Hot Bands

Hot Band

 

A fourth influence on jazz was the New Orleans mania for organising carnivals and gatherings which always included music produced by endless Hot Bands ... long before jazz emerged there were many flourishing military bands, marching bands, parade bands and dance bands ... and the history, specific to the way the cookie crumbled in the city of New Orleans was fascinating -

1803 the Louisiana purchase - British folk music flowed through the Cumberland Gap and met the French influence which subsided but key musical traditions were left -

a culture of conservatory music accessible to the 'free' Creoles

music & dancing for the slaves in Congo Square

songs, jigs & reel of the country folk of the Appalachians ...

New Orleans was a city of music ... where African rhythm met European harmony ...

1804 Haitian influx - Haiti had always been a route into Southern America as a first port of call for Spanish and French immigrants ... and slaves ... slaves initiated the rebellion in 1791 and by 1803 they had succeeded in ending not just slavery but French control over the colony. The first black republic in the world. In 1804 following the rebellion the route from Haiti to New Orleans was well established ... and all these immigrants brought their distinctive cultures Voodoo, gumbo and Latin rhythms ...

New Orleans was a city of music ... where African rhythm met European harmony and a 'Spanish tinge' came from Haiti ...

1835 Congo Square musical celebrations - slaves, free blacks, Haitians were all involved in the Sunday singing, dancing, clapping, stomping, twanging & drumming ... and significantly interested and excited whites often joined the hoedown ... perhaps not suspecting the Voodoo undercurrents!?

New Orleans was a city of music ... Congo Square music established long lasting participative elements; call & response, improvisation and syncopation ...

1865 freed slaves explored their new freedoms in music and opened up for inspection the African rhythms, plantation work songs and southern Baptist church songs to the folk Blues in the country. This new excitement fascinated everyone blacks and whites and was reflected in the success of the Minstrel Shows ...

New Orleans was a city of music ... a magnet for freed slaves and the urban trekkers ...

1894 the 'Black Code' reclassified Creoles as black and pushed them down into the black culture and, of course, they brought their music with them ...

New Orleans was a city of music ... the Creoles merged European harmonies into African rhythms of the black ghettos ...

1898 the Spanish/American War - military music, rooted in the civil war, spread with demobilisation and cheap instruments were readily available and found their way into the social bands of all sorts ... this war cemented old links between Cuba and New Orleans ... slavery was abolished in Cuba in 1886 and New Orleans was a natural attraction ...

New Orleans was a city of music ... Haiti, Cuba and New Orleans involved deep long lasting musical links and interactions

African American folk rhythms from Congo Square together with the Blues, the southern church happy clappy syncopated rhythms and the Spanish tinge all infiltrated the military tradition ...

New Orleans was a city of music ... a melting pot, traditions merged & fused ...

Mardi Gras, 'Fat Tuesday', was, of course, of religious significance; an opportunity to get fed up & drunk before the lay off for Lent ... seemed like hundreds of benevolent societies had bands for celebrations ...

New Orleans was a city of music ... you didn't really need an excuse for a parade band ... every 'club' had a brass band for whatever occasion ...

The Second Line guaranteed parade music was audience centred popular music which celebrated both the occasion and the band ... the repertoire expanded; to marches, funeral hymns & traditional dances were added Ragtime, the strong repetitive rhythms of Cuban & Haitian claves, folk & pop songs, jazz & blues influences, and then R&B ... and later Soul & Hip Hop ... and Bebop and Monk were not avoided ...  always in the dance halls as well as the parades ... reflective of the times ...

New Orleans was a city of music ... everybody participated, this was 'popular' music ...

