Sunday, February 07, 2016

The Buddy Bolden Orchestra 1897/1907

               The Buddy Bolden Orchestra 1897/1907

       This page tells the story of the world's first jazz orchestra.
                     It contains two articles:
          1. Professor Bolden's Orchestra: a Close Up by Daniel
   Hardie reprinted from the January 2008 on-line Mississippi
           2. Who Was the Leader? Commentary on an article by
Karl Gert zur Heide first published in New Orleans Music Vol
5 No 2 December 1994  

      1. Professor Bolden's Orchestra: a Close-up
                                         Daniel Hardie

                 Buddy Bolden’s Orchestra ca 1903/5

In 1903 invitations were sent out for a Mardi Gras Ball sponsored by
the‘Ladies of Providence and the Knights of Pleasure’ to be held at the
Providence Hall at the corner of Phillip and Liberty Streets on February
18th 1903 music to be provided by Prof. Bolden’s Orchestra” (Marquis
D. In Search of Buddy Bolden 1978/1993 p72)
The grainy old photograph above, first published in 1939 in the ground
breaking history of jazz titled Jazzmen, is the only pictorial evidence for
the existence of the first jazz orchestra. The best evidence suggests
that it was taken between 1903 and 1905 though even that dating has
been the subject of dispute. Much ink has also been consumed arguing
whether it was printed wrong way round in the first edition of Jazzmen.
I do not want to enter that dispute though I am persuaded by the
physical evidence that the above presentation is correct. (See Alden
Ashforth The Bolden Photo - Annual Review Of Jazz Studies No3)
The players have been identified as Frank Lewis, (standing) and Willie
Warner (seated) clarinet, Willie Cornish valve trombone, Jefferson
Mumford Spanish guitar, Charles (Buddy) Bolden cornet and James
Johnson string bass. Some authorities consider the standing player to
be Warner and Lewis the seated man.
If the photo was taken in 1905 Bolden who was born in 1877 was aged
27 or 28. Will Cornish, born 1875 was about 30, Jefferson Mumford
born 1870 was 35, Jimmy Johnson, youngest of the group, born 1884
was 21. Clarinettist Frank Lewis, born ca 1870 was 35 and Willie
Warner, born ca 1865 would have been 40. The images in the photo
appear to be consistent with these ages. A sidelight on this age
structure is that the oldest man in the photo is clearly the seated
clarinet player, and this suggests that it is indeed Willie Warner who also
appears to be wearing a dress suit of an earlier period, complete with
vest and watch chain.
It is worth noting that, far from showing a scruffy Uptown band, it
reveals a group well dressed in evening wear. This seems to have been
the tradition for New Orleans dance bands around 1900. Buddy Bolden
appears to be wearing white tie.
Instrumentation and performers
The instrumentation shown in the photograph is not typical of bands
of the Elemental Jazz era. Early photographs and published lists of band
members indicate that a trap drummer was usually employed and that
the leader of the band would usually be a violinist. No other early
photographs show two clarinets being employed.
In fact the photograph cannot be interpreted as representing the
regular composition of the Bolden Orchestra. Wallace Collins who played
with Bolden before 1900 is reported by Rudi Blesh as saying that the
lead was played by the violin and Bolden “ragged” behind the lead.
Just who was the regular violinist is difficult to determine. Bunk
Johnson recalled Alcide Frank (born ca 1875) as the band's violinist and
Manuel Manetta suggested that the photograph was taken when Frank
left Bolden to form his own Golden Rule Band in 1905. (By 1905 Alcide
was leading his Golden Rule Orchestra at Foucault's (aka Fewclothes)
Cabaret. Louis Nelson (de Lisle) was the clarinettist; Adolph Alexander
Sr., cornet; James Brown, bass; and Joe Brooks, guitar.) Manetta
suggested the second clarinet was introduced as a temporary measure
to perform as a substitute for the missing violinist. Marquis lists
violinists Tom Adams, Dee Dee Brooks and James Palao as having played
in the Bolden Orchestra.
Valve trombonist Willie Cornish enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1898 and
left for the short Spanish American War in Cuba. During his absence he
was replaced by Frank Duson but returned to take his place in the
regular line up. Marquis mentions Ed. Jones and Bill Harrison as other
trombonists associated with the group. Cornish left the band in 1906
and was replaced by Duson.
Clarinettists Willie Warner and Frank Lewis appear to have been regular
performers but Marquis suggests Sam Dutrey Sr. and Alphonse Picou
may have substituted from time to time. The authors of Jazzmen
“Buddy used William Warner or Frank Lewis, or sometimes both on
clarinet. Warner had a C clarinet, while Lewis played the usual Bb
instrument.” Brian Wood suggests this information came from notes
supplied to the authors of Jazzmen following an interview between C.E.
Smith and Willie Cornish in 1938.
The use of the C clarinet meant that a player could play from the violin
score as written, and there are examples of other players who used the
C clarinet. Louis Nelson de Lisle featured the instrument and became
known as ‘Mr. C Clarinet’. This suggests that, when Frank left the Bolden
Band, Warner or Lewis was pressed into service as leader.
I am not convinced by the identification of the clarinet held by the
seated clarinettist in the Bolden Band photograph as a C clarinet. My
own measurements suggest the front instrument is .93 times as long as
the one held by the standing player. Measurements for my own C
clarinet show its length overall to be .83 times that of a Bb instrument.
Similarly measurements of two Bb instruments by different makers
reveal the length of the smaller to be to be .97 times the length of the
longer. Measurement of the clarinets in the Bolden picture is
complicated because the clarinet of the standing player appears to be
fitted with a mouthpiece cap while that of the seated player does not.
This could add to the difference in length by some millimetres
depending on the cap. This suggests that the difference in length as
measured could be accounted for the fact that we have two Bb
clarinets of different make, and it is certainly not enough to identify the
seated player's instrument as a C clarinet.
Fortunately there is a photo of Louis Nelson De Lisle holding what is
clearly a Clarinet in C in a photo of the Imperial Band ca 1908. In front
of him a larger clarinet stands on the floor. Careful measurement
indicates that the smaller clarinet is approximately .805 the length of
the larger (Bb or A?) instrument. I compared the length of my A clarinet
with my C instrument and found the C to be exactly .805 the length of
the A. This suggests that the standing instrument may be an A clarinet
or a Bb with a long mouthpiece cap.

