New Orleans



Around 1900 Jazz emerged in New Orleans as a style of popular dance music. Urban city life was a mix of all sorts of music and all sorts of folk, from everywhere, thrown together, sometimes not even speaking the same language or liking one another but having to deal or die ...  

As the 'Black Code' of 1894 reclassified Creoles as black they were pushed down into the black culture and, of course, they brought their music with them ... New Orleans conservatory music ... the Creoles merged European harmonies into African rhythms of the black ghettos ... as the conservatory met up with the plantation.

A stream of rural Blues songs from the Plantations and the Church, together with the banjo from Minstrelsy and the piano music of popular Ragtime, fused within Black and Creole Parade and Dance Bands to produce jazz.

African Rhythm and European harmony blended into the rich diverse New Orleans musical sub cultures of the 'hot' bands. Blacks and Creoles eking out a living playing together at all the social gatherings in New Orleans, and above all in 'The District', the old French Quarter -

 the 'black' dirty blues players seemed to settle uptown, up river of Canal Street ... Perdido Street!

the 'whitish' Creole instrumental virtuosos settled in old downtown, down river of Canal Street ... The District!

Only Canal Street separated them ... but it was all smiles as they 'worked' happily together as they concocted their musical mix ... everybody loved those grooves ... Alphonse Picou, 'they were all crazy 'bout clarinet players' ... but he would say that wouldn't he?

Lulu White's 'Mahogany Hall' was just down Basin Street from Tom Andersons on the corner of Iberville Street just down from Canal Street ...

Social InteractionDancing

Congo Square and the dances. They were influence by and they influenced by the quadrilles, schottisches, slow drags, waltzes, polkas, cakewalks, mazurkas, lancers, bamboulas, rumbas from Havana, tangos from Buenos Aires  ex habaneras and Latin rhythms & Jelly's 'Spanish tinge'.

Gatherings -

Funerals, weddings, christenings, feast days, picnics, lawn parties, dances, candy stews, clambakes, fish fries, beer drinks, corn shuckings, riverboat excursions, camp meetings, secret societies, hoedowns and meatouts, soirees ... and six weeks of Mardi Gras carnival.

Venues -

Congo Square (now Louis Armstrong Park), Funky Butt Hall, Lincoln Park, Odd Fellows Hall, Storyville, Tom Anderson’s, Pete Lala’s Cabaret, Mahogany Hall, Lulu White's, Preservation Hall, bars, honky tonks, barrel houses, gin mills, saloons, dance halls, bandwagons, gambling joints, crap houses, speakeasies, sporting houses, clip joints, bordellos, cabarets, whore houses, brothels ... and churches everywhere ...

Buddy BoldenBuddy Bolden (1877-1931) at 17 in 1894 Buddy learned to play the cornet, he hoped to find work with the local parade and dance bands. Musicians were respected members of the community.

'In Search of Buddy Bolden' by Donald M Marquis. 'The Birth of Jazz' by Daniel Hardie, 2007.

Buddy was a big man with a big sound and an innovator. He was a man of the church, a holy roller, and the publisher of 'The Cricket' a magazines of the pleasures of the sporting life. He was perhaps a plasterer, he was not a barber, although the barbers shops were assembly points and centres of gossip and promise for the evenings of booze and may be music ... it was Buddy Bolden who brought the new music together in one place New Orleans at one time 1890s ... he brought the blues into the dance halls.

A typical dance band of the time was the ‘sweet’ string dance and picnic band of John Robichaux. There was an established Creole tradition of conservatory trained professional dance band performance and brass bands were popular for outdoor gatherings and parades. There were also 'sophisticated' dance halls playing arrangements for waltzes, quadrilles, lancers, schottisches and later around 1900 a little ragtime. 

Lots of the dance halls were built by Creole Friendly Societies and some of the low dives and barrelhouses were built for the black immigrants from the plantation belt but for sure jazz started in dance halls as 'ratty' music.

Dance band had begun to mix string ensembles with brass and woodwind - 'tin bands' - Robichaux 1896 - 2 violins, 2 cornets, clarinet, slide trombone, string bass, trap drums.

1895 Bolden began to change things by introducing characteristic improvisation and syncopation - syncopation started in the street bands and Creole singing groups, spasm and skiffle bands. He took over guitarist Charlie Galloway's band with a violin, string bass, trap drums, guitar, clarinet, cornet and valve trombone and played the music they loved for dancing and parades - cornet lead line and guitar chord sequence for a few simple tunes. He fused the ‘sweet’ string dance bands of John Robichaux with the low down, get-in-the-alley, dirty blues for grinding around the dancing. Pops Foster said Bolden loved the Blues and played that 'stink' music and 'slow drag' after midnight ...

