Pioneers of Jazz: The Story of the Creole Band

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Pioneers of Jazz. the Story of the Creole Band

A few days later we went to the theater there and played a few numbers for he and his family, including the famous Oklahoma Bob Albright, the noted cowboy singer. So Mr. Pantages jumped up on the stage and asked us to form an act, he did not care what, so long as he had that music. While waiting for Rivers and Cross, some one connected with the management had an unhappy inspiration to allow a company of negroes, perpetrating a vile imitation of music, to enter the ring and insult the audience by very obviously begging for coins. Inadvertently misled by Baquet, Russell was looking in the wrong newspaper.

Without knowing the ace of spades from the ace of clubs we are willing to bet a few iron men that the cornetist and slick trombone juggler came from that dear old New Orleans. George Baquet remembered this cartoon, but not the correct newspaper. He thought enough of them to give their name, give an accurate count of the number of players, to refer to two of them, to hazard an informed guess as to their hometown, and even cite some of the tunes they played. The cartoon by Hal Stephen was published the following day.

It is hard to imagine the musically well-schooled Baquet, handsome and light in complexion, taking much pleasure in the cartoon, as much publicity value as it may have had for the band. The reporter for the Record wrote: The New Orleans Creole band enlivened proceedings by rendering a number of ripping good ragtime selections. Last week at Vernon, during the progress of the Cross-Rivers engagement, Alex Pantages discovered a new vaudeville attraction, a colored ragtime band with a style of comedy-music all their own.

In fact, the prediction was incorrect: Leach Cross won by decision in the full twenty rounds. This is a pretty and a credible story, but Mrs. Which boxing match was it, and when? Did Pantages hear the band more than once, and so forth? Did he perhaps hear the quartet prior to the arrival of the additional players from New Orleans? At this point the vaudeville history of the group begins and will be found in the next four chapters.

After a brief interval, Bill Johnson organized another band involving some of the same musicians; this began a relatively lengthy barnstorming tour to California, playing in the intervening states of Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona. It seems likely, lacking evidence to the contrary, that these earlier groups provided dance and entertainment music but were not a theatrical act with the proviso that African-American musicians were, in my opinion, expected to offer singing, dancing, and comic interplay along with their dance music.

It seems clear that there was never any concerted decision to form a large group and attempt to crack big-time vaudeville. The nucleus of the band— the Johnsons, Norwood Williams, and James Palao—went to California at different times and for different reasons, only some of them, perhaps, musical ones. Nonetheless, they were to present themselves as a traditional plantation darky act. Armontine Palao, the wife of the leader of the band, said that she only saw the band in action once, when they were at the start of their career. If we are to believe Baquet, this was their own choice.

In retrospect, this choice was momentous so far as their place in history is concerned. Otherwise put, the product of the ODJB, enhanced by the superlative recording technique of the Victor engineers, could be disseminated in a matter of months to millions of dancers. The Creole Band on the other hand, beginning as a New Orleans dance orchestra transplanted to California, attained national fame as a vaudeville act, which, although seen and heard by many thousands of persons, was perceived in a quite different way.

He thought they would make a good act together and might return to Australia; accordingly, he gave them lessons in singing, presumably in four-part harmony, and in general stage appearance. When the bout between Joe Rivers and Leach Cross was announced for the Vernon arena, Prince requested permission from Jack Doyle for the band to appear in the ring. For those skeptics who wonder just how one goes about the task, let me suggest Marian Breland and Robert E.

Pantages offered them a contract as a solo act, although for a moment there was some question that they might play behind Tanguay for her tour. These photographs did not include the one of the band in evening clothes, which has been published many times over and discussed at length in the previous chapter, since it was obviously intended as publicity for a dance band: white tie and tails, and the phone number where they could be reached on the drum head.

Besides, it was taken by the Empire studio in Los Angeles. This shot was subsequently utilized in several ways. The proposal made was satisfactory to Johnson—although not the salary initially offered—but he felt that he needed to consult the other musicians. We must wonder if the fellow who taught them to sing was Morgan Prince. It is quite remarkable that neither Johnson nor Baquet refer to him even if only to deny him a role in the organization or stage training of the band — something for which Johnson claimed entire credit.

In point of fact, this is the version supported by the review of their maiden appearance in the Record, which is cited below. It may be that Alex Pantages was more directly involved than Prince or Johnson asserts. In any event, more than one press release credited him with the discovery of this exciting new act. Interested as he may have been, Pantages was not naive enough to book the untried group around the circuit without some trial.

