Monday, October 8, 2007

Jazz 101: Origins of Jazz

In tonight's class with Kelly Rossum, we explored the origins of jazz, the gumbo/cassoulet/ragout of African slaves, Creoles of Color, blues, ragtime, European classical music, musicians who learned their instruments in Storyville, those who were trained in Paris conservatories, military bands, workers in the fields, travelers, and God knows who else. Kelly played the last track from Wynton Marsalis's Live at the House of Tribes as an example of New Orleans second-line music. He told us that John Philip Sousa's cornet player hated jazz and thought it the work of the devil. And he played us selections from a 1919 recording by Lieutenant James Reese Europe's "Hell Fighters" Band, part of the African American 369th Infantry of World War I.

Picture Europe's band standing around a giant recording horn, playing for exactly three minutes as a needle etched a wax cylinder. Standing nearest the horn is the band's drum major, a man named Noble Sissle, who starts to sing:

I'm a jazz baby,
I wanna be jazzin' all the time.
There's something in the tone of a saxophone
That makes me do a little wiggle all my own,
'Cause I'm a jazz baby,
Full of jazzbo harmony.

Love to sit by the cradle and to-and-fro,
To-and-fro to the tune of a Tickle Toe.
Ever since I started in to grow
I love to hear the music playing,
See my dear old mammy swaying.
Jazz, jazz, jazz, that's all I ever knew.
All day long, I never would get through.
Jazz, jazz, jazz, that's all I want to do.
Play me a little jazz.

Read more about James Reese Europe and hear some of his recordings

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