Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Big Easy Big Bands - Eddy Determeyer

Dawn and Rise of the Jazz Orchestra in New Orleans.
This is virgin territory ( Quote: Dr. Bruce B. Raeburn )
Hans Koert

Roaming the Tremé District, the book of Eddy Determeyer opens its preface, there's a fair chance you run into a blaring brass band, surrounded by joyously strutting Second Liners ....

Eddy Determeyer - Big Easy Big Bands ( Nederlands) - Big Easy Big Bands - Eddy Determeyer (English)

  •  A few months ago I saw the moving documentary film The sound after the storm, featuring vocalist Lillian Boutté, clarinet player and jazz historian Dr. Michael White and photographer Armand Sheik Richardson; a film which describes the situation of New Orleans after hurricane Katrina had caused damage to the city .....
The city of New Orleans, once the cradle of jazz and ragtime and its related music styles, like rhythm and blues was hit hard .... When the levees broke and her dwellings were inundated, hundreds of thousands were driven from their homes. Like everybody else, musicians had to leave behind all of their belongings, including instruments, recordings, music, pictures, and other memorabilia. Though nightlife in the French Quartet, which had suffered only minor damage, was restored in a matter of days, the music community had taken a severe beating. The glorious days of the big bands now seemed dimmer than ever. In some cases literally so: the horrors of Katrina reverberated in a lot of the elder citizen's minds. ( source: Big Easy Big Bands - Eddy Determeyer)

The music of New Orleans has been investigated extensively since its birth around 1900, but what about the development of the early orchestras - the Big Easy Big Bands?
 Eddy Determeyer defines the word orchestra or big band as every combination of any group of jazz musicians larger than combo size, i.e. over five or six piece, and therefore relies on written (and occasionally "head") arrangements. During the 1920s the bands were growing and one of the reasons was, that the dance halls had become larger - Dances like the Charleston, the Suzie-Q and the Linda Hop were hypes in those days. Because of the fact that most bands played acoustically because sound amplification was still in its infancy, the bands had to enlarge.  One of the largest bands was the orchestra of Paul Whiteman, which contained more ten 27 men.

 Fate Marable Society Syncopators at one of the Mississippi steamers.

A lot is known about the history of music, played by big bands in New Orleans, but the music is silent e.g. can't be heard, as the pre-war bands were not recorded at all. Dr. Bruce B. Raeburn, curator of the New Orleans Tulane University says at the book's cover. This is a fascinating text on a topic that has been a blind spot within the literature of jazz studies... This is virgin territory ....

  Fate Marable Society Syncopators

Eddy Determeyer, who previous published a research about the Jimmy Lunceford band, didn't want to make an encyclopedia which contained lists of all known New Orleans big bands and musicians from the 1900 - 1960, but, in spite of this the index is impressive. Eddy Determeyer did select its items consciously  - so you won't find much info about, let's say, the New Orleans born piano player, entertainer and personality Jelly Roll Morton.
  •  A few months ago I got access to he so-called 1938 Jelly Roll Morton Library of Congress Recordings-  a unique document about the early history of jazz music. Of course, Eddy knows this source, recorded by Jelly Roll Morton, who had pitch forked himself as the Originator of Jazz, but omitted his name from the book, because when Morton recorded his audio testament he wasn't active active in New Orleans anymore and left the city more then twenty years earlier.
 The TV-series Treme sketches a fascinating picture of the people living in post-Katrina New Orleans. 

In 16 chapters Eddy discusses the history of the New Orleans big bands starting with the melting pot, New Orleans was at the turn of the century (1900) in a chapter entitled as The Brass Age - A never ending ball and
 the story of bands, active at the Mississippi steamers, like Fate Marable's Society Serenaders, ( in Rocking the boat). Eddy clears up the myth that the closing of Storyville caused the exodus of musicians who left New Orleans in the 1920s, hoping for the best (like King Oliver, Luis Russell and Louis Armstrong). He tells about Oscar Papa Celestin's Original Tuxedo Orchestra, which was the last of the traditional New Orleans jazzbands ( 1910-1954); About Cap'n John Handy (in Nobody Messes with Handy), but also about, for me lesser known names like Sidney Desvigne, Valmore Victor, Clyde Kerr up to Wardell Quezergue and his drummer Joe Johnson, who introduced the modern jazz styles to New Orleans influenced by bebop and funk.
  • The book Big Easy Big Bands - Dawn and Rise of the Jazz Orchestra will be labeled as a standard in New Orleans music history and it feels great ( and a bit chauvinistic - I know),  that a Dutchman did the research. Eddy says about it: The role of New Orleans bigband as originator and mirror of new developments in dance Music, so evident during last century’s first seventy years, was ( after Katrina) over anyway. May this book serve as a testament to these wonderful days ………….
The book Big Easy Big Bands – Dawn and Rise of the Jazz Orchestra, can be ordered at Eddy Determeyer website.

Hans Koert
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The dawn and rise of the jazz orchestra is the subtitle of Eddy Determeyer's latest book Big Easy Big Bands. The history of the numerous bands that were active in New Orleans between 1900 and 1960 has been researched by Dutch jazz historian Eddy Determeyer.  A fascinating text on a topic that has been a blind-spot within the literature of jazz studies ..... This is virgin territory. These New Orleans bands, which haven't been recorded at all, finally have been put into the spotlights ... A must-have for all serious lover of tis untold part in jazz history ... Big Easy Big Bands - Eddy Determeyer.

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