The serious musician who has not been long time dead will writhe beneath his monumental marble should these uncultured strains penetrate so far, but the live ones who patronize vaudeville shows will cling desperately to life while it holds such attractions as the New Orleans Ragtime Band. This band is an institution, distinct, different, indescribable. In operation its thermal variations wander from the lilting love song of the midnight coyote to the crooning of the new-born calf in the alfalfa patch.

The very instruments assume new personalities. The cornet forgets its ancient and honorable origin and meanders madly through the melody, falsetto, throat and chest register, squeaking like a clarinet with laryngitis, jabbering like an intoxicated baboon, and blaring like an elephant amuck. The clarinet squeaks, squawks and squirms, and the trombone, whose business is clawing, becomes a howling musical maniac. They are the hit of the Pantages show. There are seven other numbers on the Pantages stage this week, but the best remembered will be the New Orleans Ragtime Band.

The other papers were laconic yet descriptive. On Wednesday, the Examiner said: these are the real Creole musicians from New Orleans, and one has to hear them to appreciate what rag-time really is. Their combination of bass viol, guitar, violin, clarinet, cornet and trombone is the right one for the lively rag-time and it was impossible for one to sit quiet while they were playing. All members of the company were well received, but the cornet player in particular came in for a rousing round of applause.

Later, they were to go the whole way, wearing overalls, straw hats, and so forth. According to her daughter, she was disgusted with the way they had to dress. The Enquirer published the maniacal blurb already given in extenso above. It is that of the original New Orleans Creole Orchestra, an octet of ragtime near musicians and colored comedians who are said to evoke strains of melody that would make a real musician return from the land of shades, however they make people laugh and so accomplish the result aimed at.

He had begun his career as a musician ca. The following passage comes from a tape-recorded interview rather than the transcription published by Tom Stoddard in Jazz on the Barbary Coast: Interviewer: Sid, about what year was it that you switched over to the New Orleans type of instrumentation? I think Will Johnson. Quite a character, he was real light. See, I can hear that rhythm. Now they play the two beat and they play it , errr, well, I think a little more solid than we did in them days. He was an interesting character—many of the vaudeville magnates were, to be sure—a living embodiment of the rags-to-riches American dream, whose fortune began as a waiter in a Klondike honky-tonk.

The contracts he negotiated were not always completely on the up and up, however. Pantages in Seattle as he has a good string of houses in nearly every city in California and some eastern cities. One could say that however questionable some of his business machinations may have been, Pantages had a laudable sympathy for the underdog. All this is relative of course: what might seem small-time to a Caucasian act could reasonably be regarded by black performers as having arrived.

There may have been other theaters under Pantages control at this time, Fresno and Sacramento for example. Most Pantages houses played three a day: afternoon, early evening and night show. The ticket prices were not onerous. The top price in both afternoon and evening would sometimes be higher, but at any rate always affordable in the less expensive seats. These people have a style all their own and their music is most pleasing in that it is just a little different from the customary offering.

This is quite an interesting turn.

Gushee, Lawrence 1931- (Lawrence A. Gushee, Lawrence Arthur Gushee)

Characteristically for such papers, the mentions are terse in the extreme. This was something more, obviously, but exactly what was not easy for them to say. Morgan Prince and Bill Johnson. An old man in blackface—Uncle Joe— came out of his cabin; it was his birthday and the band serenaded him. This warmed his old bones to the point that he danced a vigorous buck and wing.

There was a chicken involved in the act, which sometimes escaped into the audience. More detail is provided by Morgan Prince, who, to be sure, considered the act to be his creation. On stage left were a log cabin and a church; there was a gourd of moonshine hanging on the cabin. It also suited the purposes of the minstrel stage to show that there could be life in the old geezer yet. The Creole Band, which was given tumultuous applause, made a lot of noise, but that was all it was.

This band of ragtime musicians is composed of mulattos and quadroons of distinctive types. Their numbers include the popular rags and a few old plantation melodies in oddly assorted variety. They are both amusing and entertaining. On reading them, one wakes from a stupor as if jolted by an electric shock. Such reviews are not always complimentary; they may in fact be quite churlish, but all the better for the historian.

A general practice of bribery is assumed to pervade the reviewing of theatrical attractions, particularly perhaps in the world of vaudeville. Money could change hands, of course, or perhaps expensive dinners or a new suit might do the job. And on occasion one notes the absence of ads for a particular theater, quite likely the result of some negative publicity.

