours a day in the pool hall for a pittance, yet he can write his sister, "I've started a little dime bank saving. Got $1.60 in it and won't touch it. I am going to try and save myself a ticket to New York." It was a ticket that he never bought. Shortly before he died he wrote that he was having trouble getting treatment for his high blood pressure because of money problems." "I may never see New York again in life . . . Don't think I'm afraid because I wrote what I did. I am trying to live near to the Lord than ever before. So I feel like the Good Lord will take care of me. Good night, dear ..."
In the end, of course, Oliver got his revenge on life. Today his records are listened to everywhere in the world, especially in Europe, where he is better remembered than in the United States. More important, the New Orleans style of which he was one of the prime exponents is the base on which traditional jazz, one of the most widely played jazz forms over the world, was built. Oliver's Creole Jazz Band was the first important jazz group to have its work systematically recorded. As the impact of the Original Dixieland Jazz Band faded, those who had been drawn to this new music began to realize that the heart of the matter lay in the Oliver band. It was never widely popular, but its influence on young jazz musicians of the 1920s was immense. This, they understood by 1925, was jazz.
What is perhaps most significant about the stories of Bechet and Oliver is the indication that somewhere around 1923 a true jazz was about to come into being. Bechet, in 1923, still showed occasional traces of ragtime stiffness. Armstrong, though already a forceful and inventive player, was far from the loose, springy player he was to become.
But 1923 was the year in which jazz finally came to be widely recorded. The record companies had little idea of what jazz was, but they were discovering that there was a large market among blacks for their own music. Totally without system, they recorded whatever they could find. Now musicians, both black and white, had a stock of examples before them, and very quickly began to study them.
Among the most influential of the players being recorded were two clarinetists from New Orleans, Johnny Dodds and Jimmy Noone.

Johnny Dodds


For many listeners Johnny Dodds's playing epitomizes the New Orleans clarinet style. In the days when the music was first being recorded he seemed to have been everywhere. He was on the influential Oliver Creole Jazz Band cuts, he recorded with Freddie Keppard, Jelly Roll Morton, and innumerable small groups of his own; most important of all, he was Armstrong's clarinetist on the majority of the Hot Five and Hot Seven records, which turned jazz around. Anybody who listens to any significant amount of New Orleans jazz will find the sound of Dodds's clarinet clinging so tightly in the ear that it becomes the model for all such playing. It is not surprising, then, that in the hagiography of early jazz Dodds was for a long time considered its finest exponent on his instrument; according to some writers, superior even to Bechet. Today his reputation has diminished somewhat, but he was a player of great consequence.
Johnny Dodds was born in 1892 and he was thus, with Morton and Oliver, one of the founding fathers of the music. He worked with various bands around New Orleans, toured with Billy Mack's Touring Minstrels, worked a stretch on the riverboats, and finally, in his early twenties, began playing with Kid Ory's band, considered by early players perhaps the finest of the New Orleans jazz bands. He left New Orleans in 1918 and eventually landed in Chicago, where he joined the Oliver band at the Lincoln Gardens. When the band broke up in 1924 Dodds went into a club called Kelly's Stable, where he remained in residence until 1930. He recorded steadily during this period with several groups – Jimmy Blythe's Washboard Bands, the New Orleans Wanderers, the New Orleans Bootblacks, and various groups with his own name. By this time the Depression was on and work increasingly harder to get, but Dodds managed to support himself with his music all through the thirties, playing in obscure clubs around Chicago and recording only infrequently. He died in 1940 of a cerebral hemorrhage, just missing out on the New Orleans revival.
Dodds was a reserved and serious man who, in a hard-drinking profession, was something of an oddity because he was a teetotaler. This is surprising because, more than most New Orleans clarinetists, he was a passionate player. The New Orleans clarinet style as expressed by Jimmy Noone or Morton's favorite clarinetist, Omer Simeon, was easy and controlled, a light liquid warble that flowed, rather than being driven, through the propulsive trumpet line. Dodds did at times use this easy manner, as, for example, in his "Bull Fiddle Blues," with Johnny Dodds's Washboard Band.
Unquestionably the best known of Dodds's work are the some four dozen sides he made as a member of Armstrong's Hot Five and Hot Seven recording bands. One of the finest examples of his work is on the tune made as both "Gully Low Blues" and "S.O.L. Blues." It is a prime example of New Orleans clarinet playing at its best. Dodds, however, was not as technically skilled as others among the early clarinetists, but he was, we must remember, one of the inventors of the art.

Jimmy Noone


Although Dodds had the larger reputation among jazz fans at the time, Jimmy Noone had a greater reputation with musicians, and today we are able to see not only that was he as influential, but that he was a better musician. Indeed, most jazz clarinet playing since has flowed from Noone.
He was a Creole, raised in the tradition of legitimate musicianship. He studied with Bechet and the much-admired Lorenzo Tio. Like Dodds, he worked around New Orleans in his youth, and, like Dodds, came to Chicago around 1917 or 1918. He worked and recorded with Oliver, Cook's Dreamland Orchestra, a highly reputed band of the day, and with Tommy Ladnier and Freddie Keppard. By the middle of the decade, however, he was working mainly with groups of his own, most of them small bands that featured as lead his clarinet or an alto saxophone rather than a trumpet. Then, like Dodds, he fell on hard times during the Depression and worked in music only sporadically through the thirties. With the New Orleans revival at the end of the decade, he was again recording, and eventually working on the West Coast with the revived Kid Ory band, which was building a considerable following. And yet once more like Dodds, he did not live to enjoy the fruits of the revival; he died in 1944.
But if Dodds and Noone had similar careers, there were considerable differences in their playing styles. Dodds came from the black folk tradition and was self-taught; Noone was a Creole, respected sound musicianship, and studied as a youth and as an adult. In Chicago his teacher was Franz Schoepp, a symphonic clarinetist who also taught the very young Benny Goodman. As a consequence, in the mid-1920s, Noone was not only one of the best-trained clarinetists in jazz; he was among the best-trained players in the music. His ability to play in tune with speed and flexibility, at a time when these skills were in rare supply, impressed other musicians, and clarinetists especially made a point of listening to him. But Noone was not merely a slick player; his melodic conception was sound, and his treatment of the rhythmic elements in jazz was in advance of that of most of the players around him. Noone was, as early as 1927, phrasing in a manner that stood in a halfway house between the New Orleans style and swing. Thus, because he was a fine technician, an inventive improviser, and a leader of the jazz vanguard, he was widely emulated. From him came a whole school of players, including Morton's Omer Simeon, Ellington's Barney Bigard, the St. Louis player Buster Bailey, and others; and out of this school came the swing clarinetists of the 1930s and 1940s – Goodman, Artie Shaw, Irving Fazola, Peanuts Hucko, Joe Marsala, and a host of others.
Because of his technical proficiency, Noone was able to take advantage of the natural fluidity of the clarinet; he played with an easy grace rare in jazz of any time. In comparing Dodds with Noone we can see most clearly the differences between the purely black tradition and the black Creole tradition: the one hard-driving and replete with blue notes and the coarse tone that descends directly from African practice, the other based on a European conception of tone, pitch, and technical facility.
For a man of his reputation Noone recorded surprisingly infrequently. The major body of his work is with a group under his leadership generally called Jimmy Noone and His Apex Club Orchestra, after a club where he worked for a long time.