Bolden BandIn 1905 the band was motoring; Jimmy Johnson, string bass, Buddy Bolden, cornet, Willie Cornish, trombone, William Warner, clarinet, Jefferson Mumford, guitar, Frank Lewis, clarinet ... sometimes I'm sure I can hear that old wax cylinder recording and  Buddy's great big round notes, they were announced and dirty and the dancers loved them.

He gathered all the elements - field hollers from the work songs, spirituals and shouts from the holy roller church, the lilt from the street bands, and the blues from everywhere and maybe (minstrel songs, parade band music and folk ragtime) ... ad-libbing something different which the punters loved. A free & easy conversation between 3 lead horns.

The main musical characteristics were -

'paraphrasing the melody' which kept going all the time and 'passed round' from horn to horn

repeated punchy notes gave Bolden the opportunity to drum out rhythms on his horn

'the big four' of Wynton Marsalis, the emphasis on the 4th beat - / dun chi, dun chi, ge dun, ugh! / ... kicking into the 4th beat ... the start of swing?

'raggin' the tune', playing with 2 or 3 notes replacing one, getting polyrhythms off the beat and on to 2 and 4

'riffing' repeated rhythm cycles, 'noodling' repetitive phrases to 'pump up' the excitement

'runs', like the bass runs in ragtime, two bar breaks gave an exciting solo discontinuity, musical surprises, which emphasised the forward momentum

'blue notes & scales', smears, whoops and growls, a rough timbre

the bass was finding a good solid two beats to the bar, oom-pah march, but the guitar was finding a four beats

the bass drum owned 1 & 3 but the snare had 2 & 4 giving the music a bit of a lift ... this was different from ragtime syncopation which was achieved by delaying or advancing the melody notes to get off the beat

the clarinetists learned from the Creoles who were joining the fun with an unparalleled virtuosity which added an ornate, intricate, soprano line which complemented, supported & contrasted with the blues lead horn ... what a conversation

and the trombone was finding Bach's bass lines

The same principles began to be applied to all the stylistic developments in New Orleans -

Uptown New Orleans of the black Americans = George Lewis & raw music

Downtown New Orleans of the Creoles = King Oliver & gut bucket blues

Orchestrated 'compositions' = Jelly Roll Morton & smoothed 4/4

and all the hot bands ...

Bolden's Big 4In Buddy Bolden's band and Bolden introduced 'the big four' where he used the 'kicking quaver' to push into the 4th beat of the second bar /dum-de, dum-de, dum--ti dum/ ... this was the start of the characteristic 'kicking quaver' 'lifting' into the last beat ... the second 8th note became 'associated' with the downbeat of beat 4 ...

Messing with the beat in this way was often emphasised by avoiding the first downbeat altogether and 'kicking' into the off beat, the second beat ...

These 8ths notes were always written the same way but the sound and feel was encouragingly different ...

the 'straight 8ths' with the big 4 ... listen ...   /dum-de, dum-de, dum--ti dum/

the 'swing 8ths' with the big 4 ... listen ...  /dum--ti, dum--ti, dum--ti dum/

The notation was the same but the 'feel' was different ... Bolden was 'messing' with the beat, loose and experimental with his lines, trying to find what sounded good for his second line and the dancers ... and he also messed with timbre something rotten.

... just like the 'blue notes' in melody scales some rhythms were felt and not written down ...  

The music was new, not the sum of the parts but a whole new synergistic shebang & caboodle ... they called Buddy's music ragtime ... 'ratty', 'gut bucket', 'stink music' ... 'jass' ... 'They Called It Ragtime' but this was jazz ... and on it goes Dixieland, Swing, Rock but as Louis said -

'every time they changed the name they got a bigger pay check, but there ain't nothin' new it's the old soup we played in New Orleans used over ...'

The popular dances (the Marches, Quadrilles, Waltzes, Schottisches, Gavottes, Overtures, Lancers, Mazurkas, Polkas, Onesteps, Twosteps, rags, spirituals) were played before midnight but after midnight it was time to grind the 'slow drag', the 'jump ups' and the low down gut bucket blues ... in the hot Funky Butt Dance Hall every Saturday night. The new dancing was all rhythm almost bare of melody ... there were a lot of songs with no tune ...

Bolden slowed down the blues with a loud lead, dirty, moaning and emphatic, plenty of space, with breaks to allow others to demonstrate their virtuosity, individuals started having a competitive musical dialogue within the band but all within the framework of the simple songs.

It was risky as the lines were embellished, the melody changed and 'ragged', the sidemen challenged with new lines spontaneously, if it worked they smiled and used it again, the 'big four beat' where the off beat of the second bar 'kicked' into the down beat giving a lifting lilt to the dancers.

Johnny St Cyr, Pops Foster and Baby Dodds all left clear cut accounts of the early jazz two beat rhythm. Dodds told how the four beat rhythm appeared on the Streckfus line boats around 1920 as a response to the needs of dancers, probably with the foxtrot that appeared after 1917. He said it came 'down the river with Davey Jones'. They called it Memphis time.

Jack Stewart has shown that the four beat style appeared with the ODJB (1917) in Chicago and quotes Virgil Thompson calling it the 'monotonous foxtrot rhythm'. But 4 to the bar gave the music endless opportunities to tease the dancers into responses as the syncopations and grooves induced an intoxicating swing as the bands learned to play with time.

Experiments playing Bolden repertoire show the importance of the written rhythms of contemporary pop songs, especially the songs played for dances like the two step, (originally performed to 6/8 but in Bolden's time to ragtime 2/4 tunes). Unfortunately there's not much information about the slow drag. Joplin's own performances of the Real Slow Drag are ragtimey as you might expect. Ragtime publications were later after 1896.

Bolder RepertoireSome songs - The repertoire was full of variety ... 

Buddy Bolden's toons have been researched.

'Careless Love', Chris Kelly from the Magnolia sugar plantation and the Eclipse Band.

'Salty Dog' from Freddie Keppard.

'Praline' an ex quadrille, also called 'Jack Carey' by the Carey Band.

'Nigger No.2' by the ODJB was 'Tiger Rag'.

'Muskrat Ramble' an ex French toon with 'flavour' by Kid Ory popularised in 1926. 

'Weary Blues' (shake it or break it), Artie Mathews.

'Sister Kate', Armand J. Piron and the Olympia Brass Band with Clarence Williams published it, but did the young Louis write it? Used for SOL / Gully Low Blues and East St. Louis Toodle-oo. 1st recording was by Bessie Smith in 1921.

'eh, la bas', French patois of the Creoles.

'Dallas Blues' (standard 12 bar blues from 1912), Hart A Wand.

Traditional Dances - 'La Praline' (quadrille), 'Moonwinks' (mazurka), 'Over the Waves' (waltz), 'Sweet Adeline' (schottische), 'High Society' (march) ... 

Storyville The Naked Dancer, New Orleans Notorious Redlight District & The Birth of Jazz DVD - www.ihfhilm.comChronology -

1820 Congo Square dancing, folk from the plantations, the church and the West Indies ...

1840 Minstrelsy.

1850 The Great Awakening of the Camp Meetings, spirituals, Dwight Moody (1837-99) and dramatic increase in church membership.

1865 free to travel former slaves, not only from the rural south but also from the Caribbean, flock into New Orleans ... and later travelled more widely ...

1877 Jim Crow Laws & sharecropping crept in as 'reconstruction' ended, Creoles of colour, light skinned descendants of French & Spanish colonialists were slowly oppressed, segregated and thrown into black culture ... together with their clarinets and Bach's bass lines.

1890 Ragtime.

1895 Buddy Bolden at Funky Butt Hall, everything came together. Ragtime fused with the rural Blues.

1900 the Blues became an established feature in honky tonks and dance halls. Horn players began to experiment with their sounds by imitating the human voice with growls and mutes. At the end of the Spanish American War there was an abundance of used military band instruments, especially in New Orleans. The New Orleans players played a mix of everything from Blues, brass band music, and ragtime, to marches, pop songs, and dances. Soon these musicians started to add their own frills and improvised solos to the pop music. At the same time, many people were migrating north to cities such as Chicago, Pittsburgh, and Detroit. The music travels with them. Also during this time the phonograph is drastically improved. This allows the music to spread even easier as more and more people are buying phonographs and records.

1910-1919 the old ragtime music was still popular, but sadly its popularity was in decline. The dance craze started. Dances like the Foxtrot become popular. There was a Europeanisation of the Blues. Up till then the standard Blues form varied 8, 12, 16 measures ... or anything depending on the lyrics or the mood of the performer. But 4 bar sections became standard as the dancers need the 4 square feel and eventually the 12 bar form of the Classic Blues based on the 1-4-5 chord progression became standard in order to make it easier to understand, notate, and play the Blues along with establishing a form and harmonies the players could work with.

1901 Manuel Perez leads 'The Imperial Orchestra' ... and Picou, Louis Nelson, Sidney Bechet, Lorenzo Tio ...

1902 The Original Superior Orchestra of Alphonse Picou and young Bunk Johnson

1902 Jelly Roll Morton started 'inventing' jazz on the piano, playing and writing it. It spread throughout Storyville. 

1904 The Creole Orchestra led by Keppard with George Baquet

1906 Freddy Keppard forms The Olympia Orchestra

1907 Frankie Duson and 'The Eagle Band', the remnants of Bolden's band.

1907 Fate Marable starts on the riverboats.

1907 Jelly Roll Morton in Storyville.

1908 Sidney Bechet with Freddie Keppard.

1908 Columbia produces the first two-sided disc.

1909 Bill Johnson plays the string bass and takes the music to California.

1910 Oscar Celestin leads 'The Tuxedo Band'.

1912 Kid Ory moves to New Orleans to play and leads a band with Joe Oliver on cornet.

1914 W C Handy writes 'St Louis Blues'. This became a tremendous hit as the Blues was also going full tilt.

1915 Freddie Keppard, followed Bolden with his 'Original Creole Orchestra'. He refused to record for fear of imitation. 

1915 Bill Johnson and his 'Original Creole Orchestra' takes jazz to New York.

1916 Daniel Louis Armstrong began to play the Blues for $1.25 in bars in Storyville. In 1918 he was hired by Kid Ory to replace Joe 'King' Oliver on cornet.

1917 ODJB recorded. Storyville closed.

19?? Joe Oliver played at Pete Lala's place. 

Papa Jack Laine and his 'Reliance Band' played with fire and energy for 40 years.

New Orleans DiasporaDiaspora.

The new music slowly spread and took root all over America.

The pattern of the dispersal followed up the Mississippi River ... and became a flood in 1918 when Storyville had closed -

1907 Fate Marable (1890-1947) organised bands for dancing on the riverboats with the Strekfus Line - Baton rouge, Natchez, Vicksburg, Arkansas City, Memphis, Cairo, Paduch and on to bigger places Memphis, St Louis, Davenport, Minneapolis, Omaha, Kansas City, Pittsburgh, Shreveport ... 

1909 Bill Johnson (1872-1972) bass player with Frank Dusen's Eagle Band left New Orleans and introduced Jazz to Los Angeles. Johnson 'Oh play that thing!' joined King Oliver in Chicago in 1921.

1914 Freddy Keppard left New Orleans for Los Angeles to join Bill Johnson's Creole Orchestra, appearing in Chicago in 1914 and New York in 1915. He settled in Chicago in 1918.

1914 Jelly Roll visited Chicago, Sidney Bechet travelled throughout the south.

1915 Jelly in San Francisco.

1917 Jimmy Noone left to join Freddy Keppard in Chicago.

1918 Joe Oliver called up to Chicago to join Bill Johnson's Creole Orchestra.

1918 Johnny Dodds left New Orleans to tour with Billy Mack's vaudeville outfit before being called to Chicago to replace Jimmy Noone with King Oliver in 1921.

1919 King Oliver to Chicago shortly after taking over from Mutt Carey in Ory's Brownskin Babies.

1919 Kid Ory to San Francisco, California and called for Mutt Carey.

1922 The first black jazz recordings were made by Ory's Sunshine Orchestra. 1925 to Chicago.

1922 Louis was called up to Chicago by King Oliver.

1923 King Joe Oliver recorded with his Creole Jazz Band.

 Jazz was born in New Orleans. But the 'The Jazz Age' matured in Chicago as the best musicians left for lucrative jobs in the 'Windy City' after Storyville closed in 1917.

New Orleans Bands recorded during the 1920's -

Dave Jones and Lee Collins's Astoria Hot Eight.

Sam Morgan's Jazz Band.

Armand J Piron's New Orleans Orchestra.

Oscar 'Papa' Celestine's Original Tuxedo Jazz Orchestra.

Fate Marable's Society Syncopators.

Louis Dumaine's Jazzola Eight.

New OrleansNOO ORL'INS a location.

Jazz was a location? The jazz sounds seemed to emerge from a complex mix of influences active in New Orleans around the turn of the 19th century. Everybody pitched up in New Orleans, cosmopolitan & musical.

1718 Founded - Jean Baptise Le Moyne.
1718 Charter - John Law, Duc d ' Orleans.
1755 Seven Years War ended French influence.
1762 Ceded to Spain, cathedral built, Treaty of Madrid gives American access to the port.
1763 Treaty of Paris, the French give up their land rights.
1763 Cajuns settled - Acadians escaping the British from Nova Scotia.
1776 American independence.
Massive influx of Irish and the 'poor white trash' or 'hillbillies' took root in the Appalachians where land was cheap.
1800 Napoleon forced Spain to give up sovereignty.
1803 Louisiana purchase. 10,000 citizens 50% black. Much immigration from the Caribbean, Creoles (ex French & Spanish) downtown. Yankees Uptown.
1815 Battle of New Orleans. British threaten capture.
1820 Dancing in Congo Square.
1861 Secession.
1865 Civil War ends & a white back lash follows. Creoles suffer. Congo Square activities banned & Lincoln Park prospers.
1897 Sin was 'confined' to 'Storyville', named after Alderman Joseph Story.
1898 Spanish / American war ends & military bands disband & cheap instruments become readily available ...
1900 - 1917 Storyville fusion  
1917 Storyville closed.


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