Another factor needs to be mentioned, accounting for the brevity or noncommital character of some vaudeville notices. By the time the Tuesday evening paper hit the stands, there might be only one day more of performances. Additionally, the fact that the Creole Band was not only a recycling of traditional plantation routines but a contemporary and creative musical expression offers a problem to reviewers. One other aspect of the publicity machinery can be mentioned here.

On weekend theatrical pages, however, there would often be quite elaborate collages of photographs of performers of the coming week. I know of only four instances in which the Creole Band had its photograph printed in a local newspaper. Given the hundreds of performances and the popularity of the act this can hardly be ascribed to chance. To make a long story short: I assume that many readers would have been displeased to have their daily rag besmirched by photographs of Negroes—uncomplimentary caricatures, as in the Los Angeles Tribune, of course, would be chuckled at.

They laugh uproariously, hysterically. Second, he was melodious, songful. What he is not in this way of thinking is truly creative. That much of this network of prejudices is self-serving, functioning to maintain the social status of the dominant majority, is sadly obvious. As we trace their progress around the country, only reviews that add something to our knowledge, or provide evidence for a point in doubt, will henceforth be cited in extenso. There were several choices for traversing the Continental Divide.

The former of these offered the more direct route to Spokane. On Sunday, when the troupe opened, there were four shows; for the rest of the week, three a day. Morgan Prince was singled out for praise, as usual without mentioning his name. Seattle was another matter, with a bylined review J. They are seven negroes. Six of them are instrumentalists, playing the slide trombone, cornet, clarinet, violin, guitar and bass viol respectively. Their quaint symphony orchestra struck the Pantages taste with a bang, and so did the singing and dancing of the principal, in an old man character.

Grown up on, indeed! It also boasts, in addition, an old darkey whose singing and dancing is a decided comedy asset. The orchestra made a tremendous hit at the opening matinee. No one of the members appears to play the same piece, but, as a whole, they turn out something that makes it hard to compel the feet to behave. Their solo and chorus singing, however, is even more to be commended. My guess would be that the band played on many similar occasions for which there is no record, quite likely passing the hat for a little extra money.

To them, creoles were Caucasian descendants of original European settlers, usually French. Here, their coming was announced with copy that sounded an original, even unique, note: Direct from extraordinary triumphs at their native city, the New Orleans Creole musicians.

Pioneers of jazz : the story of the Creole Band, Lawrence Gushee, (electronic resource)

The account goes: Four solid hours of entertainment given in the rooms of the Portland Press Club. One of the biggest surprises of the evening was the appearance of the Orleans [sic] Creole band from the Pantages theatre. After hearing the band once, the audience would not let it go until the members had played every number they knew.

Arthur Whitlaw, from the same theatre, told a number of funny stories before the Creole band was introduced. Apparently some members of the band stayed in Oakland for this twoweek period. I is now in Oakland and will open in Frisco Sunday. Love from this husband. One suspects that here, too, the act was somewhat changed, since two of the local papers stress the amount of noise they produced. They have a darky jig dancer who is really good, and their act is entertaining as well as commendably brief.

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That it made the biggest noise on the program will not be disputed. New Orleans Ragtime Band, entertaining. There was more of the Pantages circuit to come, of course, but one suspects that some arrangements were underway for further touring in the East or Middle West. That they had special scenery made for them in Kansas City suggests that there was an agent on the scene who would bankroll the construction charges. No reports are available for this engagement. Multiple encores were again the order of the day. There was a brief but telling note in the local paper: The original Creole band made a big hit in an appropriate stage setting.

The aggregation consists of six instrumentals [sic], with something out of the ordinary in their selections and manner of playing, and expert buck and wing dancer. But possibly Pantages had provided them with an earlier version of the set for which they were later noted. He then married her ten months later in Ogden. The interval between these two visits was substantially more than ten months.

According to an article written by Onah L. To quote Spencer: His reaction was normal—he got drunk. He went to sleep at an open train window and froze the entire left side of his face. His ear was as big as a baseball. Freddie went on with a poulticed and bandaged face. Yet, he played better and louder than ever that night. This created some dissatisfaction, the audience being in a mood to appreciate several more song and dance numbers. The band has plenty of talent and its short program made a big hit.

It reads: Dear Pap, It taken what I made last week to [illegible] but will [send? Let me know how you and the children geting along. This is only a little town, not much in it. Chicago Ill. Will be there on Sunday for one week. The theater is in the heart of the colored district and the show starts late. Smith, Braman and Ingalls own the house.

Their aim is to have one colored act on every bill, but good numbers are not always available. Since the agency of J. The members of the band know how to extract the most weird effects from their various instruments, and are assisted by a character comedian of good voice. The act was a novel one and went well. There was a violinist, harmonist and a dancer, who ventured out into sentiment. It should be added that Russell was on record as decrying the reliance of black performers on the hoary routines of blackface minstrelsy. He thought that they should break out of such stereotypes and be regarded according to the same criteria as mainstream performers.

The Grand normally played split weeks but made an exception with the band, who continued through to Saturday. Both appearances received typically succinct mention in the Missouri Breeze, which had generally comprehensive, if inconsistent, coverage of local Chicago theaters.

John A. Creole Band: very good. Baader-LaVelle trio: very good.

Kid Ory & His Creole Jazz Band

On this engagement they were such a hit that word hit the Loop booking agents. They accepted one of the offers and were immediately routed over one of the big circuits.

Gushee, Lawrence (Lawrence A. Gushee, Lawrence Arthur Gushee) |

Freddie Keppard, famous cornetist, now in Chicago; Bill Johnson, eccentric bass player, also now in Chicago; Fred Barkay, clarinetist, now in Philadelphia and brother of the popular jazz director of the Regal theater, Hal, were with this Creole Jazz Band. When they hit Broadway they were a great sensation and would be on the road today were it not for dissatisfaction among themselves and the loss of several of their members by death.

Bear in mind also that they had been greeted with exceptionally enthusiastic applause. Beyond the theaters that will soon be mentioned, H. The Breeze was reasonably detailed and complimentary: Colonial—Three of the big features of the Colonial bill for the early part of the week were just off the Pantages tour. All three acts scored big. Maurice Samuels is a clever actor and has competent support. The boy violinist is particularly good. This surely would have helped to cancel out the poor impression they had made at McVickers.

And the contact with Samuels obviously counted for something. If so, Samuels would be a relatively unusual case of a performer who not only trod the boards but could handle the business end of things. But what was the advantage to the band? Were they temporarily at loose ends, having come to Chicago but somehow failing to impress the Chicago representatives of the big Eastern booking agencies? All of this was pretty standard fare for small-time vaude, except, to be sure, a hot ragtime band from New Orleans. He himself does not seem to have acted as a booking agency. Oddly, the Miles seems to have been embroiled in a booking dispute.

The Seven Creole Orchestra had the crowd going Monday evening. On the other hand, at the Gayety, a burlesque house on a lower rung, it would be fair to say, there appeared concurrently with the Creole Band an upcoming star, Toots Paka, the excellent Hawaiian performer. One tantalizing possibility: Bill Johnson recalled an incident in Hancock, Michigan in which Keppard was so drunk that he passed the entire night [.

The next day he was brought back to the theater on the milk train. The two principal theaters were the Kerredge, which offered either movies or legit shows, not vaudeville, and the Orpheum, which was a combination house, presenting movies with an act or two of vaudeville. But they seem not to have been there at that time either. All falls into place for the following week.

The best pleased balcony audience this year, said a patron of the Bijou. Chief interest lies in Princess Ka. A novelty, too, is the Cerole [sic] band. Made up of seven dusky musicians, singers and dancers, with an elaborate scene setting depicting an old plantation, the Creole Band offers the essence of syncopation in melody. Such ragtime as they play has never even been approached in the Bijou before. Weird, fascinating minors run through the music, and give it an extraordinary charm. Miller would probably have had his information from Bill Johnson, the only member of the band to whom he had access in Chicago.

Bill Johnson, however, in addition to having a shaky memory for dates, also on occasion seriously overestimated the time that the band spent on a particular engagement.

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  • A long-term engagement at the North American would be of special interest for a number of reasons. Second, the North American could hardly have been more central, the corner of State and Monroe being one of the busiest corners in the United States, if not the world. We know who booked the acts—Morris Silvers, who also edited a weekly entertainment guide, the Loophound no copies appear to have survived , and who led the ten-piece orchestra—Jimmie Henshel—and we have either act lists or reviews during the period that seems most likely for the band to have been there.

