First Recordings


Although the Original Dixieland Jass Band’s “Livery Stable Blues,” a 1917 effort by a white quintet, is credited with being the first jazz recording, it’s also clear that the black musicians of New Orleans had for years been playing far more authentic, original jazz that was undocumented, largely because there were no recording facilities in the Crescent City.

The reputedly brilliant New Orleans cornetist Buddy Bolden never recorded and the Memphis music of W.C. Handy was published and performed long before the public heard of jazz or the ODJB recording. Cornetist Freddie Keppard and the Original Creoles were to have recorded several months prior to the ODJB, but reportedly turned down the invitation for fear that recordings would make their music easier to copy.

Given credit as the first black musician to make a jazz recording was trombonist Kid Ory, who had to travel from New Orleans to California to pursue musical opportunities. That 1922 recording, not widely circulated, was followed in 1923 by studio efforts from cornetist King Oliver, soprano saxophonist/clarinetist Sidney Bechet, pianist Jelly Roll Morton and singer Bessie Smith. The early Oliver recordings included Louis Armstrong as the band’s second cornet. Like nearly all of the famed New Orleans bands, Oliver went to Chicago for recording and found fame.

Armstrong, the acknowledged jazz fountainhead, recorded with Clarence Williams, Fletcher Henderson, Bessie Smith and others before making his leader debut in late 1925.

Jazz more or less reached big-time popularity in 1924 with the early recordings of Paul Whiteman.

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December 2017
Wynton Marsalis
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