Jazz moves Up River

New Orleans Riverboat Jazz centers of the 1920s:
New Orleans:

        In the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century, African American musicians began gathering in New Orleans.  They would congregate to improvise and share their music in Storyville. Early jazz musicians often called New Orleans their home, even if they spent little time there.  By 1920, New Orleanian jazz musicians had already spent years spreading the "New Orleans sound"  throughout the nation ( the word "jazz" did not enter our vocabulary until 1917). Jelly Roll Morton  began touring as early as 1906.  Despite the attempts of these musicians to increase the popularity of New Orleans jazz music nationwide, jazz music remained almost exclusively "The sound of New Orleans."  In the early 1920s, the first real stars of jazz surfaced.  Artists such as King Oliver, Louis Armstrong,  and Kid Ory established well known reputations for their original jazz music.
        The New Orleans jazz bands of the early 1920s consited of three voices (cornet, clarinet, and trombone) and a rythm section.  Between 1917 and 1923, racism, prejudice, and violence resurfaced against the Creole and African American population in New Orleans.  Many jazz musicians were forced to leave New Orleans during this period, including  Joe "King" Oliver, Edward "Kid" Ory, Louis Armstrong, and many more.  This mass exodus of the greatest jazz musicians of the 1920s coincided with the spread of jazz music throughout the United States.  Jazz musicians fled to Chicago, New York, and Kansas City. Chicago was the most popular destination of these early jazz musicians, but New York also saw a great influx of jazz talent. Among these  cities, Kansas City was unique, because it was there that the New Orleans jazz sound flourished the longest, well into the 1930s.


       Chicago in the 1920s held great opportunities for musicians. The city was dominated by gangsters and their cabaret and dance clubs. The "New Orleans sound" spread throughout Chicago's South Side, the Plantation, the Nest, and the Sunset. While still called "New Orleans jazz," the jazz played in Chicago was more uniform and less wild and primitive than it was in Louisiana. Jazz musicians who chose to move up river to Chicago quickly lost the "primitive" sound that came from New Orleans. Jazz became "polite" and directed at the white, middle class audiences who frequented the dance halls in Chicago. Early Chicago jazz music had been performed in black neighborhoods, and the white jazz enthusiasts had to go to the African American areas to hear jazz music.
       As jazz grew in popularity, particularly among the middle class white population, the clubs became segregated. There were then separate clubs for African American and white audiences. The music that played in "Negro clubs" was faster and wilder than the jazz played in predominantly white dance halls, but even the jazz in the "Negro clubs" was tame in comparison to the jazz of New Orleans. King Oliver is the best example of the shift in style that occurred when musicians moved from New Orleans to Chicago. King Oliver's Creole Jazz Band was highly successful in New Orleans, and were known for their unconventional insturmentation and perfect balance. 

        They headed to Chicago after the race tensions were exacerbated in New Orleans. King Oliver and his band drew masses of people to Chicago's Lincoln Gardens. The bluesy sound and exciting rhythm was foreign to Chicago, and was immediately absorbed into popular culture. It was during this time when their first recording was made. The band was very successful during the first few years in Chicago, but as radio networks adopted jazz, the populous seemed to prefer a more refined "dance hall jazz." Jazz music thrived in Chicago through the 1920s. From Chicago, the first radio broadcasts of jazz music were made. A new Chicago administration purged the city of the gangsters, and with them went the clubs and dance halls. The Chicago jazz then became polished and lost the bluesy sound. White musicians became more prevalent, and it was obvious that Chicago was heading into the Swing Era.

New York: 

       The early New York Jazz music was influenced by ragtime music, which had been popular there in the early 1900s. Scott Joplin had played in New York, and other great musicians followed in his footsteps. After The Original Dixieland Jazz Band played on Broadway, jazz musicians imitated the New Orleans sound. While not attaining the undisciplined and wildly erratic beat of New Orleans jazz, the popularity of jazz in New York increased drastically. The 1920s proved to be a Golden Age of jazz in New York. Jazz was diverse and appealed to people from every echelon of society. Louis Armstrong broke away from King Oliver's band and moved to New York, creating a whole new genre of jazz improvisation. 
     Band directors such as Fletcher Henderson and Duke Ellington combined smooth dance music with impulsive improvisation, creating a polished, yet popular sound. Paul Whiteman, while not making any lasting contributions to the evolution of jazz, was popular with his classy and elegant symphonic music. While Whitman did not necessarily improve jazz with his symphonic style, George Gershwin certainly did. In New York's Aeolian Hall, George Gershwin introduced Rhapsody in Blue in February of 1924. Gershwin's composition greatly influenced the future direction of jazz, and elevated jazz music to a respected form of music. The Harlem Renaissance aided in increasing the popularity and respectability of Jazz music. A whole genre of Jazz poetry evolved in New York. These poems confirm that early jazz also appealed to people on a spiritual, intellectual and philosophical level.

Kansas City:
     By 1920, Kansas city was booming. Jazz could be heard on nearly every street corner. Jazz musicians poured into Kansas City after the mass exodus from New Orleans. The city was completely segregated. African American jazz musicians were in high demand in the white dance halls and clubs, and the African American jazz clubs. Hotel restaurants in Kansas City were also known for employing elaborate jazz ensembles. There were over fifty jazz clubs in one six block district. Kansas City was often a resting place for musicians on their way to California, Chicago, or New York. One of the most famous early jazz musicians, Benny Moten, was a native of Kansas City. He was largely responsible for the spread of jazz in Kansas City in the early 1920s. Walter page and Bill Basie (later known as "Count Basie") joined Moten's band in 1928, and formed the most outstanding jazz band in the city. 
      One of the most significant contributions of the Kansas City jazz musicians was the way they propelled jazz toward the Big Bands of the 1930s. The bands grew steadily in size throughout the 1920s. For example, Benny Moten's band consisted of six musicians in 1923, eight musicians in 1924, and by 1926, the band was made up of ten musicians. The saxophone was the most important individual instrument in Kansas City during the 1920s. Jazz musicians all over the country referred to Kansas City as "The Home of the Sax." The "riff" was the most identifiable characteristic of Kansas City jazz. A riff is a musical pattern or phrase that is repeated by one voice while a soloist improvises a melody. The riff increased the popularity and importance of the saxophone to jazz music.

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