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What Is New Orleans Jazz and How To Use It In Your Projects


New Orleans is a city with a genuine blend of diverse cultures yet its own distinctive heritage and tradition. Its reputation is built on vibrant nightlife, abundant festivals, Mardi Gras celebrations, Creole and Cajun cuisine, and the birthplace of Jazz. Let’s explore how New Orleans Jazz came to be, its characteristics, and its most influential artists. Plus, tips on incorporating Jazz music into your next creative project.


What is New Orleans Jazz

New Orleans Jazz is also known as traditional, hot, or Dixieland Jazz. Many experts divide the genre into White (e.g., Original Dixieland Jass Band) and Black (e.g., cornetist King Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band). The 1917 recordings by the “Original Dixieland Jass Band” popularized this new style of music. However, they were not the innovators of the genre. The term Dixieland refers to the Confederate States (roughly all states south of the Mason-Dixon line), so most prefer to avoid its use.

Music historians can trace the origins of Jazz to the vibrant musical traditions of the city’s inhabitants. Residents are mainly from Africa (Congo), the Caribbean (Cuba), and Europe (France and Sicily). Influences of early jazz incarnations included brass-band marches, French Quadrilles, biguine, ragtime, and blues. Sounds which resulted in a vivid and distinct sound.

A turning point in Jazz history came when the musicians of the time moved to other places, particularly Chicago. This movement resulted in the spread and popularization of the genre in the 1910s and 1920s.


Characteristics of Jazz

Celebrated for its lively and upbeat nature, the genre encompasses several defining elements. The cornet, clarinet, trombone, tuba, banjo, and drums became the core instrumentation, collectively producing a vibrant and spirited ensemble sound. Characterized by a fast tempo, often accompanied by a lively two-beat rhythm, New Orleans Jazz exudes an appealing intensity that makes it ideal for dancing and celebratory atmospheres. Another hallmark of the genre is its embrace of improvisation. The freestyle allowed artists to express their creativity and infuse distinct touches into their performances. Moreover, New Orleans Jazz is recognized for its memorable melodies and expressive phrasing, contributing to its suitability as stock music with catchy and unforgettable tunes.


Prominent Jazz Artists

New Orleans Jazz history includes many individuals whose contributions have left a lasting mark on the genre. Buddy Bolden, an African-American cornetist, and historians widely regard him as instrumental in shaping New Orleans ragtime music, later coined as “jass” and eventually recognized as Jazz.

Louis Armstrong gained renown for his exceptional trumpet skills and gravelly voice. He is often referred to as the father of jazz trumpet, and his style is synonymous with the spirit of New Orleans Jazz. His rendition of the timeless classic “When the Saints Go Marching In” has become an enduring symbol of the genre’s cultural significance.

King Oliver, a cornetist and pioneer in jazz, played a pivotal role in mentoring Louis Armstrong. His Creole Jazz Band records have achieved classic status, with tracks like “Dippermouth Blues” standing out.

Jelly Roll Morton, a multifaceted talent as a pianist, songwriter, and bandleader, has contributed significantly to the New Orleans Jazz canon. His composition “Tiger Rag” is a timeless standard within the genre.

Bix Beiderbecke, renowned for his prowess on the cornet, has left an enduring legacy within New Orleans Jazz. His compositions, including “Singin’ the Blues” and “In a Mist,” have solidified his place as a critical figure in the evolution of this musical tradition.

Collectively, these individuals have shaped the sound of New Orleans Jazz. They contributed significantly to its lasting impact on the broader landscape of music.


Three Creative Uses of Jazz in Your Projects

There are many ways to incorporate New Orleans Jazz into your next creative project. Start with one of the three examples below.

    1. Dance Sequences. A tune like the aptly named New Orleans Jazz by AlexPaul has the quintessential sound for a NoLa dance scene in your film or television project.
    2. Don’t limit yourself to one setting. Your project doesn’t have to be set in New Orleans to use the sounds of New Orleans Jazz music. Imagine a montage of a couple laughing and getting acquainted with Walking New Orleans (Happy Piano Jazz Trio). A perfect background track by AcousticMusic.
    3. Improvisation. Instead of looking for the perfect piece to complement your project, get into the improvisational spirit of jazz and work the other way around. Choose a track like Cinematic Criminal Comedy Jazz (Fun Music) by HuskyProductions to create a story from start to finish. You could take inspiration from the name, or maybe it’s a centipede’s love story, and the final note is the protagonist getting stepped on. Use your imagination!

New Orleans Jazz is all about spontaneity and creativity, so let it move you. Subscribe now to Pond5 Music for access to a collection of many New Orleans Jazz tracks. Get inspired by this free track.