Roots of JAZZ MUS103: Survey of Music History II Dr. Kathleen Bondurant, Ph.D.
History of Jazz Time Line
The Roots of Jazz Before 1850
Though jazz and classic blues are really early twentieth-century black music innovations, certain characteristics found in jazz do have their roots in much earlier musical traditions.
Call and response, improvisation, the appropriation and reinvention of elements from Western art music: black music in the twentieth-century has never held a monopoly on these musical practices. For instance, the era American historians call "antebellum" (roughly 1815-1861) holds much of interest to researchers looking for the deep roots of jazz.
There was one condition that had to be met for a black tradition unique to North America to develop. There had to be a Creole population in place, i.e. a population of blacks born not in Africa but in America.
Historically, and for various complicated reasons, slaves in the United States began reproducing their numbers after the closing of the African slave trade in 1808. The Creole birthrate actually climbed in the United States, as opposed to most Latin and Caribbean American colonies.
After 1808, blacks in North America began remembering--as well as forgetting--African musical traditions, reinventing them to fit their needs in an entirely different American context.
T he banjo was the premier instrument of the minstrel stage. Nearly all the music written for performance there was composed to be played on this instrument, and references to the banjo are sown throughout the lyrics of these songs. The banjo of the pre-Civil War era is different from modern instruments because the power and inventiveness of industrial America had not yet been applied to it. It was tuned lower and played in the way of enslaved musicians. Though it was successfully used in the business of popular music, the antebellum banjo is closer to its African American folk origins than the modern instrument.
Jazz Negro Playing Banjo You are viewing an historic caricature of a negro playing a banjo. The image shows a Black man seated on a stool playing banjo, with jug and broken glass behind him. The lithograph was created in 1875. http://www.sonofthesouth.net/slavery/african-american-art/negro-playing-banjo.jpg&imgre
Thomas Jefferson once said this about his plantation slaves: "The instrument proper to them is the “Banjer”, which they brought hither from Africa." Such an instrument was reported by European travelers to exist in Africa as early as 1621 and in Martinique (West Indies) by 1678. A man named Reverend Cradock of Maryland made the first report of a “banjer” in North America (1744). In subsequent years the instrument's presence in Maryland and Virginia was noted a few more times. It wasn't long until the banjo had migrated to the North Carolina Piedmont (1780s). It appears in a South Carolina painting before 1800. Around then the “banjar” was also in the hands of black musicians in Knoxville, Tennessee (1798) and Wheeling, in present day West Virginia (1806).
Depending on the region and the demands of the musical audience--whether it was fellow slaves or plantation-owners--the music varied from place to place. Perhaps the difference between 'downtown' and 'uptown' black style even began during this era.
On the one hand, there were the plaintive call-and-response hollers and 'sperchils' to be found in the tobacco fields, cotton plantations, and sugar marshes that stretched from Virginia to Texas. These instances of black music-making were largely produced by and for a black slave community that understood the significance of the music in ways that whites never could.
Scholars have often noted the hidden meaning of field hollers and the significance of the drums to communication between various slave groups. The drums were even banned in the British Caribbean. Meanwhile, 'uptown', there were the slaves that played for planter functions.
Here we see an African American worker on a 19th-century Georgia rice plantation creating diversion with his homemade fiddle. The scene is depicted by William Allen Rogers (1854-1931), a staff artist for Harper’s in the days before halftone photography. His illustrations accompany a lengthy travelogue describing the Sea Islands of Georgia and South Carolina, penned by Samuel Greene W. Benjamin (1837-1914), who uses a patronizing tone so typical of the era: “ The rice lands are very unhealthy, and no white man should spend the night in their vicinity after the crop begins to come up. They are infested with the most poisonous malaria. The negroes build their rude shanties on the dikes and hummocks in the midst of the rice swamps, and dance and play on their one-stringed fiddles with infantile security. No doubt they endure malarial exposure and a blazing torrent of sunlight far better than the whites, but even they not rarely succumb.” www.oldhatrecords.com/images/MusicHathCharms.jpg
Solomon Northup, abducted from New York and sold into slavery in the New Orleans area, would play his violin with other slaves to entertain plantation masters and mistresses at quadrilles and fancy balls. Others slave musicians would play at the so-called quadroon balls, New Orleans galas where light-skinned slave women were auctioned off to the highest bidder.