Above: Louis Nelson de Lisle holding a Clarinet in C major
        (Photo of the Imperial Band ca 1908)

Taking all these measurements into account I do not believe it is
reasonable to identify the clarinet of the seated player in the
Bolden band photo as a C clarinet.
Bob Lyons and Albert Glenys played string bass with Bolden before
1900 but the younger Jimmie Johnson appears to have been the
regular bass player. Bassist Ed Garland also claimed to have subbed
for Johnson.
Jefferson Mumford was the regular guitarist until 1906 when
Lorenzo Staultz took over the guitar chair.
Bolden’s biographer Donald Marquis lists Cornelius Tillman (born
1872) as the regular drummer. However Jimmy (Jamesy) Phillips,
Dee Dee Chandler and others sat on the trap drum stool from time
to time.
Potted History
The Bolden Orchestra was an offshoot of a previous group led by
former street guitarist Charles Galloway after 1889. It seems
originally to have been a string band, consisting of guitar, string
bass and violin, that was gradually reinforced with clarinet (Willie
Warner), cornetist (Ed. Clem) and valve trombone (Tom Landry).
Charles Bolden joined the band on cornet around 1895. Marquis
states that Bolden soon began using musicians from Galloway's
band to accept professional engagements on his own behalf.
According to Samuel Charters Bolden was a charismatic player and
by 1896/7 he was becoming known in New Orleans as the inventor
of the hot blues. By 1900 he was known as Buddy or Kid Bolden
and eventually King Bolden.
For about ten years the Bolden Orchestra played for dances at
neighbourhood halls both Uptown and in the French quarter, over
the river in Algiers and travelled on excursions to other Louisiana
towns like la Place and Plaquemine. There is some evidence of
Bolden playing in street parades, though this does not appear to
have been the major occupation of the group. Trumpeter Charlie
Love recalls Bolden’s band wearing blue coats and caps, a uniform
more suited to street parades than the evening dress of the Bolden
photo. Wallace Collins apparently played tuba on such occasions.
Around 1906 Buddy Bolden dismissed some of his regular sidemen
including Willie Cornish and Jefferson Mumford and Frank Duson and
Lorenzo Staultz were recruited. When Bolden was incapacitated by
mental illness in 1906 Duson took control of the Orchestra. With
Bolden’s permanent hospitalisation in 1907 Duson established the
Eagle Band to carry on the tradition.
Bolden apparently absorbed influences from Galloway and Mumford
who had been playing street music before 1890. He and Galloway
introduced to some of the traditional vernacular dance songs and
blues formerly played by street bands to dance hall audiences.
About half of the tunes reported to have been played by the
Bolden Orchestra fall into that category.
In Bolden’s time the faster dance songs would have been called
Jump ups. They were simple tunes with raggy melodies that like If
you don't Shake You Get No Cake or All the Whores Like the Way I
Ride often had vulgar lyrics. The blues influence appeared with
slower numbers like Make Me a Pallet on the Floor said to have been
a favourite with his audiences.
Although such things appealed to his audience they apparently also
wanted to hear the latest ‘pop songs’ from the burgeoning nationwide
publishing industry and vaudeville stage and a significant
proportion of the orchestra's repertoire was drawn from such
sources. They included coon songs, ragtime songs and sentimental
love songs suited to the performance of the two-step, or
schottische. Examples of the former include Any Rags (1903), If
the Man In the Moon Were a Coon (1905) Mr. Johnson Turn me
Loose (1896). On the more sentimental side they played love
songs like Lazy Moon (1903), Ida Sweet as Apple Cider (1903) and
Wait till the Sun Shines Nellie (1905).
The popularity of classic piano rags after 1899 led to a demand for
favourites like Maple Leaf Rag (1899) and a number of rags by
composers of the Joplin School were apparently performed.
It will be observed that this was an up to date repertoire. The
orchestra was expected to provide for the dances of the time. The
faster vulgar dance songs and popular songs in 2/4 or 4/4 time
supported the very popular two-step and the emerging ragtime
one-step. The newer slow drag was danced to the blues. More
traditional waltzes, polkas, mazurkas had to be played and the
speciality of the evening was the quadrille ? a medley of
conventional dances in different tempos. The repertoire is dealt
with in more detail in “The Birth Of Jazz: Reviving the Music of the
Bolden Era”.“ (The Birth Of Jazz: Reviving the Music of the Bolden
Era” by Daniel Hardie see: )
Some critics suggest that by 1906 Bolden was having trouble
keeping up with demand for the latest numbers and that by 1907
bands like that of the younger Fred Keppard played more of the
latest hits.
Performance Practice
Bolden's orchestra belonged to a New Orleans musical tradition