    In and around Chicago Mr. One unfortunate fact attended performing at such theaters: only the indefatigable Breeze, of all the theatrical weeklies, made a regular effort to cover the neighborhood houses—and we have already seen how terse their comments were. Also, of course, the Chicago daily papers would not bother with them, and for the most part, they carried no ads from such humble venues. When John B. He began as an usher in Louisville, Kentucky, then worked as an agent for the Gus Sun theaters in Birmingham, Alabama, and for the Jake Wells circuit back in Louisville.

    He was in trouble with the WVMA for accepting commissions from the outside agents, forced in fact to dissolve his corporation. Of greatest import to the band was, undoubtedly, his connection with Harry Weber, one of the most important vaudeville agents of New York. It was a lively neighborhood. It was considered noteworthy to the Clipper that there were three outlying vaudeville theaters within the space of three miles on West Madison Street, all of them attracting the attention of the vaudeville colony.

    Of these two venues, the Wilson Avenue Theater was the more interesting in connection with the Creole Band. Its manager was Mitchell Licalzi, who, with the aid of a bequest from his recently deceased father, Anthony Licalzi, had bought a controlling interest in the theatre. He also appeared during the second half of the week at the Kedzie.

    While the band did well—presumably also at the Kedzie—it seems as though they functioned as a rousing send-off, not as the focus of the bill. They made a favorable impression: Last time this evening of the Creole Ragtime Band. Other members are Geo. They have gone to Champlain [sic] and will be seen next week at the Empress Theater, St. Morgan for H. Morgan; Boquet for Baquet, Champlain for Champaign—this passage makes the relative positions of Johnson and Prince clear, and also adds an otherwise unknown engagement in St.

    Louis to their itinerary. Louis six times, including some appearances at the Anheuser-Busch brewery. Exactly when this was is impossible to establish. The advance puff in the Sunday Star was more detailed than usual and was even accompanied by a photograph, which, if it actually depicts the band, is the only one showing the band in costumes like those they actually played in. Surprisingly enough, the Times also printed a photo, but it was the well-known one in formal attire from the Empire Studios in Los Angeles.

    On Monday the Star included one sentence in a brief review of the acts playing at the Park. More important, the Keystone was operated by and for the African American population of St. One wonders how the proprietor could have afforded the band. We have no record of any reaction. Morgan Prince said that at one time they played the Gus Sun time in Dayton and all through Ohio and this would be a possible time for such a tour.

    Borrowing freely from Joe Laurie, Jr. Laurie includes many other details in his affectionate account. The problem may well have been with their purchase by Maurice Samuels and a fairly rapid subsequent parting of the ways. Considering the enthusiastic applause that greeted them at virtually every stop on the Pantages tour, it must have become obvious that they might have a future in vaudeville. It was, after all, a matter of timing.

    By the time John Simon, with his New York connections, especially with Harry Weber, stepped into the picture, there was really nothing to do but wait for fall and the beginning of a full season going the rounds of the Midwestern theaters under the auspices of the WVMA. Cornetist Ray Lopez recalled playing three split weeks, including one gig at the Palace in Hammond, Indiana. Unfortunately for them, the show never opened, due to disagreements between Jolson and the Shubert brothers. To verify everything in detail would be a relatively major project by itself, and at least one detail seems only partly correct.

    It then disappears. Nevertheless, the outline is both credible and startling in the manner in which, for the most part, it barely misses meeting the trajectory of the Creole Band. At just about the time Brown began to appear in Chicago vaudeville, the Creole Band came back to town for a week, then left for a month. Special scenery is carried in this act and there is a pretentious effort toward comedy which is successfully done. In a bylined review of the show at the Hippodrome, W.

    After hearing the dusky performers, it is hard to leave the theater. The old southern melodies and dances strike a responsive chord with the audience. Yesterday round after round of applause greeted every effort of the entertainers. The Creole Band is that kind. The Creole Band which closes the show presents a hum-dinger of an act. Plantation tunes incite the old darky who is being serenaded, to dance. And a very clever, eccentric dancer is the leader of this band.

    On Thursday, they opened again in Chicago, at the American. Their reporter more than liked the show: The American had a splendid show the last half of last week, a bill which agents say it is impossible to get right along. Telling the advice of the vaudeville authority, quoting Mr. What was novel was to apply it to music in Chicago. The Breeze reviewed this show as though they had never heard of or seen the band before: The Creole Band is a very good act of the Southern plantation style, although orchestra is probably a better word than band, as the instruments used are cornet, trombone, clarinet, bass, violin, and guitar.