The Apex sides were made with a group consisting of Noone, alto saxophonist Joe "Doc" Poston, and various rhythm sections. The cream of them consists of about a dozen sides made in 1928 (some second masters have been reissued) with Johnny Wells on drums, Bud Scott on banjo, and Earl Hines, who was about to become the most influential pianist in jazz through the next decade. The best known are a hard-swinging "Monday Date," "Apex Blues," and a fast "I Know That You Know," which features a Noone solo that became a test piece for other clarinetists.
These records constitute one of the most satisfactory small bodies of work in early jazz, and are as fresh today as the day they were made.
It was, then, these players – Noone, Dodds, Oliver, and Bechet, along with Morton and Armstrong – who were bringing jazz up out of New Orleans and exposing it to the world. Suddenly musicians all over the United States were hearing the new music, and quickly it became clear to them how jazz was different from what had gone before, especially ragtime. In a word, they were learning to make a distinction between what "swing" and what didn't. Not all of them were able to repeat what they were hearing, but they were hearing the distinction between jazz and other kinds of popular music. Jazz was no longer a music of New Orleans; it had come to the attention of the world.

Representative Songs
      






         
                    

                             
                              


Listening Recommendation

Original Dixieland Jazz Band


Sidney Bechet - Original Recordings


King Oliver's Creole Jazz Band


Johnny Dodds


Jimmy Noone




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 Author| Post time: 20-12-2017 01:31:29
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Edited by Basston at 19-12-2017 11:06 PM

Chapter 5

The Great Mr. Jelly Lord

In the world of jazz, where the eccentric is commonplace and individuality a sine qua non, the idiosyncratic character of Ferdinand "Jelly Roll" Morton stands out like a beacon. Hustler, poolshark, gambler, pimp, nightclub manager, entrepreneur, and high-liver, Jelly would be worth telling about had he never played a bar of music. He was proud, he was vain, he was arrogant, sensitive, ebullient, a braggart, suspicious, superstitious – but he was nonetheless the genuine article, a true artist. Morton claimed that he had invented "jazz and stomps," as it said on his publicity, and he endlessly fulminated against imitators and those whom he considered his musical inferiors.


Jelly Roll Morton was born Ferdinand La Menthe around 1885, or possibly a year or two later. He shifted the date of his birth as it suited him, and he shifted his name, too. His father was a black Creole named F. P. La Menthe, according to Jelly "one of the outstanding" contractors in the South, but in view of the place held by black Creoles in the social structure by the 1880s, it is more probable that he was a carpenter or builder in a small way of business. La Menthe, whom Jelly remembers as a trombone player, defected early in Jelly's youth, and his mother married a man named Morton.
It is painfully evident that Jelly lived out his life feeling declassed. In part this may have been because of the desertion by his father and a subsequent slip down the social scale, but undoubtedly a good deal of it had to do with the anomalous position in the New Orleans social structure of the black Creoles, who struggled constantly to escape being classified as black. Morton was light-skinned, and he attempted to pass for white much of the time. He was scornful toward blacks, whom he referred to on occasion as "niggers," and he said that they were troublemakers. He never admitted, except perhaps in the wee hours of an insomniac's night, that he was not a member of the white majority.
But Jelly was the only person who thought he was white. He certainly was not accepted into white society, even though one of his first records was as pianist with the white New Orleans Rhythm Kings.


Jelly thus stood in a social limbo he had made for himself, belonging nowhere, everywhere shut out. Had he grown up with a more accepting view of himself, he might have been able to join the black culture in which he in fact lived. Had he been raised in a society where racial lines were less firm, he might have achieved a social position commensurate with his talents. But he could do neither; and as his life progressed, he increasingly fell under the sway of a megalomania.
Yet despite Morton's insistence that he was the greatest this and the inventor of that, there was a winning side to his nature. There emerges from his long, rambling discussion of his life and work, on the Library of Congress records, a charming and basically decent man. He is perfectly willing to talk about his foolish mistakes, his indiscretions and regrets. Throughout his life he continued to send money home to his sisters, at times on a weekly basis. Just a week before he died in near-poverty in Los Angeles, he sent his sisters ten dollars. And the musicians who worked with him, on records at least, found him an ideal leader – clear in his mind about what he wanted to do, but open to suggestion and willing to allow the others blowing freedom. The recording sessions were all business – Jelly was serious about his art – but they were fun, too.
From the beginning of his career, and for some years afterward, Jelly thought of his music as a sideline to his main vocation, that of the New Orleans sharp dabbling in gambling and pimping. But, needless to say, his interest in music began at an early date. He started drumming on tin pans with chair rounds as a baby; then graduated to the harmonica at five, the jew's-harp, and finally the guitar, on which he took lessons with a "Spanish gentleman in the neighborhood." By seven – he claims – he was "considered among the best guitarists around" and was playing with little string combinations, usually bass, mandolin, and guitar. He continued to experiment with other instruments – violin, drums, and apparently trombone; and his grandmother, with whom he lived after his mother died when he was fourteen, encouraged his interest in music, as a good Creole would. Somewhere along the line Jelly had become fascinated by the piano. At first he rejected it "because the piano was known in our circle as an instrument for a lady ... I didn't want to be called a sissy. I wanted to marry and raise a family and be known as a man among men when I became of age." But eventually he got over this prejudice and began studying the piano with a series of teachers, the most important of whom, he says, was named Frank Richards.
We cannot be sure just when this was because of Jelly's habit of improvising history. For what it is worth he says, "I was considered one of the best junior pianists in the whole city," but this is only in terms of that time and place. Jelly could, of course, read and write music, but on the testimony of both him and his peers he was not a quick sight-reader. His usual practice was to work over a piece until he had memorized it, before displaying it in public.
The music he played as a youth was not, of course, jazz; it was the usual mixture of popular tunes, rags, waltzes, quadrilles, overtures, and other concert pieces. His style mingled aspects of his classical music background with the blues, and used Afro-Cuban rhythms like the habanera to create a sound he referred to as the “Spanish tinge.”
Morton began working as a pianist in some of the "high-class sporting houses" of the District, places where champagne was the drink, the girls were young and fetching, and the rooms were furnished with crystal chandeliers and the inevitable mirrors. Pianists in such places usually worked as singles, playing and singing requests and their own specialties. They were general entertainers rather than jazz musicians, who mixed patter, off-color songs, sentimental tunes of the day, rags, blues, and dances, according to the tastes of the patrons. Pay was nominal, and the pianists were expected to live on tips from the presumably wealthy customers.
Jelly was successful and began making money. But he made a mistake. Without thinking, he told his proud and imperious grandmother how much money he was making. She quickly guessed where he was making it. "My grandmother gave me that Frenchman look and said to me in French, 'Your mother is gone and can't help her little girls now (Jelly's half sisters). She left Amede and Mimi to their old grandmother to raise as good girls. A musician is nothing but a bum and a scalawag. I don't want you round your sisters. I reckon you better move."
Jelly's mother was dead, his father had abandoned him, and now his grandmother had thrown him out of the house. He walked the streets all night, then broke and ran for Biloxi, where he had a godmother who took him in. Throughout his life Jelly continued to want the love and approval of his family; witness the money he regularly sent home. It is probable that this rejection, coming on top of so many others, contributed to the strong need for ego-bolstering that was so obviously part of his personality.
After the break with his family Jelly became a wanderer. He worked in Biloxi, Meridien, Gulfport, and a string of little towns up and down the Gulf Coast. Thence he moved to Chicago, St. Louis, New York, Houston, and the West Coast, turning up in New Orleans between times. He could always make a living playing the piano, but at this period he seems to have been making a career for himself primarily as a gambler and con man. He claims to have been a masterly pool player and a cardsharp, a tough who carried a gun and would accept any man's challenge. But in fact his attempts to make it as a big-time hustler were beset with failure. His exploits are a litany of misadventure – double-crossing partners, faithless women, men who robbed and assaulted him. Despite his boasting and his desire to play the wheeler-dealer, Morton was fundamentally a decent man, honorable in human relations, open with friends, generous toward his family. He simply lacked the character necessary for the bad man.
Perhaps as a result of his failure to make it as a sharp Jelly began concentrating more and more on his music. By about 1923, when he moved to Chicago – there was a developing audience for hot music in the black ghetto of the South Side as well as in the clubs catering to whites – he was committed to music. He began to publish his songs and band arrangements and, finally, to make records as a soloist and with different groups that he led. Between 1923 and 1939 he made about a hundred and seventy-five sides and a handful of piano rolls. Of these some fifty are piano solos; another couple of dozen are accompaniments to vocalists and various ephemera. Aside from the piano solos, which are almost always excellent, the records on which his fame is based are some fifty or so cuts made between 1926 and 1930, mostly under the title of Jelly Roll Morton and His Red Hot Peppers.


