[Dixielandjazz] Defining Dixieland

Burt Wilson futurecon at earthlink.net
Tue Apr 8 15:51:58 PDT 2003

Just to add my three-cents (inflation, y'know)I would look for a common denominator and that would be the presence of a polyphonic ensemble. What one adds on for other choruses in the way of solos is a sub-statement of the ensemble. A solo, by itself, IMO, is not Dixieland. I look for a three-horn polyphony and, to me, that's Dixieland--whether it's Chicago, NY, Memphis, LA for San Fran.
-------Original Message-------
From: Stephen Barbone <barbonestreet at earthlink.net>
Sent: 04/08/03 01:41 PM
To: Dixieland Jazz Mailing List <dixielandjazz at ml.islandnet.com>
Subject: [Dixielandjazz] Defining Dixieland

> Hi List mates:

Dixieland?  Probably 50% say ensemble and 50% say solo. In terms of us
musos, it may be that them that can't solo will say ensemble and them
that can't play ensemble will say solo?

Just kidding. Great Dixieland IMO is whatever you say it is, for you.
For the rest of us, that may or may not be true. Yeah, I know Hooks,
there must be an absolute truth here, but then I don't believe that
either. I see the answer as relative to one's own musical psyche. And
correct, either way.

Many of us Condonites like one ensemble in, then four or five individual
two chorus solos, then one or maybe two ensemble chorus' out. That adds
up to a solo emphasis. Many others find that boring. If you don't agree,
that's OK too but I am unanimous in my beliefs and preferences. ;-)

As Rob McCallum said, it perhaps becomes difficult to rate the solos of
Louis, Bix, Bechet, Teagarden and other soloist giants as less important
than the ensemble, or to say that in their solo oriented styles, they
did not play the best Dixieland. Therefore perhaps the original question
is a Catch 22?

I guess the root of what I think is that Dixieland evolved over a100
year span from ensemble oriented to soloist oriented depending upon who
was in the band and what Coast of the USA, or what part of the world you
live near. To me, Eddie Condon made the best of this change, along with
Louis Armstrong's All Stars, and The World's Greatest Jazz Band, though
some others rate the All Stars as something less than an excellent
Dixieland group.

So, don't worry, be happy, if you like it, it is good whether soloist or
ensemble oriented. But to narrowly define it? Not possible because we
will not be able to agree. Dixieland? It is polyphonic counterpoint
including varying amounts of improvisation and soloing.

The best Dixieland? Whatever your taste is.

Steve Barbone

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