solidly based on European performance practices See Hardie D.”
The Ancestry of Jazz: A Musical Family History” iUniverse 2004
Chapter 13 p166 ff and p 173.
However by 1895 even the most conventional of dance orchestras
of the time were introducing syncopation to their performance
styles. These were orchestras trained in the conservatory tradition.
There has been much contention about the musical standards of
the Bolden Orchestra.
Buddy Bolden himself had some elementary tuition from Manuel Hall
beginning in 1894. However Bunk Johnson said that though Buddy
could play in any key, he didn’t know which key it was. Others said
the band played everything in Bb, the easiest key for the Bb
transposing instruments (cornet and Bb clarinet) or only in a limited
range of flat keys.
Frank Lewis was reputed to be a good sight reader as were Willie
Cornish and Willie Warner who were both believed to have arranging
talents (Warner was later to go on to arrange for A.J. Piron’s
Orchestra.) Similarly Jimmy Johnson went on to play in high quality
bands and was a good reader. Little is known of the musical
abilities of Jefferson Mumford or Cornelius Tillman. It can be taken
for granted however that, whoever the violinist was, he would have
had sight-reading skills.
Experience with the repertoire performed by the Orchestra
indicates that it would have been necessary to adapt many new
numbers from piano scores or published arrangements. Some of the
simpler vernacular tunes could have been learned by ear. Manuel
Manetta stated that a folder of lead sheets was maintained by
clarinettist Frank Lewis.
What made the Bolden band different from its early competitors
was the introduction of improvisation and blues intonation. As Bunk
Johnson indicated, they improvised all the time. According to
Wallace Collins from the earliest days the violin played straight
melody and Buddy ragged the melody by taking one note and
putting two or three to it. To provide variety the melody was
passed around to other instruments to perform individual melodic
improvisations. The rhythm was two beat with an emphasis on the
after beats.
Some writers have assumed that the music was coarse and
incompetent, even hokey, but there is no evidence to support this.
On the contrary, witnesses emphasise good tone and sweet
performance coupled with loud and soft variations. Latin American
rhythmic elements were also noted.
Musical Comparisons
There are some fascinating snippets of information in the oral
history that enable us to glimpse the likely sound of the band. A
number of witnesses identified Bolden’s style with that of Fred
Keppard, and in the slower sweeter tunes that of Bunk Johnson. In
the rougher numbers the louder intonation of Wooden Joe Nicholas
was considered comparable with Bolden’s louder moments. One
witness said that Frank Lewis played like the later George Lewis and
we have recorded examples of the playing of contemporary players
Louis Nelson de Lisle, Alphonse Picou, and George Baquet. Another
witness compared trombonist Frank Duson’s style with that of
Alfred Warner. In the 1940’s Kid Rena’s jazz band recorded with a
light sounding rhythm section similar to that of the Bolden Band.
The only recordings of early New Orleans violinists, those of
Armand Piron and Peter Bocage, allow us to eavesdrop on the
violin/leadership role in the early jazz bands.
It seems from the above that in many respects the band would
have sounded similar to some later jazz bands, though probably
lighter because of the light rhythm component. It seems reasonable
to think it might have sounded similar to the Keppard led Original
Creole Orchestra but sadly that group was never recorded.
I have, while researching the various accounts of early jazz music,
been struck by the number of occasions on which writers still begin
by referring to the Bolden band as mythical or legendary. There is
no excuse for this. As early as 1978 Donald Marquis dispelled the
many mythical elements of Bolden’s story and presented the facts
of his life and musical development. Since then even more has been
discovered about his family background. It does not take very long
to find factual information about the band, its members and its
performances in even earlier historical works.
Professor Bolden’s Band performed a mixture of popular and
vernacular dance music in the neighbourhood dance halls of New
Orleans from around 1896 to 1906. It adapted the staid
conventions of performance of the time introducing syncopation,
improvisation and elements of blues performance. After 1899,
while still catering for the older traditional dances it introduced
music suited to the newer dances of the ragtime era.
Note: Two additional photographs inserted in the article as published in the
Mississippi Rag have been omitted as unnecessary to the original text. The only
other change is the substitution of the correct date of publication of Jazzmen
which was 1939 not 1935 as shown in the published version.

