Saturday, January 18, 2014

Before The Blues There Was Jazz

Piano Keyboard
Before the Electric Guitar
Hello and welcome back to Old Highway Notes as we explore the history of Chicago's music. Chicago has always been known as the city of the blues. The fast Chicago blues style generally associated with the city didn't really take off until the introduction of electric instruments in the 40's. Before the Chicago was known for the blues, Chicago was a hub city in the development of jazz.

The Columbia Exposition and Worlds Fair held in Chicago in 1893, drew many ragtime pianists to the city to perform and proved to be important in spreading interest the syncopated rhythms ragtime to  diverse areas of the country as the fair drew such crowds from far and wide.

In the early 20th century, the city of Chicago was booming. The stockyards and manufacturing facilities created numerous jobs that caused tens of thousands of blacks to relocate from the South seeking better opportunities and the North. This is a period of history known as "The Great Migration". Chicago, which was located directly north of New Orleans on the Mississippi River and easily reached by rail, swelled with relocated blacks who were congregating in neighborhoods on the south side of the city. An area known as "The Stroll" was filled with many honky tonks, nightclubs, cabarets and vaudeville theaters. A  large number of New Orleans musicians would make the journey to Chicago to perform for the growing black community.

Tony Jackson
Tony Jackson
As early as 1906, Chicagoans could enjoy pianists such as Tony Jackson, an influential jazz pioneer from the Storyville section of New Orleans who never recorded. Tony Jackson is an interesting person. Born in  1882 in New Orleans, and moving ot Chicago to live in 1912, he was a bit of musical prodigy. He grew up in a poor family who could not afford to provide him with musical instruments to play. The story goes that by the age of 10 he built a playable and tunable harpsichord out of  scrap from his backyard. He used it to perform church hymns, catching the attention of more affluent neighbors who would allow him to practice on their instruments. By the age of 13 he was performing in honky tonks and by the time he was 15 he was considered to be one of the best musicians in New Orleans-not a small feat! He would play ragtimes, cakewalks and other popular songs of the day as well as popular European and Latin Amerirican songs. It was said he could hear a song once and could immediately play it. in addition to being a phenomenal pianist he was reported to have an excellent voice with a wide range He style of dress was widely imitated by other early jazz musicians, such was his fame. And he was openly gay, which was pretty unusual in that era, not that there's any thing wrong with that. Actually, it seems pretty brave. I wish someone would have recorded him, I would love to hear what he sounded like.

Jelly Roll Blues Sheet Music
"Jelly Roll" Blues
Another early transplant was Ferd La Menthe “Jelly Roll” Morton. One of the earliest recorded Jazz artists his style of honky tonk piano he called "Jelly Roll" playing. His playing effectively acted as bridge between ragtime music and the hot jazz that was emerging. My music collection had a little "Jelly Roll" Morton, but it was only a couple of random tracks and an old cassette tape. The time for an upgrade had come. A trip to Archive.org found a group of 49 of his recordings available for download.

Album: Jelly Roll Morton Jelly Roll Morton

Set 1: Jelly Roll Morton-01-10
  • Big Lip Blues 3:12
  • Black Bottom Stomp 3:11
  • Buddy Bolden's Blues 4:17
  • Burnin' The Iceberg 6:02
  • Climax Rag    Jelly Roll 4:48
  • Dead Man Blues 6:30
  • Fat Meat And Greens [1926] 5:50
  • Finger Buster 2:47
  • Georgia Swing 2:29
Set 2: Jelly Roll Morton-11-20

  • Good Old New York 5:31
  • Grandpa's Spells 3:17
  • Hyena Stomp 6:20
  • King Porter Stomp 5:17
  • Mamanita 2:46
  • Mamie's Blues 2:44
  • Mister Joe 2:54
  • Mr. Jelly Lord 2:51
  • My Gal Sal 3:57
Set 3: Jelly Roll Morton-21-30

  • Piano Boogie 5:05
  • Pretty Baby 2:18
  • Pretty Lil 6:21
  • Red Hot Pepper Stomp 7:31
  • Shoe Shiner's Drag (incomplete) 4:48
  • Shreveport Stomp 1924 9:08
  • Sidewalk Blues 3:31
  • Smokehouse Blues 3:26
  • Someday Sweetheart 3:29

Set 4: Jelly Roll Morton-31-40

  • Sporting House Rag 2:16
  • Steamboat Stomp 6:12
  • Sweet Substitute 2:53
  • That's Like It Ought To Be 2:53
  • The Original Jelly Roll Blues 6:09
  • The Pearls 2:49
  • West End Blues 5:43
  • Wolverine Blues 3:18
Set 5: Jelly Roll Morton-41-49

  • Black Bottom Stomp 3:11
  • Dead Man Blues 2:20
  • The chant 3:06
  • The Pearls 2:49
  • Burnin' The Iceberg (1929) 2:59
  • Midnight Mama 2:18
  • Mr Jelly Lord 2:28
  • High Society 5:36


I hit the goldmine today. I also found 22 tracks listed as "Jelly Roll Morton and his Red Hot Peppers".

