Born in the black community of turn-of-the-century New Orleans,
but played from the beginning by musicians of every color, Jazz celebrates all Americans at their best.
- It rewards individual expression but demands selfless collaboration.
- An improvisational art, making itself up as it goes along - just like the country that gave it birth.
- It has a rich tradition and its own rules, but it is brand new every night.
- It is about living through your own imagination, taking terrible risks, losing everything in exchange for something new.
This is also the story of American life.
Jazz was not created overnight. The elements that grew together to form the new style of music were present in more than one region of the United states for several years before they coalesced into a recognizable new development. However the origins of Jazz traces itself to diverse culturally mixed city of New Orleans.There was a predominantly French influence in its opera house and concert halls, with white and Creole (people with mixed African-American, French and Spanish origins) society in which all forms of music were developed for parades, picnics and other social gatherings. In New Orleans as in many towns across the United States with large African-American populations, there was a tradition of marching brass bands. It was among the musicians who made up these marching bands that some of the first signs of jazz emerged as they abandoned the formal written parts and instead improvised their own variations. Soon this developed into a custom that persists to this day for musical funerals, where a brass band plays the mournful tune on the way to the cemetery, then breaks into a joyful improvised dances as it returns to the wake.
One of the first legendary figures of New Orleans jazz played in the brass bands was Buddy Bolden.
Jazz was however not a creation of a single individual, though the talent of each of this following legends evolved it one step further.
Listed below are a few of the early legends of Jazz.
A towering figure of ragtime, a style of music from an earlier era that was just one of the ingredients that went to make up jazz. Many early jazz tunes took their structure, a sequence of melodic themes linked together by "bridge" passages, from the way the ragtime numbers were written.
Jelly Roll Morton
Morton's unique style of Piano playing, came from a the diverse nature of New Orleans life: light classics, dances such as the waltzes, polkas, ragtime and the plaintive sounds of blues singers. He played with a sense of grace, style and no one else better captured the imitation of a band in his style of playing the piano: his left hand reproduced the bass line, while his right hand mirrored the instrumental lead of the cornet and clarinet.
In early 1920's his Creole Jazz Band was the most influential Jazz bands and it launched the career of Louis Armstrong. He started with playing the cornet and later the trumpet. He is said to have pioneered the use of mutes.
The most well known of Jazz artist and genius in is own ways. Played the trumpet was a popular vocalist and entertainer.
Bob Wilber said it best about Bechet, "To tell a story, to grab the listener's attention, to carry him away on a continuously rising curve of excitement was Bechet's musical credo." Bechet played the clarinet and the soprano saxophone besides being a band-leader and composer.
The beauty and blend of pure joyful tone and wistful haunting sadness of Bix Beiderbecke's cornet and the impressionistic flurries of his piano playing brought an entirely new palette of musical colors into jazz.
Jazz Makers by Alyn Shipton
Jazz A History of America's Music by Geoffrey C. Ward and Ken Burns