Styles & Forms | Chicago Jazz

Jazz was the by-product of cultures coming together in New Orleans at the turn of the twentieth century. The music, along with some of its greatest practitioners, moved north by 1917. That year Storyville, the red-light district, was forced to close and jazz musicians headed north to Chicago, where jazz matured into a fine art form.

Chicago held the promise of a new life for the Southern black population, which migrated from the fields of the cotton industry to the blast furnaces and factories of big Northern cities. A centrally located, active transportation hub that provided easy access to Los Angeles and New York, Chicago was an attractive destination for working jazz musicians, many of whom worked in the gangster-owned speakeasies created by the Volstead Act of 1919 (outlawing the manufacture and sale of alcohol in the United States).

Blow The Way You Feel

While the North Side of Chicago had its famous clubs – the Green Mill, College Inn, Blackhawk, Kelly’s Stables and Friar’s Inn – the hottest jazz bands of the early 1920s could, primarily, be found on a nine-block stretch of State Street on the city’s predominantly black South Side, known as ‘The Stroll’. There, jazz lovers could choose between the Pekin Inn, Dreamland Café, Plantation Café, Elite Café and Sunset Café. Among the patrons who frequented The Stroll was a group of jazz-hungry, white teenage students who attended Chicago’s Austin High School – cornetist Jimmy McPartland, tenor saxophonist Bud Freeman, drummer Dave Tough and reedman Frank Teschemacher. Along with developing young players, such as guitarist Eddie Condon, pianist Joe Sullivan, cornetists Muggsy Spanier and Leon ‘Bix’ Beiderbecke, clarinetist Benny Goodman and drummer Gene Krupa, this next generation of jazz musicians originated the ‘Chicago jazz style’, building on the rhythmic innovations of the New Orleans pioneers while injecting a frenetic intensity and reckless spirit that reflected the city itself.

Hypnosis At First Hearing

The Austin Gang and other architects of the extrovert Chicago style were fans of The Original Dixieland Jass Band, but they quickly fell under the spell of another white group from New Orleans, playing in Chicago in 1920 under the name of The New Orleans Rhythm Kings. They made their recording debut in 1922, and a year later teamed up in the studio with Jelly Roll Morton for one of the first-ever integrated sessions. Another focal point for the Austin Gang’s adulation, and a great source of inspiration for aspiring cornetists McPartland and Beiderbecke, was the dazzling cornet virtuoso Louis Armstrong, who came to town in 1922 to join his mentor King Oliver in the ranks of The Creole Jazz Band. (The band also included the great New Orleans clarinettist Johnny Dodds and his younger brother Warren ‘Baby’ Dodds on drums, along with Honoré Dutrey on trombone, Bill Johnson on bass and banjo, and Lil Hardin on piano.) With its two-cornet frontline, underscored by an intuitive...

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Source: The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Music, general editor Paul Du Noyer


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