 1901 the Victrola was launched and the Sousa band (and Caruso) dominated the recordings of popular music but the New Orleans brass bands focused on the 'Second Line' African American danceable rhythms ...

out doors gatherings of any kind in the steamy south and indoors in the dark dives, they all needed a band; marching bands, parade music, picnic bands, funeral bands, wedding bands and, of course, church bands were congregations ... 

in doors dances especially needed bands, there was important business to do on Saturday night where boy met girl ... and there was no shortage of new dances after the roaring success of the Cakewalk from 1890 ... the dance bands always played a mixture of marches, Blues, Ragtime as well as traditional dance music ...

from 1897 to 1917 'Storyville' thrived, the red light district of New Orleans was established by municipal ordinance by, Alderman Sidney Story ... here boy met girl any night of the week in the sporting houses and music was always required to accompany the action ...

New Orleans was a city of music ... there was always lots of work for musicians, they were in demand, revered and music was a respectable occupation ...

New Orleans Street Bands -

Some time around 1890 new street music appeared in New Orleans, small singing groups like 'Little Louie's quartet' and then 'Spasm Bands' with any old musical gadgets were added as accompaniments; home made drums, tambourines, cigar box banjos, guitars, tub basses, gas pipe bugles, jugs, musical saws, spoons, kazoos, ram horns, sets of bottles with water, xylophones, washboards, kazoos, cowbells and whistles ... then perhaps harmonicas, jews harps, makeshift fiddles, tin flutes, trombones and brass with plungers ... and all manner of effects ...  

The 'Spasm Band' style was an early ingredient in the development of instrumental New Orleans jazz.

The earliest band known with the name 'Spasm Band' was formed in New Orleans in 1895 by a bunch of white youngsters. Emile 'Stale Bread' Lacoume's 'Razzy Dazzy Spasm Band' became the most famous of these groups.

Emile Lacoume (1885-1946) was a poor white boy blind by the age of 15, but learned to play banjo, zither, guitar and piano with various bands in New Orleans until the 1930s.

From a 1903 article in The Vindicator newspaper -

'The most bizarre musical fraternity on record is the Spasm Band of New Orleans. It is composed of six urchins who divide their time equally between mischief and selling papers in the day time, but as soon as night falls they blossom forth as full fledged members and active players of the Spasm Band.
Born in the South and reared on the street, these little fellows all lead nomadic lives, now taking a day off to pick cotton with the pickaninnies, now lending a hand on the levee, running errands for the steamboat captains ... in this way they have caught the inimitable darky dialect, gestures and even voices, with soft, velvety tones. Their musical instruments are home manufactured, and, strange to say, the sounds they emit are not inharmonious.
Perhaps the smaller members will supplement the verse with a double shuffle or a few steps of 'buck' and 'wing'. Then, while 'the little fellow', passes his hat, in which a shower of nickels and dimes fan from daintily gloved hands, the remainder of the sextet will ring out with great spirit the rollicking 'Way Off Down in Dixie, Away, Away' and perhaps wind up with 'My Country'.
The bass viol, rigged up from a dry goods box, croaks in a dignified manner, while the smaller instruments sound very much like Chinese fiddles. The six members of the Spasm Band are firm comrades, and as conservative about themselves and how they came to play as a secret society is about its password.
'Dramatic Mirror, Feb 8, 1919' reported that Emile 'Stale Bread' Lacoume played the bass fiddle and was the center of attraction. The boy had started as a harmonica soloist, attracting crowds, nickels and dimes with his music and soon he formed the 'Newsboys Spasm Band'. Theatrical agent Harry Huguenot said the instruments were made from cigar boxes and half barrels.
The band grew in proportion and played all the latest airs of the period with an attempt at all the latest jazz effects. 'Stale Bread' became blind and was cared for and educated by Miss Olga Nethersole. At this same time there was a social organization in New Orleans composed of young business men, numbering about one hundred. An orchestra was formed by some of the musical members, consisting of the piano, guitar, cornet, and bass fiddle, played respectfully by Gus Shindler, Yellow Nunez (a Spaniard), (cornetists name forgotten) and Harry Huguenot. The addition of Frank Christian, another guitarist, prompted Yellow Nunez to purchase a clarionet, and then from the clarionet began to flow the weirdest blue notes one ever heard. After a week of practice Nunez had these blue notes arranged as cadenzas, and I am firmly of the opinion that this was the first 'jazz' effect in an orchestra'.

