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Fred Nichols is an interesting example of a jazz man whose use of the jazz language never evolved very far. Born in Utah his first influence and apparently an indelible one had been the records of the Original Dixieland Jazz Band. After that he heard that we Armstrong was impressed by him. He heard Bix Beiderbecke and his own style surface and he resembled that of banks. But his conception of the music changed very slowly. Even a few years ago in an interview he was able to say that the high point of jazz was reached in his New York recordings made from 1924 to 27 in which the other members of the band at that time to a large extent were only peripherally influenced by the New Orleans Chicago main stream of jazz. Some of the members of the band soon became outstanding jazz musicians because of more direct exposure. Unlike Eddie Lang on guitar and myth on trombone. But listen to the kind of perspective that would call this record made by musicians at this stage of jazz
development. The high point in the evolution of jazz. Right. I should mention that this opinion of Red Nichols differs from that of other writers on jazz.
Barry Ulanov for example has a warmly appreciative appraisal of Nichols and his history of jazz in America my own view is that Nichols records began to achieve a degree of jazz distinction only after 1927 when men like Jack and Charlie Teagarden Benny Goodman Russell and others who had been more directly exposed and for longer times to the basic jazz language and who were able to assimilate it more fully than Nichols and had their own mutations. When they joined his groups his music became more in the essential jazz tradition. In any case returning to the subject of the Dixieland musician and we'll go into it more thoroughly in an examination of the Chicago period of jazz coming from different backgrounds than pre 1917 New Orleans. The music they played has contained the imprint of their own cultural contacts and those who had been exposed for the longest time and to the greatest variety of relatively
undiluted jazz with early emphasis on Negro New Orleans Jazz and its later Midwest evolution. Those musicians use their language with a higher degree of creativity than musicians only incidentally touched by the main currents of jazz or those who however exposed were not able to absorb the main essentials of the jazz language. Here is a recording I made in New York in the late 30s or early 40s by a group that can loosely be labeled a Dixieland band. Musicians who while they have never been major influences in the evolution of jazz. I had learned to use their own individual voices in the jazz language while Bill Davis in the corps noticed had served his apprenticeship in the Midwest including Chicago Peewee Russell and St. Louis and Chicago IL. Texas and elsewhere around the country and the trombone is George Brown as
had been born in New Orleans played there and was a prominent member of the New Orleans Rhythm Kings in Chicago in the early twenties. He gives by the way and a good demonstration of the tailgate trombone style. He has a very March derive performance of what has been come to be known as a Dixieland standard. That's plenty. Yeah. At. The at the at the
at the at I and. The B. I am. The but. The but. I am. I and. I am. I out. Yeah at. The hour. I am.
I out. I am. I am at. The end. To end. The end. To our at the end. I am. It
was I am what. I am was a and. Was I am. I was I am I was I am going to air was. Now we have to trace how these man men like peewee Russell born in
Oklahoma Wild Bill Davis and born in Defiance Ohio Eddie Condon The guitarist on the date. Born in Indiana. The legendary big spider Beck born in Davenport Iowa. Hundreds of both white and Negro musicians people who never were in New Orleans in their lives. How did these men hear jazz. How were they first inspired to experiment with the jazz language themselves. The mainstream in the 20s was the music of the New Orleans negro jazz man and the man both white and Negro. They influence throughout the Midwest and the Southwest. Most vocally for a time in the city of Chicago it was also a partially autonomy as he stood in seaboard stream of importance as well as one that centered in Kansas City both of which will be examined later in the course. But in any case these nine New Orleans jazz man.
Aside from those on the seaboard and in the Kansas City environment had to have heard the originals and so we now return to the main course of jazz and try to trace some of the paths of exodus of jazz and jazz man from Storyville. Both before and after 1970. One important way in which jazz was disseminated was the riverboat. From that. Needle in the Nordic Catherine rabbit. They think that in the. END. OK.
