Two Mansfield (CT) Middle School students interviewed my UConn colleague Marvin McNeill and me for a brief video documentary they created about the origins of jazz. Their video is thoughtfully researched and includes some compelling, historical film footage and photos. They placed second in a regional film competition and went on to compete at the state level. Congratulations to Mathew Chandy and his partner, Porter! Here is their completed project:
As an add-on to the topic of jazz music’s origins, I will include some informal lecture notes (from “back in the day,” when I taught jazz history):
Why did jazz crystallize in New Orleans?
- Location: near the mouth of the Mississippi. A Seaport.
– a flourishing trade route for America, the Caribbean, and Europe.
– center of commerce.
– catered to travelers from around the world
– PARTY ATMOSPHERE: therefore work for musicians! Continuous need for fresh material.
– Musicians stretched, blended, and revised existing styles – ultimately becoming jazz.
– STORYVILLE: a district in N.O., sectioned off for prostitution. Most brothels had a pianist or small band.
- New Orleans was a center for music of all kinds.
– 3 opera houses.
- it had an established brass-band tradition.
– brass-bands were present at every social activity: picnics, sports events, political speeches, dances…
– this intensified during the American Civil War (1861-1865), when military bands/Union troops were stationed there.
- availability of instruments.
– after the war, Blacks were able to take advantage of the availability of both teachers and band instruments (which became the basis of jazz instrumentation in New Orleans).
– in other areas, Blacks were limited to homemade instruments, such as cigar-box guitars.
- the black Creole subculture’s presence in New Orleans.
– descendants of mixed-blood of the the original French settlers.
– during the 1700s, Creoles had a social status above “pure blacks”.
– highly educated and cultured in the French European tradition.
– maintained a tradition of music wholly European in manner. Classically trained.
– Under the Louisiana segregation laws of the 1880s and 90s, they were consigned to the same low status category of “Negro”. They had to mix socially and culturally with “Negroes”.
– their musical training influenced the laboring blacks around them.
- Blues existed in New Orleans at a very early period.
– there was a substantial migration of rural Blacks from the Mississippi Delta region around the turn of the century.
- Mexican bands visited New Orleans.
– musicians from these bands settled in New Orleans. Some became teachers. New Orleans trumpeters were influenced by the Mexican trumpet style.