Styles & Forms | Dixieland Revival | Jazz

By the end of the 1930s, the Swing era was in full force, ushered in by big bands led by Benny Goodman, Chick Webb, the Dorsey brothers (Jimmy and Tommy) and Glenn Miller. New Orleans jazz and its stylistic off-shoot, Dixieland, had both largely faded from popularity.

New Orleans pioneers King Oliver and Jelly Roll Morton drifted into obscurity. Original Dixieland Jass Band leader Nick LaRocca left music altogether and became a building contractor, while New Orleans trombonist-bandleader Edward ‘Kid’ Ory (once a mentor to the teenage Louis Armstrong in New Orleans and later appearing on Armstrong’s revolutionary Hot Five and Hot Seven sessions from 1925–28) had gone into chicken farming.

Goodtime Music From The Past

By 1939, Dixieland was making a solid comeback. A generation of players, including clarinettists Pee Wee Russell and Joe Marsala, saxophonist Bud Freeman, trumpeters Bobby Hackett, Muggsy Spanier, Max Kaminsky and Wild Bill Davison, guitarist Eddie Condon and others, began reinvestigating the extroverted collective improvisational style of early New Orleans music and Chicago-style jazz of the 1920s. Part of the impetus for the revival of Dixieland came in 1938, when New York record store owner Milt Gabler launched his Commodore Records label to document these prominent Dixieland revivalists. Responding to the renewed interest in old-style New Orleans music, Jelly Roll Morton (who had made only one appearance on record between 1931–37 on a little-known Wingy Manone date) led sessions in 1939 with such notable New Orleans sidemen as Sidney Bechet, Red Allen and Albert Nicholas. Ironically, Morton’s music became popular again after his death in July 1941, just as the Dixieland revival really started to take off.

Another figure who spearheaded the Dixieland revival was Bob Crosby. A former singer in The Dorsey Brothers’ band from 1934–35, Crosby led a band through the late 1930s and early 1940s that revived such New Orleans evergreens as ‘South Rampart Street Parade’, ‘Sugarfoot Strut’ and ‘Muskrat Ramble’ while also interpreting popular hits of the day in a Dixieland two-beat style. Following the example of Tommy Dorsey (who in 1935 formed his Dixieland-flavoured Clambake Seven as a featured smaller group within his big band), Crosby formed The Bobcats from the ranks of his own big band. This smaller Dixieland ensemble featured several New Orleans-born musicians performing faithful renditions of classic fare by Louis Armstrong, King Oliver and The Original Dixieland Jass Band.

Spirited Ensemble Music

By the early to mid-1940s, New Orleans jazz pioneers like Kid Ory, Bunk Johnson and George Lewis were being persuaded to return to recording studios and concert halls, which touched off renewed interest in the original New Orleans-style jazz and placed more emphasis on interactive ensemble playing and less on extroverted soloing, as was the style of the Dixielanders. Their pure, spirited playing directly inspired the British cornetist and trumpeter Ken Colyer, who would spearhead a wave of traditional New Orleans jazz throughout England in...

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


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