Origins of Jazz





lly Jelly Roll Morton

Eubie Blake and "Jelly Roll" Morton had several things in common. Each got their start playing the piano in sporting houses, Eubie in Baltimore "Jelly Roll" Morton at Storyville in New Orleans, but both were around for the beginning of jazz. We all tend to believe jazz started in New Orleans.

In America it did start there, but it began long before in far away places. Just as it was for people, New Orleans was a melting pot for jazz. Eubie began his career in the pre-jazz era of ragtime. Scott Joplin was famous for writing ragtime music and Eubie could really play Joplin's music. He also composed some of his own.


The fundamental earthy rhythms of early jazz had come from Africa with the slaves. When they danced to their own music in Congo Square, the sound was contagious, and in some strange fashion, it always had a certain association with voodoo. Some of the dance rituals of voodoo were incorporated into jazz also. A little of that influence still lingers today. Probably at least half of the jazz musicians still keep a few talismans or voodoo charms around.


He recreated the rhythms of ragtime and was an innovator, in that he blended ragtime and rhythms and added new instruments which also blended into jazz. Morton and his band, the Red Hot Peppers, made early jazz recordings in Chicago.

Before returning to New Orleans, Morton performed in Washington D.C., New York, and Harlem. The introduction of brass instruments added a new dimension to jazz and became the source of several local stories.


And how, you might ask, did jazz get its name? Apparently F. Scott Fitzgerald used "Jazz" in reference to the 1920's. In his mind, "Jazz" described the fast moving life en vogue during that historic era, therefore, he called it The Jazz Age. Fitzgerald did not know jazz was a word used in Congo Square that had a sexual connotation. Well, all in all it was pretty sexy music. Ragtime became extremely fashionable.Nevertheless, the name Jazz stuck but some bands spelled it Jass. The Original Dixieland Jazz Band was white; however, they modeled the Dixieland sound after New Orleans black jazz bands and took it to New York, where it was first recorded

. The predominant sound came from brothels in Storyville, the red-light district where jazzmen created it.








Article taken from:
Jazz New Orleans Style
by Bobby Potts



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