The first of the piano solos, made in 1923, were of a group of his own compositions, which he was to record again and again. They included "Grandpa's Spell," "Kansas City Stomps," "Milenburg Joys," "Wolverine Blues," and "The Pearls," all of which he eventually worked out as band arrangements for the Hot Peppers. And in these early solos we can once again watch a not-quite-finished jazz emerging from an earlier stage. There are still traces of ragtime in these records, but the music is by no means the purists' ragtime. Thus, with Bechet and Oliver, Morton in 1923 was at the front line of jazz. It is not surprising, then, that when he had the opportunity, three years later, to make jazz records on his own terms, they turned out to be landmarks in jazz history.
Jelly – and posterity – was lucky in one important respect. By 1926 he had acquired as his publishers, Walter and Lester Melrose, two young white men who had started in the business as owners of a music store. Apparently more by chance than by design they got involved with the black jazz musicians arriving in Chicago during the early 1920s, and developed the publishing of black music as their specialty. They recognized that Jelly had solid commercial potential, and they worked hard to develop him. For a music publisher in those days, the money lay in building a composer through hit records. The Melroses were never major publishers, but they had contacts with the record companies and they got Jelly a contract with Victor.
In addition, they paid for some rehearsal time in order to give the records the best possible chance. As a consequence, Jelly was able to develop the Red Hot Peppers records in a way he would not have been able to had he not the luxury of working out the material with the men in advance. Few of these players were quick sight-readers, and many of them were only barely adequate. Nor was Jelly a fluent writer. A lot of this music, therefore, was worked out on an I-want-you-to-do-thus-and-so-here basis. This meant working the music over and memorizing it, which required rehearsal time, especially if several tunes were to be cut on a single day, as was often the case. Whatever else the Melrose brothers felt about Jelly – they were on bitter terms with him eventually – they respected his talent and let Jelly choose the musicians he wanted and do things his own way. It was characteristic of Jelly that he took the recordings seriously. The arrangements were not thrown together but were carefully thought-out and thoroughly rehearsed. The men played accurately, and their intonation was superior to most of the jazz being recorded at the time. Moreover, the recordings themselves were technically excellent, well balanced and clean, and the modern listener will find them easier going than much early jazz.
It is generally said that Jelly Roll Morton was the first real jazz "composer." That is to say, he was not just a songwriter or an arranger of other men's music but combined both functions to create, for each record, a unified piece of music that had a beginning, middle, and end, in which themes were set side by side in some sort of complementary or contrasting relationship, in which there was a logical sequence of keys – in which, in sum, we can find many of the procedures standard in European concert music. Jelly understood how to produce climax and how to shift smoothly from one mood to a contrasting one and then back again. He was, above all, a master at using the palette of sounds available to him. In his best compositions Morton was using a range of musical devices in an organized and disciplined way. They are not included simply for effect but are parts of a unified whole. Making parts into a whole is one of the things composition is all about. An artist makes relationships; a great artist makes new and surprising ones. Jelly was not an artist of Armstrong's caliber, but he was an exceedingly fine one, and in the Hot Peppers records we can see him relating solos, breaks, riffs, and themes to each other to make up satisfying wholes.
Most of Morton's recorded work consists of either piano solos or pieces built on the New Orleans band. But occasionally he recorded with smaller groups. Cuts worth mentioning are a trio version of "Wolverine Blues," with Johnny and Baby Dodds of the Oliver band; a trio version of "Shreveport Stomp," with Omer Simeon on clarinet and Tommy Benford on drums; and a quartet playing "Mournful Serenade," with trombonist Geechy Fields added to the "Shreveport Stomp" group.
Several of Morton's best band numbers, like "The Pearls," "Kansas City Stomps," and "Original Jelly Roll Blues," were conceived as piano pieces first. They are full of ragtime figures, evident even when the tunes are transcribed for the band. Morton, we must remember, was a teen-age piano player in New Orleans during the heat of the ragtime craze; it would have been impossible for him to resist the ragtime influence even had he wanted to. He saw jazz as a new music that had eclipsed a fading ragtime, but he recognized how the two were related. He said, "Ragtime is a certain type of syncopation and only certain tunes can be played in that idea. But jazz is a style that can be applied to any type of tune." It was a very perceptive remark for somebody caught up in the transition of one form to the other, and it indicates that Jelly was a conscious artist, possibly the first such in jazz. He knew what he was doing and why, and he could demonstrate it on the piano.
Unhappily, he came upon his opportunity too late. By 1928, when the Hot Peppers appeared to be still ascending in public favor, Louis Armstrong was already making the Hot Five records that would set jazz on another course. At almost the same moment, the Depression struck. Morton, like Oliver, suddenly found himself outmoded. From 1929 on it was all downhill. The Hot Peppers records made in 1929 are not quite as good as the earlier ones, and the 1930 cuts are distinctly inferior – much less varied, much less carefully worked, dependent more on jamming than on Morton's compositional skills.
Morton might have survived, but at the same time the record business collapsed, almost overnight. By 1932 total sales were down to 5 million, just 6 percent of what they had been five years earlier. The causes were three: the Depression, which made money scarce; radio, which was faddish, and free besides; and a general lack of interest in records as somehow out of date or no longer fresh. It was not merely that people stopped just buying records; they began to store them in attics or sell them to secondhand stores, thus making them available to the early-record collectors.
In any case, by the early 1930s Morton was broke and beginning to lose his health. The jazzmen around him scoffed at his boasts about inventing jazz and the superiority of "his" music. He had become that classic American figure of fun, the foolish old-timer insisting that the ancient ways were best; that the young were ignoramuses who ought to have some respect for their elders. In 1939 he made the Library of Congress recordings, which were not, however, issued to the public until a decade later; and as a result of the revival of interest in the New Orleans players, which had made a place for Bechet as a grand old man, there were a few more recording sessions for General Records, mostly for juke box consumption.
But Jelly Roll Morton was ill. In 1940, he heard that his godmother had died in Los Angeles, where she had moved. Bound by sentiment and by the hope that a warmer climate would help his health, he chained his Cadillac to his Lincoln, filled them with his clothes, and drove out to the West Coast. It was a terrible trip. He went off the road twice in snowstorms and arrived in Los Angeles broke. He managed to hang on for another six months and then, on July 10, 1941, he died, like King Oliver before him, unnoticed and unsung except by a tiny group of musicians and jazz fans who loved his music.

