Jazz - Then and Now (Chapter 7, page 2 of 6)


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Chapter 7

Another reason for the popularity of jazz in New Orleans, was the influx of people of different cultural backgrounds. There were African Negroes, American Negroes, Creoles, French, Spanish, Italian, Irish, German, Portuguese and Cubans, each displaying his own musical interpretations.

New Orleans was also famous for its band competitions. The main objective was to see which band could play the loudest, the longest, and produce the most brilliant intonations. Some musicians were trained to read music, but others had to play by ear and rely on improvisation. Most musicians worked full time as carpenters, bricklayers, barbers, tailors, cigar makers, truck drivers and other kinds of work---anything to earn a weekly paycheck. Music was a means of making extra money, although they were willing to play for nothing as a labor of love.

Band competitions, including a "carving contest"---in which one musician played against another on the same instrument. The most outstanding carving contest were between "Buddy" Bolden, considered to be the greatest cornet player at that time, and his challengers. Cornet and trumpet players challenged Bolden and always lost. During his lifetime, Bolden never lost a competition.

Charles "Buddy" Bolden (1868-1931) was born in the black uptown section of New Orleans. During his childhood, he heard many brass bands performing in parades and funeral processions. He watched Negroes perform dances brought with them from West Africa at a section in New Orleans called "Congo Square."

By the time he was eight years old, Bolden was playing the cornet as well as most professional musicians. He surrounded himself with all forms of music, and even sang in church.

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