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New Orleans is about the Jazz…

New Orleans wasn’t just eye-opening to me, but ear-opening as well.

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One of the things I loved about living in New Orleans was the music. Everywhere we went, there was amazing music, even just walking down the street. Growing up in Wyoming did not give me a big background in jazz music, so New Orleans wasn’t just eye-opening to me, but ear-opening as well. 

Did you know…

The city of New Orleans birthed the swinging, flowing, soulful rhythms that created the Jazz Age. From 1893 to 1923 the New Orleans’ Grunewald Hotel, now the Roosevelt, was home to The Cave —America’s first jazz club. Located in the hotel’s basement, you’d find stalactites, waterfalls, and chorus girls in The Cave. They danced to New Orleans’ own Dixieland Jazz performed by Johnny DeDroit and his New Orleans Jazz Orchestra, The New Orleans Owls, and other Crescent City bands.

In 1917 the Original Dixieland Jazz Band was a huge success in New York City where they cut the first commercial jazz recording —a big hit. Out of the blue, New Orleans’ jazz was a national craze.

Musicians began leaving the Big Easy for large northern cities where there was an urgent demand for jazz. Clarinetist Sidney Bechet went to Chicago in 1917, and cornetist Joe “King” Oliver followed two years later. By 1919 the Original Dixieland Jazz Band was performing in England and Bechet was in France where their music was received wholeheartedly.

Speakeasys opened in 1920 with Prohibition. This club culture advanced the careers of major New Orleans jazz performers as mobsters like Al and Ralph Capone of Chicago and Owney Madden of New York competed for the best jazz musicians to entertain their booze-guzzling customers.

In the 1920s, Armand Piron’s New Orleans Orchestra played at most local social events and was one of the most popular bands in the Big Easy. In 1923, they entertained at the Cotton Club and the Roseland in New York City and from 1923-1925 recorded for the Columbia, Okeh and Victor labels.

Another New Orleans Jazz star, Jelly Roll Morton, made a series of instrumental recordings while based in Chicago in the 1920s. Morton’s sophisticated compositions with a structure for soloists to explore, paved the way for the Swing era. 

The famed jazz bandleader, King Oliver, and trombonist Edward “Kid” Ory, created the Creole Jazz Band in Chicago that was all the rage in 1922. Also, in Chicago, the New Orleans Rhythm Kings melded the Oliver 1923 and Original Dixieland Jazz Band sounds and also collaborated with Jelly Roll Morton in 1923.

In 1922, Louis Armstrong’s mentor, King Oliver, encouraged him to leave New Orleans for Chicago. There, Armstrong led a jazz revolution with the ensemble arrangement sound of New Orleans giving way to the trendy solo artist style. Technological advances and the growing popularity of records spread his influential innovations and boosted him to international stardom. His Hot Five and Hot Seven recordings (1925 to 1928), along with his acclaimed work with Earl Hines were milestones in the progression of jazz.

I hope you learned something new because I know I did with this deepish dive into New Orleans Jazz. And if you listen to any of the videos, perhaps you’ll come to understand why I wrote so many books set in New Orleans. The sights, smells, and sounds of New Orleans pull you in and won’t let you go!

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Perilously yours,


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