History of Music in the Big Easy
Since the pleasure-loving French founded a city on the delta in 1718, music and dance have been the heart and soul of New Orleans.
In the 18th century, the French and Creoles lived for musicales, balls accompanied by string orchestras,
and picnics set to Old World brass bands.
Considered the new Paris, La Nouvelle Orleans was the first city in America to stage opera.
In the 19th century, proceeds from public balls helped finance the first full-time opera company.
Whatever has changed over the last three centuries, the musical heritage remains
The classic are still going strong in an ensemble of companies and programs like the Delta Festival Ballet, N.O. Opera,
and Musical Arts Society.
In 1991, the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra was the only full-time, player-managed symphony orchestra in the U.S.
World-class guest performers and conductors support the LPO donating funds, time and services.
Coined in Chicago sometime before 1913, the word 'jazz' began as 'jaz,' meaning 'energetic'or 'vigorous'.
Birthplace of Jazz
West Indian slaves of African descent were the touchpoint of New Orleans music.
On Sunday afternoons, slaves socialized in Congo Square (now part of Louis Armstrong Park on Rampart St.),
where they performed tribal dances and chants with stirring rhythms to African percussion’s.
Thousands of citizens, black Creole, and white gathered to watch the spectacles.
New Orleans author, Honey Naylor, suggests that Charles 'Buddy' Bolden, was among the
onlookers at the Square and that he mixed those tribal and Creole elements with African American ragtime and spirituals,
folk songs, the blues, and even the cries oft he street vendors who once filled the Vieux Carre.
Interpreting them with a European brass sound.( The Irish, Germans, and Italians contributed the brass.)
Some time in the Gay '90s, Buddy put his cornet to his lips and blew hot notes and cool
tunes that became the music we call jazz.
He'd invented an American original and a worldwide phenomenon.
As with the original African music, the key to jazz was and is improvisation.
In the early days, musicians often started with a blues piece as a reference point and played their way into a
new composition. Nothing much has changed there for the greats, except it doesn’t have to start with blues.
Jazz picked up momentum in Storyville, where early improvisational masters like King Oliver, his protege, Louis Armstrong,
and Jelly roll Morton (the first to set jazz compositions on paper) played.
Lately, a new jazz generation has emerged under the tutelage of patriarch
His sons Marsalis and Branford and his one-time student Harry Connick, Jr., are some of the
young lions who have taken jazz in new directions and rediscovered old standards.
Their students and proteges are only the fourth generations of what has become an international classic.
Jazz festivals are now held around the world- Montreux, Switzerland to Monterey California. But the home of them all is new Orleans.
The jazz funeral grew out of two traditions.
In west Africa (ancestral home of West Indies and New Orleans. Slaves) tribesmen buried their own with a processional and music.
In 19thth century New Orleans, when members of private clubs called 'benevolent societies' died,
they were given stirring sendoffs at funeral processions lead by marching bands.
On the way to the cemetery, they played slow hymns and dirges to comfort the friends and relatives.
Afterwards, the brass bands struck up rousing tunes celebrating the soul’s flight to the heavenly vistas.
An unofficial after guard of parade followers, called 'second-liners', waved handkerchiefs and umbrellas
as they sang and danced with the music.
These days, jazz funerals are usually arranged only for music greats, although the Backstreet Cultural Museum
in Faubourg Treme stages an All-Saints Day jazz funeral.