    Their different rag selections are delivered in strict keeping with the surroundings. Where the band was is unknown. That it is not inharmonious in spite of the wild wailings the darkies draw from their instruments is no small triumph for the players. The music of the band quite as much as the fun making of the act shows the southern plantation darky as he really is in his sportive hours and the act is interesting as well as picturesque and amusing. The men sing exceptionally well, and the song numbers are highly enjoyable also, making the attractions [sic] one of the big hits of the show.

    The assemblage of acts piqued the imagination of both the publicist and the reviewer. Two features of the publicity were quite astonishing. First, on Saturday the usual photo taken in Los Angeles was used. Vernon Castle. Vocal and instrumental harmony is there, from the wierd [sic] plantation tunes to the most modern and rhythmic ragtime. Perhaps all African-American musicians looked alike to the copywriter in Chicago. For the last half, they went once again to the Empress Theater in St.

    While no published comment has survived, the Breeze served up in their elaborate fall issue an evaluation that is enlightening regarding the range of attitudes toward their music — as distinguished from their traditional minstrel show routine. The offering makes good because it is hocum served up correctly. For example, Walter J. Ragtime and dancing, acrobatics and animal turns, staccato personalities, with inhuman courage in thrusting bold humor across the footlights, are wearing on the public. This seems in light of other remarks a futile attempt to reconcile the irreconcilable: class is class, hokum is hokum, and to speak of classy hokum is surely oxymoronic.

    Hill - New. He had about four dozen recordings to his credit—for Victor, Edison, and U. A further connection to jazz lies in what I call musical hokum, that is, the use of corny, slapstick devices that make a direct — one could say vulgar— appeal to audiences. That the line between expressive ragtime-jazz performance and good old vaudeville or minstrel show hokum was a subtle one can be heard in such a player as Wilbur Sweatman. And then there is the conventionally derided Ted Lewis, certainly a skilled and much-admired exponent of hokum and accepted as a jazz artist in his early recording career.

    Where do these colored gents get their sense of syncopation? It must be born in the bone. Such ragtime never was heard; it was inspiring. The Creole Band is an act worth sitting through Mr. The band could not accept, as it is booked on Association time. Vernon and Irene Castle are well known for having made their whirlwind tour of major Eastern and Midwestern cities the year before, with music provided by a band organized and led by James Reese Europe.

    Since Castle had never had a chance to hear the Creole Band so far as is known, he must have received convincing recommendations indeed to make the trip to Quincy. Kelly did not take up the offer as he was earning more money in Chicago. Castle left Watch Your Step at the beginning of December, amid rumors of an impending separation from Irene. One journal even stated that he would go into vaudeville as a single. He neither separated nor went into vaudeville, going off instead to pilot training to do his bit in the war then raging in Europe.

    They then went to Rock Island, Illinois, where they received one of those reviews that makes slogging through the local papers worth it: The Creole Band of seven made the feet of every auditor at the Empire Theater— and there was a big house last night — move in time to the swinging, syncopated tunes which they ground out on an original instrumental arrangement. These colored boys are expert musicians but have acquired the queer knack of playing ragtime with an original twist.

    It is such odd times they get that the audience last night sat for some time trying to straighten the thing out. There is also good singing and a lot of comedy in the act. Their music is weird and fascinating, and as its setting it has a scenic surrounding which is romantic in its picturesqueness and appealing in its charm. Wholesome, natural comedy runs smoothly through the spectacle and adds to its enjoyment throughout.

    The mask of minstrelsy is torn off and plantation days of the old southern darky are portrayed in native settings by Creoles at the Orpheum theater this week. Several Creole musicians appear. An old darky sings tunes of the antebellum days. The cluck of a chicken awakens a memory. The Creoles responded to three encores. It may be possible to verify this, as the Great Northern Hippodrome was important and central enough to advertise in the daily papers, at least some of the time. This was certainly not the case at their next stop — on the way back to Chicago — at the Majestic in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

    Cedar Rapids was notorious for the vitriolic pen of W. Slattery, the manager of the Majestic, who, contrary to the usual practice in vaudeville reviewing, was often extremely harsh. Neither was the Creole Band spared. The advance publicity was as usual, with the extra detail that several members of eight had gone to Australia with the Hugo Minstrels.

    In fact, only Morgan Prince had made this trip. Also, nine out of every ten patrons of vaudeville imagine they could run the affair in a manner that would suit the general public much better than the chap who is handling the theater is doing it. Still, if the principle that a long review is a good review holds, the band might not have been entirely displeased.

    The Saturday Evening Telegraph, an ultrascarce weekly devoted to show business and sports, published a pen sketch by Z. Hendrick that speaks volumes: it shows the moon and a log cabin in the background.


    Finally, in the upper left corner, W. Harry Weber, Western rep. Simon Agy. Each Sunday night, the management presented ten vaudeville attractions and the spot became the most important showcase for artists who desired to show their acts to the booking managers of various circuits covering the U. They were obviously a smash hit to judge from the reviews in three separate papers. In fact, they were at the New Davis, not the Grand, and if they actually had secured a big-time route, this was soon to change. They also provided a convenient showcase for bookers, agents, and other vaudevillians to see new acts.

    The playing of some ragtime melodies worked the old darkey to dancing pitch, and he did pound those boards until the kinks in his knees reminded him of his age. Lots of bows, an encore, more bows and another encore stamped this offering O. Keith and the booking agency he founded obsessively pursued the cause of clean, polite, and respectable vaudeville, and the cost of admission would certainly produce a higher-class clientele than that characteristic of the Chicago neighborhood houses, or for that matter the Pantages circuit.

    This is, I suggest, the reason why several reviewers single out hard work or loud playing by the band. One member of the company is a good comedian. The old-time songs are splendidly given. One can imagine, in any event, that Weber—assuming that he was still in the picture—would have had some strong advice for the band upon reading these reactions.

    While I imagine that the band would have had no trouble in playing softer, it might not have been so easy to modify the carefully honed comic style that had worked so successfully for them for over a year. This strongly suggests some kind of link with the Shuberts, as the house was theirs and served on Sunday nights as a showcase for attractions in their stable. Gushee effectively brings to life each member of the band and discusses their individual contributions, while analyzing the music with precision, skillful and exacting documentation.

    Including many never before published photos and interviews, the book also provides an invaluable and colorful look at show business, especially vaudeville, in the s. While some of the first jazz historians were aware of the band's importance, attempts to locate and interview surviving members three died before were sporadic and did little or nothing to correct the mostly erroneous accounts of the band's career. The jazz world has long known about Gushee's original work on this previously neglected subject, and the book represents an important event in jazz scholarship.

    Pioneers of Jazz brilliantly places this group's unique importance into a broad cultural and historical context, and provides the crucial link between jazz's origins in New Orleans and the beginning of its dissemination across the country. Get A Copy. Hardcover , pages. More Details Original Title. Other Editions 3. Friend Reviews. To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up. To ask other readers questions about Pioneers of Jazz , please sign up.

    Lists with This Book. Community Reviews. Showing Rating details. More filters. Sort order. This book is not great. It's obsessed with its central argument, to the point that it ignores having a compelling narrative. Really all it is, is a list of dates and newspaper clippings. Having said all that, it was great as a reference work on a topic I wanted to know more about. I now know more than I need to, which is exactly where I wanted to be. Mar 15, Ronn rated it did not like it. For some time I have been fascinated by the thought of what music must have sounded like in the period when Ragtime was becoming Jazz, an era when Jazz was not yet recorded.

    This book is about The Original Creole Orchestra, one of the first New Orleans bands to travel the country on the vaudeville circuit, bring the sound of New Orleans music to the entire country. Trumpeter Freddie Keppard, a contemporary of King Oliver, was its best known member. This book is incredibly well researched and very For some time I have been fascinated by the thought of what music must have sounded like in the period when Ragtime was becoming Jazz, an era when Jazz was not yet recorded. This book is incredibly well researched and very heavily footnoted and annotated.

    It is also the single most boring book on the subject I have ever read. Rather than write about the music they made [admittedly difficult as they never recorded as a unit], the vast bulk of the book concerns itself with itineraries while playing vaudeville, accounting in great detail about every half-week they were on the road, and speculating with the enthusiasm of conspiracy theorists as to what might have happened in every half-week for which there is no record. Marable had high musical standards, and his musicians were expected to read music as well as improvise.

    This recording still effects a jazz feeling, much like that of the Fletcher Henderson Orchestra, which dominated the s New York scene. These bands had to file their contracts with the Mobile, Alabama chapter the closest black local , which was well over a hundred miles away. Having been denied membership into the Musicians Protected Union No. Another of the top performance sites for local jazz bands was the Pythian Temple Roof Garden, part of the multi-story complex run by the Knights of Pythia. Whereas the Streckfus officials usually hired black bands to play on the boat for white audiences, the clients of the Pythian Temple was black affluent, representing a cross-section of New Orleans black middle and upper classes.

