History of Jazz Timeline: 1931
Armstrong gets a record contract with Victor this year. This will end his Okeh recording career. Recordings can be found on Classics CD Louis Armstrong and His Orchestra 1930-1931 and Classics CD Louis Armstrong and His Orchestra 1931-1932.
Armstrong visits New Orleans for the first time since 1922.
Armstrong and his band are arrested in Memphis and thrown in jail. They are bailed out by the manager of the Palace Theatre where they are booked to play. They dedicate "I'll Be Glad When You're Dead You Rascal You" to the Memphis police.
Louis Armstrong and Vic Berton (drummer with Abe Lyman's band and former drummer with Bix Beiderbecke and the Wolverines) are arrested at Frank Sebastion's New Cotton Club in Culver City, CA. for possession of marijuana.
In September, posters begin to appear in Austin, Texas. These posters advertise the October 12 performance of "Louis Armstrong, King of the Trumpet, and His Orchestra" at the Hotel Driskill in downtown Austin. Surprisingly, for this time and place, there is nothing degrading in this advertisement.
Armstrong records Hoagy Carmichael's classic "Stardust".
Duke Ellington writes "Dreamy Blues" (aka "Mood Indigo") in 15 minutes while waiting for his mother to cook dinner. When Duke recorded "Mood Indigo", the melody was stated by muted trumpet, muted trombone and clarinet. Sam Nanton played the highest part on the trombone and Barney Bigard played the lowest part on the clarinet. This reversal of traditional roles sounded eerie and compeling. "Mood Indigo" was Ellington's first big hit.
Ellington records the first extended Jazz piece called Creole Rhapsody this piece covers two full 78 sides. He will also record Mood Indigo and Rockin' in Rhythm (there's that word rock). Duke is by now very famous.
Duke Ellington decides to live apart from his wife after she slashes his face for having an affair with a Cotton Club dancer. He retains custody of his son and sends for his mother, father and sister to join them.
On November 4, cornet player Buddy Bolden (who many people think was the first person to play Jazz) dies in a Louisiana state hospital. He was never recorded.
Influential Swing trombone player Jimmy Harrison dies at an early age.
Bix Beiderbecke dies in Sunnyside Queens, New York City from pneumonia which was brought on by acute alcoholism. Jazz has lost a disproportionate number of artists to drug and alcohol addiction.
Fletcher Henderson's drummer, Walter Johnson, moves the ground beat from the bass/snare combination to the bass/hi-hat combination on Radio Rhythm and Low Down on the Bayou. Basie's drummer Jo Jones adopted this method and is usually given the credit for this important innovation which became necessary to quiet the drums for a small group.
Tenor saxophonist Ben Webster is in the Blanche Calloway Band (Cab's sister), but he will soon join Benny Moten.
The Bennie Moten Band now contains most of the members of the now defunct Blue Devils who had run into financial troubles. Even Walter Page is with Moten. Walter is the first bass player to sound all four beats. Basie and Ben Webster are also with Moten. This band is on par with the best, the Fletcher Henderson band. Tunes like Toby, Blue Room and Prince of Wails show complicated writing but usually they revert to simpler riffing which is where this band shines.
Bandleader Zack Whyte has a Cincinnati based territory band call the Chocolate Beau Brummels.
Classic Blues singer Bessie Smith stops recording.
Young piano player Teddy Wilson is currently in Chicago working with Armstrong, Jimmy Noone, et al. Wilson will be the primary propogator of the Earl Hines style of piano.
Young Charlie Parker is given his first alto sax by his mother.
Lenny Tristano is playing music professionally at age twelve.
Pianist Oscar Peterson begins to study piano.
At the age of 7, Kenny Dorham moves from piano to trumpet.
Future Dixieland leader Bill Davison has a band.
Pianist Wynton Kelly is born in Jamaica.
Pianist Conrad Yeats "Sonny" Clark is born in Herminie, Pa. (about 25 miles east of Pittsburgh).
The Mills Brothers group forms in New York City.
Future Gospel and Rock and Roll singer/songwriter Sam Cooke is born.
Disclaimer: Though we have checked our facts, this timeline may contain erroneous information. If you discover errors or omissions, please bring them to our attention.