                           2. Who Was the Leader?
Commentary on an article by Karl Gert zur Heide first
published in New Orleans Music Vol 5 No 2 December 1994

Jazz historian Karl Gert Zur Heide was the first to
question the leadership of the Bolden Orchestra in his ground
breaking 1994 article entitled 'Who Was the Leader of Charles
Bolden's Orchestra'. After pointing out that Buddy Bolden was
christened Charles (Joseph) he stated correctly that the proper
contemporary title for this type of group was Orchestra rather than
Band. He also correctly identified the players.
After a short interlude in which he discussed the tonality of the
two clarinets shown (he concluded that the seated player was
holding a C clarinet), he drew attention to the missing violinist
As he indicated, the leader of a New Orleans Orchestra of the time
was usually considered to be the violinist, who played the lead part,
often from a written score - zur Heide called him the musical head.
There is ample evidence to support this contention, much of it I
elaborated in Exploring Early Jazz: The Origins and Evolution of the
New Orleans Style Chapters 4 and 5.
He then argued that as the violinist was absent from the only
photo of the Bolden Orchestra the leader role must have been
played by the second, seated clarinetist - Willie Warner when the
two clarinet format was used*. This seems to be a reasonable
deduction. Karl pointed out that in any case the leadership function
was often split among members, with the managerial aspects being
farmed out to an instrumentalist other than the musical leader. In
fact two contemporary bands - The Imperial Orchestra and the
Olympia Orchestra, followed this practice though each was
sometimes referred to by contemporaries by the name of their
star cornet players, Manuel Perez and Freddie Keppard respectively.
zur Heide suggests that Dee Dee Brooks would have been the lead
violinist of the Bolden Orchestra and he is certainly one of the
violinists associated with the group. He did not suggest who carried
out the managerial function but as indicated above Frank Duson
seems to have taken over this role when he was with the band. It
seems possible that Buddy Bolden initially managed the group but
later as his health declined the managerial role was increasingly
assumed by Duson.
'Who Was the Leader of Charles Bolden's Orchestra' was an 
important contribution to the literature, not only because it
raised the important issue of leadership but because it first drew
attention to the important role of the violin in early New Orleans

*At the time of writing (February 2008) Karl affirms the conventional view
expressed in his article that Warner is holding a clarinet pitched in
C major.

Thursday, April 09, 2015

Amendment to blog Vintage Recordings and the Bolden Repertory

I have amended the blog item Vintage Recordings and the Bolden Repertory in the list of Popular Songs to read:
Shoo Skeeter Shoo (1905 Percy Cahill/Sebastien Lutz) - piano realisation based on piano score courtesy Dr. Jack Stewart at:

Monday, January 26, 2015

Amendment to Blog Vintage Recordings and the Bolden Repertory

Please note that the following amendment has been made to the  blog item Vintage Recordings and the Bolden Repertory published on October 5 2014
In the list of Popular Songs the item: 
Sammy Sampson’s Senegambian Band (1903 Dave Reed Jr.) has been amended to include reference to a "Piano version at"

