King Oliver and his Creole Jazz

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Jazz began in the late 1800s and was recognized to be exceptional because compared to most musical standard; it offers round beat tempo and lively musical rhythm. What makes it obviously different is that its origin emanates not from the people who made it but from the influence of their ancestry in their kinds of music. Back in the slave days when the early African- American work as tenants for majority of the white population, the music of black population were only confined on churches during church services or on small buildings within the plantations.

After the emancipation of slavery, jazz became the African-American language of music and was revolutionized by the generations of blacks in the post American civil war to meet the preference of young generations in the United States.Jazz has a colorful history. New Orleans only became a part of the United States in 1803. But previous to that it was one of the melting pots among American cities in the early 1800s.

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With the colonization of France, Spain and then the United States, it has gathered a mixture of races and cultures and the result was the convergence of citizens from Africa and Europe. The various cultures and traditions have molded together and influenced the music of the blacks gathered in the state as slaves. Thus the music of early African-Americans were European-based as seen in its melodies in the form of waltz rhythm (Yanow).Ragtime music was developed in the late early 19th century by the African-Americans as the product of African and European fusion of music.

It was called ragtime because of its ragged African rhythm which follows the beat of the instruments. With further modification, ragtime musicians developed it into blue harmonies and notes thus separating its identity from European concept of music. Bands that came from New Orleans during the 19th century were primarily blues musicians. Before American civil war erupted, assorted bands with different music genre convene in New Orleans and play together.

The result was an unconventional array of instruments, playing styles and forms of musical tunes which led to new interesting discovery of sounds which we now call the “jazz”.Jazz music originally comes from music experiences of African-Americans buts its origins comes from African rhythm and traditions. Native Africans took along with them their spirit of culture, traditions and music when they were brought along by the Europeans and Americans to work for them as slaves. Over the passing of generations and the influence of European music and finally with American music, African-American style of music was born in the form and rhythm of the blues then into  jazz (Lee).

Jazz and blues have difference in their forms and as the passing of the twentieth century both have developed their characteristics although they both came from unique genre of African-American expression of music. Jazz is more of instrumental and blues is more leveled on lyrical fashion although they are categorically the same when it comes to vocals (Rotenstein).The musicians of New Orleans progress their style of jazz into the 20th century and even the traditional music bands evolved into jazz. The first jazz recording was made by the New Orleans’ Original Dixieland Jazz Band in 1917 which was composed of all white men copying African American music (Brunn).

But it was King Oliver’s Creole Jazz band, the first African-American jazz band from the same state that has first recorded its music in 1918 at New York City(Brunn). Soon, young Americans of any color were all into jazz music.But while this excitement was going on the conservative white American population begins to worry and voiced out their anger in the magazines and newspapers decrying the influence of “black” music as inappropriate, disgraceful and odd. But the new genre of music was not meant to be stopped.

Jazz has already clawed its roots deeply in the world of music and can never be avoided. This was the influence of jazz music which started out by King Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band, putting jazz as the barrier for blacks against prejudice and racism from the whites. Blacks were recognized to become legends in their own form of music. King Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band then soon became one of the most influential bands in American history of music (Thomas).

How King Oliver’s Creole Jazz band became so successful is legendary. They were considered as legends even in the early development of jazz because basically his band is composed of great legendary musicians such as Baby Dodds who played the drums, Honore Dutrey with the trombone, Johnny Dodds on clarinet, Lil Hardin Armstrong on the piano, King Oliver on the cornet while Louis Armstrong on second cornet. With mixture of ingenuity and talent they have been able to organize themselves into one fantastic band and capture the interest of the youth. Oliver has been able to persuade Armstrong to join Creole Jazz Band in 1922 and his addition to the band further showed the people the real liveliness of jazz (Archive).

King Oliver’s own style of “Hot Jazz” was a collective improvisation of gathered and innovative talent which he developed through the years. Though Oliver had an accident as a child which caused him blind in one eye he still became famous for using different objects to alter the sound of his cornet. Louis Armstrong was also a legend in his own style of jazz but became popular because of his admiration with King Oliver’s style and originality. The king gave him the first cornet and was soon to be his teacher and mentor and call him Papa Joe.

The popularity of King Oliver dates back in 1908 where he played in New Orleans with the marching bands like The Olympia, Onward Brass Band, the Eagle Band and The Original Superior  until he worked with Kid Ory”s band in 1917 and came to be called as the “King” by the bandleader. Moving on to Chicago with Ory in 1919, they both played with Bill Johnson’s “The Original Creole Orchestra” and returned to Chicago in 1922. From there he founded King Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band and asked his protégé Louis Armstrong to join him (Records).By 1920s, New Orleans has already produced jazz musicians who have popularized the “New Orleans sound”.

Although jazz is just beginning to seep into the music scheme of American music, jazz stayed exclusively in New Orleans as the “Sound of New Orleans”.The early part of the 1920s became more exciting in the world of jazz music because this was the age where King Oliver, Louis Armstrong and Kid Ory became famous. They have established their reputations as the kings of original jazz music. During these periods aside from the rhythm section there were only three instrument voices that were included in the New Orleans jazz bands and these are the cornet, trombone and clarinet.

