There is no way to cover the birth of jazz in New Orleans and all the players and historical and cultural factors involved in one story, so I won’t attempt to do so today. But we are just beginning this journey.
Much of what has been written about the birth of jazz refers to Storyville, one of Nola’s red-light districts, while other histories target specific areas of the city where Creole free people of color. (gens de couleur libres) Residential—as well as sectors housing black Americans, both slave and free.
1947 film New Orleans Blacklisted “Hollywood 10” member Herbert J. was the last film made by Biberman. It is notable for Billie Holiday’s only feature film appearance.
New Orleans is Not worth watching for the musical numbers if nothing else. As music blogger Pitch Yr Culture writes about Lady Day’s performance of “Farewell to Storyville”:
Billie Holiday stood, dressed in a sharp suit, imploring the all-black audience to “tell it like it is”; Armstrong “You get the idea . . . so say a few words.” Holiday sings, “All the old-time queens, from New Orleans, that live in Storyville. . . ” The audience begins to interact, ala church-goers, “That’s right!” Holidays continues, “The law stepped in, and called it sin, to have a little fun. . A multi-racial crowd then marches out of Storyville and into the street, singing the just-composed chorus to a holiday song, supposedly saluting the lax morals and socially acceptable potential for debauchery. is
Comedy writer and history educator Erica Buddington visits Storyville this month, inspired by Langston Hughes. big ocean
Also associated with Storyville was Jelly Roll Morton, a New Orleans Creole pianist who used the stage name “Jelly Roll” (a crude reference to the vagina) to stick with her disapproving middle-class family. In 2013, New Orleans-based writer, folklorist, and musician For Ben Sandmel profiled the Morton feature 64 Parish.
Jelly Roll Morton was the first important composer and arranger of New Orleans jazz, as well as a virtuoso pianist, an impressive singer, and one of the most iconic characters of the early jazz world. The nickname “Jelly Roll” was derived from a sexual slur, and “Morton” was a stage moniker. His given name was Ferdinand, and his surname is variously spelled Lamothe, Lamotte, or Lamanthe, while his year of birth is 1885 or 1890.
Whatever the actual details, Morton came from a New Orleans Creole family that did not approve of his musical aspirations. “There were always musicians in our family,” explained Morton, “but they played for fun and didn’t take it seriously, and were always considered musicians (with the exception of those who appeared at the French Opera House. Sun, always supported by their patronage) is a scalawag, lazy, and trying to duck the job.” As a teenager, Morton began playing in Storyville brothels and touring the South as a bandleader and solo performer. His trademark compositions from this era include “The Animal Dance,” “King Porter’s Stomp,” and “The Original Jelly Roll Blues.”
Although Morton did not “invent” jazz, as he often claimed, he is one of the important defining figures in its early development. Morton’s eclectic approach included a synthesis of ragtime, classical music (including opera), miscellaneous popular songs, and the blues. In Morton’s view, jazz was not a revolutionary new entity, but rather, an aesthetic, “a style that could be applied to any kind of music,” or more specifically, a style that “grooved in its capacity. Called for a lot of finger work, great improvisation, precise, exciting tempo with a kick. As for his role, Morton said, “It was me, the founder of jazz … It was in the year 1902. When I conceived the idea … it was a style that I had that took the world by a stranglehold. ” No wonder folklorist Alan Lomax remarked that Morton’s “epic self-aggrandizement antagonized even his admirers.”
Galaxy Music Notes documents some of Morton’s top hits:
In 1904, he began touring South America, composing music as well as performing in medieval music shows. He produced “King Porter Stomp,” “Animal Dance,” “Frog-I-More Rag,” and “Jelly Roll Blues” during this period. In 1910, he was visiting Chicago and the following year also visited New York City. Morton and his partner Rosa Brown performed as a “vaudeville act” for the next three years before settling in Chicago. In 1915, his “Jelly Roll Blues” became one of the leading jazz numbers to be published. In 1917, he performed “The Crave”, one of his popular tango numbers, at the Hotel Patricia nightclub in Vancouver. In 1923, he claimed authorship of “The Wolverines”, also known as “Wolverine Blues”. His first commercial recording was also released that year, both a piano roll and a recording.
Here’s his signature “Jelly Roll Blues.”