Perhaps the spasm bands came straight out of the Minstrelsy / Vaudeville tradition of ... joke bands with novelty sounds imitating the sounds they heard ... and this music from the streets was picked up by the instrumental blues bands of the 1920s. Some accompanying the blue singers and some gaining recording contracts for themselves - The Memphis Jug Band and Cannon's Jug Stompers ... Mound City Blue Blowers ... and in 1956 Lonnie Donegan's Skiffle Group ....

Emile Lacoume died in 1946, at the age of 61. His tomb bears an inscription, 'the originator of Jazz'?

But as 'Stalebread' said in 1938 -

'We were really lousy but we had good rhythm; just kids you know. We played around the district and people used to throw us money. There were plenty of kids before us. We copied off somebody. We heard 'em in the streets an' we sang 'em in the streets. Now they say we invented jazz. Ain't nobody invented that music. Later on I really became a musician. I never knew no music, but I worked playin' the guitar. Good bands to, I was the onliest one who couldn't read in them bands. 'course at Halfway House that was all fakin', no o' them guys could read. We played for fun, y'see'.

Imperial BandNew Orleans Parade Bands -

The parade bands were legendary, and more sophisticated, generally playing written arrangements, often with virtuoso musicianship. Undoubtedly it was in these bands that jazz first started to be played. All the early jazz musicians passed through these bands and the personnel was very fluid and there were lots of pick up gigs and one night stands -

1880 Excelsior Brass Band founded by Theogene Baquet, a Creole band with the Tios & Alphonse Picou, was the leading example ...

1884 Onward Brass Band founded by Prof J O Lainez, was the second leading early Creole band with Joe Oliver, Manuel Perez were one time players ...

1892 Jack 'Papa' Laine's Reliance Band, was the most famous of the white bands ..

1897 Columbia Brass Band with Alphonse Picou ...

1900 Imperial Band with Manuel Perez ... Manuel Perez, a creole, was the most influential after Bolden & Robichaux

Eagle Bnad1906 Frankie Dusen's Eagle Band which was the Bolden band after Buddy left with mental problems ...

1907 Original Superior had Bunk Johnson on cornet ...

1915 Freddie Keppard's Original Creole Band, the bands were now moving towards more improvisation & jazz. Keppard was offered a recording gig before the ODJB but turned it down fearful that his playing secrets would be stolen!

Tuxedo Band1918 Oscar 'Papa' Celestine's Tuxedo Band,

1920 Percy Humphrey's Eureka, Louis Keppard's Magnolia Band, Alcide Nunez's Reliance Brass Band, Jack Carey's Cresent Band, Original Zenith Band, James Humphrey's Eclipse, Freddie Keppard's Olympia, Peerless, Silver Leaf ... and John Robichaux 1893 ...

The musicians were legendary - Buddy Bolden, Buddy Petit, Manuel Perez, Willie Cornish, Big Eye Louis Nelson, Bunk Johnson, kid Ory, Peter Bocage, Frankie Dusen, Armond J Piron, Lorenzo Tio junior, Alphonse Picou, George Baquet, Sidney Bechet, Louis Dumaine ...

The instruments - trumpets, trombones, clarinets, saxophones, sousaphones and percussion ... a 'peck horn' played the high continuous eighth note fast melody line, the 'baritone horn', a tuba, played the longer lower base line.

These bands played written songs from sheet music and copied from others ... some concert pieces, popular songs, funeral dirges & jubilees ... and lots of familiar marches -

1865 Henry Clay Work - 'Marching through Georgia' and in 1875 he wrote 'Grandfathers Clock' 

1859 Daniel Decatur Emmett - 'Dixie' - a Northerner who wrote the song for a minstrel show and it became the Confederates marching song 

1865 James Ryder Randall - 'Maryland my Maryland' - he put words to a German tune 'tannenbaum' - another Confederate song from the civil war 

1862 Julia Ward Howe - 'John Brown's body' - was borrowed from the Hutchinson’s hit and converted many to the anti slavery cause. It became a northerners march, 'Battle Hymn of the Republic'

1898 Porter Steel - 'High Society' - made famous by Alphonse Picou

1899 Kerry Mills - 'Whistling Rufus' - a Chris Barber hit

1902 Will Handy - 'Oh Didn't he Ramble' - 'bagged' for the wakes  

1911 William Tyers - 'Panama'

19?? Paul Barbarin - 'Bourbon Street Parade'

'Bugle Boy March', 'Gettysburg March'. 