Representative Songs


Listening Recommendation

Jelly Roll Morton - 1923-1924





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 Author| Post time: 20-12-2017 01:42:27
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Edited by Basston at 19-12-2017 11:43 PM

Chapter 6

Bessie Smith and the New Blues

Until recently, most jazz critics assumed that the blues were part of jazz – not merely one of the roots, but a continuing part of the mainstem. Today we see that the blues has a separate tradition, intermingled with that of jazz but not the same. It has its own followers; its own critics and historians, who are not necessarily interested in jazz; and, more important, its own players, like B. B. King, Muddy Waters, and Bo Diddley, who are not jazz players at all.
Nonetheless, the two musics twine together like grape vines. Jazz grew out of the blues, in part; but in later years the child came to have a formative influence over its father. A modern blues performance is quite different from one in the old tradition, and a good deal of the change was worked by jazz musicians.
The early blues were very much in the tradition of black-American folk music, which was difficult for whites, trained in European music, either to transcribe or perform themselves. But in the 1910s the blues were being brought out of the black ghettos and off the pine wood farms into the mainline of American show business, and a way had to be found to Europeanize them. This was not the first time such a process took place. Both the spirituals and ragtime were created by the Europeanizing of black musical forms, in one case black church music, in the other black dance music. And by 1915 a number of forces were pressing the blues to do likewise. One of these forces was the commercial possibilities in the blues. In 1912, W. C. Handy had a great hit with "Memphis Blues," and two years later an even greater hit with "St. Louis Blues." Other less well known blacks were publishing the blues at the same time – Handy was the most famous of these men, but not the first – and though blacks did buy this sheet music, the big money was in selling to the white majority. This meant transmuting the blues into a form comprehensible to whites.
Like ragtime and the commercial jazz of the twenties, the blues was a boom-and-bust phenomenon that broke out of the black ghetto to become a national craze among blacks and, to some degree, whites. The trigger was pulled by a record called "Crazy Blues," by Mamie Smith, issued in 1920.


Mamie Smith was a handsome, light-skinned woman who had an excellent, powerful voice but was no real blues singer. She had come to New York from Cincinnati with a white vocal group called the Four Mitchells. In New York she attracted the attention of Perry Bradford, one of the emerging black music entrepreneurs. He got Mamie a chance to record at Okeh. Two tunes, "That Thing Called Love" and "You Can't Keep a Good Man Down," were cut in February 1920. They were ordinary pop tunes and did ordinarily well – well enough to encourage Okeh to use Smith again, so in August 1920 she cut "Crazy Blues." Much to everybody's surprise, the record sold enormously. The record companies leaped in to capitalize on it, and suddenly a boom for blues, aimed mainly at black audiences, was on.
The record companies established "race" catalogues for dealers in black areas. Scouts from all the companies fanned out through the South, indiscriminately signing up black singers, many of whom were straight vaudeville performers with no ability for singing the blues. By 1921 at least a half-dozen black singers were on records; by 1923 the number was running to scores. The boom became a craze, a fad, not only among blacks, but among whites, who were once again smitten by a black musical form.
Virtually every black woman who could sing at all was signed up and presented as a blues singer. Many of them, like Sara Martin, who has a solid reputation among early jazz enthusiasts because she once recorded with King Oliver, were plain bad; some were simply atrocious. Out of the whole lot not more than a dozen at the very outside left a body of music sufficient in quantity and quality to interest anyone but a scholar. The list would include Bessie Tucker, a strong singer with a dark voice; Clara Smith, who had a thinner voice but good control of blue notes; Trixie Smith, another with a light voice and a somewhat easier way of phrasing than was common; Ida Cox, a very popular vaudeville singer who also sang excellent blues on occasion; and Bertha "Chippie" Hill, who had a dark voice and was working as late as the 1950s. Among the other better-known names were Victoria Spivey, Sippie Wallace, and Mae Barnes. But without question, the acknowledged leaders were Ma Rainey and Bessie Smith.


Ma Rainey was the first of the classic blues singers about whom we know much of anything. She was born Gertrude Pridgett and grew up to be a short, plump, dark woman with protruding teeth and a high forehead, which she usually covered with a band of beads. To put no fine point on it, she was an ugly woman. What effect this had on her character is hard to know, but Ma was reputedly bisexual. She was born on April 26, 1886, in Columbus, Georgia, a contemporary of Morton and Oliver. How and why she got into show business is not known. One of her grandmothers had been on the stage, but we have no way of telling what influence she had.
Whatever the circumstances, by 1900 the girl was singing in public, and by 1904, when she married an entertainer named Will "Pa" Rainey, she was established on the Southern entertainment circuit. The Raineys worked for a time with the Rabbit Foot Minstrels, one of the leading touring shows, and then with Tolliver's Circus, which was not so much a circus as a variety show, where they were billed as "Rainey and Rainey, The Assassinators of the Blues." Eventually Ma worked primarily with her own shows, always in the South. She came north only to make records, and she made a good deal of money and managed to hang on to some of it. She cut her last record in 1928, retired from active singing in 1935, and thereafter earned her living by running a few small theaters in Georgia. She died in 1939 and is buried in Porterdale Cemetery in Columbus, Georgia.
This thin sketch is about all we know of Ma Rainey's life. But what really matters to us is the records. She made about ninety sides between 1923 and 1928 – a rate of a record every six weeks or so, which gives some indication of her drawing power. Her voice was deeper, darker, and heavier that that of any of the other classic blues singers. She is most effective at slow tempos, which permit her to play with blue notes and to stretch phrases across the bar lines. Ma Rainey can be heard at the top of her form on "Blame It on the Blues" and "Leavin' This Morning," both recorded in 1928 with accompaniment by guitarist Tampa Red and her musical director, Thomas A. "Georgia Tom" Dorsey, who composed hundreds of religious songs as well as blues and other numbers.
But powerful as Ma Rainey was, by almost universal opinion the greatest of all the classic blues singers was Bessie Smith.


