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all that jazz

EARLY JAZZ HISTORY

JAZZ IN CHICAGO

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On Nov. 12, 1917 Storyville closed down on War and Navy Department orders because America had entered World War One. A general movement of musicians started up-river to Chicago. All that Jazz Sax The easiest and most convenient mode of exodus was by riverboat, on which some of them had already begun to play under Fate Marable, an early band leader who specialized in dance music for the Mississippi voyagers. Around each bend in the river these musicians encountered fresh approval for their form of music. Some of them lingered for a time in Memphis and St. Louis, but it was in Chicago that most of them became most firmly established. There in the South Side they found a home which much resembled the French Quarter in New Orleans.

Chicago was a good home for several reasons.

one  There was a growing Negro population, because of good paying stockyard and steel mill jobs.
two  With Prohibition, Chicago became the homebase of bootleggers, and thus a center of a flourishing night life.
three  In the clubs, there were small 3 or 4 man groups playing much the same kind of music they played back home in New Orleans.

On the North Side of Chicago, one finds the White musicians, such as Mugsy Spanier, Bunny Berigan, Wingy Manone, George Wettling and Eddie Condon. On the South Side of Chicago, one finds Black musicians such as Jimmy Noone, Lovie Austin, Johnny Dodds, Joe "King" Oliver, Louis Armstrong and Freddie Keppard. The two styles are easily discernable when listening. The original Dixie is an ensemble effort, with the music seeming to "unravel" itself as you listen. The Chicago style, is Dixie, but with a "hard, driving" feel to it, and with solos by the bandsmen. The merger of New Orleans Style Jazz with ragtime style led to what is now referred to as Chicago Style Dixieland. This style exemplified the Roaring Twenties, or to quote F. Scott Fitzgerald, "The Jazz Age". Chicago was exciting at this time and so was its music. The New Orleans instrumentation was augmented to include a saxophone and piano and the influence of ragtime added 2/4 backbeat to the rhythmic feeling. The banjo moved to guitar and the tuba moved to string bass. The tempos were generally less relaxed than New Orleans Jazz, and the music seemed more aggressively performed.

Recent scholarship has taught us that the term "jazz" was not known in New Orleans but was merely the name that northerners and Californians gave to the music that in New Orleans was called ragtime. Three ragtime bands, the first black and the other two white, arrived in Chicago in 1915 and 1916. Freddie Keppard's Creole Band, Tom Brown's band, and what would soon become the Original Dixieland Jazz Band. By January of 1917 the Original Dixieland Jazz Band had moved on to New York for its historic engagement at Reisenweber's Restaurant, then on January 30 it made its even more historic first record. Richard M. Sudhalter, author of 'Lost Chords: White Musicians and Their Contributions to Jazz, 1915-1945' points out, the Original Dixieland Jazz Band seized the opportunity when the others faltered. Brown had turned down the Reisenweber's job, and the Creole Band's cornetist, Freddie Keppard, had vetoed a recording contract, supposedly because he feared that the band's music would be stolen by other bands.

The Original Dixieland Jazz Band's first record release, Livery Stable Blues, featured the horns led by cornetist Nick LaRocca, imitating animals and it became a sensation, the group also introduced such future Dixieland standards as Tiger Rag, Original Dixieland One Step, Margie, Indiana, and At the Jazz Band Ball. The Original Dixieland Jazz Band (which was fairly original for the time although certainly not the originators of jazz that LaRocca sometimes claimed they were), introduced jazz to many listeners and in 1919 during a pioneering tour they brought jazz to Europe for the first time. So strong was the group's initial impact that during 1919-21, the word "jazz" was being applied to nearly every new song and quite a few heated white bands did their best to play in the Original Dixieland Jazz Band style.

King Oliver's Creole Jazz Band had, after touring in California, came to Chicago, and experienced it's first great success. Joe Oliver did much recording that was faithful to the New Orleans tradition of ensemble playing. King Oliver's Creole Jazz Band, which recorded in 1923, was the finest of all the classic New Orleans jazz groups. Although they emphasized ensembles, the band also had influential soloists in cornetist Oliver, the great clarinetist Johnny Dodds and the young second cornetist, Louis Armstrong. Oliver had sent to New Orleans for Armstrong the previous year and the interplay between the two cornets gave the group an explosive power and spontaneity that amazed listeners.