Many of the bands persevered through the depression into the 1930s when the bigger bands Excelsior, Onward, Tuxedo ground to a halt. The Eureka Band was remembered as being the last man standing ... but the old players were dying and the youngsters were following the jobs up north. Percy Humphrey took over the Eureka and musicians like George Lewis prolonged life into the 1950s.

Fairview BandThe New Orleans brass band tradition and its embrace of the popular music of the day continues into the 21st century -

Harold 'Duke' Dejan (1909-2002) was an old time clarinetist and saxophonist and in 1951 he had been playing with the 2nd unit of the Eureka Brass Band when the long established Eureka was fading away. In 1958 Duke Dejan was persuaded by Barry Martyn to change the name to Olympia and lead a revival of the old tradition. Dejan's Olympia Brass Band was launched. The band led a funeral march with 'Just a Closer Walk with Thee' in the 1973 James Bond movie 'Live and Let Die'.

The rhythms of R&B were added to the repertoire as more youngsters from High School bands joined the troupe.

The Young Olympians were an offshoot and four sidemen later left in 1991 to form the Soul Rebels. Featured was a young guy, Trombone Shorty.

Danny BarkerDanny Barker (1909-94), an old time guitarist and nephew of Paul Barbarin, in the 1930s he was a rhythm guitarist for some of the best bands of the day, Albert Nichols 1935, Lucky Millinder 1937-8, Benny Carter 1938 and recorded with Cab Calloway 1939-46. He also had his own group which featured his wife Blue Lu Barker. He composed two hit songs 'Don't You Feel My Leg' for Blue Lu, and 'Save the Bones for Henry Jones' recorded by Nat King Cole.

In 1965 Danny Barker formed the Fairview Baptist Church Brass Band. Many aspiring youngsters passed through the ranks; Leroy Jones, Dr Michael White & Wynton Marsalis.

Wynton related how the old banjo player from Dixieland began to teach the ancient fundamentals of playing jazz ... and some of the youngsters picked it up and ran with it -

The old man was full of fire and told good stories ... you gotta learn to play The Blues, build up from a foundation of rhythms, the rhythms of life ... NATURAL and SPONTANEOUS and PERSONAL and FUN!

Drums provided time keeping and 'ride' rhythm variations; these rhythms not only helped to keep time but also broke up the four to the bar regularity and 'propelled' the performance, contributing to the jazz feeling and swing. The drummer laid down the GROUND BEAT against which the other instruments played. The first drum rhythm in jazz in 4/4 time distinguished between the 1 and 3 down beats and the 3 and 4 off beats, perhaps with the bass drum on 1 and 3 and the snare or cymbal on 3 and 4. Not 1 – 2 – 3 – 4 but boom – chick – boom – chick, as the cymbal ‘answers’ the bass drum. This was 'call & response' as the rhythm ‘lifted’ and ‘bounced’ along. The rhythm was ‘skipped’ as in dancing. The drummer was the band 'conductor', listen to him he told you when to come in. But good leaders never made a noise.

Bass played an ostinato ‘four to the bar' continuity, 'walking' figures provided timing, the notes emphasised the chord sequence and continuity which kept the forward momentum going. The bass played big notes, slowly and left space for others. Just as good drums never made a noise, the bass was always soft and never played the heavy reverberating thud thud which didn't blend and sew the ‘bass line’ into the drum rhythm.

