New Orleans Jazz

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With New Orleans jazz (in the relevant literature almost always as New Orleans jazz ) is a style of the classic is called Jazz 1890-1928 (mainly in the 1920s), named after its place of origin and the most important center of New Orleans . The historical predecessor was the archaic jazz of the street bands . Even the Ragtime flowed into the New Orleans jazz. This is still strongly oriented towards the Afro-American music tradition.

A subspecies has developed in the French-influenced neighborhoods of New Orleans: Creole jazz . It was shaped by Spanish, French and Latin American dances. In the 1940s and 1950s, New Orleans jazz experienced a renaissance (New Orleans Revival), as did its white counterpart, Dixieland .

Style features

At the end of the 19th century, these diverse influences merged into the first fully developed style of jazz, which was named New Orleans jazz after the place where it was created. Here the cornet or trumpet played the melody, while the clarinet played richly decorated counter-melodies and the trombone played rhythmic slides and set the basic notes of the chords and harmonies. Tuba or double bass placed a bass line under this standard group of three, the drums provided the rhythm. Vitality and dynamism were more important than musical subtleties, and the improvisation was carried out by several voices in the ensemble (group, tutti or collective improvisation ). Also important are the call-and-response patterns and the “dirty tones” (also blue notes , imitations of Afro-American singing technique with intentionally “impure” tones), or elements from the blues such as the 12-bar blues scheme. In contrast to the “offbeat” way of playing Chicago jazz , where the 2nd and 4th beat / bar are emphasized, the 1st and 3rd beat / bar are used in pieces of New Orleans jazz emphasizes the "two beat" style of playing. Much of jazz research tends to use the term New Orleans jazz to refer to jazz played by African Americans, including Creoles, while classifying the music of the white bands from New Orleans as derived Dixieland.

It is controversial which style-defining role improvisation plays in early jazz. Contemporary musicians from New Orleans to report a majority agreed that initially not in New Orleans jazz improvisation was (even the word improvisation was uncommon) but embellished ( embellished ), the difference is of course fluent. A comparison of the different takes of the early recordings (if preserved) does not give a completely uniform picture. While new musical twists and turns appear on some of the second or third takes, most of these recording attempts essentially differ only slightly in terms of the tempo, the volume of the instruments playing along and similar aspects. Sometimes a musician's mistake was corrected on a second take, or the recording was shortened so that it fit on the records in use at the time (whose recording capacity only slightly exceeded three minutes).

On the other hand, under the circumstances prevailing at the time, in many cases it was simply not possible that the pieces were always replicated in the same way. With many orchestras, especially the marching bands, there was a constant fluctuation of the participants; there were even opportunities - e.g. B. New Orleans Funerals, Mardi Gras parades - which often any number of instrumentalists "got on" en route. In addition, a very large number of musicians could not read sheet music (this was even the case with King Oliver's 1924 band, in which only Lil Hardin and - with restrictions - Louis Armstrong could read from the sheet). Even if one takes into account that many of the musicians of the time placed greater emphasis on memory than is the case today, uniform playing based on exact repetition was usually only possible in formations that had been in the same line-up for a long time.

Due to the nature of the matter, this must inevitably have led to a way of playing in which one orientated oneself roughly to harmonies and rhythm, and more or less spontaneously developed one or more variations of the basic melody. The extent to which one noticed and played again and again until they "solidified", depended on a multitude of factors. On the one hand, the evident quality of a variant played a role (examples: Alphonse Picou's clarinet solo over High Society , Joe King Oliver's cornet solo in Dippermouth Blues , George Brunie's and Kid Ory's trombone parts in Tin Roof Blues and Muskrat Ramble ), on the other hand, the respective inspiration or mood of the involved musicians on a given occasion. Grosso modo, the usual range of variation of the repetitions seems to have been rather narrow compared to modern jazz. Exceptions were the breaks , which were very popular in jazz at that time (short, mostly two-bar "answers" of individual instruments to previous choruses), where there were no limits to individual inventiveness, and longer plays of pieces lasting fifteen or twenty minutes (was apparently for example in Joe Oliver common practice early on), where the later variations at some point move so far away from the basic theme that at some point the limit to more or less free improvisation is touched. Free ("free" in the sense of traditional jazz, i.e. within harmonic boundaries) improvisation assumed an essential role only later, in the late twenties and early thirties, with the emergence of star soloists such as Louis Armstrong , Coleman Hawkins and Benny Goodman (In terms of music history, the comparison of the different takes of the recordings of the Goodman Trio and Quartet is particularly interesting).


In the 19th century, until 1899, the city of New Orleans was relatively little racially segregated compared to other American cities , which meant that the relatively numerous immigrant groups there had mixed. Two groups of black citizens in particular met each other and had a decisive influence on the development of the New Orleans style: The Creoles , who had French and Spanish roots, were opposed to the group of black ("American") African-Americans.

Due to an American law of 1889 (popularly: "Black Code"), the Creoles in Louisiana , who until then had been able to participate in the achievements of bourgeois, European-influenced culture, were declared to be second-class "colored people". As a result, Afro-Americans and Creoles made music together and the previously observed socio-cultural differences between them disappeared: “Black” musicians who played by ear, improvising and their colleagues who played true to note met for the first time in street bands and other bands, where they met Ragtime, marches , hymns , (negro) spirituals, blues and European dances interpreted. This is how New Orleans jazz was born. Its first central musician was Buddy Bolden .

