[JPL] Q about the "first" jazz recording

Tetrachord Music sftreat1 at pacbell.net
Wed Aug 13 18:15:47 EDT 2008


The Ken Burns "Jazz: Story of American Music" CD series mentions that
Freddie Keppard (1890 - 1933) New Orleans Creole cornetist / bandleader,
contemporary of Charles "Buddy" Bolden and Joe "King" Oliver, turned down an
offer to record what would have been the first jazz recording.  The Original
Dixieland Jazz Band went on to cut the first jazz record a year later.

There's the following reference on Wikipedia:

"While playing a successful engagement in New York City in 1915 the (Freddie
Keppard's) band was offered a chance to record for the Victor Talking
Machine Company.  In retrospect this would probably have been the first jazz
recording.  An often repeated story says that Keppard didn't want to record
because then everyone else could "steal his stuff". The recording company
offered him $25 flat fee to make a record (a fairly standard rate for
non-star performers at the time), far less than he was earning on the
vaudeville circuit.  His retort to this offer, according to (musicologist)
Lawrence Gushee's research was: "Twenty-Five dollars? I drink that much gin
in a day!".  The reminiscences of the other members of the Creole Orchestra
reveal that another factor was that the Victor representative had asked them
to make a "test recording" without pay, and the band balked, fearing it was
a ploy to have them make records without being paid."

It's been written that Keppard was so afraid that imitators would copy his
style that in public he played with a handkerchief over his fingers.  He
later went on to record under his own name and with Doc Cooke's Orchestra on
the Chicago scene.


Larry Vuckovich / Sanna Craig
Tetrachord Music

on 8/13/08 2:16 PM, Arturo Gomez at arturo at kuvo.org wrote:
> ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
> I recall the late 70s when I first became interested in jazz history after
> learning of the Cuba-New Orleans connection, I read an article or a book
> that mentioned that the executives of the record company that first recorded
> the Original Dixieland Jazz Band had asked an all-Black jazz ensemble to
> record but they turned down the opportunity because of not wanting their
> music to be "exported" out of New Orleans. After about 30 years I can't
> recall the details nor publication but that is more or less the content of
> the write up I read. Has anyone else read something to that effect or
> perhaps give more accurate information about this?, the vast knowledge of
> the members of this group is perhaps jazz's best resource.
> Arturo

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