[JPL] 50 great moments in jazz

Jazz Promo Services jazzpromo at earthlink.net
Mon Jan 26 11:26:27 EST 2009


For the first installment in a new series, John Fordham explains why Livery
Stable Blues was the fanfare for a revolution

The world first heard about a strange new music called "jazz" in 1917.
Although this hybrid of brass-band, street-strutting blues, African dance
rhythms, mutated European classical forms, funeral marches and ragtime had
been developing during the previous decade, it took that long for the
recording technology of the day to catch up and capture its sound.

After only a few years of those first clattery and raucous jazz recordings
hitting the streets, 'the jazz age' dawned and dancers started moving to a
more urgent and ecstatic beat ­ a feeling quite different from the discreet
and elegant European styles that had previously ruled the floors.

Over the next 50 weeks, I'm going to highlight landmark moments that were
not only transitional points in the history of jazz, but in the history of
modern music. There is no more engrossing story in the music of the 20th and
early 21st centuries than that of jazz, an artform that has changed the way
we move, speak and sing. Jazz has achieved so many things: it has borrowed
from European classical music and helped reinvigorate it, it has provided
the vital ingredients of rock'n'roll, it has broken barriers in instrumental
technique, rehabilitated improvisation from the bad publicity the classical
establishment had given it, and, in its way, helped global interracial

Regarding that last point, it's an irony ­ though perhaps an unsurprising
one ­ that music derived from the traditions of African slaves should have
been first recorded by a white band. But if the Original Dixieland Jazz Band
made history more through luck than judgment, and if many better players
from New Orleans' black community ­ Jelly Roll Morton, King Oliver, Sidney
Bechet and Louis Armstrong ­ were to find recognition later, the group
nonetheless captured jazz's unruly energy and youthful eagerness.

Livery Stable Blues is one of the first hits from a group of enthusiasts
whose sound had been informed by the New Orleans street-band musician Papa
Jack Laine and Louis Armstrong's mentor, the cornetist Joe "King" Oliver.
The track was recorded in February 1917, after the the band's slapstick
comedy had thrilled crowds at New York"s Reisenweber's restaurant. The
record sold over a million copies, and turned jazz into a national craze.
Cornetist Nick LaRocca, clarinetist Larry Shields, trombonist Eddie Edwards,
pianist Henry Ragas and drummer Tony Sbarbaro have become footnotes in jazz
history, and the sound they made seems rhythmically clunky and predictable
today. But as the fanfare for a revolution (in a revolutionary year) Livery
Stable Blues will never be forgotten.

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