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Jazz is said to have originated in New Orleans because:
A polygenious mélange of influences combined in the unique multi-ethnic environment to form the foundations of the music that would later come to be known as jazz.
Louis Armstrong was born there and everyone likes Louis, don’t they? Don’t they?
The aliens who built the pyramids landed near Lake Pontchartrain and gave startled residents not only an exciting, kinetic new form of music, but a handy way to get women to show their breasts in exchange for relatively inexpensive plastic beads.
Ken Burns said so, so there.
Buddy Bolden is considered to be the first jazz musician, because:
He combined a variety of influences in his playing, from Caribbean to blues, into a cohesive and replicable style.
His habit of wearing sunglasses indoors, and at night.
Several misdemeanor arrests for possession.
He called “dibs.”
Louis Armstrong was sent to the Colored Waifs Home for Boys, where he began his formal musical training, because:
He fired a pistol into the air to celebrate New Years Day 1914. He was arrested not for firing the pistol, but because it was only 1913 and it was expressly against the law in those days to get ahead of oneself.
The Monochrome Waifs home was full.
His repeated insistence on calling everyone “Cat.”
The Colored Waif’s Home for Girls gave him the toss after he spoiled an otherwise plum situation by unthinkingly going out for the swim team.
Jazz’s spread to urban centers such as Chicago and New York can be traced to:
The migration of Southern blacks.
Traveling “territory” bands.
The now-extinct Jazz Flea, which nested in then-popular raccoon coats (see also Trambauer, Frank).
A semi-retired Johnny Appleseed, who took the gig to get out of the house and away from his nagging wife.
Other names for jazz through the years include:
Mrs. Beverly H. Sheehan.
Harlem provided an important early nurturing ground for jazz because:
The Harlem Renaissance, an epochal golden age for black culture, created an intellectual environment conducive to the development of the burgeoning form.
The relaxation of traditional social barriers allowed the music to reach multi-racial audiences.
Plenteous nightclubs gave ample opportunities for musicians, who migrated to the city in search of work.
You can only watch the Globetrotters so many times before their antics become tiresome.
John Hammond was:
A young idealist who saw the promotion of black music and culture as a form of social revolution.
An entrepreneur and impresario who used his family’s considerable wealth to promote jazz.
The inventor of the legendary B-3 organ.
Just another meddlesome quasi-intellectual dupe who accidentally did something useful despite his misguided collectivist views. (Sorry, I’ve been reading a lot of Ayn Rand lately.)
Benny Goodman’s groundbreaking 1938 concert at Carnegie Hall established once and for all:
Jazz was a legitimate cultural phenomenon worth of consideration as a serious and uniquely American art form.
Charge overdressed white people enough and they will turn out for anything.
Audiences would accept racially integrated entertainment.
You could get jazz musicians to sit still and behave for certain periods of time.
Swing music catapulted jazz to the pinnacle of its popularity in the 1930’s and 40’s because:
It provided visceral relief from the anxious days of darkening clouds of war on the horizon.
Its kinetic rhythms were more danceable than any other music, appealing to the inherent need for physical release in young Americans.
Its hot, syncopated beats separated women from their undergarments faster than a quart of gin and a Clark Gable movie.
Mobbed-up promoters like Joe Glaser “insisted.”
Be-Bop developed as:
A creative response to the stifling restrictions of big band music.
A method of weeding out lesser musicians from late-night jam sessions.
A natural extension of jazz’s creative evolution.
A way for guys named Thelonious to get some leg.
Charlie Parker’s most notable discovery was:
The concept that all notes of the corresponding key could be used in a solo, frequently in a dazzling arpeggionated run, not just the primary notes of the melody.
With ingenious subterfuge, mixed race bands could succeed even in the Deep South.
Heroin is best left to models and bored middle-class white kids.
Chicks dig sax. I mean, man, they really dig sax.
Bop, and soon, Free jazz liberated the music from virtually every established convention except:
No musician was allowed to have sideburns longer than their head hair.
No hats sillier than a beret (including cowboy hats, bonnets, beanies, or derbies).
I love jazz because anything is possible; it has few rules and the best jazz breaks those ones. I prefer free improv because it doesn't really have any rules at all.
I was first exposed to jazz in my teens (in the late sixties).
The first jazz record I bought was Filles de Kilimanjaro by Miles Davis, shortly followed by Extrapolation by John McLaughlin.
My advice to new listeners is to listen as widely as possible and not to make snap judgments--stick with it.