She had an ability to move people that made audiences worship her and left her fellow musicians in awe. The New Orleans guitarist Danny Barker says, "She could bring about mass hypnotism. When she was performing you could hear a pin drop." Frank Walker, the Columbia executive who had charge of her recording career, describes her when she first began to record: "She looked about seventeen – tall, fat and scared to death – just awful. But all of this you forgot when you heard her sing, because when Bessie sang the blues she meant it."
Bessie Smith, unlike most jazz musicians, is lucky in having a sensitive and meticulous biographer, the blues scholar Chris Albertson, whose Bessie is one of the few first-rate full-dress biographies in jazz. Albertson has managed to rescue the facts of Bessie's life from the miasma of romance and myth with which early writers invested it. According to Albertson, Bessie Smith was born in Chattanooga, Tennessee, in or around 1894. One of seven children, she was raised in the bottomless poverty of the black South, where nickels and dimes were big money. Her father died when Bessie was a baby, and her mother when she was eight or so, leaving her oldest sister, Violet, to raise the young ones.
What kind of music Bessie heard and where, nobody knows. In the Chattanooga of her childhood it would not have been jazz, certainly. No doubt there were early versions of the blues being sung, as well as pop tunes from minstrel shows. Presumably she would have heard the music of the growing ragtime boom. Her father had been associated with the Baptist church in some capacity, and it is likely, though not certain, that she would have gone to church on Sunday and sung gospel music.
Whatever the case, Albertson says that by the age of nine Bessie was singing on street corners for nickels and dimes, and by 1912, when she was in her late teens, she was competent enough for her brother Clarence, who was traveling as dancer and comedian with a vaudeville show, to arrange an audition for her with the owner. She was big and, if not a great beauty, at least reasonably good-looking. The owner took her on as a dancer.
By great good chance, the show also included Ma and Pa Rainey. Bessie stayed with the show briefly and then struck off with the Raineys for another show. She toured with the Raineys for a short time – probably not much more than a year – and then, having established herself as a singer, began working in the 81 Club in Atlanta for ten dollars a week and tips, which may have doubled her salary. For the next few years she was in and out of theaters, sometimes touring with traveling shows, and by the end of World War I, as the jazz boom was just beginning, she was an established star. She played Northern cities as well as Southern, had a brief marriage, and acquired the habit of hard drinking, which dogged her the rest of her life.
Then, in 1920 came Mamie Smith's "Crazy Blues." Bessie was merely one of many singers the record companies scouted. Her real opportunity did not come until 1923. Frank Walker had heard Bessie several years before in the South, and had never forgotten the power of her singing. Columbia, after 1921, was virtually in the hands of the receivers and was desperate for a hit. In 1923 Walker sent Clarence Williams, who had first recorded Sidney Bechet, to the South to find her and bring her north. Her first record was "Down Hearted Blues," backed by "Gulf Coast Blues." "Down Hearted Blues" caught the public fancy, and the record sold 780,000 copies in fewer than six months. And how the good times began to roll. That summer Bessie married a Philadelphia policeman named Jack Gee, who seems to have done nothing but spend her money and cause her trouble, but at least there was plenty of money available. Bessie never made a great deal of money from her records – most of the time her fees were in the neighborhood of $150 for each – but the records brought her the adulation that enabled her to earn as much as $2000 a week for her public appearances.
For the next eight or ten years she alternated between theaters and traveling tent shows. She had a good head for show business, knew how to put together a show and manage it. She dressed like a star, sported jewelry, and traveled on the road in a private railway car, which black shows often used so that the entertainers could avoid the trouble of finding hospitable hotels and restaurants in strange towns. The idea that Bessie was an innocent mulcted by white businessmen is contradicted by the Albertson biography. To be sure, she was badly underpaid for her records, which helped put Columbia on its feet. On the other hand, the flat fee was standard industry practice, and, more important, in Frank Walker she had a sympathetic, sensitive, and admiring director. Bessie's troubles were brought on mostly by herself. There was the booze: like many alcoholics she could go for long periods without drinking, but once she went on a binge she could drink an ocean dry. She was violent and had a quick temper: she would physically attack people, including close friends, when she was drunk. Her sexual choices were at times undiscriminating. She was bisexual and made conquests of several of the girls in her show. Extravagant with money when it came to her family, she was inclined to be stingy toward the people who worked for her. She could be cruel: several times, in fits of pique, she abandoned her own show on the road, leaving the cast stranded.
Yet there was another side to her. She was overgenerous to her family, who often took eagerly without giving much in return. She could be a good and loyal friend. She could be affectionate; she was always ready for some laughs, some fun, and those drinks. Sidney Bechet, who had a brief affair with her, said, "She always drank plenty and she could hold it, but sometimes after she'd been drinking awhile, she'd get like there was no pleasing her. She had this trouble in her, this thing that wouldn't let her rest sometimes, a meanness that came and took her over."
The thing that is clearest about her is that she had absolutely no pretenses. She always said what she thought and did what she wanted. She didn't like whites, a fact she usually made clear, and regardless of the money involved she would walk out of an engagement if she felt that she wasn't being given the royal treatment she believed she deserved. Her troubles stemmed from precisely this willingness to act on the spirit of the moment, heedless of the consequences, and unfortunately the demons that drove her were of the sort likely to provoke consequences.
Analyzing people at long distance is a questionable practice, but it is apparent that Bessie Smith was filled with a great deal of unconscious rage, which continually broke through her defenses, especially when she had been drinking. In view of her having been an orphan, raised in extreme poverty, this is hardly surprising; but once she started drinking, sooner or later she would pick a fight, often a physical one. Bessie was an attacker, and I think that it is this quality, this sense of controlled rage, that we respond to in her work. In general I do not like literary interpretations of music. People who hear in music mankind's striving toward the Godhead, or the sorrows of a race, it seems to me, are simply finding in it messages that another auditor may not hear. Music works its effects in musical terms; contrast, climax, movement, stasis, tension, release, are all expressed in the purely abstract form of notes. But an exception must be made for vocal music, which, after all, is in part literal. Furthermore, especially in music like the blues, derived from the African tradition in which song was often a form of speech, the music itself is supposed to convey some of the inflections of speech.
Bessie's voice, at first rich and round, grew thinner and harsher as time passed, through age, gin, cigarettes, and the fumes from the Coleman lanterns that were used as footlights in tent shows. In her later years she more and more employed a gutteral tone, in part, I believe, to help her control her voice.
Bessie's great days began to draw to a close at the beginning of the 1930s, when show business grew sick and the record business virtually died. And tastes were changing with the times, among black audiences as well as white. The growing population of urban blacks, increasingly out of touch with the rural black folk music that fed the blues, was demanding a faster, slicker music. The jazz bands were taking over, and the younger musicians – and listeners – were drawing away from the older ways of playing, as Morton and Oliver found to their despair.
Admiration for Bessie never diminished; she was classed apart from fad. When she recorded for the last time in 1933 she was already something of a voice from the past. This session, on which she made some marvelous records, including two powerful, heartbreaking blues, "Gimme a Pigfoot" and "Do Your Duty", shows that she was as penetrating a singer as ever, despite the attenuation of her voice. The musicians who accompanied her included Jack Teagarden, Chu Berry, and Benny Goodman, and the session was a musical success.
And, indeed, thereafter things appeared to be looking up. By 1937 the economy was improving and there was a little more confidence that the Depression was waning. There were nightclub jobs, plans for more records, talk of a movie (she had made a short called St. Louis Blues earlier). That fall she set out once more on a Southern tour and in the course of it, early on the morning of Sunday, September 26, she was killed in an automobile accident. Not long afterward there arose the tale that she had not been fatally hurt in the accident, but had been turned away from a white hospital because of her color and had bled to death before she could be brought to a hospital that would accept her. The story has been generally believed, and was the basis for a highly regarded play by Edward Albee, The Death of Bessie Smith. But according to Albertson and others who have investigated it, the story was a fabrication, apparently put out as propaganda for political purposes. According to a doctor who happened on the accident shortly after it occurred, "The Bessie Smith ambulance would not have gone to a white hospital, you can forget that. Down in the Deep South cotton country, no colored ambulance driver, or white ambulance driver, would ever have thought of putting a colored person off in a hospital for white folks." And it is his opinion that Bessie had been so badly hurt in the accident that she had almost no chance of survival, especially in view of the state of medicine in that time and place.
And so it was finished: the boozing, the parties, the sexual adventuring, and, most of all, the singing. But she left her mark. In 1970 Columbia began to reissue all of her records, which have gone on to have a successful sale. Her voice still commands audiences: people who weren't yet born when she died freeze in their seats at the sound.
By the time of Bessie Smith's death, the craze for female blues singers was well over. Some of them managed to continue to work in music, and a very few, like Ethel Waters, found new careers. But most plunged into obscurity, and hardly any of them recorded after 1930. However, there proved to be a continuing market for male blues singers, many of them still working in the older tradition. These men had never had the success that came to the female singers during the boom, but there had always been a demand for their records. This demand, however much it dwindled, continued. Many, like Leadbelly, were working up into the 1940s, keeping alive a tradition for the younger men coming along. But most of the younger men were playing in the new tradition of the jazz-oriented blues.

