Dear Poet Friends, I had posted Part One of the Story of Jazz Music in Verse few months back on this Site. Today I am posting Part Two of this Story in continuation. Even if you had not read part one of this true story, this one will still be an interesting portion to read especially for all lovers of music, and for knowing about America's rich cultural heritage. I love smooth & cool jazz mainly, not the hard & acid kind! Kindly do read the ‘Foot Notes’ at the end to know how the word ‘Jass’ became ‘Jazz’ way back in History. Hope to bring out a book later with photographs. Thanks, - Raj Nandy, New Delhi.
STORY OF JAZZ MUSIC IN VERSE PART – II
NEW ORLEANS : THE CRADLE OF JAZZ
Straddling the mighty bend of the River Mississippi,
Which nicknames it as the ‘Crescent City’;
Founded in the year 1718, as a part of French Louisiana
New Orleans* gets its name from Phillippe II, Duc d’ Orleans,
the Regent of France;
A city well known for its music, and fondness for dance!
The city remained as a French Colony until 1763,
When it got transferred to Spain as a Spanish Colony.
But in 1800, those Spanish through a secret pact,
To France had once again ceded the colony back!
Finally in the year 1803, the historic ‘Louisiana Purchase’
had taken place, -
When Napoleon First of France sold New Orleans and the
entire Louisiana State,
To President Thomas Jefferson of the United States!
(See Notes below)
THE CONGO SQUARE:
The French New Orleans was a rather liberal place,
Where slaves were permitted to congregate,
To worship and for trading in a market place, on
Sabbath Days, their day of rest.
They had chosen a grassy place at the edge of the
old city ,
Where they danced and sang to tom-tom beats,
Located north of the French Quarters across the
Which came to be known as the Congo Square,
Where you could hear clapping of hands and
stomping of feet!
There through folk songs, music, and varying dance
The slaves maintained their native African musical
traditions all along!
African music which remained suppressed in the
Protestant colonies of the British,
Had found a freedom of expression in the Congo Square
by the natives, -
Through their Bamboula, Calanda, and Congo dance forms
to the drum beats of their native music.
The Wolof and Bambara people from Senegal River of West
With their melodious singing and stringed instruments,
Became the forerunners of ‘Blues’ and the string banjo.
And during the Spanish Era slaves from the Central African
forest culture of Congo, -
Who with their hand-drummed poly-rhythmic beats,
Made people from Havana to Harlem to rise up and dance
on their feet! * (see notes below)
After the Louisiana Purchase, English-speaking Anglo and
African-Americans flooded that State.
Due to cultural friction with the Creoles, the new-comers
Creating an American sector separate from older Creole
This black American influx ‘Uptown’ brought in the elements
of the blues, spirituals, and rural dances into New Orleans’
These African cultural expressions had gradually diversified,
into Mardi Gras tradition and the ‘Second Line’. ^^ (notes below)
And finally blossomed into New Orleans’ jazz and blues;
As New Orleans became a cauldron of a rich cultural milieu!
The Creoles were not immigrants but were home-bred.
They were the bi-racial children of their French masters
and their African women slaves!
Creole subculture was centred in New Orleans after the
Louisiana Purchase of 1803,
When the Creoles rose to the highest rung of society!
They lived on the east of Canal Street in the French
Sector of the city. @ (see notes below)
Many Creole musicians were formally trained in Paris.
Played in opera houses there, and later led Brass Bands
in New Orleans.
Jelly Roll Morton, Kid Oliver, and Sidney Bechet were
About whom I shall write as this Story unfolds.
In sharp contrast on the west of Canal Street lived the
But they lacked the economic advantages the Creoles
They were schooled in the Blues, Work songs, and Gospel
And played by the ear with improvisation as their unique
As most of them were uneducated and could not read.
Now in 1894, when Jim Crow’s racial segregation laws
came into force, # (see notes below)
The Creoles were forced to move west of Canal Street to
live with the Negroes!
This racial mingling lighted a ‘musical spark’ creating a
lightening flash, -
Igniting the flames of a ‘new music’ which was later came
to be known as JAZZ !
CONTRIBUTION OF STORYVILLE :
In the waning years of the 19th Century, when Las Vegas
was just a farming community,
The actual ‘sin city’ lay 1,700 miles East, in the heart of
By Alderman Story’s Ordinance of 1897, a 20-block area
had got legalised and confined, -
To the French Quarters on the North Eastern side called
‘Storyville’, - a name which was acquired after him.
This red light area resounded with a new seductive music
‘jassing up’ one and all;
Which played in its bordellos, saloons, and dance halls!
The best of bordellos hired a House Pianist who greeted
guests and was also a musical organizer;
Whom the girls addressed respectfully as ‘The Professor’!
