The book "Jazzmen" (1939) claimed New Orleans as the birthplace of jazz and introduced the legend of Buddy Bolden as the First Man of Jazz. Much of the information that the book relied on came from a highly controversial source: Bunk Johnson. He claimed to have played with Bolden and that together they had pioneered jazz.

Johnson made many recordings talking about and playing the music of the Bolden era. These recordings have been treated with skepticism because of doubts about Johnson s credibility. Using oral histories, the "Jazzmen" interview notes, and unpublished archive material, this book confirms that Bunk Johnson did play with Bolden. This confirmation, in turn, has profound implications for Johnson s recorded legacy in describing the music of the early years of New Orleans jazz.

New Orleans jazz was different from ragtime in a number of ways. It was a music that was collectively improvised, and it carried a new tonality the tonality of the blues. How early jazz musicians improvised together and how the blues became a part of jazz has until now been a mystery. Part of the reason New Orleans jazz developed as it did is that all the prominent jazz pioneers, including Buddy Bolden, Bunk Johnson, Louis Armstrong, Sidney Bechet, Johnny Dodds, and Kid Ory, sang in barbershop (or barroom) quartets. This book describes in both historical and musical terms how the practices of quartet singing were converted to the instruments of a jazz band, and how this, in turn, produced collectively improvised, blues-inflected jazz, that unique sound of New Orleans."

This book reminds me in a small way of a music appreciation class I took years ago in college where the instructor began the course with jazz and where the music came from the fields of the slaves. Through the fields to church and then onto New Orleans and into brothels. You would think there would not be a big calling for jazz music before records, but it was big. The author refers to a book written in 1939 about a jazz legend named Buddy Bolden, and was written by Buck Johnson. Johnson claimed in the book that he and Bolden were the “inventors” of jazz. The author uses newspaper articles, and other evidence as to prove or to try prove this. He also goes over different instruments from the time period, other type of music, barber shop quartet, and the difference of jazz and ragtime. He does mention King Oliver a little who for the longest time was one of the first and most popular Jazz person. He also mentions Louis Armstrong, but does not go into depth into either one of their histories. I enjoyed this book but I must say that while I may like the information I could see it really feel more like a something for college or school. Most people I feel will not be interested in the information, but I do know that the author must have spent years on accumulating all of the information in this book. Well researched and I found it to be interesting. I got this book from netgalley. I gave it 4 stars. Follow us at

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