Both before and after 1917 then the closing of Storyville
New Orleans forum jazz traveled throughout most of the country in ways which were going to describe in some detail and that's why I call the Eastern Seaboard and the Kansas City southwest streams partially autonomy because New Orleans jazz touched almost everywhere. And throughout the 20s when various strains fused for a long while. It was the New Orleans idiom that proved to be the predominantly influential. Let's begin with a note provided by Eugene Williams Which puts the influence of the riverboats and proper perspective I think since it indicates that though their influence was large it was not by itself to use his word decisive in the great valley between the Appalachians and the Rocky Mountains runs the Mississippi River through Minneapolis Davenport St. Louis Memphis Natchez in New Orleans. It pours into the Gulf of
Mexico the Great Eastern tributary of the Ohio rises through Louisville and Cincinnati to Pittsburgh west where the Missouri leads to Kansas City Omaha and through the Dakotas to Montana. It was through this great river system that the Middle West in the 19th century sent its flood of products to New Orleans the great commercial city near the Mississippi Delta and thence to all the ports of the world. And 1830 16 years after the advent of the steamboat nearly a thousand Mississippi steamers were engaged in traffic up and down the river. Riverboat commerce was perhaps the most important single factor in the prosperity of New Orleans up to the Civil War. But with the growth of the railroads river traffic diminish steadily by the end of the 19th century it had dwindled to nothing. You had river boats continued to steam up the river beyond St. Louis and up the Ohio branch as far as Pittsburgh. They were no longer commercial boats but show boats and Excursion steamers which might stop at any town or city along the way to offer the citizens a performance or an excursion complete with music and music on excursion boats might be
confined to a solo calliope or a hot steam whistle. It might be provided by a 12 piece orchestra. Between these extremes the boats exported from New Orleans one local commodity which was to be welcomed all over America jazz bands of all sorts. As we've discovered white as well as Negro flourished abundantly in New Orleans from 1895 on and before the First World War the process of diffusion had begun. In this process the riverboats played an important but not a decisive role. It is true that dozens of great jazz men from Buddy Bolden to Louis Armstrong played on the river from time to time. But the New Orleans musicians were barnstorming through the south. Astonished California and New York and finally founded the second home of jazz in Chicago for a time usually made their jams by rail. Mendel played the riverboats ordinarily started out from New Orleans for St. Louis finish the season and went back home. Their final effect was far from negligible. As we know from such tales which may or may not be true as the one about Bix Beiderbecke boarding a riverboat in Davenport Iowa to hear Louis
Armstrong. The steamboats in bark from other towns as well as New Orleans St. Louis for one. He seems Campbell the artist describes his boyhood in St. Louis with regard to the river boats during the summer on Monday nights. He recalls the negroes of St. Louis were allowed to use the older of two paddle wheel steamers for their boat excursions. I remember the names of both the JSA in the St. Paul St Paul was the one we used lodges in fraternal orders of all sorts would get together and have a benefit. To this day I've never found out what the benefits were for but they always meant plenty of ice cream and cake for us. And above all music the blue camel remembers there were occasional bugs among the passenger but above the noise and the scuffling he concludes they were the clear strains of Charlie Crete strumpet drowning out the disturbance Charlie create one of the leading St. Louis jazz man in the early days of the riverboat. Minstrel shows are a major part of the entertainment provided. Then after the turn of the century jazz bands had first rights trials
that would Smith the tendency was to send only small groups or even somewhat formalized jazz orchestras on the excursion boats but gradually the lusty jazz bands replaced them. Smith agrees with Gene Williams that it is doubtful if by themselves these riverboat bands had the germinating effect sometimes credited to them along River Cities and through the Midwest. They came and left and it is more likely that the bands and men who stayed put for a time as so many did in Chicago with a more significant missionaries of New Orleans jazz but the riverboats did was to chart the course that jazz would take north toward Chicago and spreading out east and west. Getting back to the boats themselves in the bands that played on them Rex Harris provides a further background. The majority of the New Orleans musicians lived a precarious life financially and few could afford to speculate on the train fare and the chance of a permanent job in Chicago. Fortunately for them however there was a ready
made stepping stone to the north fleet of Mississippi river boats which forged their way into the heart of the continent. New Orleans was the southern terminal point for the boats and furthermore it was a base during the winter months. Louis Armstrong when he worked on the boats remembers being based in New Orleans from September or October to April or May. Traffic on the river was last from about November until April and during this time when the weather was quite warm in the south they were used for excursions mainly at night when the work of the city was finished the Dockers porters and warehouse men would take their girls on the excursion boats invariably fitted with large dance floors with the band in attendance. The musicians left over from story Bell found work on the boats during the winter and as often as not stayed with them when they resumed their longer trips up the Mississippi in the spring and summer. In this way the new music spread to practically every stopping place of note Memphis St. Louis Davenport Minneapolis even to the cities on the larger tributaries Omaha and Kansas City on the Missouri Pittsburgh on the Ohio and Shreveport on the Red River.