Unfortunately, between the years 1917 to 1923, racism and prejudice has become consistent which has further separated blacks from the whites thus violence erupted again between their populations in New Orleans. Because of this instability most of the jazz musicians left the state and these include King Oliver, Armstrong and Ory. Most of the best musicians have fled to Chicago, New York and Kansas City. While in Chicago, opportunities were opened for black jazz musicians amidst rampant gang wars, prostitutions and violence in the clubs they are playing.

While in New York, ragtime music jazz became to be popular again with the mixture of New Orleans jazz and the New Yorker’s improvisation of ragtime music. Meanwhile, Louis Armstrong who was still with the King Oliver’s band in Chicago was persuaded by his wife to break away from Oliver’s group and make way of his own. Armstrong with a heavy heart broke away from his mentor and moved to New York and created another variety of jazz music. Fortunately, his decision to leave the group has brought him more acknowledgement and popularity while creating his own band and style in jazz music.

In Kansas City, people accepted jazz enthusiastically and invited black musicians to come into the city to play for the white middle class. One of the great jazz musicians who hail from Kansas was Benny Moten and became the leading personality in popularizing jazz in this state (Culture).The 1923 first release of album by the King Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band has boosted their popularity. They traveled to Chicago and then to Richmond, Indiana to perform and consequently recorded nine more numbers.

With the continuous explosion of black jazz music, more rising stars like Roll Morton made jazz an international phenomenon and placed jazz on international scale inspiring other musicians to follow jazz music (Waters and Waters).But what makes Creole Jazz Band to be different and create an impact in their audiences is astonishing. This is because King Oliver has his own style that cannot be duplicated by other cornetists. The band’s improvisation on the piano, the drums, the bass and the rhythmic foundation with the cornets lead into melody against the snappy counterpoint of the clarinet while the bass counterpoints the trombone into more melodramatic change of style and rhythm.

This is the result of Oliver’s perfecting the collective improvisation of New Orleans’ marching bands. With Oliver’s efficient effort to produce sounds with his cornet that reflected his vision he became known to be the first “sound artist” of jazz (Scaruffi).Going to King Oliver’s historical background and biography, the great musician’s first instrument is not the cornet but the trombone. But because of his disability with his other eye, Oliver would lean the chair against the wall and seat so he could tilt his Derby hat while playing.

People say that the King can be able to play the cornet with bottles and cups and produce an interesting musical tone of jazz. He became very good with his cornet and honed his talent playing with different bands in New Orleans’ bars and cabarets. During this period there were also great personalities that were recognized as great players of the cornets such as Manuel Perez, Bunk Johnson and Freddie Keppart. Still unknown, Oliver could only play as substitute for them in case they are absent from the clubs.

After the launching of King’s Creole Jazz Band album the following years were not very prolific for the band. Because of alleged unfair sharing of royalties from their records and gigs, each member of the band quits and eventually broke up. Gathering himself together Oliver calls other musicians and formed “Dixie Syncopators” band in 1925 at Chicago’s Plantation Cafe. However due to his back problem and losing of his teeth, playing the cornet is now beginning to take its toll on him.

Nevertheless, the new band was not to be very successful. Oliver turned down gigs offered by the Cotton Club in New York City and resort to play to other clubs. The next year, after leaving the band the same band recorded the same music offered to him by the Cotton Club and was highly successful. Although he formed another band and traveled sporadically to accept engagements, the band disbanded soon after.

In the 1930s and with worldwide economic depression, Oliver without much commitment to play also lost his savings with the collapsed of the U.S. banking system. The deterioration of his health, and trouble with his teeth gave him tough times playing the cornet.

He sometimes had to hire other trumpet players to fill in his place. Although he still had a band till 1935, depression in the US is holding everything back to nothing. In 1937, King Oliver was so poor and desolate, losing his band as well as his teeth, he did odd jobs and as a part time janitor. King Oliver died of cerebral hemorrhage and a poor man on the night of April 10, 1938 in his rented room in Savannah, Georgia.

But the King did not die a loser. He had been the mentor who brought one of the world’s greatest cornetist in the person of Louis Armstrong and most of all he was the most instrumental person who spread and popularize Jazz not only to the American audience but to the world (Pfeffer).;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;Works Cited:Archive, Jazz. “King Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band.

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html;.Brunn, H.O. “Story of the Original Dixieland Jazz Band.

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html;.Culture, Jazz. “Jazz Moves up River.”  (2008).

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html;Lee, Jeanne. Jam! The Story of Jazz Music. The Rosen Publishing Group, 1999.Pfeffer, Murray L.

“King Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band.” 2006.Records, Webster. “Joe ‘King’ Oliver.

”  (2008). April 7, 2008 ;

aspx?iAID=1430;sAN=Joe;.Rotenstein, David. “History of Jazz ”  (1999). April 8, 2008 ;http://www.;.Scaruffi, Pierro.

“King Oliver.”  (1999). April 8, 2008 ;http://www.scaruffi.

com/jazz/oliver.html;.Thomas, Bob. “A Kids History of Big Band Jazz.

”  (1990). April 9, 2008 ;

htm;.Waters, Henry Martin, and Keith Martin Waters. Jazz, the First 100 Years. Thomson Wadsworth Publishing, 2005.

Yanow, Scott. Jazz: A Regional Exploration. Greenwood Publishing Group, 2005.;;

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