Marching, Ragging, and Mourning

Marching, Ragging, and Mourning

NOTES: It is well known that jazz sprang from the pre-World War I brass bands of New Orleans, and that such bands played for dancing as well as for marches and funerals. But what did New Orleans brass bands sound like? None made records at the time. When finally the first New Orleans brass bands were recorded in the 1940s, they had changed beyond recognition.

This CD attempts to recapture the lost sound of New Orleans brass bands of the pre-World War I era. Every effort has been made to ensure authenticity of sound. The earliest New Orleans bandsmen were not musical illiterates and played from published scores. But the arrangements they played are now extremely rare and had to be exhumed from libraries and archives. Now-obsolete instruments and period mouthpieces from the 1910 era had to be found in attics and junk stores and restored - alto, tenor, and baritone horns; old "short" cornets; an E-flat Albert system clarinet; a helicon; and "pea-shooter" trombones.

Finally, the musicians had to be assembled. Every member of the LRJE has had brass band experience in New Orleans. They are supplemented by Emery Thompson, grandson of James Humphrey, who taught "syncopation" to the Magnolia Plantation Band in 1910 and by Andrew Hall of the Society Jazz Band. In addition, five talented students from the Oberlin Conservatory of Music filled out the missing parts.

How did the old brass band musicians, both black and white, play? We know they treated their written parts with respect - Kid Ory was still playing the printed trombone part ofGettysburg March when he recorded a fragment of the tune in the 1930s. We also know that they syncopated the rhythms and ornamented the melodies, but otherwise did not improvise on them with any of the freedom practiced by later jazz musicians. To be sure, the sheer exuberance of the music inspired our cornetists occasionally to break out and claim the freedom of slightly later jazz, but didn't this, too, happen in 1915?

PERSONNEL: Charlie Fardella, Bb and Eb cornet; Emery Thompson, cornet; Deloris Shaffer, cornet; Tom Ebbert, trombone; Phil Thompson, trombone; Fred Starr, Eb and Bb clarinet; Stephan Burkle, Eb alto horn; Martha Westland, Eb alto horn; Bill Ledbetter, alto horn; Josh Hauser, baritone horn; Walter Payton, Eb helicon; John Joyce, snare drum; Andrew Hall, bass drum; Steve Dinion, cymbals; Larry Rachleff, conductor.

CREDITS: Recording date - September 19, 1987. Location - Oberlin College, Oberlin OH. Produced by S. Frederick Starr.