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Dixieland is an umbrella to indicate musical styles of the earliest New Orleans and Chicago jazz musicians, recorded from 1917 to 1923, as well as its developments and revivals, beginning during the late 1930s. It refers to collectively improvised small band music. Its materials are rags, blues, one-steps, two-steps, marches, and pop tunes. Simultaneous counterlines are supplied by trumpet, clarinet, and trombone, accompanied by combinations of piano, guitar, banjo, tuba, bass, and drums. Major exponents include; Joe King Oliver, Jelly Roll Morton, Louis Armstrong, Sidney Bechet, Kid Ory, Johnny Dodds, Paul Mares, Nick LaRocca, Bix Beiderbecke, and Jimmy McPartland.

Major developers and revivalists include Bob Crosby's Bobcats, Lu Watters Yerba Buena Jazz Band, Bob Scobey, Bob Wilber, Yank Lawson and Bob Haggart (World's Greatest Jazz Band), The Dukes of Dixieland, Turk Murphy, and James Dapogny's Chicago Jazz Band. Aficionados make distinctions between various streams of traditional New Orleans jazz, the earliest Chicago jazz, and the assorted variations that are performed by revivalist bands. Some historians reserve Dixieland for white groups playing traditional jazz. Some restrict it mostly to disciples of the earliest white Chicagoans.
Joe 'King' Oliver
Jelly Roll Morton


Early New Orleans Dixieland (1900-1917)

As rural music moved to the city and adopted new instruments, the polyphony typical of the African- American singing tradition found an expression in the style now identified as Early New Orleans Dixieland. It differed from the later Chicago Dixieland and the even later revival Dixieland in its instrumentation and rhythmic feeling. These first groups used a front line of a cornet, clarinet, and a trombone. The rhythm section was made up of banjo, tuba, and drums. The origin of these instruments was in the marching bands reflected the need to move while playing.

The rhythm section accompanied the front line on a flat-four fashion, a rhythmic feeling that placed equal emphasis on all four beats of the measure. This equal or flat metric feel was later replaced by Chicago groups with a measure that emphasized the second and fourth beats and was referred to as 2/4 time (accents on 2 and 4).

Chicago Style Dixieland (The 1920s)

The merger of New Orleans Style Dixieland with ragtime style led to what is now referred to as Chicago Style Dixieland. This style exemplified the Roaring Twenties, or to quote F. Scott Fitzgerald, "the jazz age." Chicago was exciting at this time and so was its music. In 1917 with the closing of Storyville in New Orleans, Chicago became the center of jazz activity. Many workers from the south migrated to Chicago and brought with them a continued interest in the type of entertainment they had left behind.

The New Orleans instrumentation was augmented to include a saxophone and piano and the influence of ragtime added 2/4 backbeat to the rhythmic feeling. The banjo moved to guitar and the tuba moved to string bass. The tempos were generally less relaxed than New Orleans Dixieland, and the music seemed more aggressively performed.

There was jazz activity in other cities as well, mainly New York and Kansas City. These centers would later claim center stage as they moved toward a definition of swing, but during the 1920’s Chicago remained the hub of jazz.

During this time in Chicago, Louis Armstrong’s influence as a soloist was influencing the fabric of otherwise democratic ensemble. His individual style started the trend toward the soloist being the primary spokesperson for jazz.




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