Banjo or guitar added to the rhythm and played 'four to the bar' chords, down strums on the beat, up strums off the beat and other rhythmic subtleties, again the impression was of an underlying basic pulse with a superimposed variation. The three together, mixed it all up so a cohesive beat was felt; flexible but firm at the same time. The guitar was central playing every beat and every chord note 'binding' the groove for everyone else, 'here's where your at'!

Rhythm section, in this way, the foundation was established, the ground beat, a basic 'four to the bar', sometimes with 'riffs', or repeated rhythmic patterns, which were constantly 'broken up' or varied by the lead instruments to try and find and establish a groove. The rhythm section holds it all together, tight like a straight jacket but flexible with some give and take so you can breath and relax 'cos you're in safe hands. Usually the rhythm focused on the groove for the dancers but there was a place in more modern jazz for interplay within the section and within the band.

Lead comet or trumpet played a syncopated pulse, pentatonic trajectories, attack tonguing on the up beat and 'kicking' the quavers. The cornet was firm and strong, on the melody, but with a swinging lilt. Messed with the rhythm, it had to be fun.

Clarinet played a 'weaving' melody, with plenty of fills, trills, arpeggios, passing notes and appoggiaturas. The clarinet was differentiated as high and fast.

Trombone emphasised the harmonic 'changes' and also played 'fills'. The trombone often slid up to chord notes and 'placed' them in context for others hear and respond to. The trombone was differentiated as low and slow. But like the clarinet he had to listen ... how would he know what to play if he didn't listen ... there was no user manual.

Piano, was not often in the mix, but when involved played the chords and accompanied the melody, often by syncopated 'comping', with the chords broken up in a variety of voicings and complementary rhythms to get the music flowing.

That's jazz ... it was you playin' all right, with your mates, sure it was creative and with rhythm but it sounded terrible and inflicted injuries, there was noise, squeaks & squawks ... everybody was talking at once, cacophony ... but pay your dues and it seemed it could be fun! Keep listening and you'll hear it ... one day! Your contribution AND your obligation to the whole shebang and caboodle ...

The Fairview spawned other bands; the Dirty Dozen Brass Band in 1975, the Hurricane Brass Band in the Netherlands and the Younger Fairview Brass Band.

The Dirty Dozen, in turn, inspired the Frazier brothers & Kermit Ruffins to form the Rebirth Band in 1983. Rebirth played funky soul and combined elements of Hip Hop with their music and rapped.

The fusion of all these styles and rhythms with the brass band tradition was heard in the music other New Orleans bands in the 1990s ... Tuba Fats & The Chosen Few, The Stooges were into Hip Hop, Hot 8, Magnificent Sevenths, Tremé ...

  ... Cajun and Zydeco?

The tradition had been rescued!

John Philip Sousa (1854-32 ) was the Director of the U S Marine Band and he formed his own band in 1892. Sousa developed a steady, strong 'two beat' accompaniment to marches and played Wagner & Beethoven but always included hummable pops. From 1890 he recorded prolifically on wax cylinders ... 1,770 recordings of canned music but Souza wanted everyone to play an instrument and get stuck in, passive listening was idleness ... Sousa was influential ...

1889 - 'The Washington Post'

1897 - 'Stars and Stripes Forever' 

1898 - 'At a Georgia Camp Meeting'

Arthur Willard Pryor (1870–1942) was born in Missouri, a trombone virtuoso, bandleader, and notable improviser and soloist with the Sousa Band. He left Sousa in 1902 to form his own band. His most famous song 'The Whistler & his Dog' 1913 but his 'A Coon Band Contest' 1906 was superbly executed trombone ragtime.

 

John Robichaux (1866-1939) a Creole, was born in Louisiana and moved to New Orleans in 1891. He drummed with The Excelsior and then led his own band as violinist. He was popular and respected and employed some of the best; Bud Scott, Lorenzo Tio and Manuel Perez. He wrote over 350 songs and many arrangements. His collection was at the William Ransom Hogan Jazz Archive, Tulane University.

These scores indicate that the Robichaux Orchestra was playing conventional dances; Waltzes, Marches, Continentals, Prince Imperials, Mazurkas, Varieties, New Yorks, Lancers, Quadrilles, Scottisches, Gavottes, Overtures ... from the European tradition.

