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New Orleans Jazz: America's Original Classical Music 14

Ever year, New Orleans stages one of America's most popular music festivals. The annual Jazz and Heritage Festival is surpassed only by Mardi Gras as New Orleans' most iconic cultural event and the festival as well as its 'Jazz Fest' atmosphere which intoxicates the entire city is a celebration of everything New Orleans as crowds of up to 500,000 fans gather to watch all-star lineups of some of the world's most famous contemporary jazz artists while gorging on Cajun jambalaya, Creole crawfish and Crescent City cocktails. The history of jazz music in New Orleans and its evolution is much more storied than most think and it reflects the culture of Louisiana itself by borrowing and fusing together a whole host of elements such as gospel and Caribbean music as well as even black magic. New Orleans jazz music is as diverse and multidimensional as the West African, Creole, southern US and Cuban cultures which gave birth to it and shaped it and the list of global megastars inspired by the genre reads like a musical who's-who, including Louis Armstrong, Jelly Roll Morton and Fats Domino. Starting way back in the eighteenth century, we take a musical journey around New Orleans to explore the history of one of the Crescent City's most iconic cultural exports in honour of its annual Jazz and Heritage Festival.

Congo Square, New Orleans, Louisiana

Apr 2 2017

Until the nineteenth century New Orleans was one of the largest and most notorious locations for the entrance of West African slaves into the American continent. At the time, New Orleans was only place on the planet in which slaves were permitted to own a pair of drums and musical performances by the slaves were permitted on Sundays. Before long West African culture and custom had appeared in the Deep South of the United States in the form of ritual singing and dancing to the trance-inducing beat of Voodoo drums, most famously in New Orelans' Congo Square, widely considered to be the official birthplace of American jazz music. Image Date: 06/01/1899

New Orleans, Louisiana

Apr 3 2017

Despite being brutally oppressed by slave owners, Voodoo spread all over the New World to Brazil, Haiti, Cuba and Jamaica as more slaves were transported across the Atlantic from West Africa. It also spread to the southern United States and the more tolerant and culturally diverse New Orleans saw a unique evolution in Voodoo which would develop alongside the early genesis of the city's jazz music. The fusion of the 'dark rumble' of West African voodoo drums, European saxophones, cornets and trumpets and American gospel gave birth to the Crescent City's early jazz movement. It was, as one New Orleans newspaper recalled, 'like lightning meeting thunder.' Image Date: 11/03/2007

Congo Square, New Orleans, Louisiana

Apr 4 2017

By the end of the nineteenth century, jazz music in New Orleans had evolved to the point at which is was receiving attention from the city's newspapers and media, with what is thought to be the very first ever depiction of a jazz band appearing in an article written by a journalist named Al Rose in 1890. Hundreds of jazz bands and solo artists emerged in New Orleans around the turn of the century, playing instruments mostly bought from second-hand and pawn shops, and the period also saw another evolution for jazz as the city's Creole people also began immersing themselves in the genre. Image Date: 11/15/1890

Faubourg Marigny, New Orleans, Louisiana

Apr 5 2017

The Creole influence on jazz music and New Orleans in the early twentieth century lead to one of the genre's first major commercial breakthroughs. Acclaimed as one of the most pivotal figures in the development of early jazz music, pianist and composer Ferdinand Joseph LaMothe was a Creole native of New Orleans who had extensively toured the USA's Deep South between 1904 and 1906 as part of a group of vaudeville entertainers known as the Alabama Chocolate Drops. From his early performing days, LaMothe was known for his cheeky and smutty lyrics, encapsulated by his better-known professional name, Jelly Roll Morton, being New Orleans slang for a certain part of the female anatomy. Image Date: 07/26/1915

Faubourg Marigny, New Orleans, Louisiana

Apr 6 2017

LaMothe's jazz career started on a low note when his grandmother kicked him out of her house after finding out that he was playing jazz in a brothel in the red light district of New Orleans. His fortunes reversed drastically in 1915 when he recorded a jazz composition named 'Jelly Roll Blues' which would become the first jazz composition ever to be published and would pave the way for jazz to break into the American musical mainstream. Later in his career, LaMothe would go on to tour extensively around the US and Canada, including famous shows in New York, Chicago, Washington DC and Vancouver. Image Date: 07/26/1915

Bourbon Street, New Orleans, Louisiana

Apr 7 2017

Originally established as a Spanish colony before it was taken over by the French and with its multi-ethnic European Creole, Hispanic, African and Cajun population, New Orleans has always been one of the USA's more exotic major cities. The influence of Cuban musical styles is considered to be one of the major influences on the evolution of the its jazz music. Cuban musicians had been travelling back and forth between Havana and New Orleans since the mid-nineteenth century to perform 'Habanera', the precursor to both the mambo and the tango. Similarly in 1860, a New Orleans Creole composer named Louis Moreau Gottschalk wrote a symphony called 'A Night in the Tropics' while studying in Cuba and both laid the foundation for New Orleans jazz to be infused with Cuban rhythms which remain a part of the genre to this day. Image Date: 03/02/2016

