Early Jazz: New Orleans & the birth of a musical style

13th October 2019

New Orleans has always been a hot spot for things that are quirky, different and intriguing. One of the many new movements to come out of the city, and perhaps one of things to make the city most famous is, of course, jazz music. 

Jazz is found all over the world now, but it’s origins are focussed in New Orleans and most people credit New Orleans as the birthplace of jazz music and the place where early jazz matured and developed into its own unique style. 

A mix of cultures

Of course, jazz wasn’t created in a day, it was the result of many cultures, races and people merging their music, emotions and skills together. Jazz was the melting pot of all these cultures, and the reason jazz as so much ‘soul’ is likely because it’s expressing so much about so many. It’s thought that the immigrants from europe (such as Spain and France) as well as the African influences in the city all contributed towards the birth of jazz music, and it’s the way these cultures all mingled and collided that created the amazing genre of jazz music we know and love today. 

It’s thought people in the early jazz phase were inspired by the music they heard in their churches, in the work, and at home. So the music, chords and words all come heavily inspired from previous cultural music. 

Alternative theories 

For some people, they also attribute the creation of jazz music to the year Buddy Bolden started his first band (this was 1895). The creation of this band has a big musical impact on New Orleans and the band remains one of the first to play jazz, as we know it. He quickly became a musical legend in the area. 

Nick LaRocca & The Original Dixieland Jazz Band

Other people also claim the beginning of jazz was during 1917, when Nick LaRocca and his Original Dixieland Jazz Band created their first jazz recording of the iconic jazz record, “Livery Stable Blues.” His band featured Clarinet, Cornet, Trombone and Drums.

There are many theories, but because jazz is such a melting pot of cultures, emotions and history – it’s almost impossible to put an exact timeline on the creation – or to credit it to one person or one band. The one un-arguable point is that New Orleans and early jazz are intimately entwined and link together. New Orleans and jazz are like two lovers who can’t be torn apart. Even now, with jazz music becoming less relevant, it still remains a strong and powerful presence in the city of New Orleans. New Orleans is the heart of jazz, and you only need to visit the city to sense the history of jazz within the city boundaries. 

*Interested in Jazz? Check out our series of Jazz Blogs from the origins to the masters and everything in-between!