There were striking similarities between these balls and the Storyville milieu where Jelly Roll Morton learned to entertain prostitutes and their patrons.
Despite the fact that the vast majority of blacks lived in the South, there were some freemen and women in the North. Indeed, they even had their own autonomous cultural venues, like the African Grove Theater in New York City.
Pianist and composer Jelly Roll Morton (Ferdinand La Menthe) is born in Gulfport, LA. on September 20, 1885. Jelly Roll learns harmonica at age 5 and is proficient on guitar at age 7.
An important agent in spreading black musical style to the North during the first half of the nineteenth century was minstrelsy. The minstrel show was born in the same year as William Lloyd Garrison's Liberator, 1831, when Dan Rice-for the first time in American history-"blacked up" for a variety show in New York's Bowery district. The show became increasingly formalized after the Christie Minstrels devised a much-imitated structure for it in the 1840s and 50s.
Two components of minstrelsy were the Stephen Foster songs and a generic instrumentation including banjoes, "bones" (jawbones scraped together for percussive effect), fiddle, and tambourine.
Though the minstrel show declined in popularity during the 1860s, blackface has retained a unique place in American culture. When the Fisk Jubilee Singers--a black gospel group from the first all-black university--showed up in New York in the 1860s to try and raise money for their troubled institution, some audience members were disappointed, expecting them to sing a bit more like the minstrels did.
Indeed, blacks entering show business from the 1860s on, often had no choice but to enter it as minstrels. As it turned out, white audiences after the Civil War preferred black minstrels--or blacks in blackface--considering them the "genuine" article.
Despite the more troubling aspects of minstrelsy, it was another place where European and African traditions met and mingled in a heady, racist, and decidedly American stew. It is also the place where many jazz performers including, for one, Bessie Smith got their start..
Jazz http://history.sandiego.edu/gen/snd/images/foster02.jpg 1849 – Stephen Foster signed a contract with the New York music publisher, Firth, Pond & Company, determined to write music as a career and to earn a steady income from royalties of 2 cents each sale. He wrote Ethiopian minstrel songs for the stage but with "Old Uncle Ned" in Dec. 1848 and "Nelly Was a Lady" in 1849 he began to write of slaves as human beings capable of love and nostalgia, the first white composer to portray blacks as loving husbands and wives. His friend Charles Shiras was a leader of the abolitionist movement in Pittsburgh.
Some form of music shaped by the black experience in the United States had appeared in both the South and the North by the time of the Civil War.
Likewise, New Orleans--being the center of the American slave trade--had already taken on special significance in the history of black music-making in America. The most interesting reference to antebellum black music is found in the abolitionist Benjamin Lundy's diary. Near the New Orleans slave market, the hub of the interstate slave exchange, blacks continued to meet on or around Congo square, under the supervision of their masters to sell their wares, exchange information, and dance to drums that Lundy sketched in his diary and claimed were straight from Africa.
Another white observer, Louis Moreau Gottschalk--Americas foremost composer, inter-American cultural diplomat, and piano virtuoso of the 1850s-claimed that he grew up in the shadow of Congo Square. In what is probably his most famous composition, Gottschalk sketches for us an interpretation of another African instrument retained and reinvented by blacks in America. He called this composition "The Banjo."
Jazz Born in New Orleans in 1829, Louis Moreau Gottschalk grew up in a neighborhood where he was exposed to the Creole music with its and the melodious folk songs that would later become a characteristic ingredient of much of his own music. African-Caribbean rhythms www.frenchcreoles.com/.../Gottschalk_image.jpg