Monday, December 01, 2014

Early Jazz History, Oral Evidence and Pitfalls of Interpretation

Early Jazz History, Oral Evidence and Pitfalls of Interpretation

   Daniel Hardie

Jazz History is founded on Oral History. Jazzmen: The Story of Hot Jazz Told in the Lives of the Men Who Created It, published in 1939 and seen by many as the foundation text of jazz history, was based on a compilation of data gathered from interviews. According to Bruce Raeburn:
“Nearly a hundred musicians or close relatives were contacted, either in person or through the mails gathering materials for the book.”[1]
This was a major change of direction for Jazz History writing, previous histories having been written based largely on interpretation of cherished surviving recordings and experiences already remote from the historical period during which jazz emerged. 
Such was the power of Jazzmen that its romantic narrative dominated the received account of jazz history until, in the late 1970’s, researchers began seriously to question its adequacy, pointing out that many statements had been accepted that could be called into question in the light of later evidence.
Jazzmen was not alone in this regard. Later authors, too, credited some witnesses to jazz history with self-serving motives and perhaps lapses of memory  that distorted the narrative in some way.
Recently theoretical historians have sought to find ways of interpreting such anecdotes or historical remnants in such a way as to achieve a more satisfactory account of history.
Three examples of such significant personalized accounts of  early jazz history stand out in this respect. Each involved a highly respected musician and each illustrates distortions arising from interpretation by historians remote from the events described, particularly issues arising from decisions involving inclusion or exclusion of evidence.
In 1978 Donald Marquis changed the course of jazz history by publishing In Search of Buddy Bolden, the first proper biography of the leader of what is believed to have been the first jazz orchestra. Much of what had previously known about Bolden had been gathered from stories in Jazzmen that had accrued elements of mythology. Marquis adduced evidence that many of these tall tales could not be supported and some were confounded by reference to documentation. In particular he ruled out evidence from Bunk Johnson the ‘hero’ of Jazzmen’s account of early New Orleans Jazz. Marquis believed Johnson had deliberately overstated his age in order to be able to claim that he had performed in Bolden’s orchestra in 1895 and considered him an unreliable witness. Where previous commentators might have accepted Johnson’s assertion as  factual Marquis considered it  dubious to say the least.
Nevertheless some of Johnson’s claims had become accepted and part of the recognized narrative of early jazz history. Some historians now call such inclusions factoids[2] - defined as “an invented fact, believed to be true because of its appearance in print.” Alternatively they define a factoid as an apparently trivial fact that appears in print. Though some historians reject the use of the term others focus their attention on such apparently trivial anecdotes and other neglected details as a means of placing evidence back into the environment from which it came. They see this as a means of creating a more accurate narrative image of a forgotten past that cannot really be recreated.
Bunk Johnson’s many reminiscences of the Elemental Jazz period were recorded and some published. Marquis decided not to include any evidence from these sources in his biography of Buddy Bolden. On the other hand in his history Early Jazz[3] Gunther Schuller interpreted Johnson’s recorded demonstration of Bolden’s performance style as evidence of the style of early jazz
By far the largest single oral account of Early Jazz appeared around 1938 in  recorded interviews with Jelly Roll Morton conducted by Alan Lomax for the US Library of Congress. The interviews were made available as 78 rpm discs but not published in written form until 1950, after the official version of jazz history received via Jazzmen had been in place some 12 years.
Some of the statements made by Morton were apparently disruptive to  accepted interpretations of jazz history, none more so than his claim to have invented jazz in 1902. He also asserted that Buddy Bolden did not play jazz but was a ragtime player - troubling indeed. Though much of what Morton had to say was absorbed by conventional jazz history many of his claims were disregarded as self-serving.  As was the case with Johnson, uncertainty about the year of Morton’s birth clouded the issue. Historians writing in the Swing era were unsure what to make of some of  his claims.
No one has been more beloved of Jazz Historians than Louis Armstrong but they were disturbed by his apparent departure from their strict interpretation of what represented authentic jazz style during the late 1920’s, his very successful entry into the despised popular song market and some of his apparently heretical views on performance.
One of his departures was extremely distasteful.
Reviewer Steve Barbone put it this way:
“Readers will be intrigued with his friendship with Guy Lombardo, resulting from an invitation by Lombardo to be his guest at a white’s only club to hear The Royal Canadians. And his later trying for the Lombardo sound with his sax sections in big bands he fronted.”[4]
This enigma puzzled many jazz historians for whom the Lombardo style of sweet swinging popular dance music was an anathema to be excluded from the realm of real jazz.  As Schuller put it:
“The years of the Hot Five represented, nevertheless, a peak activity that could hardly be surpassed. The records of the next decade, though numerous and commercially successful, added nothing to Armstrong’s stature as one of jazz’s greatest innovators and musical giants. They did, however add to his reputation as a trumpeter…” (and…) For the rest there is a wasteland of whimpering Lombardo-style saxophones and Hawaiian guitars, saccharine violins, dated Tin Pan Alley tunes and hackneyed arrangements.”[5]
Emotional stuff! In reacting this way Schuller was responding to the historical tenor and perspective of his time, excluding such performances from the oeuvre of jazz.