As music critic Colin Fleming wrote in Jazz Times in March:
Morton played in brothels, and if ever there was a fellow who bridged the gap between low and high art, it was him, while claiming that they were no different at all. It was an era when jazz was cheap and low – or so considered a more critical element in American society – but you couldn’t deny Morton’s talent. I think of him as I do Buster Keaton in his 1920s prime. Screen comics are almost never heralded as timeless artists like playwrights, but it was an apple car that Keaton overturned and uncovered firewood in his path, as Morton did in this first important piece of jazz. , did in the heyday; Only he also threw some apples at you, to remind you what you were dealing with.
He sang like a bluesman, played the piano with the chops of an Art Tatum – when he wanted to – and put the barrel in the barrelhouse, because he came hard at you, rolling down, and when his music hit you. , then you are hit.
Hit with “King Porter Stomp”. You know you want to.
Morton also “jazzed” European classical music.
Pianist and jazz historian Billy Taylor talks about going to see Morton live in DC in this National Visionary Leadership Project video.
Another prominent Creole figure in the birth of jazz was Sidney Bechet, born in 1897 in New Orleans.
Ben Sandmel writes about Bechet 64 Parish:
Clarinetist and soprano saxophonist Sidney Bechet was one of the first great soloists of traditional New Orleans jazz. Known for his lyricism, swinging phrasing, emotive blues sensibility, and rich use of vibrato, Bechet continues to have a huge impact on the traditional jazz scene in New Orleans and elsewhere. He is especially lionized in his adopted homeland of France.
Born in New Orleans on May 14, 1897, Bechet grew up in a middle-class Creole family, which preferred mainstream European music to the African-Caribbean sounds that were then evolving into jazz. The latter were often dismissed as lower-class, reflecting a common dichotomy within the New Orleans black community at the time. Bechet’s older brother Léonard said, “We Creole musicians have always maintained a good reputation.” Nevertheless, Bechet’s family was very supportive of his budding talent, which became evident at an early age. One childhood incident is particularly instructive. When Bechet was ten years old, his mother threw a birthday party and hired a band that included the legendary jazz cornetist Freddie Keppard. The band was named George Baquet. There was also a respected asylum seeker, who arrived late. Sidney, too shy to perform in public, played from another room, and everyone assumed he was listening to Baquet, the adult professional. Baquet soon became Bechet. was giving lessons to, as were other prominent figures, including Lorenzo Tio, Jr., and Louis “Big Eye” Nelson. Although an avid student, Bechet was resistant to formal training.
As a teenager, Sidney Bechet began performing publicly with his brothers’ Silver Bell Band. Next he joined the Young Olympians, a venerable outfit still active at this writing, and then, once again, moved on to play with the cornetist. Bunk Johnson In Eagle Band, a group was led Buddy Bolden. Soon Bechet was working with Clarence Williams, a Louisiana pianist/composer/entrepreneur whose work incorporated blues, ragtime, early jazz, and show tunes. Williams took the teenage Bechet on a tour that eventually led to a European tour in 1919 with violinist and composer Will Marion Cook. Bechet’s masterful, clear improvisations were praised by the Swiss conductor Ernst Ansermatt, who called him “an extraordinary clarinet virtuoso” and his “extremely difficult” solos for their “richness of exploration, strength of accent, and their novelty and unexpectedness.” Praised for “Courage in ” This was a wonderful endorsement at a time when jazz was largely scorned in classical music circles.
Bechet’s autobiography, Be gentle with it, Published posthumously, about a year after his death in 1959.
Bechet, Bechet referred to his death, noting: “I am now an old man; I can’t hang on. I also want to go; I am waiting, longing to hear my peace. And I’m looking forward to the music for it.
A 1997 documentary, with the same title as his autobiography, tells Bechet’s story, interspersed with other people’s recollections of folklore.
Sidney Bechet: Treat It Gentle (Kultur), a joint venture by the BBC and Netherlands Television, was produced in 1997 to mark the centenary of the great saxophonist’s birth. The 57-minute film tells the composer’s life story from Bechet’s perspective, with Bill Fredericks as narrator. The first half follows him from his birthplace in New Orleans to his move to Europe. Director Alan Levens mixes rare archival performance footage with new scenes filmed at historic locations. Interviews include musicians Wynton Marsalis and Bob Wilbur (who tells a very funny story about Tallulah Bankhead), as well as Bechette’s son.
The full movie is available on YouTube!
I could sit here and post and discuss Bechet tunes for the next week but would never do her performance justice, so I’ll just post one of my favorites here, and promise more in the comments.
Dear reader, please understand that I know I have barely scratched the surface of New Orleans jazz. Again, we’ll continue the search on future Sundays, and of course there will be more in today’s comments—and I look forward to your contributions.
Now you’ll have to excuse me, I’m going to cook some gumbo today.