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The History of Jazz

The Internet offers access to a wonderful introduction to Jazz. There are both websites and videos which document the early history of Jazz. Also, because of the passage of time collectors of early jazz recordings are able to share many items in their collections without copyright restrictions. I am beginning to put together a small collection of links to some of the best of this material.

Understanding the Talk When listening to Jazz musicians talk or when reading about jazz we encounter a unique vocabulary. Many terms are easy enough to sort out but some have distinctive meanings that need to be explained and may even have shifted in meaning through the decades. Fortunately some people take an interest in these things and even share their knowledge. One useful on-line resource is this Jazz Glossary.

Why not call it Dixieland?  Like most people, my earliest encounters with this New Orleans music was under the title - "Dixieland." In fact, only rather recently have I stopped using that term. My change was motivated by a comment by Wynton Marsalis in his wonderful book "Moving to Higher Ground" (Random House, 2008). He writes movingly about the racial assaults on black people and their music. His one comment stopped me in my tracks because I had never thought about it before. Wynton said, "There were less obvious, cruelly humorous assaults on it, too, like calling New Orleans music 'Dixieland,' which managed to identify it with the Confederacy's battle hymn: 'You play about freedom but we'll make it a homage to your enslavement.'" How truly ironic! I choose not to refer to this music as "Dixieland" any more.

The Origins of Jazz

Jazz graphic

Early Jazz Recordings

Scott Joplin playing Maple Leaf Rag for piano roll.
Scott Joplin playing The Entertainer for piano roll.
Original Dixieland Jazz Band (ODJB) - Livery Stable Blues (1917)
ODJB - Palesteena (1920)
ODJB - Jazz me Blues (1921)
King Oliver & His Creole Jazz Band - Canal Street Blues (1923)
King Oliver & His Creole Jazz Band - High Society (1923)
Jelly Roll Morton and his Red Hot Peppers - Blackbottom Stomp (1926)
King Oliver's Creole Jazz Band - Big Butter and Egg Man From the West (1927)

On This Day

Nov.24th.(?) - Birth of Scott Joplin
Scott Joplin, 1868-1917.Perhaps on this day in 1867 or 1868 (see bio link) Scott Joplin, the foremost composer of ragtime music, was born in Texas. Ragtime was the earliest form of jazz to become widely popular. It began about 1893 and its appeal lasted until the beginning of the First World War. Joplin's most famous tune, Maple Leaf Rag, was composed near the beginning of his career, in 1899. Although Joplin enjoyed considerable success as a ragtime composer, he suffered a major failure in 1911 when he attempted what is sometimes called a ragtime opera, Treemonisha. This setback, and the decline of ragtime in general, hit Joplin hard. In 1916, he was confined to the Manhattan State Hospital in New York City where he died on April 1, 1917. Joplin's music enjoyed a revival after its use in the 1973 film, The Sting. Another popular piece by Joplin revived in the 1970s was The Entertainer.