Such exclusions represent demarcations of non-acceptance that were taken up seriously in David Akes’ collection of papers Jazz/Not Jazz: The Music and Its Boundaries in 2012.[6] Ake was concerned with the effects of such exclusionswhat he called the ‘othering’ of various styles in the narratives of traditional jazz history:
“… rethinking the parameters of jazz history and for the ways it identifies some of the negatively productive ways in which jazz history is created. …I identify some of the complicated ways this process is played out in practice, given the complex symbolism of jazz and its musical others…(to) identify some of the complicated ways this process is played out in practice, given the complex symbolism of jazz and its musical others.”
Among  Ake’s collection of papers Elijah Wald devoted his essay to  Armstrong’s apparently anomalous partiality for the Lombardo style.
In the case of Morton, historians were puzzled by many of his utterances and omitted them from the record. Others tried to slot them into their own historical arguments.  For example, Morton stated that the violin was regularly employed in early bands but that:
 "The violin was never known to play illegitimately even in New Orleans." [7]
This was taken by Rudi Blesh, to reinforce his belief that the violin was somehow out of place in an early improvising  jazz orchestra. However, a plain interpretation in the light of what we now know of early jazz performance practice might simply be that Morton was referring to the melody role of the violin – i.e. that it did not improvise or rag, even in New Orleans, but maintained the melodic impulse of the performance leaving improvisation (seen as illegitimate ‘faking’ by some contemporary critics) largely to the wind instruments.
Bunk Johnson, too, referred to the violin being regularly employed in early jazz orchestras, but perhaps the most interesting of the factoids originating in his testimony was his complaint about the poor quality of the musicians with whom he had to play during the early New Orleans revival – he called them ‘emergency musicians’. He also contended that more contemporary popular songs should have been performed and he received some criticism for that. In his last recording date he did include examples of hit tunes - like ‘Chloe’, and chose skilled musicians for the date. He saw himself as a skilled performer, perhaps a musicianer, in the common terminology of his early career, having to perform with faking musicians of a lesser standard. Comments like these were largely ignored, or mentioned knowingly, probably seen as impenetrable, strange, self-serving and irrelevant to the historical narrative.
Here there is a correspondence with the Armstrong enigma. How could one of the fathers of ‘New Orleans Jazz” tolerate the sweet swinging popular dance music and banal popular songs of the thirties, forties and later?
Morton added to the puzzle, singing popular songs and describing jazz as hot-sweet plenty rhythm. Other contemporary witnesses also described Buddy Bolden as playing very sweetly and the theme was repeated in accounts like that of Baby Dodds, who said that the violin-led jazz music of his early days was ‘awful sweet’.
The dissonance between such scraps of oral evidence and historical narratives derived from selected recordings of the early 1920’s was not interrogated until Ake and his contributors began to question their meanings. Their questioning went further, including scrutiny of decisions to exclude performers like Louis Jordan and John Coltrane from the oeuvre of legitimate jazz.
However we are concerned with Early Jazz.  Marquis lost little by excluding evidence from Johnson from his biography of Buddy Bolden standing as it did on a mountain of verifiable information. Though it added considerably to our understanding of the performance environment of the time the historical image of the musical milieu remained incomplete, partly because factoids such those we have considered were not understood - not interpreted outside the frame of reference of the  history writers of the 1940’s and later.
A more sociological interpretation, seeking to view such comments within the time perspective of the witnesses rather than that of the historians, might lead to a better understanding of the music of their times and its evolution.
Though questions still remain as to the exact dates of birth of Johnson and Morton those witnesses grew up in New Orleans in a society where entertainment was focused on popular dance music dominated by a nation-wide commercialized publishing industry. So did Louis Armstrong. Bolden introduced new elements into the performance practices of the time but the violin led dance orchestra playing a proportion of sweet pop songs was the dominant medium as late as 1921. It is not surprising that Johnson thought it legitimate to play popular music or that Armstrong saw no conflict with, or betrayal of, his art while performing in the commercial music scene of his day and enjoying the sweet violin led music of the time.  Much more of what Morton said probably remains to be subjected to interpretation that might further elucidate aspects of the long period during which he was a major composer and performer.
Though our appreciation of the performance practice, repertoire and audiences of the first twenty years of jazz history has been considerably improved in recent times, narratives of the period known as the Jazz Age and its successor the Swing Era remain constrained between boundaries limited by definitions devised in the 1940’s - boundaries that excluded much music popularly accepted and enjoyed at the time as jazz. Musicians popular in the 1920’s like Isham Jones, (or Ben Bernie who was featured as a star performer in the first American history of jazz)[8], disappeared forever from the approved record. Perhaps a first step towards a better appreciation of the jazz history in the period between 1917 and 1940 should be a re-examination of the many exclusion decisions that shaped the traditional account and the range of recorded material considered inauthentic. Did the word jazz mean the same in 1920 as it did in the jazz history books of the 1940’s or those of the 1990’s? Perhaps Louis Armstrong better understood the music of his time than did many later historians.

