A documentary of the evolution of jazz beginning in the 1800s in New Orleans’s Congo Square. It includes performances by Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, Willie “the Lion” Smith, Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie, Louis Armstrong, Jimmie Lunceford, Charles Mingus, Count Basie, Billie Holiday, Thelonious Monk, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Sarah Vaughan, and Gil Evans DVD
The history of the blues told through vintage clips and by dozens of blues artists. Features Bobby “Blue” Bland, Charles Brown, Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown, Ruth Brown, R.L. Burnside, Honeyboy Edwards, Willie Foster, Lowell Fulson, Buddy Guy, John Jackson, B.B. King, Willie King and the Liberators, Robert Lockwood, Magic Slim and the Teardrops, Little Milton, Pinetop Perkins, Snooky Pryor, Philadelphia Jerry Ricks, Hubert Sumlin, Koko Taylor, Rufus Thomas, Henry Townend, and Othar Turner and the Rising Star Fife and Drum Band DVD
The first twenty years of the twentieth
century were marked by great advances. There
were many new technological marvels: the
first airplane flight; the radio and the
first trans-Atlantic radio transmission.
The landscape of America became more urbanized
with fewer wilderness areas.
Although at the start of the twentieth
century live music was still the primary
form of entertainment (and in the home,
the piano in the parlor), the phonograph
began to encroach upon sheet music sales
as phonograph prices began to drop, due
in part to the predominance of the flat
10-inch 78 rpm record over the cylinder
There would be tragic events during the
two decades, such as the 1906 San Francisco
earthquake, the sinking of the “unsinkable”
behemoth ocean liner Titanic, and the horrible
devastation of the First World War.
Then America would feel the effects of
a prohibition upon alcoholic beverages,
a unique experiment that did little to quell
American’s taste for liquor but helped to
bolster live music.
The Early Period in Jazz
Most historians agree that jazz began
close to or just prior to the turn of the
twentieth century, and the most likely birthplace
was the city of New Orleans. A cultural
melting pot, the “Big Easy” had a reputation
for its free-spirited ambiance with “everything
in the line of hilarity,” as jazz pioneer
Jelly Roll Morton so aptly put it. The fact
that the city is on the Mississippi River,
the major waterway from the southern to
northern United States, made it a conduit
for music of all types, especially ragtime
from Missouri and the blues from Mississippi.
In 1900s New Orleans, for example, a person
could hear a brass band playing ragtime,
marches and polkas; string trios playing
popular ballads; street musicians singing
the blues; and early jazz bands playing
all of these things.
Just prior to and during the period of
World War I, The Creole Band,
a group made up of black New Orleans musicians,
was part of a touring vaudeville company
that brought jazz music to many parts of
the country. Although they were given the
opportunity to make the first jazz records
in 1916, it wasn’t until 1917 that the Original
Dixieland Jazz Band, a group of white musicians
from New Orleans, would actually lay down
the first example of the New Orleans style
The Early Period in Song
Popular song was divided into a number of different genres, all of which would be represented by recordings during the period. They were:
Male Quartets, represented by “Barbershop” four-part harmonies with tunes like “In the Good Old Summertime” and “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.”
Broadway songs, especially those by George M. Cohan, composer of “You’re A Grand Old Flag” and “Yankee Doodle Dandy.”
Topical songs, written for special events like the Louisiana Purchase Exposition (“Meet Me in St. Louis, Louis”) and also world events such as the Wright Brothers first flight (“Come Take Me in My Air Ship”) and the sinking of the Titanic (“My Sweetheart Went Down with the Ship”).
Brass Band music, encompassing marches, polkas and one-steps (which were also dances).
The first blues number, written as a popular song, was “Dallas Blues” of 1912. Tunes with the word “blues” in the title would become very popular during the period from 1918 into the 1920s. Some tunes, mostly written by African-American composers, were actually in the 12-bar blues form, such as “Dallas Blues,” “St. Louis Blues,” and “Weary Blues,” while others such as “Home Again Blues,” “Dangerous Blues,” and “Laughing Blues” were merely capitalizing on the popularity of the word “blues.” As the popularity in ragtime waned and jazz became part of the public awareness, so did the popularity of the blues, to the point that by 1920 the word “ragtime” would be considered pass?.
Some hit tunes from the decade include the following: