As the quarter gets underway again here at UCLA, I have added a new wrinkle to my academic grind: being a Teaching Associate for the Department of Ethnomusicology’s undergraduate survey course, Jazz in American Culture.
In fact, this is the first time that I have actually sat in on an old-school undergraduate jazz history survey, so I am learning a lot about how certain stories about jazz are told and retold. The real fun, though, lies in being able to supplement the text with some of my own perspectives during the two discussion sections that I lead on Fridays. As an experiment, I have been posting links and outlines on the course website, which are also viewable to the public. Tomorrow, the topic is early jazz in Los Angeles:
Your textbook talks about the popular myth that jazz “went up the river” from New Orleans to Chicago, but doesn’t mention that some of the first recorded jazz was made right here in LA!
Los Angeles, in fact, was the first place where the word “jazz” was used in print — in April 1912, not 1913 in San Francisco as your book states. You can read more about the origins of the word jazz at this blog written by one of my former professors, the great jazz scholar Lewis Porter:
There, you can see a copy of the first newspaper article that printed the word, in our very own LA Times — and not describing music, but baseball!
But it’s not just the word that has important early history here — one of the first jazz recordings, made in 1921 by the New Orleans-born-and-raised trombonist Kid Ory, was pressed here by an independent jazz label that had just started up in Santa Monica. Read more about that here:
Here are the two sides that were recorded on that day. The first is “Ory’s Creole Trombone,” which showcased the trombonist playing a series of glissandi, or slides from one note to another:
The “B” side, recorded on the other side of the disc, is called “Society Blues”, which follows the 12-measure blues form that we have discussed in class. Try and listen to this and count through the 12 measures:
I’ll try to repost my section material here for the rest of the quarter. In the meantime, wish me luck as I get the hang of this new gig . . .