Joe Turner


Out of this new blues style came two men who, although at base blues singers, have generally been thought of as really jazz singers, or, as they were termed, blues "shouters." One of these was Joe Turner, who was born in 1911 and grew up in Kansas City during the later 1920s and the thirties at a time when it was a rip-roaring good-time town full of the cabarets that made it a fine spawning ground for jazz talent. Turner began as a singing bartender in the cabarets, eventually establishing a partnership with Pete Johnson, a boogie-woogie pianist. Turner came into wider notice in 1938, when the boogie-woogie craze brought him to New York for a concert at Carnegie Hall, arranged by John Hammond, and a subsequent stay at Cafe Society, a club that featured jazz performers. He recorded with a number of major jazz musicians over the next three decades, toured Europe several times, and was still active in the 1970s.
Turner has a strong, shouting voice. Although he occasionally sings slow blues, notably "Wee Baby Blues," with a group under the leadership of Art Tatum, he is best known for fast blues shouted over a strong rhythmic accompaniment like "Going Away Blues," made in 1938 with Pete Johnson. Turner's style evolved little over the years. Recording in the mid-1970s with a band including Dizzy Gillespie, he sounds much as he did forty years earlier, his voice amazingly full and strong despite his age.

Jimmy Rushing


A blues shouter better known than Turner was Jimmy Rushing, who was a featured singer with the Count Basie band from 1935 to 1948. Grossly overweight, Rushing was known as Mr. Five by Five, and had a popular song written about him in the 1940s. Like Turner, he came from the Southwest; he was born in 1903 in Oklahoma City. His family was musical, and he studied various instruments as well as music theory. He worked for a period in California, occasionally with Jelly Roll Morton, and then began working around Kansas City with several of the important bands of the area. One of these was Walter Page's Blue Devils, which was eventually absorbed into Bennie Moten's band, which in turn was transformed into the Count Basie band.
Rushing's style, too, changed little over the years. In 1929, he made "Blue Devil Blues," a takeoff on Armstrong's "Tight Like This." On the record, which included a young Hot Lips Page struggling to capture the Armstrong cadences, Rushing sang as he did at the end of his career. His sound is richer and fuller than Turner's, presumably because he had had legitimate musical training.
Rushing sang more slow blues than Turner did, and because he was a band vocalist in a day when the big bands were at the center of popular music, he sang pop songs as well. But he was a blues singer at heart, and when he sang popular tunes they were inflected with the sound of the blues.
By the end of World War II, blues singers like Chuck Berry, Muddy Waters, B. B. King, and Bo Diddley, who had great influence on the founders of modern rock, had carried the evolution of the blues farther away from the old style. They used jazz-type rhythms, often double-timed, with a boogie-woogie edge to them. The old tradition, if not dead, was moribund. A John Lee Hooker might still record in the old way, and a few young people continued to imitate the music on the old records as best they could. But the culture from which the blues had originally come was gone. The institutions that had fostered the old blues – the plantations, the work camps, the prison gangs – were disappearing. They became, by the end of the fifties, a wellspring for a new music about to sweep the world. Like jazz, rock is built on the blues, which thus lives on in its children.

Representative Songs

   
   
   

Listening Recommendation

Ma Rainey - The Story of the Blues


Bessie Smith - Empress of the Blues

Watching Recommendation

Bessie: The Music of Bessie Smith ( movie trailer)







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Edited by Basston at 20-12-2017 12:05 AM