In contrast to Creoles like Lorenzo Tio , Alphonse Picou , Peter Bocage or Freddie Keppard , who came strongly from ragtime and in some cases had received musical training based on the European model, Afro-Americans like Bunk Johnson , Johnny Dodds or Joe King Oliver were more clearly oriented towards the blues. It is thanks to the influence of the Creoles that the clarinet is so important in the New Orleans style, as it was very popular in France at the time.

Development and revival in New Orleans jazz

The entertainment district of Storyville , in which the jazz musicians of New Orleans had good performance opportunities until then, was closed in 1917 due to incidents with the Navy. As a result, many jazz musicians migrated from the city on the Mississippi River Delta , especially Joe Oliver and Jelly Roll Morton, and to the cities of the north, especially Chicago and New York City . Numerous musicians such as Kid Ory , Jimmie Noone , Johnny Dodds , Baby Dodds , Henry "Red" Allen , Johnny St. Cyr , Zue Robertson and Louis Armstrong followed; In the cities of the north they were joined by numerous musicians - for example Lil Hardin . It was only there that the first recordings of this music were made.

While the music of migrants in the metropolises of the American north modernized itself at the latest by the end of the 1920s and mixed with the subsequent styles in the history of jazz , the style of the musicians who stayed behind in Louisiana initially remained unchanged: the "Tuxedo Band" were central here. about Papa Celestin and the band of Sam Morgan . There were also younger musicians such as Kid Howard , Dede Pierce , Kid Thomas Valentine and the clarinetist George Lewis , although some of them were open to influences from swing music . Returnees like Johnny St. Cyr or Paul Barbarin were also influenced by the stylistic innovations.

Reimer von Essen distinguishes between three different revival of New Orleans jazz:

  • At the end of the thirties a movement began in the jazz criticism and among record collectors which asked about the beginnings of jazz and thus led to a renewed interest in jazz from New Orleans; As a result of this search for “ authentic jazz”, musicians such as George Lewis, Sidney Bechet and Tommy Ladnier were included, but also Bunk Johnson , who now works on a farm (to whom we owe particularly detailed explanations about Buddy Bolden's playing style) and Kid Ory rediscovered.
  • In 1953, after a visit to New Orleans, the British trumpeter Ken Colyer announced that the jazz he had heard there was "very different". In Great Britain in particular, as a result of this rediscovery, traditional jazz emerged as a "fashionable style" that differed significantly from jazz that was played in the "cradle of jazz" but quickly found international recognition.
  • From the mid-1960s, the records with local musicians that were made due to the second revival in New Orleans encouraged a new generation of musicians from Europe, Australia, Japan and North America to get involved with jazz in the Mississippi Delta, and they went to New Orleans and studied it scene there more thoroughly than the second generation revivalists. Musicians like Barry Martyn managed to internalize the music from the hometown of jazz. The scene around the now emerging Preservation Hall was strengthened: Musicians like Louis Nelson or Captain John Handy were discovered. Clarinetist Michael White is now acting as the spokesman for this revival .


A band is typically divided into melody and rhythm groups. The former often has three members and the latter often four, and very often the total amounts to seven musicians, even with a varying line-up. With this number, the overall sound of a group improvisation seldom blurs into an undifferentiated mishmash, which happens more easily with a larger number.

Melody instruments
Cornet or trumpet melody; Clarinet - ornate counter-melodies; Trombone - rhythmic slides or root notes of chords, harmonies; rarely saxophone
Rhythm section
Piano , banjo and possibly guitar ; Bass or tuba bass line, rarely bass saxophone ; Drums

Important bands

Well-known compositions

See also


  • Reimer of Essen: New Orleans. In: Joachim-Ernst Berendt (Ed.) The Story of Jazz. From New Orleans to rock jazz. Reinbek, Rowohlt 1978 (1991), pp. 17-38
  • Bruce Boyd Raeburn: New Orleans Style and the Writing of American Jazz History . University of Michigan Press, 2009. ISBN 978-0-472-11675-1
  • Gunther Schuller Early Jazz: Its Roots and Musical Development. New York, Oxford University Press (1968) 1986.

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. cf. Berndt Ostendorf New Orleans: Creolization and all that jazz. Transatlantica Vol. 7 Studienverlag Innsbruck, Vienna, Bozen 2013; ISBN 978-3-7065-5209-7
  2. Peter Niklas Wilson points out: “Strictly speaking, New Orleans Jazz is a fiction, a legend. Because what we know about early jazz, about the music played by Buddy Bolden, Freddie Keppard, Joe "King" Oliver, Ferdinand "Jelly Roll" Morton or Edward "Kid" Ory before 1920, can be traced back to conclusions from recordings. which originated in Chicago from 1923, as well as on - contradicting - reminiscences of contemporary witnesses. The age of the jazz record begins with the recordings made by the white “ Original Dixieland Jass Band ” in New York in 1917. (...) So the paradoxical situation arose that young black musicians in the cities of the north first learned something about the new, "hot" music from New Orleans through epigonal recordings by a white band. "Peter Niklas Wilson: Basic concepts of New music and jazz. In Franz Xaver Ohnesorg (ed.) The Liberation of Music. An introduction to 20th century music . Bergisch Gladbach, Gustav Lübbe Verlag, 1994. pp. 354 f.