[Dixielandjazz] Thoughts on 'Dixieland'

MortW mortw at ix.netcom.com
Tue Apr 8 09:13:31 PDT 2003

    I remember reading, fifty years ago, that there were basically two
styles.  New Orleans, which was characterized by solo improvisations,
and Memphis, which was characterized by improvised ensemble playing.
Does that theory hold water among today's cognoscenti? 
Mort Weintraub 

-----Original Message-----
From: dixielandjazz-bounces at ml.islandnet.com
[mailto:dixielandjazz-bounces at ml.islandnet.com] On Behalf Of Dan
Sent: Tuesday, April 08, 2003 12:08 AM
Subject: [Dixielandjazz] Thoughts on 'Dixieland'

     Thoughts on 'dixieland'.
     What distinguishes 'dixieland' from 'swing'?  Or from big-band 
jazz?  Or from dance music?  Or from bebop?  (Etc.)
     A number of people (including me) think that the difference 
occurs when two or more instruments are improvising melodies (of 
different types) at the same time.  More specifically, when all 
instruments are improvising on a song's series of chords and doing so 
within certain (perhaps unstated) agreements of pitch-range and role. 
That is, the clarinet will generally play higher than the trumpet, 
which plays higher than the trombone, and so forth.  Also, the 
trumpet will generally play the melody (but the most basic skeleton 
of it), the clarinet will add filigree harmony around and above the 
melody, the trombone will punctuate gaps with glissandos 
(portamentos) and thirds and sevenths of the chord off the beat, and 
the bass will play mainly the root and fifth of the chord on the 
beat, but connecting these points linearly.  (This description is of 
course greatly simplified.)  This kind of style (i believe) applies 
to most styles of 'dixieland', including 'Condon style', West Coast 
Revival style, New Orleans style, and so forth. (I'm not trying to 
define the style(s), but just to describe its characteristics.)
     So, if this is true, 'dixieland' occurs best when all instruments 
are playing together, as this is when the so-called simultaneous 
polyphonic improvisation can be at its fullest.
     That said, what of solos?  They, by this description, are not 
'dixieland' (at its best), because they are just one instrument 
improvising a melody at a time. They may be 'jazz' (whatever _that_ 
is), but they aren't the best 'dixieland'.  Therefore the best 
dixieland occurs in ensemble playing, not solos.  Dixieland is a 
collaborative endeavor, with multiple simultaneous melodies.

**  Dan Augustine     Austin, Texas     ds.augustine at mail.utexas.edu  **
**     "The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench,       **
**      a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free,      **
**      and good men die like dogs.  There's also a negative side."   **
**                       -- Hunter Thompson                           **

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