To folks living in early twentieth-century New Orleans, to jazz meant nothing less than to have sex. Visitors to the famous brothels of "Storyville" were rampant in the form of trappers, sailors, and rivermen, who would guzzle and gamble up their... [more]
To folks living in early twentieth-century New Orleans, to jazz meant nothing less than to have sex. Visitors to the famous brothels of "Storyville" were rampant in the form of trappers, sailors, and rivermen, who would guzzle and gamble up their wages, making quick visits to the "cribs" upstairs. Down in the main rooms, both African-American and Creole musicians gathered to bounce licks off one another, drink the night away, and invent a new raucous musical sound that reflected the chaotic world around them. Oftentimes, a musician would yell past his clarinet, through the smoky haze of the brothel, "jazz it up!" This meant pick up the beat, and the music would swirl and
flow, and then jump and pound, as a new musical art form was born.
Perhaps, then, it is no surprise that the man accredited with inventing jazz was a man raised to be a swashbuckler; a musician who drank long into the night, fought and womanized his way through the French quarter, and ended
his days with bouts of insanity. He was Charles Bolden, born in 1868. We have no recordings by him, as is the case with many of the early jazz musicians, so we must rely on first-hand accounts of the times that describe a cornet player who was the first to "swing," or do
away with the ground beat. This liberated the music and set the stage for the incredibly infinite improvisational experiments that were to follow.
By the time the Original Dixieland Band (a white quintet, to the exasperation of many jazz enthusiasts) recorded the first jazz album in 1917, the music had swept the country. It had traveled up the Mississippi on riverboats to inundate the African-American communities from St. Louis to Chicago. With the arrival of such prominant
musicians as Jelly Roll Morton and Louis Armstrong, jazz infiltrated the consciousness of most Americans.
Jelly Roll has been referred to as a hustler, poolshark, gambler, pimp, nightclub manager, and entrepreneur. Even without the music, his life tells the tale of an age. But his compositions, most notably the Hot Pepper Records, show him taking control of rhythm, adding layer upon layer at differing tempos, and innovating in the realm of tonality by shifting and creating different
However, it was Louis Armstrong, a native of New Orleans and undoubtedly one of the geniuses of the century, who was to alter the face of jazz forever. By the age of 22, he was considered by his peers to be the best jazz musician alive. Because of his introduction of high-register playing, the 1925 cuts known as the "Hot Fives" and "Hot Sevens" are landmarks in jazz history. Armstrong essentially forged the modern course that luminaries such as Miles and Coltrane were to follow. [show less]