Set 1: Jelly Roll Morton And His Red Hot Peppers-01-10

  • Ballin' The Jack (1939) 2:12
  • Big Lip Blues 3:12
  • Blue Blood Blues 3:01
  • Boogie Woogie Blues 2:14
  • Buddy Bolden's Blues 2:09
  • Cannon Ball Blues 2:52
  • Classic Jazz 2:17
  • Climax Rag 2:23
  • Creepy Feeling 4:10
Set 2: Jelly Roll Morton And His Red Hot Peppers-11-20
  • Dead Man Blues 3:14
  • Dr Jazz 3:23
  • Fig Leaf Rag 4:40
  • Finger Buster 2:48
  • Grandpa's Spells 2:53
  • Maple Leaf Rag 2:39
  • Shreveport Stom 3:13
  • Smokehouse Blues 3:27
  • Sporting House Rag 2:17
Set 3: Jelly Roll Morton And His Red Hot Peppers-21-22
  • Wolverine Blues 3:19
  • Carolina Shout 2:16
Joe King Oliver
Joe "King" Oliver

With Storyville in New Orleans under greater police pressure, the musicians kept coming into Chicago. Joe "King" Oliver was yet another."King" Oliver played the cornet in the same Storyville brothels and gambling dens as the other jazz men in this post. As cornet player in the famous Kid Ory Jazz Band, he pioneered the use of mutes on horns that became standard for most horn players that followed. He composed many songs, including such jazz standards as "Dippermouth Blues," "Sweet Like This," "Canal Street Blues," and "Doctor Jazz". He founded a band, King Oliver's Creole Jazz Band, was lured like so many from New Orleans to Chicago where they would perform at the Royal Gardens Café, later renamed the Lincoln Gardens Café from 1917 to 1924. His band included a few other early jazz luminaries: clarinetist Johnny Dodds, drummer Warren “Baby” Dodds and cornetist Louis Armstrong. More on him later. The move to Chicago brought "King" Oliver closer to a developing recording scene in Chicago. In those days musicians did not sign to a label but would record one-off tracks for the labels, often recording the same song on more than one label. In 1923 they recorded for Gennett, Okeh, Paramount and Columbia Records. Sadly, the Great Depression hit Oliver particularly hard and one of the legendary pioneers of jazz music died a pauper in 1938. Luckily, he lives on in his recordings. Due their age these are free to download.

Album: King Oliver King Oliver DOWNLOAD

  • Aunt Hagar's Blues 3:00
  • Camp Meeting Blues 3:02
  • Canal Street Blues 2:34
  • Chattanooga Stomp 3:02
  • Crimes Blues 3:04
  • Dippermouth Blues 2:38
  • I Want You Just For Myself 2:53
  • I'm Watchin' The Clock 3:06
  • New Orleans Shout 2:45
  • Riverside Blues 2:59
  • Showboat Shuffle 2:59
  • Snag It 3:07
  • Snake Rag 3:05
  • Speakeasy Blues 2:50
  • Sugar Foot Stomp 2:56
  • Wa WA WA 2:49
  • West End Blues 3:38
  • You're Just My Type 2:33



Album: King Oliver's Creole Jazz Band King Oliver's Creole Jazz Band DOWNLOAD

  • Just Gone 2:41
  • Mandy Lee Blues 2:11
  • I'm Going Away To Wear You Off 2:53
  • Weather Bird Rag 2:41
  • Froggie Moore 3:04
  • Snake Rag 3:18
  • Sweet Lovin' Man 2:43
  • High Society Rag 2:58
  • Sobbin' Blues 3:10
  • Where Did You Stay Last Night? 2:32
  • Dippermouth Blues 2:17
  • Jazzin' Babies' Blues 3:02
  • Alligator Hop 2:24
  • Zulu's Ball 2:36
  • Workingman Blues 2:14
  • Krooked Blues 2:51



Album: King Olivers Creole Jazz Band-01-08 King Oliver & His Orchestra

  • Boogie Woogie 3:01
  • Dont You Think I Love You 2:47
  • I Must Have It 2:58
  • Shake It and Break It 2:29
  • Stealing Love 3:24
  • Whats The Use Of Living Without You 3:26
  • You're Just My Type (1930) 2:31
  • You Were Only Passing Time With Me 2:48

