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Recommended Listening, Reading, And Viewing
From The Riverwalk Jazz Producers And The Jim Cullum Jazz Band
We offer the following as jumping-off points for what can become a happy life-long obsession.
The music that we know as jazz began evolving in New Orleans, probably around 1900. It was a uniquely American musical form that blended African-American blues, gospel, ragtime, folk music, European marches, and popular songs.
The first jazz performers appeared as novelty acts on the nationwide vaudeville circuit. The first jazz records were made in 1917 by the Original Dixieland Jazz Band. Early jazz was characterized by group improvisation and lively, peppy rhythm. Solo improvisation became much more important with the advent of Louis Armstrong and his ground-breaking Hot Five and Hot Seven recordings of the 1920s.
Beginning in the 1920s to the end of WWII, jazz gradually took over as the most popular form of American music. By the end of the war, swinging jazz rhythm and tonality could be found in all aspects of American popular culture including phonograph records, radio, movies, dance, and Broadway shows. After the war, jazz evolved into a much less popular form called Be-Bop, but musicians playing in the pre-war style continued on. The post-war generation of listeners abandoned jazz for Rhythm and Blues and its successor, Rock ‘n Roll. Today, jazz accounts for less than 3% of all money Americans spend on entertainment, and most major record labels have dropped instrumental jazz artists from their rosters.
The Jim Cullum Jazz Band is dedicated to preserving and extending the great voices of classic pre-war jazz—King Oliver, Jelly Roll Morton, Sidney Bechet, Louis Armstrong, Bix Beiderbecke, Duke Ellington, Jack Teagarden, Bob Crosby Bobcats, Fats Waller, James P. Johnson, Eddie Condon, and many more.
The study of pre-war jazz is rewarding in and of itself, but a thorough understanding of pre-war jazz styles also enriches any study of the later jazz forms that were based on what came before. Thelonious Monk’s piano playing refers back to James P. Johnson, Charlie Parker was well-versed in the blues, and Miles Davis patterned his trumpet playing after that of Bobby Hackett. Any jazz artist that loves melody, strives to create beauty in form and structure—and above all swings—owes a great debt to the legacy of classic pre-war jazz.