Early Jazz: New Orleans Melting Pot
Updated: May 7, 2021
New Orleans, Louisiana, is and always was a city of great diversity - a melting pot of many different people and cultures. Down there they call it gumbo. New Orleans is a pot where everything is thrown in and mixes together to create something new.
Unique in American history, New Orleans was founded by the French and under Spanish rule for some time. It became part of the United States when Napoleon sold the land to Thomas Jefferson as part of the Louisiana Purchase in 1803. With French colonization and under Spanish rule, the slaves were permitted to gather on Sundays for a period of time in a specific place in the city called Congo Square which led to a fusion of ideas and helped to create a new style of music and dance.
The music they played combined the rhythms of African music, the chants of Native Americans, and the structure of French and Spanish songs and evolved into a new art form eventually called jazz. The exciting thing about jazz is that it could only have been created at that particular time in that particular place. No other place in the world had the same influences and freedoms and cultural exchange.
In the early part of the twentieth century, New Orleans was the largest and most diverse port city in the South. As Jazz grew and blossomed, many of the famous early Jazz legends, such as Buddy Bolden, Jelly Roll Morton, and the Original Dixieland Jazz Band, pioneered the style of ragtime and established this new style of music. After the first recordings of Jazz in 1917, the music developed rapidly and spread widely into the Jazz Age.