Storyville, New Orleans, Louisiana

Apr 8 2017

Accounts differ as to whether jazz cornet player Joe Oliver was born on Dryades Street, in New Orleans Milan neighbourhood, or on a sugar plantation in Aben, 65 miles to the west. One thing for certain is that Oliver was one of the most influential figures in New Orleans jazz, playing the cornet in bands around the city's Storyville red light district between 1908 and 1917 and acting as the mentor for the legendary Louis Armstrong. Oliver was also one of the figures most responsible for the spread of jazz across the US at the beginning of the twentieth century, leaving New Orleans for Chicago in the early 1920s to form King Oliver's Creole Jazz Band. The group famously played Chicago's Dreamland Café in January of 1920 as well as the Pekin Cabaret, a favourite after-dark haunt of some of the city's most famous gangsters. Image Date: 05/07/1923

Storyville, New Orleans, Louisiana

Apr 9 2017

"Were it not been for King Joe Oliver, Jazz would not be what it is today", Louis Armstrong once said. If Oliver was a pioneer of early jazz, Armstrong is the genre's most recognisable face as well its most famous voice and terms like legend, virtuoso and megastar are all applicable when assessing Louis Armstrong's contribution and legacy to jazz music. Born in New Orleans' Storyville neighbourhood on August 4th, 1901, Armstrong's career spanned five decades starting in the 1920s with an invitation to join King Oliver's Creole Jazz Band in Chicago. Largely a solo artist throughout the 1930s, Armstrong returned to his jazz group roots in the 1940s, having starred in over thirty movies, becoming the band leader for 'Louis Armstrong and His All Stars'. In the 1960s, Armstrong visited the spiritual home of jazz music when he toured Ghana and Nigeria. Image Date: 01/01/1953

Gentilly Boulevard, New Orleans, Louisiana

Apr 10 2017

After the end of World War II, a new musical style known as Rhythm and Blues evolved out of the New Orleans jazz scene. This new genre incorporated jazz, especially its Cuban elements, and New Orleans jazz musicians such as Fats Domino became its pioneers and innovators. Like many other famous Crescent City jazz musicians, Fats Domino was of French Creole descent and his musical career began completely by chance after a bandleader named Billy Diamond discovered him playing the piano at barbecue party in 1947. Having had five of his early records certified gold by 1955, Fats Domino also went on to become a key influence in the development rock'n'roll. Image Date: 04/10/1977

Gentilly Boulevard, New Orleans, Louisiana

Apr 12 2017

New Orleans native Mahalia Jackson is often credited as being America's greatest ever gospel singer. After a career which saw her record over thirty albums, twelve of them certified gold and selling over one million copies, as well as crusading in the Civil Rights movement and even appearing on an episode of Sesame Street, the 'Queen of Gospel' returned to her home town in April of 1970 to attend the Louisiana Heritage Fair in New Orleans' famous Congo Square. When the organiser of the fair and jazz impresario, George Wein, handed her a microphone and she began an impromptu jamming session by singing with the Eureka Brass Band, who were playing the event. The meeting of heritage and jazz on this momentous day at Congo Square lead to the first New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, still held every spring at the city's Fair Grounds Race Course. Image Date: 09/25/1966

Gentilly Boulevard, New Orleans, Louisiana

Apr 14 2017

The New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival sees upwards of 50,000 visitors attending every year and is estimated to net over 300 million dollars for the city annually. The festival fiercely defends New Orleans' rich culinary heritage as a total of eight 'Food Areas', including two at the Fair Grounds Race Course, one in Congo Square and another in Heritage Square, are set up under the strict condition that all food must be produced by local Cajun and Creole small businesses. In Congo Square, jazz's roots are also showcased as Voodoo and other West African-inspired crafts are sold at an especially set up African Marketplace. Image Date: 05/04/2008

Gentilly Boulevard, New Orleans, Louisiana

Apr 15 2017

In addition to jazz, the festival also showcases New Orleans' other musical traditions as well those from all over Louisiana, including Afro-Caribbean and Latin music, Blues, R&B, gospel and a uniquely Cajun style of music known as Zydeco. The festival's three largest performing areas, the Acura Stage, the Gentilly Stage and the Congo Square Stage, have featured some of the most famous jazz music stars on the planet including Fats Domino, Ella Fitzgerald, Dizzy Gillespie and, in 2008, Mexican superstar Carlos Santana. Image Date: 04/30/2008

Gentilly Boulevard, New Orleans, Louisiana

Apr 16 2017

Aside from the event itself garnering critical and popular acclaim across the globe, the official posters produced to promote the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival have proven to be immensely popular with art dealers and pop-art collectors. All posters produced for the event are specifically chosen and commissioned by festival organisers and have also been known to sell for hundreds of dollars at auction to bidders from around the world. Typically, each poster focuses on a specific theme of New Orleans jazz and features notable artists from both past and present and some of the more notable posters have been designed by famous Louisiana Creole and Cajun artists such as George Dureau, George Rodriguez and Douglas Bourgeois. Image Date: 12/10/2016

Bourbon Street, New Orleans, Louisiana

Apr 17 2017

Today, jazz is so deeply etched into the identity of New Orleans that the city is virtually synonymous with it. The genre is now considered to be 'America's Classical Music' and some of the notable locations in New Orleans which had a hand in the evolution of its jazz music, such as Congo Square, the house where Louis Armstrong was born and dozens of iconic jazz clubs, are some of Louisiana's most famous tourist destinations and many enjoy heritage-protected status on behalf of the US National Parks Service. Along Bourbon Street, Maison Bourbon is where many of the Big Easy's most famous jazz musicians earned their stardom and the club is one of two legendary and authentic music venues which date back to jazz's glory days in New Orleans' famous French Quarter, proving once and for all that the city's jazz scene, its heritage and its legacy are still alive and well. Image Date: 07/01/2010

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