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New Orleans: The Birth Place of Jazz – The Early Days.

March 23, 2010

New Orleans is world renowned as the birthplace of jazz but how did this innovative and influential form of music come about in this city?

The history of New Orleans is a diverse and eventful one. The control of the city had switched back and forth between France and Spain until its sale to the United States in 1803. The already culturally diverse city was flooded with English speaking people from more northern states, bringing with them slaves and other ethnic groups.

From this melting pot of peoples came an eclectic mix of music. After the civil war brass marching bands became the popular music of the day. At around the same time in New Orleans the styles of Cake Walks and Minstrel Shows were becoming popular. New Orleans was also becoming known as a party city with numerous attractions, river boat tours and a liberal attitude to policing.

Jazz was further able to thrive in New Orleans due to the high demand for musicians. Music was traditionally played at almost all events from births through to funerals. This made being a musician quite a lucrative career. This abundance of musicians and the skills they had, allowed for innovation and the rapid development of jazz music.

A hub of Jazzes development and growth was in an area of the city named Storyville. Storyville was the the part of New Orleans where gambling, drinking and prostitution were all legal. Many brothels would hire a jazz pianist or small band to play in the salon areas of the establishments. Future jazz greats like Lous Armstrong began their careers playing in these establishments, allowing them to hone their craft as full time musicians.

There were multiple styles of jazz that developed in New Orleans such as Ragtime and Dixieland. Read more in the coming weeks about New Orleans Jazz and the styles and musicians it produced.

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