In 1920, cornetist Paul Mares and trombonist George Brunies were working a Mississippi Riverboat boat that stopped at Davenport, Iowa. There they teamed with clarinetist Leon Rapolo. In time, they added pianist Elmer Schobel from Illinois, Frank Snyder on drums, Alfred Loyacano on bass, and banjoist Louis Black, and were hired by the Friar's Club in Chicago. They first called themselves "The Friar's Society Orchestra", but later changed their name to "The New Orleans Rhythm Kings". The next big step forward (at least on records) was made by the New Orleans Rhythm Kings. In 1922 the group made recordings that sounded a decade ahead of the Original Dixieland Jazz Band. They featured short solos, high musicianship, and unlike the Original Dixieland Jazz Band, the horns were strong improvisers. Mares later modestly claimed that he got many of his ideas from another Chicago-based New Orleans import, King Oliver. Nick LaRocca and the Original Dixieland Jazz Band had created a huge demand for the new 'jazz' music. And, with their going to New York City and on to London, the New Orleans Rhythm Kings became the mainstay of North Chicago Jazz.

The New Orleans Rhythm Kings playing truly inspired Chicagoans, especially, a small group of high school students in Austin, a suburb west of Chicago, who immediately decided to form a band. The Austin High Gang and their friends defined the style of Chicago small-band jazz. The Austin High Gang included cornetist Jimmy McPartland, his older brother Dick played banjo and guitar, tenor saxophonist Bud Freeman, Jim Lannigan played piano, and clarinetist Frank Teschemacher. This group of students listened to the New Orleans Rhythm Kings recordings and literally taught themselves to play music by trying to emulate what they heard on the records. They first called themselves the "Austin High Gang", but later changed the name to the Austin Blue Friar's. Still later they were joined by Dave North on Piano (Lanigan moved to the Bass). Dave Tough, from the Lewis Institute in Oak Park, IL., became the drummer. Still later, Floyd O'Brien's trombone was added.

After a brief 13 month stay in New York working with the Fletcher Henderson Orchestra, Louis Armstrong returned to Chicago in 1925 to work in several clubs and with many different groups, he joined his wife's band at the Dreamland, he also played in Erskine Tate's Vendome Orchestra, and then with Carrol Dickenson's Orchestra at the Sunset Cafe. Between 1925 and 1928 he worked in the recording studios with the classic Hot Fives and Sevens Bands. This was the first time that Armstrong had made records under his own name. The records made by Louis Armstrong's Hot Five and Hot Seven are considered to be absolute jazz classics and the peak of his creative powers. The band never played live, but continued recording until 1928. Armstrong continued to play in Carrol Dickenson's Orchestra until 1929. He also lead his own bands under the names of Louis Armstrong and his Stompers, and Louis Armstrong and his Savoy Ballroom Five . For the next two years Armstrong played with Carroll Dickerson's Savoy Orchestra and with Clarence Jones' Orchestra in Chicago.

Still other Chicagoans must be mentioned; Eddie Condon on banjo and guitar, Art Hodes and Joe Sullivan on piano, Mugsy Spanier playing cornet, and Mezz Mezzrow on clarinet, and one cannot forget Benny Goodman's clarinet, and Gene Krupa's drums. (more information on other Chicago artists on the Chicago Style page) The Chicagoans, were representative of "new" dixielanders. Most were not from New Orleans, but had absorded the music, and, along the way, they improved it greatly.

Slowly however, in Chicago the music started to change. In the larger clubs and vaudeville theaters, a smoother musical style developed, with larger bands and increasing use of arrangements. Today, the only examples we have of New Orleans Jazz is that which was played in Chicago, since New Orleans had no recording companies, but Chicago did. In New Orleans, the music was played in ensemble style. But in Chicago a method of playing developed that emphasized the solos of the band members. This era was the start of such Solo virtuosi as Bix Beiderbecke, Benny Goodman, Jimmy and Tommy Dorsey, Eddie Condon, Bud Freeman, Louis 'Satchmo' Armstrong, Earl 'Fatha' Hines, Jimmy Noone and many others.

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Other pages of this site

All That Jazz main page

The Origins of Jazz

New Orleans Jazz

New Orleans Artist Index

Jazz in Chicago

Chicago Style

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