    By the mids, jazz bands were in demand at the Pythian Temple and debutante balls in the mansions of the Garden District. Growing social acceptance allowed jazz musicians to transcend associations with crime and poverty, which had sometimes haunted music in its earliest days.

    Even so, for those who wanted to make it to the top of the entertainment industry, all roads led out of town. During the better part of the recording boom of the s, Chicago was the place to be. These two groups continued to use many of the elements associated with early jazz recordings, such as stop-time, breaks, and ensemble riffing.

    However, they did much more with them, thus taking the concept of collective- improvised jazz to a higher artistic level. This included an expanded repertoire of "riffs" and new compositions, a more consistent and "swinging" rhythmic pulse, and "solo improvisation".

    A New Orleans Jazz History, 1895-1927

    Cornetist Paul Mares led the New Orleans Rhythm Kings, another Laine alumnus, who had worked the riverboats in before relocating to Chicago in Classic renditions of "Milneberg Joys" sic , "London Blues," and "Clarinet Marmalade" resulted, but the sessions were not only musically significant.

    This was the first racially integrated jazz recording session. Crossing the color line in Indiana—a state where the Ku Klux Klan was politically powerful in the s—was potentially hazardous, even for something as anonymous as a recording session. Yet, what mattered to the individuals were the respective talents of the musicians involved. They all shared a common understanding of the New Orleans idiom that enabled them to interact effectively. Many observers and listeners regarded the Creole Jazz Band as the finest jazz band of its day.

    It was the first black jazz band to record extensively. Oliver had a hand in the composition of most of the recorded material. The contributions of Joe Oliver, Louis Armstrong, and Johnny Dodds as soloist like those of Roppolo and Brunies indicated the course that jazz was destined to follow. However, the glory days of the Creole Jazz Band were of short duration. In , Lil Hardin who became Mrs.

    The Dodds brothers were pursuing a career on their own. Oliver was left to pick up the pieces, forming a big band, the Dixie Syncopators by the end of the year. Shifts in popular tastes began to undermine the influences of New Orleans style bands in a number of ways. Star soloists took the spotlight, abandoning the collective approach to improvisation. Composers and arrangers controlled the balance between soloists and sections of instruments that supported them in the big band format.

    Ironically, it was two New Orleans musicians who perhaps best illustrated these trends. Jelly Roll Morton became recognized as the first great jazz composer. The goal of every jazz musician is to find their own "voice," a sound that is at once unique and identifiable. One of the best examples is Louis Armstrong whose distinctive tone on cornet and personal singing style changed the course of American music. In this group, he raised the New Orleans collective concept to unparalleled heights of creativity and then set a new direction with the sheer brilliance of his solo performances.

    Jones , who conceived the notion of showcasing Armstrong in a recording band. Beginning in November , the Hot Five produced almost three dozen records for Okeh which was acquired by Columbia in and revolutionized the jazz world in the process. However, it was not until the spring of that Armstrong broke entirely free of the collective format with his rendition of "Wild Man Blues" credited to both Armstrong and Jelly Roll Morton. Morton has been identified as the first great composer of jazz—a role that started with the publication of his "Jelly Roll Blues" in He polished the New Orleans style according to his own vision; balancing intricate ensemble parts with improvised solos by carefully chosen side men.

    Morton was also a brilliant piano soloist, capable of using the full extent of the keyboard to recreate the sound of a band.

    Pioneers of Jazz: The Story of the Creole Band Pioneers of Jazz: The Story of the Creole Band
    Pioneers of Jazz: The Story of the Creole Band Pioneers of Jazz: The Story of the Creole Band
    Pioneers of Jazz: The Story of the Creole Band Pioneers of Jazz: The Story of the Creole Band
    Pioneers of Jazz: The Story of the Creole Band Pioneers of Jazz: The Story of the Creole Band
    Pioneers of Jazz: The Story of the Creole Band Pioneers of Jazz: The Story of the Creole Band
    Pioneers of Jazz: The Story of the Creole Band Pioneers of Jazz: The Story of the Creole Band
    Pioneers of Jazz: The Story of the Creole Band Pioneers of Jazz: The Story of the Creole Band

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