New Orleans Revival

The Story of Jazz

 

Jazz was learnt by imitation; there was no substitute for listening to jazzmen play and talk about their art.

In 1939 'Jazzmen' by Frederic Ramsey & Charles Edward Smith was the first description of New Orleans Jazz, written when many of the first generation jazzers were still around. In 1955 a second treasure trove of ancient jazz anecdotes was published by Nat Shapiro & Nat Hentoff; 'Hear Me Talkin' to Ya: The Story of Jazz by the Men who Made It'.

In 1994 Peter Berliner wrote 'Thinking in Jazz: the Infinite Art of Improvisation', another attempt to understand what was going on in Jazz ... 

In the 1930s Swing players were kings and the Dixieland players were trying to cling on to the 'real' Jazz of New Orleans but things had changed ... what's this up on the horizon? It was Charlie Christian, Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie who were sowing the seeds of what would soon take over Jazz!

The Bop rebellion was supercharged as many excellent young black players were getting irritated as the white swing bands were making most of the money in Jazz ... by exploiting Afro American innovations.

A similar trend fed the Dixieland revival which emphasised the black roots of jazz.

For many, the black roots of Jazz were Uncle Tommin' Dixieland music, 'cartoon music' with banjos, and a little old fashioned and best not to go there ...

But there were two authentic threads associated with the revival - 

Those committed to the innovators Oliver, Morton and Armstrong, the original role models.

Bunk Johnson (1879-1949) in 1944 was perhaps typical ...

Kid Ory (1886-1973) formed his new Creole Jazz Band a year earlier in 1943 in Los Angeles ... 

 Those committed to Bix Beiderbecke (1903-31), who picked up the idea and excelled as the natural leader of the midwesterners; Eddie Condon (1905-), Red Nichols (1905-), Muggsy Spanier (1906-), Bob Crosby (1913-). Their Jazz was called Dixieland, perhaps not the real New Orleans music ... after all they were white. Dixie tended to move to a 2 beat groove to give it a speedier feel in contrast to the extended rhythmic possibilities of the 4 to the bar ground beat. There were other differences ... may be more soloing and more formalised arranged passages ...

 Lu Watters (1911-89) in 1939 was typical as the Yerba Buena Jazz Band returned to New Orleans roots in San Francisco Dixieland style.

A decade later British trad jazzmen were itching to recreate the old New Orleans music - Humphrey Lyttelton, Ken Colyer, Chris Barber ...

Imitators became innovators ... 

And in 1965 Danny Barker formed the Fairview Baptist Church Brass Band and New Orleans itself resuscitated the tradition ...

Innovators were still at it .... 

 

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