Welcome‎ > ‎

Dixieland

posted Feb 9, 2013, 6:53 AM by Steven Vaughan
Dixieland is the earliest style of jazz, born at the turn of the 20th century in the saloons and dancehalls of New Orleans. It combined the style of brass band marches, like those composed by John Phillip Sousa, with the lively two-beat rhythm of the French Quadrille, a historic dance performed by four couples that preceded square dancing. It borrowed syncopation from ragtime, popularized by Scott Joplin’s Maple Leaf Rag. And it took harmonies from the blues, which had sprung up in the last half of the 19th century out of the spirituals and work songs of the emancipated but still struggling slave communities. 
 
Spreading to Chicago and New York City in the 1910s, the term “Dixieland,” a reference to the Old South, became widely used after the Original Dixieland Jass Band recorded Livery Stable Blues and Tiger Rag in 1917. They were the first band to have commercial hits in this new genre, selling well over a million records. (Following their success, they changed their spelling of Jass to Jazz.) These releases signaled the beginning of the Jazz Age and helped define the wild exuberance of the “Roaring Twenties.” 

Up to this point in time, composers would write a melody, which would then be orchestrated. Bands would always play the tune the same way – precisely as it was written out. But some players started taking it upon themselves to improvise on the melody – to “jazz” it up; not as a solo, but still within the ensemble. This became the definitive Dixieland sound: one instrument (usually the trumpet) playing the melody or a recognizable variation of it, while the other instruments of the "front line" improvise around that. Although instrumentation and size of the “front line” is flexible, it usually consists of trombone and clarinet, with a "rhythm section" of guitar or banjo, string bass or tuba, piano or accordion, and drums.

Louis Armstrong and his All-Stars became the band most identified with Dixieland, popularizing such well-known standards as Basin Street Blues and of course, When the Saints Go Marching In. And ever since its inception, it has been synonymous with Mardi Gras. Reveling without it would be like Christmas without carols!