In what might be dubbed the Big Bang Theory of Jazz, the world began in April 1923 when King Oliver's Creole Jazz Band with Louis Armstrong in tow stepped into the Gennett Recording studio and cut nine sides. The Oliver band had been knocking 'em dead for several months in nearby Chicago at the cavernous South Side dance hall Lincoln Gardens, and these recordings would become the gold standard for early New Orleans jazz. Even more significant for the future of jazz, although Louis would play his first recorded solos on these sessions, he would soon outgrow the limited space for him in such ensembles of collective improvisation. He just wanted to cut loose and blow, and as people heard him and his fame grew, he would evolve into the first star of jazz and almost single-handedly transform jazz from a dance music to that of improvising solo performance.
You can witness what Louis had become by 1933 in the first Louis on film – that year he was captured in a live performance on a Copenhagen concert stage – no Hollywood gimmicks or studio post-dubbing of music. And you can explore that transformation in Amoeba's new Vinyl Vault. In honor of, and as tribute to Louis, we have added digital files of virtually all of Louis' early records from 1923 to 1928, remastered directly from the cleanest original 78s available. So have fun exploring the Louis Armstrong archive in Amoeba's Vinyl Vault.
King Oliver's Creole Jazz Band (April 1923 to December 1923)
When I first started collecting 78s, I avoided early “pre-electric” discs because the sound was a bit distant and thin compared to the electric process, which was still a few years off in the future, and I passed up many of these 1923 King Oliver Gennetts. Now I look back on my screwed up priorities and feel it was akin to throwing away a hundred dollar bill because it was too wrinkled. Musically, if not sonically, these early King Oliver Gennetts still hold up as some of the most exuberant discs ever recorded. Every player attacked the thread of melody at once, each adding fuel to the fire without getting in each other's way – never mind that you're not a jazz fan, and don't confuse these recordings with later derivative white revival “dixieland” (or “dorksieland” as some of my friends call it). Early jazz was first and foremost dance music, the rock 'n' roll of its day, and New Orleans style was loud, brash, rock solid dance music, activating hormones and posing the same kind of threat to middle America that rock 'n' roll would in the 1950s. Check out this1925 headline from a Cincinnati newspaper zeroing in on the insidious influence of jazz.
INTRO TO KRAZY KAT
On 15 October, Google paid tribute to Winsor McCay's comic, Little Nemo in Slumberland, which debuted on that date in 1905. It was a beautiful tribute to one of the greatest comic strips of all time. Just two days earlier, though not celebrated by Google (I don't expect them to honor something every day), was the anniversary of another of my all-time favorite strips, Krazy Kat, which debuted in 1913 -- although some of the characters dated were introduced in George Herriman's earlier strip, The Dingbat Family.
Krazy Kat wasn't widley popular although it was hugely influential and afforded serious criticism as early as 1924, when Gilbert Seldes's article "The Krazy Kat Who Walks by Himself," was published. Fan and poet E. E. Cummings wrote the introduction to the first book collection of the strip.The Comics Journal placed it first on its list of the greatest comics of the 20th century. Charlie Chaplin, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein, H. L. Mencken, Jack Kerouac, Pablo Picasso, and Willem de Koonig were also avowed fans of the groundbreaking series.
The Tipitina's Foundation was founded before Hurricane Katrina (in 2003), and is committed to preserving Louisiana culture and musical heritage. Of course when the storm ravaged most of the city, the need for resources for displaced musicians and a community place became even more crucial. The Tipitina's Foundation continued to serve unemployed musicians, as well as raise money to replace instruments, and keep the spirit of Louisiana culture alive and well and in the hearts of all New Orleans residents.
In 2005, Amoeba began hosting regular charity auctions to raise money for Gulf relief efforts post-Katrina. In addition to the money raised during the auctions themselves, Amoeba has matched the winning bids dollar for dollar, doubling the money for the Tipitina's Foundation. We also share our love for New Orleans with a Mardi Gras party each year, complete with beads and a parade.
Music is an integral part of New Orleans culture and a huge part of the spirit of one of the most beloved American cities. Keeping that spirit alive and thriving is a huge focus of the Tipitina's Foundation and we are humbled and thankful to be a part of that community.
Today happens to be International Jazz Day, and one of the richest American cultural exports is jazz music. American jazz and blues are the foundation of our cultural heritage---so we celebrate that today.