Chapter 7

The White Influx

The position of the white man in jazz has always been ambiguous. Because jazz has so universally been thought of as the black man's music, the white jazz player has often been considered an interloper, not only by blacks who resent the intrusion of whites into what they think of as a private family matter, but also by some white critics, a few of whom have insisted that only the black man can play "authentic" jazz. Blacks, especially those associated with the more militant political movements, have accused whites of "stealing" their music, and some have agreed that no white man can really play it. Black musicians know better. Although a few have taken the line that only the black man can play jazz, by far the largest majority have worked with white players, and recognize them as their peers. But they have not necessarily opened their arms to white players, either.
In the early twenties, when the large influx of whites into jazz began, the blacks tended to be flattered by the attention – in some cases, adulation – they received from whites, many of whom had never before had any social commerce with blacks. By the mid-thirties, however, when whites, many of them undeserving, began to become rich and famous during the swing band period, blacks understandably came to resent white musicians who could command larger salaries and get jobs often barred to blacks. Blacks were resentful, and when they had the opportunity to turn the tables, they took it. Today, in a tight jazz market it is the whites who are feeling excluded.
What is important to see is that during the early days of jazz, whites and blacks developed their music separately, at least to a degree. White players did not think about the music in exactly the same way as the blacks did, and they had somewhat different ideas about how the music should be played. It has to be understood that these early white players did not always realize that jazz was invented by blacks. Some of them did, of course. Paul Mares, one of the early New Orleans white players, says, "We did our best to copy the colored music we'd heard at home. We did the best we could, but naturally we couldn't play real colored style." But many white players in the North were brought into jazz by the Original Dixieland Jazz Band and the other white groups that developed out of it. They saw jazz as a New Orleans music that both whites and blacks played, and played somewhat differently. Whites, it was understood, could not really play the blues; only a black could do that. But jazz, most whites thought, belonged to neither race.
There were, then, social reasons that tended to force white and black playing into separate streams. To be sure, the records of the Original Dixieland Jazz Band and its followers were bought by blacks as well as whites; some white groups, in fact, were given names to suggest that they were black bands. But blacks could not get into theaters, dance halls, or cabarets where whites were playing, and as jazz moved out of New Orleans it was the black players whom they heard, and eventually worked with, almost exclusively.
On the other side of the coin, it took a certain amount of daring for white adolescents to visit the black ghetto. They could always get into cabarets where the best black bands were appearing, if they looked old enough. The top black bands always, from Storyville up until relatively recently, worked for white audiences, because that was where the money was. But few young whites had much real contact with the black culture. Indeed, it is difficult for young people today to realize how isolated whites were from blacks outside the South during the first few decades of this century. Blacks did not go into white restaurants or nightclubs; they did not appear in public on the same bandstand or baseball diamond. You would not normally see blacks in white shops, even the simplest grocery stores. In 1930 few white people in the United States had ever sat down to a meal with a black, or held a conversation with one as a social equal.
This social isolation of blacks from whites inevitably placed limits on the amount of musical cross-fertilizing that went on. After 1920, therefore, whites began to develop a jazz tradition of their own, which, while unquestionably intertwined with the jazz tradition of the blacks, was still distinct.
We cannot start talking about "white jazz" and "black jazz" because the similarities are far greater than the differences, which in any event began to disappear within a decade or two. The differences, however, are there.
The influx of white players into jazz was part of a broader movement of whites into popular music in general. The concept of a "music business" begins at about the turn of the century. Suddenly there was big money in music; and big money always has a way of legitimating the illegitimate. In increasing numbers whites began to see popular music as a career.
These whites coming into music were mainly interested in achieving success by playing popular music, but some of them were attracted to jazz. The first of these were the players of the Original Dixieland Jazz Band and others associated with them. By the time the first jazz records broke on the public, there already existed in New Orleans a cadre of white musicians capable of playing this advanced ragtime, and by 1920 or so some of them were playing excellent jazz. After the furor following the issuance of the Original Dixieland Jazz Band's records, and their subsequent appearance in New York, the imitators swarmed in. The first important ones were a group of New York players who had heard the band firsthand. The best known of these were trumpeter Phil Napoleon, pianist Frank Signorelli, clarinetist Jimmy Lytell, and trombonist Milfred "Miff" Mole. These men set out frankly to learn the new music and capitalize on it. Through the early twenties, with a shifting group of musicians, they made hundreds of records under many names, the most common of which was the Original Memphis Five. (Many of the records were issued under the name Ladd's Black Aces, in order to reach the black market.)
But at the same time a far more important group of white musicians was coalescing in the Midwest. These young men began as listeners to the Original Dixieland Jazz Band, but very quickly they fell under the influence of another white group from New Orleans, which was playing in Chicago in 1919 or 1920 under the name of the New Orleans Rhythm Kings.

The New Orleans Rhythm Kings

The band was led by trumpeter Paul Mares, who had been called to Chicago to form a New Orleans-style band to take advantage of the popularity of the now-departed Original Dixieland Jazz Band.


Mares brought to Chicago, among others, Leon Rappolo, a clarinetist, who was institutionalized for mental illness a few years later, and trombonist George Brunis, who died in 1974 after a fifty-year career in jazz. The band worked for a long period – possibly as long as two years – in a cabaret called Friars' Inn, which was supposed to have been frequented by gangsters Al Capone and Dion O'Bannion. As the successor to the Original Dixieland Jazz Band, it attracted the attention of the young Midwestern players who were learning to play jazz. They spent many hours in front of the bandstand, sometimes sitting in; and when the group's records first appeared, they listened to them over and over.


The New Orleans Rhythm Kings lasted for about five years; it recorded only some thirty sides; and it never developed any widespread following among the general public. Yet it was by any standards a good, swinging, New Orleans band, rhythmically a little stiffer than the Oliver band, but an excellent jazz band nevertheless. A comparison of its first records, made in 1922, with other records made by jazz musicians in that year and after, shows that it is clearly playing better jazz than any other band that recorded, except those containing black musicians from New Orleans.
The New Orleans Rhythm Kings came to be the primary influence on the Midwesterners. They approached the whole business of jazz playing with an entirely different attitude from the blacks. A black jazz musician was, among his people, a star, a hero, who held a place something like the place held by a basketball star today. But for the young white players, playing jazz meant entering a forbidden world. Popular music was still a profession that most white families, and certainly white middle-class families, considered beyond the pale. Jazz, with its associations of blacks, liquor, and sexuality, was an abomination. In the 1920s no white parent anywhere in the United States would have been happy about a child going into jazz; the parents of many of these young players hated the idea. As a result, these youngsters, most of them teen-agers when they started, came to jazz with the sense that they were a group of elect outsiders who had dedicated themselves to a high truth.
How did this music differ from what the blacks were playing?
The music of the whites of this period was faster, rhythmically stiffer, and harmonically more European than the black music that had come out of New Orleans. What made it popular then, and what is still its greatest attraction, was a reckless spirit, a heedless, headlong drive. At its best it possessed an intensity that black groups did not always attain, and it is not surprising that this should be so, for it was built on that philosophy of rebellion. These whites were rebelling against a highly ordered and emotionally reserved culture. They thus came to see jazz as everything that the atmosphere of their homes was not: untamed, hot, and filled with feeling. Jazz must come from the heart. Some of them refused to learn to read music for fear that it would pollute the springs of their feelings. The idea was to blow the way you felt, and who cared about an occasional mistake? Consequently, this sense that jazz was emotion set free kept them from formalizing their music beyond a necessary minimum, and it left them excessively dependent on free blowing in their ensemble. This formlessness is what gives their music that reckless spirit, but it was at the sacrifice of the little dramas that a worked-out form can produce.
But of course these men were apprentices, learning what the blacks had grown up hearing all around them, and some of them went on to prove to be major figures in jazz. Among the best known were Jimmy McPartland, a trumpet player in the Beiderbecke mold; Bud Freeman, one of the first saxophonists to solve the problems of that instrument, who played in a somewhat lumbering but forceful manner; drummer Gene Krupa, who went on to fame as a star with the Benny Goodman orchestra and the leader of his own band; and players like Tommy Dorsey, his brother Jimmy, and Glenn Miller, who, while of little interest as jazz players, became star band leaders during the big band era.
Of all the men associated with this group, however, three clarinetists and a trombonist stand out. The clarinetists are Benny Goodman, who will be discussed later, Pee Wee Russell, and Frank Teschemacher. In later years Russell came to be considered, by some critics, possibly the greatest of all jazz clarinetists; by any standards he is high on the list. But in the 1920s Frank Teschemacher was acclaimed by his comrades as perhaps the finest musician among them, with the exception of Beiderbecke.

Frank Teschemacher


Teschemacher was born in Kansas City in 1906, the son of relatively well-to-do people of German extraction. He studied violin as a boy, as well as mandolin and banjo, and was one of the better-trained jazz musicians of the time. At some point the family moved to Chicago. Tesch went to Austin High School, took up the alto saxophone, and quickly fell in with some other teen-agers in the school who were interested in jazz, chiefly through the records of the New Orleans Rhythm Kings. The group included Jim Lannigan, who became a respected bassist with this group, Dick McPart-land, a banjo player, as well as Jimmy McPartland, and Freeman. They struggled to capture the sound of the new music, and before they were out of high school they were beginning to work both together and separately with local dance bands that played some jazz. For the rest of his life, Teschemacher gigged with a variety of leaders, most of whom were playing commercial music. He played jazz when he could, often coming together with other members of the Midwestern group to make records. He was rehearsing with a band led by cornetist Wild Bill Davison (later to make a major name for himself as a dixieland player) when he was killed in an automobile accident. He was twenty-six years old.
What Teschemacher might have become is a moot question. We have to rate him on the basis of the records he left us, and they show a musician, however talented, whose playing suffers from severe technical handicaps. Although he was extravagantly admired by his white colleagues, Charles Ellsworth "Pee Wee" Russell in the long run gained a more durable reputation.

