Jazz is a byproduct of the unique cultural environment found in New Orleans at the late 19th and early 20th centuries, with the vestiges of French and Spanish colonial roots, the resilience of African influences after the slavery era and the influx of immigrants from Europe. Another element driving this musical heritage toward the creation of jazz gets down to race and the distinctive black experience in New Orleans. Though the city was a leading slave port and segregation persisted long after slavery was abolished, people of different races mixed much more freely in New Orleans than other American cities. For instance, slaves were allowed to congregate, make music and dance in Congo Square, an area that is today part of Louis Armstrong Park on North Rampart Street on the edge of the French Quarter. In addition, New Orleans was home to the largest population of free people of color during the slavery era. Sampling from and experimenting with all of these diverse influences, New Orleans musicians added the touchstone ingredient of improvisation to produce something completely new. Historians generally point to Buddy Bolden, a cornet player, as the first jazz musician. Beginning around , he assembled a band that was popular at New Orleans street parades and dances and included musicians who would later become prominent figures in early jazz development, including Sidney Bechet and Bunk Johnson.
How was jazz created?
Featuring the Best of the Big Easy.
How New Orleans became the breeding ground for a uniquely American art form. Those are just a few of the living legends who keep jazz going strong in the place it all began, New Orleans, Louisiana. Today, brass bands still invigorate the streets during Mardi Gras, French Quarter jazz clubs deliver the best in live improvisation on any given night, and the Jazz and Heritage Festival brings together the past, present and future of American jazz every spring, proving year after year that New Orleans is still the jazz mecca of the world. According to the Ken Burns documentary Jazz , they would sing, play music and dance, swaying back and forth to the songs of their home countries.
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New Orleans Not Your Typical American City
New Orleans would never have produced its most famous musical expression had it not been for a confluence of seemingly unrelated events. Difficult economic times and a growing interest in popular music would fashion a springboard for an assortment of musical styles to coalesce into what would become a uniquely American kind of music. And in the process, jazz would expand beyond New Orleans.
Jazz is born, dies, and is reborn every day. Of course jazz wasn't born on a particular day — it was created over time. It was a meeting, a mixing, a melding of many cultures, many emotions and many skills. Others say jazz was born in , the year Buddy Bolden started his first band. He said, "It is evidently known, beyond contradiction, that New Orleans is the Cradle of Jazz, and I myself happen to be the inventor in the year The most likely explanation is some New Orleans cats took the music they heard at home, in church and in barrooms, put it all together, and created a new sound. A wild, jubilant music.