Jazz on the Tube

Where did jazz come from?

Where did jazz come from?

That's a very good question.

Here's what we know for sure:

* We know that the music we call "jazz" started in the Western Hemisphere.

* We know that it first reached critical mass in New Orleans

* We know that the founders were of all races, but that the key innovators were African-Americans

What we don't know is what early jazz sounded like.

Because of the virulent racism practiced in New Orleans, black musicians from that city were not welcome in recording studios until after World War II. That's why the first recordings of Louis Armstrong were made in Chicago and why we have no record of the music of Buddy Bolden who Armstrong credits with inspiring him to take up jazz.

Jelly Roll Morton, an early jazz pianist who liked to credit himself as the inventor of jazz, recalled that New Orleans was a very prosperous city in the "early jazz" era and that its "adult entertainment" industry was especially supportive of live music, thus the nickname "The Big Easy" given the city by musicians who could rely on it for steady, high paying work.

Morton also points out that musical standards and variety were very high in the city. High level instruction in all kinds of music was available (a fact that remains true today) and all kinds of musical forms were played from Italian folk songs to French opera.

But the true origins of jazz go even deeper.

To find the original source of the jazz spirit one must also look to Cuba and Haiti and ultimately to Africa.

The core aesthetics of jazz - call and response, improvisation, driving rhythms, high creativity, passion - are clearly African.

It took a city like New Orleans with its wealth, its positive attitude to creative music, and its large African-American community, to create a hybrid between European instruments and harmonies and the African soul.

Now jazz is played all over the world and as jazz is constantly re-creating itself, we can truly say that jazz comes from everywhere, especially where people value creativity, freedom, and the life force.

- Ken McCarthy
Founder, Jazz on the Tube


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