The Sweet Sounds of New Orleans Music
New Orleans is widely known for its diverse population and vibrant culture. These attributes play a major role in the history of New Orleans jazz, which is the city’s most well-known cultural export. Jazz is an American musical genre characterized by improvisational leads and exciting rhythms. Black Americans developed the earliest forms of jazz in New Orleans by combining African, European, and other musical influences.
Where Did Jazz Originate From?
Jazz, much like the broader culture of New Orleans, evolved from the blending of diverse backgrounds. The dances and drumming styles that African slaves brought with them in captivity are the genre’s most important ancestors. This musical lineage was also combined with other artistic traditions that swirled through the Crescent City in the 19th century. European marching bands, folk music, and classical pieces all played an important role in the development of jazz.
By the early 20th century, the new genre was beginning to take recognizable form. While the earliest jazz resembled some of its predecessor genres like ragtime and parade marches, the exciting new music that was emerging from New Orleans’ Black community placed an unprecedented emphasis on improvisation.
Cornetist and bandleader Charles “Buddy” Bolden, who lived in today’s Central City, is commonly cited as the first popular jazz musician. The most exciting place to see jazz in the 1900s and 1910s was the city’s former red-light district, informally known as Storyville. The riveting new music form thrived in Storyville’s legally sanctioned brothels and dance halls.
Prominent Jazz Artists
Since the emergence of jazz music over a century ago, New Orleans has been home to numerous great jazz musicians. Amongst them, trumpet player Louis Armstrong stands out as one of the most recognizable icons of 20th-century music. Emerging as a star during the popular explosion of jazz in the 1920s, Armstrong elevated improvised solos to unbelievable heights. He went on to tour the world as an ambassador of jazz and New Orleans until his death in the 1970s.
Other prominent jazz musicians from the genre’s early years in New Orleans include pianist Jelly Roll Morton and trombonist Kid Ory. As a Creole of color, Ory was the first black New Orleans jazz musician to record his work, which he did on “Ory’s Creole Trombone” in 1921. Today, local musicians like trumpet player Kermit Ruffins, trombonist Delfeayo Marsalis, and singer Germaine Bazzle keep the history of New Orleans jazz alive and thriving.
Learn More About Jazz with a New Orleans Walking Tour
To find out the origin of jazz, it’s important to become familiar with some of the most significant neighborhoods in the city that helped form it. If you’re new to the city, taking a French Quarter tour is a good place to start. You’ll discover the oldest section of the city and learn about how the homes, streets, and businesses in the French Quarter played a crucial part in the history of jazz in New Orleans.
After your French Quarter tour, make the Garden District your next stop. The Garden District’s regal homes were mostly constructed by successful American business families in the 19th century. Many of these families were patrons of the arts, shaping New Orleans’ musical history as their fortunes grew. Join a Garden District tour to learn about the fascinating stories of families who influenced the Crescent City. To understand the history of New Orleans jazz, it’s important to take one of these amazing French Quarter and Garden District tours. Book your New Orleans walking tour now for an exciting experience!