Jive at Five: The Stylemakers of Jazz (1920s-1940s)
Jazz is still a very young form of musical expression, well under one hundred years old —and uniquely American. In the 1890s black musicians began playing ragtime and the early forms of blues that had passed down from slavery days as field hollers and work songs. They played them in small combinations, usually cornet (later trumpet), trombone, clarinet, banjo or guitar, tuba, and drums. Pianists did not become part of these ensembles until the years approaching World War I; they worked as soloists, performing ragtime, popular tunes of the day, and their own compositions, blending the many different types of music played in New Orleans in the late nineteenth century.

Jazz probably developed in New Orleans because of the mix of Spanish, French, black, and other peoples who had settled there—each bringing its own musical heritage. These melded over roughly thirty years during the second half of the nineteenth century into a wholly new form of musical expression, at first called “jass” and later, just before World War I, “jazz,” a Creole word probably of African origin.

Most of jazz's early practitioners had very little formal education of any kind. They developed instrumental techniques on their own, often through unorthodox methods, and improvised as they went along. In early bands the trumpet stated the melody simply, the clarinet and trombone embellished and played countermelody above and beneath, and all were supported by guitar or banjo, tuba, and drums playing together. The music developed in bands that played for parades and funerals. Jazz at funerals was a custom unique to New Orleans. The black bands played straight going to the cemetery and during the service, but once the ceremony was over and they were heading back to town, they played with joyous abandon.

There were few opportunities for these players to earn a full-time living playing music, and most of them—save the pianists who played in brothels in Storyville, the red-light district—worked at other jobs, playing music two or three nights a week or more often if special occasions arose.

By the 1890s every type of performer— from singers, dancers, acrobats, and jugglers to animal acts—was needed to fill vaudeville bills in theaters from coast to coast. Each theater maintained a pit orchestra—often no more than three pieces in the early years—to play for these acts. Because of segregation, black audiences had their own theaters. One well-known chain, the Theatre Owners' Booking Association, provided an outlet for a whole era of entertainers and musicians, who often toured the entire country. Another area of employment was the medicine shows that operated until roughly 1930. They, too, featured small bands that played on the wagons to attract customers for the medicine men's patent cure-alls.

During World War I ballroom dancing became popular, and the growth of nightclubs and ballrooms gave thousands of black and white musicians full-time work at their professions. But World War I also saw the navy's closing of Storyville as an emergency war measure, which eliminated hundreds of part-time jobs for musicians. The best of these players went to Chicago, where the boom of wartime industry opened up a job market in the steel mills and other industrial plants.

Various Artists

Jive at Five: The Stylemakers of Jazz (1920s-1940s)

Track Listing

Album/track(s) not available for download, but you may listen to clips below.
Every Tub
Melancholy
What Is This Thing Called Love?
What Is This Thing Called Love? -
Pardon Me, Pretty Baby
I Know That You Know
I've Found a New Baby
Body and Soul
I Double Dare You
Passion Flower
Three Blind Mice
Love Me Tonight
Bugle Call Rag
Wolverine Blues
Slippin' Around
Pitter Panther Patter
Jive At Five

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