Jazz from New Orleans to Chicago

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In terms of the evolution of jazz, however, the most important instrumental ensemble in the black society of New Orleans was the marching band, which constituted one of the few reliable sources of paid employment for black musicians. The marching bands of New Orleans performed at many outdoor functions, including the often lavish funerals organized by burial societies within the black community. Recordings of marching bands are rare; the earliest date from 1945, by which time the influence of jazz had undoubtedly transformed the original style. Many jazz musicians served their apprenticeships in the New Orleans marching bands, which determined the choice of the trumpet, trombone and clarinet as the principal melodic instruments in early jazz. As a result, is impossible to be certain about his style of playing, although his fellow trumpeter Bunk Johnson (1889-1949) attempted to reconstruct it during the I94os revival of early jazz The instrumentation of Bolden's band established the format for most early jazz ensembles in its combination of three melody instruments (trumpet or cornet, clarinet and trombone) and a supporting 'rhythm section' (guitar or banjo, double bass and drums).

Creole musicians based in the downtown 'Frenchtown' district, such as the Onward Brass Band's lead 34 cornet player Manuel Perez (1871—1946), were musically literate, and cultivated a refined form of dance music based on ragtime. It was in February 1917 that a group of white musicians from New Orleans, well known for their performances in Chicago during the previous year, made the first jazz phonograph recordings in New York. Much of the Original Dixieland Jazz Band's work is rhythmically stilted (a funda­mental fault described as 'corny' by later musicians) and lacks the prominent blue notes of early black jazz.

The term 'Dixieland' is generally reserved for the New Orleans style as adapted by white musicians. Apart from the Original Dixieland Jazz Band, another successful white group was the New Orleans Rhythm Kings, who were active in Chicago in the early 19208. Both bands modelled their instrumentation on the smaller black New Orleans ensembles, with a three-instrument 'front line' (cornet, clarinet and trombone), and a supporting rhythm section (including piano and drums). The popularity of new dance styles helped jazz to develop from the march-like tread of its early days into the snappy, syncopated music so characteristic of what F. Scott Fitzgerald dubbed 'The Jazz Age'.

The first black jazz cornet player to make successful recordings in the post-Bolden style was Joe 'King'Oliver (1885-1938),whose career also began in the New Orleans brass bands and at Storyville. After World War I he joined the migration northwards and found work in Chicago, where he formed his Creole Jazz Band. Oliver's Creole Jazz Band perfected a style of New Orleans jazz in which the three (or four) front-line instruments participated in a poly­phonic elaboration of the basic melody. Oliver's band was distinguished by skillfully balanced and disciplined ensemble playing, and his cornet playing broke new ground in explor­ing the expressive possibilities of various forms of mute. In comparison with the new swing-band style of the early 1930$, Oliver's music seemed old-fashioned and was ignored. The clarinet was promoted as a versatile jazz instrument by Johnny Dodds and several other New Orleans performers, including Jimmie Noone (1895-1944) and Sidney Bechet (1897-1959). It was a New Orleans Creole pianist who did most to further the development of jazz as a music capable of sustaining structural — and hence intellectual - interest. In the recordings made by his own band, The Red Hot Peppers (formed in 1926), Morton conducted bold experiments with musical structures. Because of Morton's special talents, the piano was promoted from mere rhythm-section support to front-line solo status. The composer's solo-piano passages were firmly rooted in the post-ragtime stride style. Other compositions, such as Doctor Jazz, look forward to later jazz in being based on a single repeating set of harmonies in contrast to the multiple sections of ragtime structures.

According to jazz critic George Hoefer, Morton declared in 1940: 'New Orleans style, Chicago style, Kansas City style, New York style, IT'S ALL JELLY roll style:

Morton certainly deserves credit for being one of the first musicians to incorporate Latin elements in jazz (which he termed the 'Spanish tinge'). Unfortunately for the likes of Morton and Oliver, and for New Orleans jazz in general, fashions were changing so rapidly in the late 19208 that these early masterpieces were soon forgotten. Morton attempted to adopt some of the characteristics of the swing-band style when he founded his own big band in 1929, but his recordings with this group were unsuccessful. Morton's untimely death in 1941 cheated him of the celebrity status he would undoubtedly have enjoyed during the revival of New Orleans jazz in the late 1940s.