The business of the boats not was not only to carry people up and down the river but also to provide entertainment at the stopping places on route at these halts Baton Rouge Natchez Vicksburg Arkansas City Memphis Cairo Paducah right on to St. Louis and beyond. The boats would pull in for an excursion trip staying an evening a day or even many weeks at a big city like St. Louis. There is discouragement here into the nature of St. Louis jazz that might be well worth citing it will be remember that immediately after the abolition of 1865 one of the main occupations of the ex-slaves was a railroad building as being one of the reasons one of the many reasons why the theme of the railroad is common a Negro song and even in jazz you may remember the honky tonk train in the U.S. we played St. Louis was almost like the promised land of the invented so the negroes in they seek a city on it have been told and Jack Conway recalls the colloquial. The metaphor that the negro would rather be a lamppost on target street in St. Louis than Mayor of any
city of Alabama Georgia. Here in the city with forty two railroads met he was essentially a free man and money was more easily earned. There was no lack of a musical environment for a high proportion of the three quarter million population was a French and German extraction and quite musically minded not far away was the Ozark region of the Southwest where original settlers still use some Elizabeth and words and sang in a distinctive archaic ballad style musical knowledge was of a generally higher standard technically than in New Orleans. Apparently Bartlett DCMS remark St. Louis musicians both white and colored were used to carrying their portfolios around could re read music on sight as well as improvised jazz. And yet for reasons we went into the more favorable cultural context of New Orleans the intermingling of so many musical styles. Brought about. Thank God it was New Orleans not St. Louis where jazz first evolved in a major sense against the St. Louis background Captain Joseph
strength as owner of the big river boats decided around 1910 that he wanted some bands on his boats that could read not only read music but could put more life and rhythm into their plane. He had heard of the vitality and drive of the music in New Orleans and he decided to try to assemble the best musicians available. The pianist and a leader of one of strike forces bands was appointed chief talent spotter and it was through him that many of the famous jazz musicians came up the Mississippi. It was an airplane 1018 finally living a Louis Armstrong away from his hometown to play on the Dixie bell. The sort of impression that orchestra composed of New Orleans jazz men made on the nightlife of St. Louis is well described by Louis Armstrong. It was the first time he writes that colored cats had ever come north to play the people learn to like us right away. Every night at the top of the program fate would swing us into the St. Louis Blues and I'd go crazy about our music. It was good all right just a few days after we arrived the boys in the band began to get
invitations to parties in the city and some of the best players were invited to be guest performers with local bands in the big cabaret. We usually had someplace to go every night and we got in from the evening trip. Bands were composed of Rolling Stones and a star man Louis Armstrong Johnny and Baby Dodds Boyd Atkins pops Foster Johnny senseor and Joe Howard finally ruled on a Chicago himself was born in Paducah Kentucky was a ragtime piano player rather than at first a jazz man as the New Orleans man like Louis Armstrong where he once described the process of growth of jazz on the riverboats he began on the steamboat J.S. number one in 1970 and recalls they didn't have bands on many excursion boats at that time. The showboats had them of course but all we used on the JSA 1970 was piano and violin violinist was white. Each year we continued we added one more piece until we had a great big band we thought four pieces piano violin trumpet and drums. All were white boys but me and playing strictly ragtime. You
1910 fate move to a boat called the Sidney and his ideas of music changed. This happened apparently to many people who had the opportunity to hear New Orleans music before 917. We were going in and out of New Orleans all the time in the music they were playing there get under my skin. By 1989 I had put together an eight piece New Orleans band that as he states with pardonably prideful accuracy was the greatest in the country in a jazz sense or at least certainly one of the best included among others Louis Armstrong mellophone as Davy Jones bassist pops Foster and drummer baby dogs up to this time the Northern steamers that almost always hired white bands for their long journey up the river from New Orleans to Pittsburgh. They span which went north on the Stretford steamer Dixie Belle in 1919 was the first colored orchestra of any size to make such a trip. Louis recalls that in their trips along the river they were the first college orchestra to be heard by the whites and some of the towns especially the very small ones. At first he remembers they were painful and insults but by the end of the night the audience had been moved by the music very moved
and asked us to hurry back. Louis for one found the riverboat experience profitable in another sense. He learned to read music and other aspects of technique from the telephone as Davy Jones in the course of his trip and later in Chicago he learned more about music theory and technique from his second wife lil Armstrong who had been trained at Fisk University and whose playing will be heard in our next lecture in Chicago jazz. One of the stories about Louise playing with the memorably on the river boats is quoted by Barry Ulanov it said that he used to start playing his choruses at Alton Illinois 15 miles out of St. Louis and would still be playing them on the boat tied up at the St. Louis dock. This may sound quite apocryphal to many of you but I expect it's true when a jazz man starts in a series of choruses if he feels right he'll extend them. If the place in time for Mitt as long as his lip or a wind hold out and Louis has ample durable stores of both.
Next week we conclude the section on the river boats and examine some of the other ways in which jazz moved from New Orleans throughout the country and finally settled for a time in Chicago. You have been listening to the evolution of jazz. I recorded series prepared and produced by Nat Hentoff under the auspices of Northeastern University and presented by the Lowell Institute cooperative broadcasting Council. The evolution of jazz was recorded in the Boston studios of WGBH Af-Am. This is the national educational radio network.
The Evolution of Jazz
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Jazz Spreads, Part Two
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WGBH Educational Foundation
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University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Episode Description
This program, the second of two parts, discusses the various methods that jazz began to spread from New Orleans to other cities.
Series Description
Jazz historian Nat Hentoff presents a series that traces the history of jazz, from its musical and cultural roots to its contemporary forms. "The Evolution of Jazz" was originally broadcast from WGBH in 1953-1954, and was re-broadcast by the National Educational Radio Network in 1964.
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Host: Hentoff, Nat
Producer: Hentoff, Nat
Producing Organization: WGBH Educational Foundation
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University of Maryland
Identifier: 55-32-14 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:28:53
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Chicago: “The Evolution of Jazz; 14; Jazz Spreads, Part Two,” 1954-02-12, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed March 1, 2024,
MLA: “The Evolution of Jazz; 14; Jazz Spreads, Part Two.” 1954-02-12. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. March 1, 2024. <>.
APA: The Evolution of Jazz; 14; Jazz Spreads, Part Two. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from