New Orleans Jazz

When we think of music in the USA’s Deep South, particularly around the Mississippi the first thing that likely comes to mind is its Blues music that it’s so well known for. But actually, it isn’t the only sound to have come out of the South, in fact there are a whole host of genres that spun out the blues, one of those in particular has found itself ingrained into the culture of the city of New Orleans is none other than Jazz Music. Not just any jazz music but more specifically, traditional jazz or as it’s best known ‘Dixieland’ music.

In relation to music the use of the word ‘Dixieland’ actually refers to the first jazz recording made by the Original Dixieland Jass Band (later changing the word ‘Jass’ to ’Jazz’) which was made in 1917. At the time jazz music was a very new thing and it was this recording that introduced the style to the rest of the country. The style found itself springing from the melting pot of culture that was (and still is) New Orleans, a mixture of New Orleans ragtime, African American and Sicilian music comprised the basis for this new sound and a wide variety of instruments are used to create it. Typically, you’ll hear such instruments as the trumpet, a horn, a piano, the banjo, drums, a clarinet and often a double bass. One instrument will play the melody of a song whilst the others improvise around that tune, this is different to other subgenres where more likely you’ll find the opposite.

As new styles of Jazz made their way to the surface the traditional style began to fall out of favour however sometime around the 1940s it went through something of a revival. It began to be seen as an enduring aspect of American culture and found favour overseas, especially across Europe. Not only did this bring new blood and talent to the scene but it also revived the careers of many artists that had lost work thanks to the changing climate of jazz, people like Red Nichols and Kid Ory who had previously been band leaders left their state of semi-retirement and found themselves back in the fray full time. Whilst many bands played the classics, there were also plenty that continued to make new material simply using the style of the traditional jazz music and since it has gone on to become huge part of New Orleans.

This revival however was not supported by all, in particular young African American artists which was in most part due to the name. Though ‘Dixieland’ may to some just be a reference to the original music recording it is also the name used for the pre-Civil War South and could be seen as a form of nostalgia for a bygone form of entertainment taken from the African American culture and tailored for white audiences. Though to some it may simply be a name for others it is far more and so it is better referred to simply as traditional jazz.