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1 April 2017


It's time to celebrate the 100th anniversary of a jazz recording by the all-but-forgotten New Iberia Jass Band.

This Louisiana band - based about 100 miles west of New Orleans - flourished between 1905 and 1918. To judge from the only surviving recording, it seems to have comprised six musicians, to have played some vigorous music and to have been technically very competent.

The identities of only two of the players are known. The leader (as was often the case in those days) was a violin player, Jack Ransonet (1884 - 1942).
The cornet player was Tom Oliver (presumably no relation to Joe 'King' Oliver). It is believed that he had an influence on Buddie Petit. One researcher has speculated that Frankie Dusen may have occasionally played in The New Iberia Jass Band. Could it be his powerful trombone that we hear taking the 'breaks' on the recording?

On Saturday 7 April, 1917, the band travelled to Lafayette and recorded four numbers for a visiting phonographic engineer. The tunes were:
Old Abitan
Kangaroo Hop
La Kontan Boulanje
Aura Lee
But three seem to have disappeared for ever. The only surviving recording is 'La Kontan Boulanje'. It is a fast, energetic piece which to my ear begins with two sparkling themes in Bb, after which there is a theme in Eb. Then all three themes are played right through again - exactly as before - and finally there is a return to the first theme to finish. There is driving ensemble playing throughout, with two-bar breaks taken by trombone and saxophone. What joy to hear this music coming to us from almost exactly 100 years ago! Listen to it here: