Pioneers Of Jazz The Story Of The Creole Band
Oxford University Press, 2005
Praised by Jelly Roll Morton, Sidney Bechet, and Clarence Williams, the Creole Band was the first group to bring authentic jazz out of New Orleans to audiences around America. Thanks to the pioneering tours of the Creole Band, jazz began to be heard nationwide on the vaudeville stages of America from 1914 to 1918. This seven-piece band toured the country, exporting for the first time the authentic jazz strains that had developed in New Orleans at the start of the twentieth century. The band's vaudeville routines were deeply rooted in the minstrel shows and plantation clichés of American show business in the late nineteenth century, but its instrumental music was central to its performance and distinctive and entrancing to audiences and reviewers.
Pioneers of Jazz reveals at long last the link between New Orleans music and the jazz phenomenon that swept America in the 1920s. While they were the first important band from New Orleans to attain national exposure, the Creole Band has not heretofore been recognized for its unique importance. But in his monumental, careful research, jazz scholar Lawrence Gushee firmly establishes the group's central role in jazz history.
Gushee traces the troupe's activities and quotes the reaction of critics
and audiences to their first encounters with this new musical phenomenon.
While audiences, who often expected (and got) a kind of minstrel show,
the group transcended expectations, taking pride in their music and facing
down the theatrical establishment with courage. Although they played the
West Coast and Canada, most of their touring centred in the heartland.
Most towns of any size in Iowa, Illinois, and Indiana heard them, often
repeatedly, and virtually all of their appearances were received with
wild enthusiasm. After four years of nearly incessant travelling, members
of the band founded or joined groups in Chicago's South Side cabaret scene,
igniting the craze for hot New Orleans music for which the Windy City
was renowned in the early 1920s. The best-known musicians in the group
- cornettist Freddie Keppard, clarinettist Jimmy Noone, and string bassist
Bill Johnson - would play a significant role in jazz, becoming famous
for recordings in the 1920s. Gushee effectively brings to life each member
of the band and discusses their individual contributions, while analysing
the music with precision, skilful and exacting documentation. Including
many never-before published photos and interviews, the book also provides
an invaluable and colourful look at show business, especially vaudeville,
in the 1910s.
LAWRENCE GUSHEE is Professor Emeritus of Music at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He has devoted himself t o research on music in the Middle Ages, as well as jazz and related music. A clarinettist, he performs ragtime and jazz of the period 1900-1920.
"Gushee is the most tenacious of musical sleuths as he traces the earliest days of jazz. Following one lead to another, he uncovers documents that flesh out what had previously been the stuff of musty and misty legend. His methods, discoveries and analyses are eye-opening lessons that leave us breathless and panting for more." - EDWARD A. BERLIN, author of King of Ragtime: Scott Joplin and His Era