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Ch. 04: Early Jazz Musicians

Buddy Bolden’s Band; Bolden on trumpet, second from left in back row

Years before the Original Dixieland Jass Band claimed to have created jazz, key musical figures in New Orleans began to make a name for themselves. These players possessed the energy to blast the sound out of New Orleans, the charisma needed to earn it an audience, the artistic skill to give the music direction, and the virtuosity to separate it from anything else being played in the entire world.

Of mythical reputation is perhaps the first known jazz musician, a cornet player by the name of Buddy Bolden. Very little is known of his sound except that it was apparently louder than anyone else blowing horn at that time. One story says that he would blow so hard that he actually blew parts of the instrument right off the horn. According to other witnesses, he and his band rarely gave concern for intonation, at times playing entire concerts without attempting to tune with one another. Yet his enthusiasm as a performer, his innovative ideas on melodic embellishment, and the sheer volume of his sound made up for the apparent inaccuracy of pitch.

Unfortunately, Bolden was an alcoholic and a womanizer, characteristics which made him unreliable at concerts and unpopular with his wife. In 1907, perhaps in an unfortunate merging of his two vices, he smashed a water pitcher over the head of his mother-in-law. He was sentenced to Louisiana’s state asylum for the insane, where he remained until his death in 1931. As a result, no recordings were ever made of Bolden’s playing, and we know his skill only from faded accounts from musicians who admired him.

Jelly Roll Morton

As jazz migrated away from the brothels of New Orleans, trumpet players like Freddie Keppard and Joe “King” Oliver became known respectively in New York City’s Harlem and Chicago’s South Side jazz scenes. Pianist “Jelly Roll” Morton and his Red Hot Peppers left New Orleans to perform jazz in Los Angeles and then back to Chicago and New York.

Morton, who also claimed to have “invented” jazz, was significant for his contribution as a jazz composer. Prior to Morton, the emphasis was placed so strongly on collective improvisation that the harmonic structure of jazz was deteriorating into stale repetitions and rehashing of existing songs.

Morton was the first significant composer of jazz in the modern (post 1917) era. He was able to balance the excitement of solo improvisations with a more organized and interesting harmonic and rhythmic composition. In this sense, he provided the connection between the formally composed ragtime music of Joplin and the spontaneous musical ideas of the street and brothel jazz musicians. As a pianist, he was without peer, sometimes playing two or three melodies simultaneously on the piano as well as adding harmonies around the separate melodic ideas. Though a part of the early wave of jazz, his ideas were a decade ahead of their time. Not until the appearance of Duke Ellington in the late ’30’s were his compositional techniques more fully realized.

Other pianists of the era pioneered their own paths in the new style. James P. Johnson, a New Jersey born pianist, expanded ragtime to a style of piano playing called “stride piano”, where the distance of the left hand shift between bass notes and chords (oom-chik, oom-chik) was stretched further apart (hence the term “stride”), while at the same time, the tempo was increased to a frantic pace.

In the ’20s and ’30s, pianist “Fats” Waller shaped a less aggressive style of jazz stride piano, merged it with elements of pop songs, and performed it in a relaxed, congenial manner that would set the stage for piano players in the swing era. Unlike some of the jazz coming out of New Orleans and Chicago, Waller’s songs had lyrics which were almost always sung. The lyrics were often romantic in nature such as his standard songs “Ain’t Misbehavin’” and “Honeysuckle Rose,” but they were just as frequently comic novelty songs like “All That Meat And No Potatoes” or his ode to marijuana, “The Wail of the Reefer Man.”

Like George Gershwin, who approached jazz from the pop side of American music in the 1920s, Waller blurred the line between jazz and pop music. From the mid ’20s to the late ’30s, Waller was regularly making records and appearing on the radio. His compositions sold millions of records, hit the number one position on the sales charts six times, and were even incorporated into several Broadway shows. No jazz musician of the early era achieved the widespread popularity of Fats Waller. More importantly, pianists for the next thirty years would be influenced by his ideas.

Terry Waldo make the case for Jelly Roll Morton “Inventor” of Jazz:

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Study Units

An Overview

Ch. 1: Understanding Pitch

Ch. 2: Understanding Musical Pulse

Ch. 3: Understanding Volume

Ch. 4: Understanding Tone

Ch. 5: Understanding Melody

Ch. 6: Understanding Harmony

Ch. 7: Understanding Rhythm

Ch. 8: Understanding Bass

Ch. 9: Understanding Countermelody

Ch. 10: Understanding Structure

Ch. 11: Understanding Instrumentation

Ch. 12: Understanding Tempo

An Overview

Ch. 1: 19th Century: Pre-Foster

Ch. 2: Folk Music by the People

Ch. 3: Popular Music in its Infancy

Ch. 4: Stephen Foster – “Father of American Popular Music”

Ch. 5: The Importance of Stephen Foster

Ch. 6: Scott Joplin – “King of Ragtime”

Ch. 7: The Player Piano – Automated Music

Ch. 8: John Philip Sousa – “The March King”

Ch. 9: John Philip Sousa – Recording Artist and Activist

An Overview

Ch. 1: John Lomax – Recording American Roots Music

Ch. 2: Woody Guthrie – “Father of Modern American Folk Music”

Ch. 3: Leadbelly & Pete Seeger: End of the First Wave

Ch. 4: The Kingston Trio – Beginning of the Second Wave

Ch. 5: Joan Baez – “First Lady of Folk Music”

Ch. 6: Peter, Paul & Mary – Balancing the Message

Ch. 7: Robert Zimmerman – The Beginning of an American Icon

Ch. 8: Dylan in New York City

Ch. 9: Dylan after Newport

Ch. 10: The Importance of Dylan

Ch. 11: Folk Music in the 21st Century

An Overview

Ch. 1: The Roots of Country

Ch. 2: Bristol Beginnings

Ch. 3: The Grand Ole Opry

Ch. 4: Cowboys and the Movies

Ch. 5: Western Swing

Ch. 6: Bluegrass: Hillbilly on Caffeine

Ch. 7: Honky-tonk: Merging Two into One

Ch. 8: The Nashville Sound: Country-Pop

Ch. 9: Rockabilly – Country meets R&B

Ch. 10: Country Feminists Find Their Voice

Ch. 11: The Bakersfield Sound

Ch. 12: Austin “Outlaw” Country

Ch. 13: Neo-Traditionalists at the end of the 20th Century

Ch. 14: Mainstreaming Country in the ‘90s

Ch. 15: Redesigning Country in the 21st Century

An Overview

Ch. 1: What is Jazz?

Ch. 2: Before It Was Jazz

Ch. 3: Jazz is Born!

Ch. 4: Early Jazz Musicians

Ch. 5: Louis Armstrong

Ch. 6: Chicago and Harlem – Hub of 1920s Jazz

Ch. 7: Big Band – Jazz Swing!

Ch. 8: Big Band Musicians and Singers

Ch. 9: Jump Blues and Bop

Ch. 10: Cool Jazz

Ch. 11: Hard Bop

Ch. 12: Free Jazz – Breaking the Rules

Ch. 13: Fusion – The Jazz-Rock-Funk Experience

Ch. 14: Third Stream and World Jazz

Ch. 15: New Age & Smooth Jazz

Ch. 16: Summary – Jazz Lives!

An Overview

Ch. 1: Blues – The Granddaddy of American Popular Music

Ch. 2: Where Did the Blues Come From?

Ch. 3: What Are the Blues?

Ch. 4: How to Build the Blues

Ch. 5: Classic Blues – The Early Years

Ch. 6: Delta Blues – Authentic Beginnings

Ch. 7: Blues in the City – Migration and Power

Ch. 8: Blues in Britain – Redefining the Masters

Ch. 9: Contemporary Blues – Maturity and Respect

Ch. 10: The Relevancy of the Blues Today

Ch. 1: Timelines, Cultures & Technology

Ch. 2: Pre-Rock Influences

Ch. 3: Rock is Born!

Ch. 4: Rock is Named

Ch. 5: Doo-Wop

Ch. 6: Independent Record Labels

Ch. 7: Technology Shapes Rock ‘n’ Roll

Ch. 8: The Plan to Mainstream Rock ‘n’ Roll

Ch. 9: Payola – Rock ‘n’ Roll’s First Scandal

Ch. 1: Crafting Sound in the Studio/Producers and Hit Songs

Ch. 2: West Coast Sound: Beach, Surf, and Teens

Ch. 3: The British Invasion: Two Prongs – Pop & Blues

Ch. 4: Motown and the Development of a Black Pop-Rock Sound

Ch. 5: Soul Music: Gospel and R&B in the Deep South

Ch. 6: The Sounds of Bubble Gum Pop-Rock

Ch. 7: The Arrival of Folk-Rock

Ch. 8: Psychedelic Rock ‘n’ Roll

Ch. 9: Early Guitar Gods of Rock

Ch. 10: Rock Festivals: The Rise and Fall of Music, Peace, and Love

Ch. 11: Anti-Woodstock and Shock Rock Movements

Ch. 1: Technological Breakthroughs

Ch. 2: Electronic Dance Music

Ch. 3: Hip-Hop & Rap – An Introduction

Ch. 4: The Beginnings of Rap

Ch. 5: Old School Rap – Up From the Streets

Ch. 6: Rap’s Golden Age

Ch. 7: East Coast – Political Rap

Ch. 8: West Coast – Gangsta Rap

Ch. 9: The Fragmentation of Rap – Pop, Party & More

Ch. 10: Further Fragmentation – Different Directions

Ch. 11: The Importance of Rap

Ch. 1: Musical Stage Productions in America before the 1800s

Ch. 2: Minstrel Shows and Melodramas

Ch. 3: Stage Presentations in the Late 19th Century

Ch. 4: Early 20th Century: Revues and Operettas

Ch. 5: The Arrival of the Modern American Musical

Ch. 6: Great Partnerships in Book-Musicals

Ch. 7: Musical Theatre Composers in the mid-Century

Ch. 8: Fresh Voices on the Stage in the 1960s

Ch. 9: Two Dominant Forces at the End of the Century

Ch. 10: New Voices at the End of the Century

Ch. 11: New Voices, New Sounds in the New Century

Ch. 12: Musical Theatre Glossary

Ch. 13: Is it “Theatre” or “Theater”?

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