Pee Wee Russell


Russell was born in 1906 in the St. Louis area of middle-class parents, like Teschemacher. As a boy he studied violin, piano, and drums, and eventually clarinet. He was drawn to jazz at first through the playing of Alcide "Yellow" Nunez, a New Orleans Creole who recorded with a group called the Louisiana Five, which was recording in 1919 on the heels of the Original Dixieland Jazz Band. He was gigging around the Southwest, at one point on an Arkansas River riverboat, before he was out of high school, with dance and pseudojazz bands of the time, and was thus playing jazz while the music was still brand-new. By 1925 he had begun to acquire a reputation among the white Midwesterners and went on to work with many of the best of them, including the Frankie Trumbauer and Jean Goldkette bands, both of which included Beiderbecke when Russell joined them. In 1927 he emigrated to New York, where he worked for several years, principally with the band of Red Nichols, a Beiderbecke-style cornetist, who was commercially successful in leading bands that played dance music heavily spiced with jazz solos, often by musicians of the first caliber.
During the early years of the Depression Russell worked with a series of obscure and usually second-rate dance orchestras, playing various saxophones and the bass clarinet, as well as his regular instrument. Then, in about 1937, there began to coalesce around the figure of Eddie Condon, a banjoist and eventually a guitarist associated with this school, a group of players who were to found what became known as the dixieland movement. Russell became a principal figure with this group, and from that time until his death in 1969 he worked primarily as a jazz musician. The records he made with various Condon groups during the late 1930s and early forties secured him his place in the history of jazz.
In his younger days Russell played in a style that closely matched Teschemacher's but he did not suffer from the technical failings that beset Teschemacher.
Despite an extreme addiction to alcohol, Pee Wee Russell lived into his sixties. Few jazz musicians have added anything of consequence to their work after the age of thirty-five or so, but Pee Wee Russell may have done so in his fifties.
In many ways the career of Pee Wee Russell is paralleled by that of Jack Teagarden.

Jack Teagarden


Teagarden was born a year before Russell. Both gigged around the Southwest as teen-agers – in fact, they were in the same band for a brief period. Both developed highly individual styles, which, while enormously admired, were difficult to emulate. And both lived long enough to develop their talents fully and leave us impressive bodies of records.
Teagarden was born Weldon Leo Teagarden in Vernon, Texas, a small cotton and oil center, which had seen an increasing inflow of blacks from the time of the Emancipation on, who were migrating out of the Deep South in search of work. As was not so for the other white Midwesterners, contact with blacks was normal for Teagarden.
Teagarden's mother was a trained pianist who gave lessons and at times played accompaniment for the silent movies, and his father played a little cornet. Teagarden began playing baritone horn at five and switched to the trombone, at eight.
Teagarden went on the road at fifteen with his mother, and for the next seven years gigged around the Southwest and thereabouts. At one point he spent a year with a group called Peck's Bad Boys, led by a legendary pianist named John Dickson "Peck" Kelley, born in 1898. According to the testimony of Teagarden and others, Kelley was one of the finest jazz pianists of his day. Despite many job offers from big-name band leaders, he resolutely refused to record or leave the Houston-Galveston-San Antonio area, where he spent his professional life.
In 1927 Teagarden arrived in New York with an obscure group, the Doc Ross Jazz Bandits. The group could not find work so it split up, and Teagarden, through his contacts with Pee Wee Russell and Wingy Manone, whom he had played with in the South, began to frequent New York jam sessions. He simply astonished his fellow players, and within weeks after his arrival in New York he was commanding the best free-lance jobs in the city. So towering was his reputation that for the rest of his life he was never short of work. From 1928 to 1933 he worked mostly with Ben Pollack, a drummer who had been with the New Orleans Rhythm Kings and who ran a series of commercially successful bands, which played dance music interspersed with solos by some of the leading white jazz players of the time. In 1933 Teagarden signed a five-year contract with Paul Whiteman, at the conclusion of which he formed his own big swing band in hopes of cashing in on the big band fad. His bands were never very successful, and in 1946 he threw in the towel with some relief. For the next five years he worked in an "all-star" band led by Louis Armstrong, and thereafter led a variety of semi-dixieland groups. It was a long and satisfactory career. He appeared on over a thousand records, worked at one time or another with most of the major figures in jazz, and died full of honors.

With the emergence in the late 1920s of Teagarden, Pee Wee Russell, Benny Goodman, Bix Beiderbecke, and others, there existed for the first time a cadre of white players who could compete on an equal level with the best blacks. Jazz was still dominated by blacks, as it always would be, but the whites had arrived. This is not to say that whites and blacks were mingling easily in the music. The races did meet occasionally in jam sessions, and a few records by mixed bands were issued.
In particular, blacks were impressed by the technical skills of whites, the ordinary dance musicians as well as the jazz players, so the white influx into jazz had the effect of driving blacks to improve their techniques.
But undoubtedly the most important effect that the advent of whites had on jazz had nothing to do with the performance of the music at all. What the white players did was to bring jazz into the American mainstream. In their train came the white fans. Young whites could identify with the white jazz musicians, many of whom were their own age and from similar backgrounds, in a way that they could not with blacks. Then, too, the mystique of the new music, with its cult aspects, had an enormous appeal for them, especially college students, who were familiar with the idea of the outcast artist. The young jazz fans had a sense of being inside, of knowing a secret. Caught up in this mystique, they spent endless hours scouring attics, basements, and secondhand shops for the old records of their heroes, thus saving from oblivion much of the early jazz we now possess. They wore out their records with repeated playings; they talked about the music with the fervor of the convert; they began to analyze, classify, discriminate.
Nor was this cult confined to the United States. In Europe, by 1930 or so, especially in London and Paris, there were similar groups of students interested in jazz. It was these students, not Americans, who founded jazz scholarship. The first books on jazz were written by a Belgian, Robert Goffin, and two Frenchmen, Charles Delaunay and Hugues Panassie, whose Le Jazz Hot was responsible for explaining the music to a large number of early listeners. This European writing was full of errors, misplaced emphases, and misinterpretations and is mainly of historical interest today. But much of the scholarship was sound and many insights sharp; these men deserve high marks for making a serious study of an art form that most of their contemporaries dismissed as "nigger music."
But although the Europeans did the first important jazz writing, it was the young American enthusiasts who began to discriminate between the bouncy popular music of the time and "real jazz." They developed standards of taste and the first, tentative critical canons. Their enthusiasm was not without its drawbacks. They were often dogmatic and their vision of themselves as keepers of the flame eventually stood in the way of acceptance of new developments in the music. Yet without this missionary fervor it is uncertain how much jazz would have grown. Their passion was invaluable.


Representative Songs


Listening Recommendation

New Orleans Rhythm Kings - The Chronological Classics



Frank Teschemacher - Jazz Me Blues



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