1 B. Raeburn New Orleans Style and the Writing of American Jazz History 2012 p6
2 The term was apparently popularized by Norman Mailer in the 1970’s
3 G. Schuller Early Jazz 1968
4 Steve Barbone His review of Louis Armstrong Master of Modernism 
by Thomas David published on the internet chat group the Dixieland Jazz Mailing List
5 G. Schuller Early Jazz p 132 and p 133 (My italics)
6 David Ake ed. Jazz/Not Jazz: The Music and Its Boundaries 2012UCL
7 R. Blesh Shining Trumpets p 55
8 H. Osgood “So This is Jazz” 1926  

Sunday, October 05, 2014

Vintage Recordings and the Bolden Repertory

Daniel Hardie

In 2010 David Sager addressed the Conference of the  Association for Recorded Sound Collections in New Orleans  on the subject of the Bolden Repertory. He suggested that there might be  much to learn about early jazz performance from contemporary recordings and illustrated his talk with  early recorded performances by legitimate orchestras.
My own experience with preparing  for performances by the  Buddy Bolden Revival Orchestra suggests that the repertoire itself has a considerable influence on performance practice and I sought to put together a listing of recordings by popular performers of the time. 
This task has been facilitated by the growth of   access to historical collections like the National Jukebox Collection of the Library of Congress and commercial catalogues via the internet and the appearance of many early recordings of popular performers on Youtube.
The Bolden Repertoire established for our concerts largely based on research published by Ingemar Wagerman was outlined in The Birth of Jazz: Reviving the Music of the Bolden Era. Significantly it contained almost equal numbers of popular tunes (many of them first performed in Vaudeville) published as piano realizations or light orchestral arrangements and dance songs from the Afro American vernacular.
Interestingly it proved much easier to find early vintage recorded performances of contemporary  popular hits and coon songs  than the latter group although it soon became apparent that  a number of these had passed into the recorded repertoire of early jazz and blues performers. For this reason recordings were sought that could be considered representative of the genre were included though the performance style might be more representative of a later period. This appears to be reasonable in relation to blues that had appeared around 1890/1900 but first recorded in the 1920’s. Some of the vernacular tunes were I believe more appropriately represented by revivalist oral history recordings by Jelly Roll Morton and Bunk Johnson than later jazz performances. 
There are two items from the repertoire of which no performance was located even though I had been able to find a copy of the piano version these were:
                Sammy Sampson’s Senegambian Band
                Shoo Skeeter Shoo
It is to be hoped that performances of these publications may appear. Better vintage performances of some of the more conventional popular songs may appear as more recordings are identified and published on the internet.
This list is very much a work in progress and I would appreciate comments and suggestions for its improvement.

Early  Recorded Performances of Tunes identified as forming part of Buddy Bolden’s Repertoire 

Popular Songs

Any Rags (1902 Thos. Allen) - 1904 Edison record 8525 Arthur Collins vocal. 
Don’t Go Way Nobody  (1905 Percy Cahill / "P.A.G.T.") - 2007 Stomp Off Records CD 1351 Music of the Bolden Era Imperial Serenaders.
Home Sweet Home (1821 Henry Bishop) - 1904 Naxos Historical Record 8.110738 Nellie Melba: London.
Ida (1903 Eddie Leonard)  - 1917 Columbia Record 2905 Earl Fuller Novelty Orchestra.
Idaho (1906 H Von Tilzer) - 1907 Edison Gold Moulded Record 9520 Billy Murray and Edison Male Quartette.
If the Man in the Moon Were a Coon (1906 Fred Fischer) - 1907 Victor recordings B4631 and E4631  Ada Jones. 
Lazy Moon (1903 Bob Cole)  - 1906 Edison Gold Record 920  Billy Murray.
Mr Johnson Turn Me Loose  (1895 Ben Harney) - 1903 Victor Monarch Record 3355 Silas Leachman (Library of Congress Jukebox).

On Emancipation Day (1902 W. Marion Cook) - 1902 Victor 1710 Len Spencer Voc Vess Ossman Bjo (Library of Congress Jukebox).
Sammy Sampson’s Senegambian Band (1903 Dave Reed Jr.). Piano version at
Shoo Skeeter Shoo (1905 Percy Cahill/Sebastien Lutz) - piano realisation based on piano score courtesy Dr. Jack Stewart at:
Under the Bamboo Tree* (1902 Bob Cole and J.Rosamond Johnson)  - 1903 Edison Gold Moulded Cylinder Record 2951 Frank Hopkins. Hear also 1906 Arhoolie CD # 7032 Orquesta Tipica Pablo Valanzuela - La Patti Negra second part.
Wait ‘til the Sun Shines Nellie (1905 H. Von Tilzer and Andrew Sterling) -1905 Victor Record 4551 Harry Tally Library of Congress Collection.

