Article taken from:
Jazz New Orleans Style
by Bobby Potts

First in Jazz
(New Orleans, the Birth Place of Jazz)



source of photo
New Orleans Jazz



The Original Dixieland Jazz Band

Because they were the first jazz band to record music on celluloid, and the first featured jazz musicians in a movie, The Original Dixieland Jazz Band was undoubtedly the first band to boost jazz music into public vision; however, they were not in Dixieland when it happened. Called the ODJB for short, the band soon became a tremendous success

People in New York heard their music and loved it, but they did not know how to match their feet to the music. They couldn't seem to dance to it and everyone thought it would die a quick death, but in about two days, they figured out what to do with their feet, and no one could stop them. Nick LaRocca, a trumpet player, was the leader of the band. He next took the band to London, and explosion it caused was something like when the Beatles came here, only in reverse.




Edward "Kid" Ory....became a real pioneer in the world of jazz and blues. The "Kid," who played a mean trombone, made the first recording of a black New Orleans band, called Spike's Seven Pods of Pepper Orchestra. Ory apparently developed the light high notes of the trombone, adding a new sound to jazz, and was also a great blues musician. He played in the recording of Louis Armstrong's Hot Five, a band which never existed outside the recording studio.




"Jelly Roll" Morton was the first to smooth and blend the ragtime beat with the sound of jazz. Considered jazz's first great composer, Morton wrote "Mr. Jelly Roll," "The Shreveport Stomp," "The Black Bottom Stomp," and Milneburg Joys." Milneburg was a sort of resort at the end of the street car line out on Lake Pntchartrain. It was a favorite place for New Orleansians to relax and enjoy life in the summertime. Morton began playing piano in Storyville when he was only ten years old. "Kid" Ory played for him at one time. Morton performed in Washington, D.C., before heading on to New York, but eventually faded away.




W.C. Handy, the King of Minstrelsy, formalized the blues. Handy wrote down music previously passed on by word of mouth. He also composed some outstanding songs, the most famous being "St. Louis Blues." It needs to be said here that Handy never of himself as a jazz musician. He, liked Eubie Blake, was a product of the pre-jazz "novelty" music. Handy said they played music similar to jazz in the minstrel days, but they did not call it jazz. Minstrel shows began to hire jazz artists and this really helped to make jazz popular.




In 1920, Mamie Smith recorded the first blues song, "Crazy Blues." These early recordings gave blues and jazz great impetus. Sidney Bechet was the first important recorded jazz soloist; Louis Armstrong ran a close second a few months later.



GertrudePridgett, known as "Ma" Rainey,

was the first important singer to present the classic blues tradition, making blues and early jazz meet.

"Ma" Rainey taught Bessie Smith, who left the minstrel circuit to sing as a soloist. As the first important female jazz singer, Bessie was far ahead of most of her accompanists. It has been said that Fletcher Henderson and Fred Longshaw were the only ones who could do justice to her singing. Smith and Henderson were featured in a movie.

When Duke Ellington opened at New York City's The Cotton Club, jazz was on its way! Ellington made more contributions to jazz than are possible to count. His orchestra was always in the top five, and Ellington ranked with George Gershwin, Cole Porter, and Irving Berlin. He wrote so many songs - thousands - that no one has ever been able to count them. Ellington constantly rearranged his music so that it was always fresh.

He first began playing in Washington, D.C., in 1917, learning ragtime. His first composition was "Soda Fountain Rag," and his first concert at Carnegie Hall was in 1943. Jazz was not yet known, but when it hit he was ready, opening at The Cotton Club in 1927. Nearly all of the famous jazz artists played with him at one time or another. Duke Ellington was truly a national treasure.



The Assunto brothers, Frank and Fred, were just kids when all of this was going on. By the time the brothers were teenagers, they wanted a band of their own to play Dixieland music.

The brothers talked to their father, "Papa Jack," into playing with them. "Papa Jack" later became their manager. Calling themselves the Dukes of Dixieland, the band opened in 1948. For 44 consecutive months, they played at the Famous Door.

The Assuntos had a lot to do with preserving the trombone; "Papa Jack" played trombone and banjo. Gradually other musicians joined the band. The Dukes of Dixieland could play slow, lowdown gut struts or fast jive with a swing that left dancers exhausted. It was said the Assuntos could almost blow a man head over heals backwards, they blew such a hot horn.

Tragically, Fred died a premature death in 1966, followed by Frank in 1974. Some of the members tried to constitute the band but it was never the same. "Papa Jack" retired to teach music, and died in 1985. Nevertheless, they remain a bright spot in everyone's memories of Dixieland jazz.

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