New Orleans
and the
Birth of Jazz
Except where otherwise noted, the images on these
Jazz pages are from The Library of Congress,
"A Pictorial History of Jazz," the collection of
William Wynn, my own photo collection.
"Every time I close my eyes, when I'm blowing that trumpet of mine,
I look right into the heart of old New Orleans."  -- Louis Armstrong
"Music is at the bare essence of New Orleans, you can take
everything else away, and the music will always return."
-- Spike Perkins
Just a shadow in the streetlight,
Just a shadow on the wall,
Just a silhouette in the darkness,
I've been waiting for the call.
I'm walking the night beat,
The rhythm of the street,
Moving to the heartbeat of the city.

-- Robbie Robertson, "Night Parade" from the CD "Storyville"
These pages are dedicated to the pioneers of Jazz - the originators, the legendary early kings
of Jazz.  And to the city where their music was developed and nurtured - the unique, historic
city of New Orleans.
There are many (sometimes fiercely held) views about who invented Jazz and even where it
was invented.  Since I'm not enough of an expert on the subject for anyone to take much notice
of my views, I can say that I believe Jazz was developed, nurtured and refined through the
talent, skill and creativity of many New Orleans musicians - talent combined with their good
fortune of playing music in a place where so many different cultures intersected.
The city's known as a melting pot, but it's really more like a pot of gumbo.  The ingredients in
gumbo blend, but they don't melt, they combine.  French, Spanish, Italian, African-American,
Irish, German, Middle-European, Asian and others have added their cultural characteristics
to the city.  Many of these groups contributed to the development of New Orleans Jazz.  These
talented musicians from diverse neighborhoods and ethnic groups could hardly keep from
influencing each other.
That's not to say that there weren't individual Jazz pioneers, musicians who by their singular
talent came to the forefront and left their permanent mark on Jazz, because there surely were.  
But I'm convinced that the environment that nurtured their creativity was an environment
that couldn't have been found in any other city.
On a recent visit to the French Quarter, I sat on the Moon Walk for awhile, listening to the
Natchez calliope, then I walked around Jackson Square and found a street band in front
of the Cathedral.  On the other side of the Square, I heard a Jazz ensemble through the open
doors of a restaurant.  Later, when I made my way back to the Moon Walk, there was a man with
a trumpet there, playing his heart out to no one in particular.
I thought to myself, what a magical place this is.
What a wonderful, spontaneous, magical place this city is.
The city that gave Jazz to the world.
Nancy Brister
These pages are not comprehensive.  Every time I add a musician, I think of the many who are still missing.
I encourage you to do some research and learn more about the early Jazz musicians of New Orleans.