Louis Armstrong
Louis Armstrong
Perhaps the most famous of these early jazz artists to arrive in Chicago from "Storyville" in New Orleans, was Louis Armstrong. His early childhood had a lot of similarities to that of Tony Jackson. His parents could not afford to buy him a musical instrument, but his interest in music caused a neighbor to by him his first cornet as gift. He began to play and soon found himself in performing in the colorful New Orleans red light Storyville district. As a young man in New Orleans he filled in for "King" Oliver in Kid Ory's band until 1918 when he was called up to join Oliver's band in Chicago. He looked up to "King" Oliver as a mentor. Armstrong once said "if it had not been for Joe Oliver, Jazz would not be what it is today." As a member of Oliver's band, he moved North to Chicago and performed on those early recordings.  In the early twenties he was invited to be a member of the Red Onion Jazz Babies, an early jazz supergroup that performed to great acclaim attracting both whites and blacks from the city to enjoy the entertainment that was offered in the speakeasies on "The Stroll". In 1924 Louis Armstrong would move to New York and become one of the most beloved entertainers in American history as well as the "Ambassador of Jazz to the World" leading a long life before passing away in 1971. His time in Chicago was short, but his presence on those early recording make him a significant part of music history even if he had not gone on to such an acclaimed long life.

My music collection is weak on Louis Armstrong, time to go shopping. In the meantime, what I do have that makes the list is a CD that was released by the Musical Heritage Society in early 1990's. The Musical Heritage Society was a CD of the month kind of operation that rereleased remastered old jazz and classical recordings. Titled "Louis Armstron/King Oliver" It featured early recordings by King Olivers Creole Jazz Band, and the Red Onion Jazz Babies. I don't think you can buy it new any more but if you ever see it for sale used it is a good collection. Here is some track listing info for you.

Album: Louis Armstron/King Oliver Various Artists
  • Just Gone King Oliver's Creole Jazz Band 2:44
  • Canal Street Blues King Oliver's Creole Jazz Band 2:31
  • Mandy Lee Blues King Oliver's Creole Jazz Band 2:10
  • I'm Going Away To Wear You Off My Mind King Oliver's Creole Jazz Band 2:52
  • Chimes Blues King Oliver's Creole Jazz Band 2:53
  • Weather Bird Rag King Oliver's Creole Jazz Band 2:43
  • Dipper Mouth Blues King Oliver's Creole Jazz Band 2:28
  • Froggie Moore King Oliver's Creole Jazz Band 3:02
  • Snake Rag King Oliver's Creole Jazz Band 3:01
  • Alligator Hop King Oliver's Creole Jazz Band 2:25
  • Zulu's Ball King Oliver's Creole Jazz Band 2:31
  • Workingman Blues King Oliver's Creole Jazz Band 2:12
  • Krooked Blues King Oliver's Creole Jazz Band 2:52
  • Mabel's Dream (1st Take) King Oliver's Creole Jazz Band 2:50
  • Mabel's Dream (2nd Take) King Oliver's Creole Jazz Band 2:47
  • Southern Stomp (1st Take) King Oliver's Creole Jazz Band 2:42
  • Southern Stomp (2nd Take) King Oliver's Creole Jazz Band 2:46
  • Riverside Blues King Oliver's Creole Jazz Band 2:59
  • Texas Moaner Blues Louis Armstrong & The Red Onion Jazz Babies 3:05
  • Of All The Wrongs You've Done To Me Louis Armstrong & The Red Onion Jazz Babies 2:52
  • Terrible Blues Louis Armstrong & The Red Onion Jazz Babies 2:55
  • Santa Claus Blues Louis Armstrong & The Red Onion Jazz Babies 2:48
  • Nobody Knows The Way I Feel This Morning Louis Armstrong & The Red Onion Jazz Babies 2:50
  • Early Every Morn Louis Armstrong & The Red Onion Jazz Babies 2:54
  • Cake Walking Babies From Home Louis Armstrong & The Red Onion Jazz Babies 3:07

While I was In Archive.Org looking for Jelly Roll Morton and King Oliver I thought I would see what I could find from early Armstrong. I found these:
  • Red Onion Jazz Babies - Terrible Blues 1924
  • Red Onion Jazz Babies with Clarance Williams - Early Every Morn' 1924
Album: 1920s-Louis Armstrong-11-20 Louis Armstrong

Chloe 3:04
Cornet Chop Suey 3:15
Creole Love Call 3:12
Droppin' Shucks 3:04
Dummy Song 2:19
Fly Me To The Moon 5:24
Go Down Moses 3:38
Heebie Jeebies 2:53
Home 3:01

  • Louis Armstrong Hot Five - Yes

The early 1920's was a golden age for jazz in Chicago. A generation was growing up hearing these sounds and next week on Old Highway Notes we will continue our look into the history of jazz in Chicago as we move into the 1930's. Please join us. Don't forget to stop by on Sunday too where we continue crossing the border into America by looking at some more USA music,. 

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