25 April 2013


Historians have given many reasons why jazz developed in New Orleans when it did. There were so many influences and so many sources of inspiration.
But one reason that is often overlooked is that there were so many tunes available at the time that lent themselves conveniently to interpretation in a 'jazzy' way. I sometimes wonder whether early jazz would have developed without the abundance of good suitable popular music at the time.

It was the age when you made your own musical entertainment in the home or you went to the music halls to find it. The early jazz bands had hundreds of tunes to choose from. Most have been long forgotten but just think about this: you could still today make up a good traditional jazz programme entirely from well-known tunes written more than 100 years ago.
Already by the early 1900s, such songs as these were available to the bands:
Beautiful Dreamer
After the Ball
You've Been a Good Old Wagon But You Done Broke Down
A Hot Time in Old Town
Way Down Upon the Swannee River
Smoky Mokes
Whistling Rufus
At a Georgia Camp Meeting
Maple Leaf Rag
My Wild Irish Rose
You Tell Me Your Dream
Creole Belle
High Society
Bill Bailey
The Entertainer
In the Sweet Bye and Bye
Oh Didn't He Ramble
Under the Bamboo Tree
Ida, Sweet as Apple Cider
Meet Me In St. Louis

And in the next ten years these were among the hundreds composed:

My Gal Sal

In the Shade of the Old Apple Tree

Down in Jungle Town
Dusty Rag
Shine on Harvest Moon
Ace in the Hole
Meet Me Tonight in Dreamland
Put on Your Old Grey Bonnet
That's a Plenty
I Wonder Who's Kissing Her Now
Down By the Old Mill Stream
Some of these days
Silver Bell
Washington and Lee Swing
I Want a Girl Just like the Girl
Alexander's Ragtime Band
Oh You Beautiful Doll
Ballin' The Jack
Curse of an Aching Heart
You Made Me Love You
Down Among The Sheltering Palms
If I Had You
St Louis Blues
Twelfth Street Rag
When You Wore a Tulip
Yellow Dog Blues
Blame it on the Blues
Georgia Grind
Hesitating Blues
Paper Doll
When I Leave the World Behind

No wonder those early players - Buddy Bolden, Kid Ory and the like - could put on an entertaining programme for dancers. Such a thing would not be possible today. It's hard to think of much pop music of the last thirty years that lends itself readily to traditional jazz treatment.