Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Jazz 101: Early Jazz

What a pleasure it is to spend an hour each week with jazz musician, composer, and educator Kelly Rossum and a small group of people who enjoy jazz. Our class at MacPhail goes by too quickly. Tonight we heard and talked about recordings by the Original Dixieland Jass (Jazz) Band, the all-white quintet that made the first jazz record in 1917. We learned that jazz is the oldest style of music almost completely documented by recording (the history of jazz parallels that of the recording industry), and we tried to imagine what it must have been like to hear this crazy, rebellious party music for the first time. People enjoyed it; "Livery Stable Blues/Dixie Jass Band One Step" sold over a million copies. We also listened to "West End Blues," the 1928 recording by Louis Armstrong and his Hot Five that changed everything. Meanwhile, I learned that a C on the piano is not the same as a C on a trumpet, a cornet, a saxophone, or almost any other instrument. Excuse me? How is it possible for jazz musicians to play together--and make things up (improvise)--when their instruments all have different tunings? Ow, ow, my head hurts. For more on this topic, see "Jazz Musicians: The Ultimate Multi-Taskers."

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