Jazz and It’s History
Jazz started when World War I had just ended and a social revolution was on it’s way. Customs and values of previous were rejected. Life was to be lived to the fullest. This was also known as the era of the “lost generations,” and the “flapper” with her rolled stockings, short skirts, and straight up-and-down look. They disturbed their elders in the casino, night clubs, and speakeasies that replaced the ballrooms of prewar days. Dancing became more informal - close of the nineteenth century in the unpleasant dance halls and whorehouses of the South and Midwest where the word Jazz commonly meant sexual intercourse. Southern blacks, delivered from slavery a few decades before, started playing European music Afro modifications.
The first place of jazz has many origins: New Orleans, St. Louis, Memphis and Kansas City are just a few. But New Orleans was and still remains an important jazz center. The ethnic rainbow of people who went to the bars and whorehouses were a big part of the development of jazz. The city had been under Spanish French rule because of the Louisiana purchase. By 1900, it was a blend of Spanish, French, English, German, Italian, Slavic and countless blacks originally brought in as slaves
The first jazz bands contained a “rhythm section” consisting of a string bass, drums, and a guitar or banjo, and a “melodic section” with one or two cornets, a trombone, a clarinet, and sometimes even a violin. Years later, jazz was taken over by large orchestras; A “society jazz contained fifteen or more musicians. Today, there is a renewed interest in the “big band” era, even though the music has very little to do with real jazz.
Jazz is characterized by certain features. The first is a tendency to stress the weak beats of the bar (2nd and 4th) in contrast to traditional music which stressed the first and third beats. The second feature is syncopation through an extensive repetition of short and strongly rhythmic phrases or “riffs”. The third feature of jazz is swing (regular but subtle pulsation which animates 4/4 time). The swing must be present in every good jazz performance.
Jazz as a musical style it has been with us for more than a century. Jazz originated in the United States, It has spread over the entire world, and It’s influence can be seen everywhere. It is a universal language and means of communication, understood by people in all nations and all walks of life.
It has been a major influence on many styles and classes of music since it’s origin in the late 1800's. It has also influenced dance, clothing styles, the recording industry, the film industry, radio and televison, our language, and many other aspects of our lives.
One major contributer to jazz was Louis Daniel Armstrong he was born in the Storyville District of New Orleans, Louisiana, on August 4, 1901. He always celebrated his birth as July 4, 1900 because that is what he was told and believed. His real date of birth was not know until after his death July 6, 1971. His father Willie, a laborer, left the family soon after he was born, his mother, a domestic servant and a part time prostitute called Mayanne, left Louis and his sister Beatrice, also called Mama Lucy, in the care of his grandma much of the time, however he always believed the love of his family helped him make it through those rough times.
Louie describes his neighborhood, “It was called the Battlefield because the toughest characters in town used to live there, and would shoot and fight much. In that one block between Gravier and Perido Streets more people were crowded than you ever saw in your life.” He dressed in rags and usually shopped in garbage cans. He sang with other boys on the streets for tips and begin to develop his musical talents. At this time in his life, it was not ‘A WONDERFUL WORLD’ for young Louis.
To celebrate the New Year in 1913 Louis discharged a borrowed pistol into the air and was arrested. A very fortunate occurrence for Jazz and probably for him, he was sent to the city’s Colored Waif’s Home for Boys, where he came under the very capable tutorship of Peter Davis, the music instructor at the home. Louis had some background in harmony singing, as a natural ability, and the experience of singing on the streets, but under Mr. Davis he began to study music. First vocals, then percussion, then he became the home bugler, and finally cornet. The music was very structured mostly marches and other ensemble music.
When being released from the waif’s home at age fourteen, Louis worked selling papers, unloading boats, and selling coal from a horse and cart. He also listened to bands at clubs like the Come Clean Dance Hall, Funky Butt Hall, and Mahogany Hall, in Storyville. Joe “King” Oliver with the Kid Ory Band was his favorite and he quickly became young Louis’s mentor. By 1917 Louis was playing in various groups at dive bars in New Orleans’ Storyville section. In 1919 he joined Fate Marable’s band in St.Louis, and stayed with him until 1921. Marable headed a band he played in Zutty Singleton’s Trio, Papa Celestin’s Tuxedo Orchestra, The Silver Leaf Band, and When King Oliver left New Orleans in 1919 to go to Chicago, Louis took his place in Kid Ory’s band, at the suggestion of Oliver.
In 1922 Louis received a telegram from Joe Oliver, asking him to join his Creole Jazz Band at Lincoln Gardens in Chicago.
I must interject at this point Nat Gonella's comment, "I can't imagine Louis playing second trumpet to anyone", however, Louis learned much working with Oliver. The experience of playing second cornet helped to develop his ear and harmonies, and, the importance of playing straight lead, as Oliver did, were lessons that he would use for the remainder of his life. While playing in Oliver's Creole Jazz Band, Louis met Lillian Hardin the piano player for the band, and they were married in February of 1924. By the end of 1924 she pressured Louis to leave the Oliver band. He moved to New York to play in Fletcher Henderson's Orchestra for 13 months. While in New York he worked many recording sessions with numerous Blues singers including Bessie Smith on her 1925 classic recording of "St. Louis Blues".
In 1925 Armstrong moved back to Chicago and joined his wife's band at the Dreamland. He recorded his first Hot Five records that same year. This was the first time Louis had made records under his own name. The records made by Louis Armstrong's Hot Five and Hot Seven are considered to be absolute jazz classics and peak of his creative powers. The band never played live, but continued recording until 1928. Louis Armstrong died in 1969 his manager was Joe Glaser.
According to records the first person to play jazz music was a man born in 1878 by The legendary Buddy Bolden. The old-time musicians say that Buddy Bolden was "the first musician to start the big noise in Jazz." They say he'd shine his cornet "til it glistened like a woman's legs". Then he'd put his horn out the window and say to his band, "Let's call the children home". He would blow and his children would come running. It has also been said, "his trumpet could be heard all over New Orleans, and even across the river in Algiers".