88Nine Radio Milwaukee

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Baby Jazz, Ragtime memories

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All week we’ll be talking about Dixieland Jazz, a quintessential style of music from New Orleans and the old-timey sound of Mardi Gras. To do that one must honor its history. Dixieland jazz is a style of jazz pioneered in NO and still played to this day. The style combined earlier brass band marches, French Quadrilles, ragtime and blues with the improvisationjazz is famous for.

The name most associated with this sound; the embodiment of the fusion that became Dixieland Jazz or early jazz, and perhaps its originator is the legendary Buddy Bolden. That’s right…invented jazz. 

He did that by creating a looser, more improvised version of ragtime and adding blues to it; Bolden's band was said to be the first to have brass instruments play the blues. And, instead of imitating other coronetists, Bolden played music he heard "by ear" and adapted it to his horn. In doing so, he created an exciting and novel fusion of rag-time, black sacred music, marching-band music and rural blues that came to be Jazz.

Instead of making millions of his sound, BB is tragically unheard and he died a pauper after developing schizophrenia when he was thirty, having to give up music right before the birth of the recording industry…

…we will hear one of his songs however…

Louie Armstrong "My Bucket's Got A Hole"


Buddy Bolden may have invented Jazz, but the tools he used to do it were all around him. While most people know about blues and gospel, few people remember ragtime, one of the most important elements that inspired the invention of early jazz, or Dixieland jazz.

Probly because it reached it’s peak in the early 00’s…that’s 1900’s. Very old-school to say the least. Its main characteristic trait is its syncopated, or "ragged," rhythm. It was the hip sound that was played in the red-light districts of New Orleans. It was a modification of the marches made popular by John Philip Sousa, with additional polyrhythms coming from African music.

Another big reason for its popularity came from the fact that a great many rag-time songs were distributed to the public via piano rolls for player pianos, or pianos that could play by themselves, reading sheet music that had been trans-coded onto those piano rolls. Essentially, the beginning of the record industry…

But what does ragtime sound like? I have an excellent example for you, Sydney Bechet, one of the first great coronet soloists in early jazz, performing a song from ragtime’s greatest composer, Scott Joplin, with “Maple Leaf Rag”…

Sydney Bechet “Maple Leaf Rag”