All that Jazz –
Jazz didn’t develop solely in New Orleans but it did spawn its growth. Born as a French settlement with strong Caribbean influences in the 1700’s, the city was central to Jazz creation. These West Indian influences gave the city a more relaxed attitude in culture and especially music; creating a tradition of music and celebration. As New Orleans grew into a diverse world port, the melding of cultures was reflected in its music.
The European influence brings in the brass, Africans bring the drums, Louisiana Cajun adds the accordion and fiddle, and the Mississippi river travelers brought the blues from St. Louis.
Some will say that Jazz was born in 1895, when Buddy Bolden started his first band. Others will say 1917, when Nick LaRocca and his Original Dixieland Jazz Band recorded the first Jazz record. Regardless, it is beyond contradiction, that New Orleans is the cradle of Jazz, Jazz is to American music what the Mississippi River is to America, and just as many rivers feed into the Mississippi. Music and musicians from many cultures came together in the creation of Jazz.
Oh when the Saints…
After enjoying coffee, beignets, and a 3 piece jazz street band at the Cafe de Monde in the French Quarter, I walk through the French Market toward the Jazz Museum. Music, especially jazz, oozes from the city streets like sap from a maple. Nearly every block has musicians performing to spectators for tips.
The Jazz Museum is a bit hidden, on top of the US Mint Museum. The museum is unusually quiet. I anticipate that the music from the streets would continue through into the museum. On display are a few instruments from Jazz greats: Fats Dominos piano and Louis Armstrong’s cornet. It was cool to see the items but I’m not overwhelmed by the sterile atmosphere. What I did really find intriguing was a photo exhibit by Herman Leonard. Something about Jazz just lends itself to black and white photos.
Oh lord, I want to be in that number…
Music in New Orleans is an immersive experience. If the upbeat rhythms don’t pull you in, the musician’s will. Posing and dancing in the streets is not only welcome but encouraged. For a pocket full of $1 bills you can’t find a better party.
Come Marching In
I thought my timing was just serendipitous to catch a marching band Jazz parade during my New Orleans visit. Turns out New Orleans has 100’s of parades throughout the year. Whether it is Mardi Gras, St. Paddys day, Christmas, festivals or just a weekly Social club parade; music is front and center.