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New Orleans

  New Orleans is usually claimed as the original home of jazz, and New Orleans jazz as both a style in itself and the matrix for all later styles. It was developed during the 1890s to 1920s from dance tunes and marches. Players took the basic tunes, with their underlying chords, and ‘swung’ them: syncopating the rhythms, colouring the harmony by adding ‘non-essential’ notes based on the overtones from the harmonic series on brass instruments (usually suppressed in ‘formal’ harmony of the time), and inserting ‘blue’ notes into the melodies (flattenings of the thirds and sevenths of the scale). Choruses (playings of the basic tune) alternated with solo ‘breaks’: free improvisations by the leading singers or players. The bands usually consisted of trumpet (or cornet), trombone and clarinet, plus a harmony and rhythm section using all or some of piano, guitar, banjo, bass and drums. A feature of the style was the way the players inspired one another, a snatch of improvised tune or rhythm being taken up and developed by the whole band in a kind of controlled inventive frenzy. This method was particularly favoured in the kind of New Orleans jazz played by the first bands to make recordings, and it carried the jazz style round the world. These bands often called themselves ‘Dixieland’ bands, perhaps thinking it would be more recognizable than ‘New Orleans’. Thus, the most complex kind of New Orleans jazz is still known as Dixieland; it is more frenzied, wilder, than pure New Orleans style. In Europe, New Orleans jazz and Dixieland jazz are both popularly called ‘traditional’. KMcL  



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