How Long Is 78 Minutes – For the past few months, the New York Times has been asking experts, “What would you play with your friend to get them to love jazz?” I wanted to answer the question. We’ve covered many artists, instruments and musical styles – but this time we’re dealing with the whole city.
The United States is full of cities with a rich jazz history, but none quite as far-fetched as New Orleans. And music is still a part of life there. To truly appreciate the beauty of New Orleans jazz, you have to experience it in person. This is engaging, effervescent music. But unless you’re booking a trip, why not spend five minutes reading, listening, and making sure it makes sense?
How Long Is 78 Minutes
Jazz has its roots in Congo Square in downtown New Orleans, a gathering place for Native Americans before the arrival of Europeans. During the antebellum era, enslaved Africans would gather there to play music, dance, and carry on their cultural traditions using whatever instruments they had, such as bambula drums, horns, bells, and banjos. After emancipation, the country blues played on plantations throughout the South blended with New Orleans community orchestras and other African diaspora styles from the Caribbean to create the polyphonic sound we now know as early jazz.
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In the more than 100 years since, New Orleans has remained a cultural anomaly in the United States: rooted in its own traditions and fortified against broader commercial trends. Music was his greatest strength. On most weekends, marching bands can be heard at funerals and second line parades. On Mardi Gras and St. Joseph’s Day, cultural representatives in glittering, feathered costumes parade and perform in honor of the Native Americans who once sheltered refugees escaping slavery. Music is just a way of life: Unless there’s a storm, you won’t find a single night in New Orleans that doesn’t have several bands playing.
Brass bands and traditional jazz are at the heart of this city’s tradition, and while no conversation about them can last long without mentioning Louis Armstrong (or three), New Orleans also produces musical greatness that spans the spectrum: From Black Classical Composers from post-bop royalty to avant-garde experimentalists. The songs below are just the tip of the iceberg. Find the playlist at the bottom of the article and be sure to leave your favorites in the comments.
“West End Blues” represents the complexity of this music, and it’s all about New Orleans. This is the American aesthetic of freedom of form: complex ideas expressed in simplicity. We are technically skilled, but at the same time free from creative expression. The track begins with one of the world’s most famous lickers, one of music’s most iconic songs, Louis Armstrong, who showcases his pure genius and virtuosity for 12 seconds alone. Like spirituality, this burst of improvisation captures the music’s innate humanity and reflects the brilliance of bebop. And then the band comes in, and it’s a simple, beautiful, unsettling, haunting depiction of a Sunday afternoon by Lake Pontchartrain for someone who’s never been to New Orleans’ west end. It’s West End Blues.
The first 30 seconds of the song give us the best of what America is and what New Orleans is: all kinds of cacophony and so many different influences that make this dish rich and complex. E pluribus unum
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We’re in New Orleans in America, but we’re the northernmost Caribbean city, influenced by the French and the Africans, the Germans, and the Native Americans. He is the epitome of what America should be. So jazz is a great American art form. A lot of complexities broken down into things that people can understand. (Listen on YouTube)
I always go back to Bouncing Around by A.J. Piron’s New Orleans Orchestra, a working New Orleans band, recorded 100 years ago in New York City. This is the first phase of jazz: it is still the age of polyphony at once. Each musical space is full of themes, counter-themes and rhythms, but we don’t have soloists. Definitely music to dance to, or at least move to. The word echoes in New Orleans: bounce. I love the Spanish translation in parentheses in 78: “Brincando Locamente” — jumping like crazy. (Listen on YouTube)
New Orleans jazz is characterized by dance music. It invites the audience to participate, not watch. A pioneer in the New Orleans brass band jazz tradition, Rebirth Band has specialized in making people dance since its founding 40 years ago, when its founding members were teenagers. In 2008, they re-recorded their first single, Put Your Right Foot Forward, and released it as a 45 on the local SYLA label in the mid-1980s. Other brass bands have added to their repertoire, whether on stage or in the street on the second line, which is a classic. (Listen on YouTube)
It’s hard to find a song that transports the listener to that place and time, but I believe Hoagy Carmichael’s “New Orleans” comes close. Although Carmichael was not originally from New Orleans, the song’s tone and lyrics reflect the character and romanticism of the Crescent City. New Orleans is warm, culturally rich, diverse, charming and romantic. All this is presented in a timeless classic.
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This song hasn’t been recorded much, but there are several versions that I love to listen to. My favorite version is the 1994 album Mo’ Cream From the Crop by jazz legend and New Orleans trumpeter Leroy Jones. This version of “New Orleans” is Leroy’s original arrangement and captures the beauty, energy, creativity, spontaneity and groove of New Orleans. Leroy describes the song as a deep longing and connection to the city. (Listen on YouTube)
◆ ◆ ◆ Charlie Gabriel, saxophonist, multi-instrumentalist Louis Armstrong “You Know What Miss New Orleans Is”
The lyrics are about the weather in the city as well as the city itself. It explains to you that New Orleans is a beautiful place, especially for its culture. You have to come to New Orleans to really enjoy it, and this song explains why. Pops, Louis Armstrong sings this song so you can almost feel the words. I’ve been playing in New Orleans since I was 11 or 12 years old. What happens is that you bring it with you: the feeling of the city, the character, the city itself, the face. You carry that in your music. (Listen on YouTube)
Pianist and vocalist Emma Barrett was born in 1897 and came of age playing in the speakeasies and early “jas” orchestras that gave birth to the genre. It wasn’t uncommon for these New Orleans bands to play piano duties, but it took a certain kind of grace and confidence to withstand the abuse (and worse) directed at them on the regular road. Perhaps this behavior earned her the nickname “Sweet Emma”. Maybe it just looked good on the sign outside the club. Her nickname, “The Bell Gal” because of the bells she wore in her red pants, was less well-known and more defined; He clapped his feet and jingled his keys as they were rough. On “None of My Jelly Roll,” a song from the 1963 recording, Barrett sings old blues lyrics full of fun doubles and shows off a piano style for the finish. This style developed from ragtime and Caribbean dance music; Professor Longhair, James Booker, Dr. John and is still the hallmark of Crescent City pianists today. (Listen on YouTube)
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Legendary musician, educator and patriarch Sir Edward (Kidd) Jordan (1935-2023) lived his 87 years of improvisation, and his music rang out the sounds of freedom. In 1975, Jordan formed the Improvisational Arts Quintet with like-minded creative musicians from Louisiana and Mississippi. Jordan composed “Niger River” inspired by a trip to West Africa and I.A.Q. On the album series released by Kalamu ya Salam: “The Music of New Orleans: New Music Jazz” (Rounder Records, 1988). “River Niger” has an infectious, catchy energy based on a rhythmic B-flat minor ostinato, but is open to the way each vocalist takes us on a journey through the record.
Jordan taught his students the “Niger River” course, and regardless of level, beginner or advanced, each student was instrumental in playing the pentatonic scale under his guidance.
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