Jelly Roll Morton++, Tony Jackson author of ‘Pretty Baby’,
and Frank ‘Dude’ Amacher, -
Were all well known Storyville’s ‘Professors’!
Early jazz men who played in Storyville’s Orchestras and Bands
now form a part of Jazz Legend;
Like ‘King’ Oliver, Buddy Bolden, Kid Orley, Bunk Johnson,
and Sydney Bechet. ++ (see notes below)
Louis Armstrong who was born in New Orleans, as a boy had
supplied coal to the ‘cribs’ of Storyville! ^ (see notes)
He had also played in the bar for $1.25 a night,
Surely the contribution of Storyville to Jazz cannot be denied!
But when America joined the First World War in 1917,
A Naval Order was issued to close down Storyville! % (notes)
Since waging war was more important than making love,
this Order had said;
And from the port of New Orleans the US Warships had
Here I pause my friends to take a break, will continue
the Story of Jazz in part three, at a later date.
-Raj Nandy, New Delhi
FOOT NOTES :-
NEW ORLEANS one of the oldest cosmopolitan city of Louisiana,
the 18th State of US , & a major port city.
LOUISIANA was sold by France for $15 million, which was later
realised to be a great achievement of President Jefferson.
*Many African strands of Folk music and dance had merged at the
^^ ‘SECOND LINE MUSIC’ = Bands playing during Funerals & Marches evoked voluntary crowd participation, with songs & dances as appropriate forming a ‘Second Line’ from behind.
@ =THOSE LIBERAL FRENCH MASTERS OFFERED THE CREOLES THE BEST OF EDUCATION WITH ACCESS TO WHITE SOCIETY!
#’JIM CROW’= between 1892&1895, blacks gained political prominence in Southern States. In 1896 LAND-RICH WHITES DISENFRANCHISED THE BLACK COMPLETELY! A 25 YRS LONG HATRED &RACIAL SEGREGATION BEGAN. TENNESSEE LED BY PASSING ‘JIM CROW LAW’. IN 1896, THE SUPREME COURT UPHELD THIS LAW WITH ITS ‘’SEPARATE BUT EQUAL’’ STATUS FOR THE BLACKS ! THUS SEGREGATION BECAME A NATIONAL INSTITUTION. THIS SEGREGATION DIVIDED THE BLACK & WHITE MUSICIANS ALSO.
+ BIRTH OF JAZZ WAS A SLOW AND EVOLVING PROCESS, WITH BLUES AND RAGTIME AS ITS PRECURSORS . “JAZZ WAS QUINTESSENCE OF AFRO-AMERICAN MUSIC BORN ON EUROPEAN INSTRUMENTS.” See my ‘Part One’ for definitions.
++ JELLY ‘Roll’ Morton (1885-1941): At 17 yrs played piano in the brothels, applying swinging syncopation to a variety of music; a great Transitional Figure- between Ragtime & Jazz Piano-style. ++ BUDDY BOLDEN (1877-1931): His cornet improvised by adding ‘Blues’ to Ragtime in Orleans; which between the years 1900 & 1907 transformed into Jazz! BUNK JOHNSON (1879-1849): pioneering jazz trumpeter, inspired Louis Armstrong; lost all teeth & played with his dentures! KING OLIVER(1885-1938): Cornet player & bandleader, mentor& teacher of Louis Armstrong; pioneered use of ‘mute’ in music. KID ORY(1886-1973): a pioneering Trombonist, he developed the ‘tailgate style’ playing rhythmic lines underneath the trumpet & the cornet, propagating early Jazz !
SYDNEY BECHET (1897-1959): pioneered the use of SAX; a composer & a soloist, he inspired Louis Armstrong. His pioneering style got his name in the Down Beat Jazz Hall of Fame!
Louis Armstrong(1890-1971): was a trumpeter, singer and a great
improviser. Also as the First International Soloist took New Orleans music to the World!
% = After America joined WW-I in 1917, a Naval Order was issued to shutdown Storyville in order to check the spread of VD amongst sailors.
^ ’cribs”= cheap residential buildings where prostitutes rented rooms.
# "JASS" = originally an Africa-American slang meaning ‘***’ ! Born in the brothels of Storyville (New Orleans) & the Jasmine perfumes used by the girls there; one visiting them was said to be 'jassed-up' . Mischievous boys rubbed out the letter ‘J’ from posters outside announcing "Live Jass Shows'', making it to read as ‘'Live *** Shows'’! So finally ‘ss’ of ‘jass’ got replaced by 'zz' of JAZZ .
DURING THE 1940s STORYVILLE WAS RAISED TO THE GROUND TO MAKE WAY FOR ‘IBERVILLE FEDERAL HOUSING PROJECT’ .
* ALL COPYRIGHTS RESERVED BY THE AUTHOR : RAJ NANDY