Sunday, 10 January 2010

Chicago & 1920's Jazz

“There was this club, too, that we played at, the Twenty-Five Club. That was about 1912, 1913; and all the time we played there, people were talking about Freddie Keppard. Freddie, he had left New Orleans with his band and he was traveling all over the country playing towns on the Orpheum Circuit. At the time, you know, that was something new and Freddie kept sending back all these clippings from what all the newspapermen and the critics and all was writing up about him, about his music, about his band. And all these clippings were asking the same thing: where did it come from? It seems like everyone along the circuit was coming up to Freddie to ask about this ragtime. Especially when his show, the Original Creole Band, got to the Winter Gardens in New York...that was the time they was asking about it the most. Where did it come from? And back at the Twenty-Five these friends of Freddie's kept coming around and showing these clippings, wanting to know what it was all about. It was a new thing then.” (Sidney Bechet)

A number of events culminated in the space of a few years that helped to shape the direction of the music. Moves were made to close Storyville when the U.S. entered World War 1 in 1917. The Great Migration saw the movement of a million or so to the west coast and into larger northern cities, in particular Chicago. Finally the "Noble Experiment" of Prohibition ushered in the era of the jazz age in the 1920s. Enter the age of illicit liqour, speakeasies and the gangster. Jazz music was to provide the soundtrack for this drama. Moving the music away from its home had an effect on the style. This is where improvisation came to the fore - perhaps, it has been suggested, because the musicians felt more comfortable experimenting with the music in front of people with untrained ears.

The Lincoln Gardens, or The Royal Gardens, became a place synonomous with the music. It was here that Bill Johnson (who had earlier summoned Freddie Keppard to the west coast) established the Original Creole Band, that later became King Oliver's band. With this came the arrival of Louis Armstrong to Chicago and Bix Biederbecke shortly after. With the opening of the first commercial radio station in 1920 and the increased popularity of vinyl records, jazz music was about to go viral across the country,

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