Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Original Dixieland Jass Band - "Livery Stable Blues" and "Tiger Rag"

What was the first jazz record?

Fortunately, this is not an obscure question. In 1916, real jazz musicians and bands from New Orleans had begun to appear here and there in vaudeville shows and in a couple of spots in chicago. The story goes that eccentric dancer Joe Frisco saw the musicians that would later compose the Original Dixieland Jass Band down in New Orleans and pitched them to his buddies up in Chicago and New York...

In any case, by late 1916, the Original Dixieland Jass Band was in residence at Reseweiber's Cafe in NYC near Columbus Circle, Still a hotspot in those days. A white group, they were still wild and untamed by contemporary standards and most people believed that the music was improvised on the spot and even that it violated all possible musical 'rules'. Victor recorded them in early 1917 and the resulting sides caused a national sensation, becoming one of the early million selling records (only things like recordings of Caruso had sold anything like that before). Jazz had arrived.

Of course, there are always the accusations of racism, since the very white ODJB remained the only real New Orleans group to be recorded for the next five years, and african americans are credited with being the mainspring of inspiration for jazz as well as other innovative foundations of american culture. It is well known, that Freddie Keppard, one of the black "Trumpet Kings" of New Orleans jazz, was offered a recording contract in 1916, but turned it down because he was so paranoid about other cornet players stealing his tricks (he was reputed to throw a handkercheif over his fingers when he spotted another cornet player in the audience so that they couldn't even copy his valve work!). Kid Ory's band finally recorded in 1922, and in 1923 a large body of work was recorded by King Oliver's Creole Jazz Orchestra, including Louis Armstrong's first recorded solos.

But in 1917, the ODJB was jazz, and is earliest example of the real thing that we have. The sound was a revelation, and jazz, although it has changed rapidly throughout the decades, has never stopped being at the heart of american culture since then. May I add that "Livery Stable Blues" and "Tiger Rag" still kick ass after all these years?

1 comment:

  1. Hello,

    I am enjoying and learning much from these wonderful posts. Please keep it up if you can.

    Best Wishes,