Traditional Dance Tunes

La Praline (Quadrille) (Anon) 1938 Jelly Roll Morton Library of Congress recording 1648B,1649A - Rounder CD 1091. Transcription in Appendix of Shining Trumpets R. Blesh 1945. 
Moonwinks (Three Step Mazurka) (1904 George Stevens) 1909 Cylinder disc 64kb  Indestructible Record 1122 A. Schmell.
Over the Waves (Waltz)* (1891Juventino Rosas,) 1906 Edison Blue Amberol Disc. 513 Black Wax New York Military Band.
Sweet Adeline (Schottische)* (1903 Richard Gerard and HarryArmstrong) 1906 Victor 2934 Haydn Quartet, with vocal.
In High Society – (Slow March to the supper table)* (1901 Porter Steele) 1910 Regimental American Odeon 030659-2 Band of the Republic 
Jazz Archives CD No120.
The Washington Post March (Two Step)* (1899  J.P.Sousa)  1912 Victor record 17302 Sousa’s Band conductor Arthur Prior. Library of Congress Jukebox.

Piano Ragtime

Bowery Buck (1899 Tom Turpin) played by  Mark Pedigo at: 
Frog Legs Rag  (1906 James Scott) 1960 Riverside OJCD7706 Love-Jiles Orchestra Record (Red Back Book Arrangement ) Available on internet at:
Maple Leaf Rag  (1899 Scott Joplin) 1909 Victor record B 3887-3  US Marine Corps  Band. 
Palm Leaf Rag  (1903 Scott Joplin) 1993 Laserlight label CD Complete Works of Scott Joplin Vol 2 Richard Zimmerman Piano.
Panama Rag  (1904 Seymour, C.) 1905 Edison Gold Record 8959 Edison Symphony Orchestra.

Dance Songs/Jump Ups

All the Whores Like the Way I Ride (aka The Girls go Crazy About the Way I Walk) (Trad) American Music Record 1944 Bunk Johnson with the Yerba Buena Jazz Band AMCD 4. 
Funky Butt (Trad) 1903 Barney and Seymour aka Theron Bennet as the St Louis Tickle) 1905 Cylinder record Columbia 32843 St. Louis Tickle Princes Band.
Get Out of Here (Trad)   1944 Good Time Jazz GTJCD12022-2 Kid Ory’s Creole Jazz Band.
If You Don’t Shake You Get No Cake (Trad) 1938 Library of Congress 1648B2  Rounder CD1094 Jelly Roll Morton.  
Makin’ Runs (Attrib Bolden) 1942 American Music LP643 Bunk Johnson Talking Record demonstration of Bolden Style  now on American Music AMCD 135.
My Bucket’s Got a Hole In It (Trad Attr Clarence Williams) 1960 Vanguard Classics 3024 “Happy Birthday Louis” Louis Armstrong and His All Stars.
The Old Cow Died (And Old Brock Cried) (Trad) aka The Tune The Old Cow Died On 1939 Library Of Congress Warde Ford, unaccompanied vocals. Recorded by Sidney Robertson Cowell in Central Valley, California on September 4, 1939.


Careless Love Blues (Trad attr Handy) 1925 Columbia CD 4678767 Bessie Smith. 
Take Your Big Fat Leg Off Me  (Boiusseau) 1959 Smithsonian Folkways CD FW02464/204 ‘Music Of New Orleans’ H.J Boiusseau piano.
If You Don’t Like My Potatoes Why Do You Dig so Deep? (Trad) 1924 Document Records DOCD5339 Monette Moore.
Make Me a Pallet on the Floor (Trad) 1926 CD “Stormy Weather” Ethel Waters Classic Records 2010.
Salty Dog (Trad. Attr. Jackson) 1926 Paramount 2653-1, 2653-2 Fred Keppard’s Jazz Cardinals Voc Papa Charlie Jackson.
2/19 Blues (Mamie Desdunes)1938 Jelly Roll Morton Library Of Congress 1688a Rounder CD1094.


Go Down Moses (Trad published 1867 R.W. Lockwood) 1924 Victor 19370-A Marian Anderson - Library Of Congress National Jukebox.
Ride On King Jesus (Trad published 1867 A.Ware and Lucy McKim-Garrison) 1993 Pro Arte CD 2331 Leontyne Price Live at the Opening of the Ordway Theatre  Leontyne Price.
Run Nigger (Strumpet) Run aka Run Mary Run (Trad) 1927 DOCD 8056 The Skillet Lickers.

*Not in original list- added by author to improve representativeness of dance types