For 32 years, from 1895 to 1927 the John Robichaux Orchestra played dance music largely from written scores and led by a violin.

It was only after the Ragtime craze that Buddy Bolden improvised the syncopated Blues on his cornet for dancing ... significantly this was the time Robichaux arrived in New Orleans and he adjusted his repertoire to include Cakewalks ... no doubt by popular demand ... it appears Creole dance halls were largely conventional until the Bolden big four arrived ... the Robichaux Orchestra employed excellent musicians but in comparison to Bolden the band was sweet, smooth, conventional, nice, quiet ... and without the slow drag and stink of after midnight music ...

This was a fascinating period of jazz history as the jazz band format for dancing emerged from two distinct sources. As the black code of 1894 took effect the music & dancing of the Robichaux Creole style and Bolden black style jostled competitively in the thriving dance halls & dives of New Orleans ... and the new music began to swing ...

Ragtime OrchestraIn 1967 the New Orleans Ragtime Orchestra was  formed to preserve some of the old New Orleans music from The John Robichaux Collection. Recorded in New Orleans in 1971, the orchestra genuinely recreates the sound that must have been heard in vaudeville houses and at the Creole balls of the era. 

James Reese Europe (1880-1919) was a clergyman's son, he made the music of the dives of Storyville respectable in middle class dance halls, no 'slow drag' here, but The Society Orchestra!

The most influential hot band of its time, but without 'hits', neither written nor played.

From vaudeville and  Ernest Hogan's 'The Memphis Students', to musical director of Cole & Johnson's shows in 1905 and in 1909 the Bert Williams show, 'Lode of Koal' ... then on to Carnegie Hall.

In 1910 he gave black musicians a platform which he promoted them through 'The Clef Club' and two years later in 1912 The Clef Club Orchestra was in Carnegie Hall ...

African rhythms were proving yet again to be irresistible ... the Blues, Holy Rollers, Minstrelsy, Ragtime, Vaudeville ...

The Clef ClubNew York Post reported -

'James Reese Europe is one of the most remarkable men, not only of his race, but in the musical world of this country. A composer of some note and his dance music is known wherever the tango or Turkey Trot are danced. He is the head of an organization which practically controls the furnishing of music for the new dances, and at the same time, he is able to expend considerable energy upon the development of the Negro Orchestra. Unaided, he has been able to accomplish what white musicians said was impossible; the adaptation of Negro music and musicians to symphonic purposes'.

Europe himself 'got it' and remarked -

'Ragtime will never die because it is a fun name given to Negro rhythms by our Caucasian brother musicians. And they have been inoculated with that serum Negro rhythm and embroider it with a wealth of ornamentation and marvelous enrichments so that the primal Negro rhythmical element is undergoing a vast development, and is more popular now than years ago'.

In 1913 Vernon & Irene Castle, glided with the Fox Trot, and the relaxed germ of swing reached the 'respectable' dance floor. Europe was employed as their Musical Director and he seized his chance to publicise his music.

A recording contract with Victor followed; Europe's Society Orchestra ... 'Too Much Mustard', 'Down Home Rag'.

1914 the Broadway show, 'Watch Your Step'.  

During World War I Harlem musicians persuaded the New York Governor to grant them their own unit the 15th Infantry Regiment. James Rees Europe led the regimental band. His repertoire included orchestrated jazz. In 1916 Noble Sissle & Eubie Blake joined Europe.

The Hellfighters and played his new music in France in 1918. His mix of ragtime and jazz big band was unbelievable and rapturously received ... 'Memphis Blues', his specialty, 'Ja Da', 'Clarinet Marmalade'.  The jazz germ hit them all, no trick instruments, it was all in Europe's bag.

After the triumph of war Europe was murdered by one of his sidemen in 1919. The first ever public funeral for a black man in the city of New York follow, and Harlem never again seemed the same ...

 

 

 

back to jazz tradition