[Dixielandjazz] Re: 1st Jazz recording?

Rob McCallum rakmccallum at hotmail.com
Sun Aug 24 06:00:34 PDT 2003

Hi Anton and everyone,

The recording I heard was of St. Louis Blues that was recorded by Ciro's in
1917, but was mistakenly dated to 1916 on the Red Hot Jazz Archive site.
That recording can really, almost unarguably, fall into the jazz category,
it is a blues and there is definite liberty taken with the vocal line.
However, the St. Louis Blues recording that I heard was recorded after the
ODJB recording.  I have not yet heard the 1916 recordings that have been
cited, and am still searching for a reputable company to order them from.
I've been told that they resemble jazz far less than the recording I heard.
Steve has brought up the Europe recordings and I've been giving them a
listen and they are certainly approaching what most would call jazz, though
I recognize that there are differences between them and the sounds
associated with ODJB and Sweatman and others.

I'm looking forward to hearing the Ciro's 1916 recordings and to exploring
other recordings that may have fallen into the "race records" or "pop
records" or "ragtime" categories prior to 1917.  It's not so much of a
matter of a quest to find the "true" first jazz recording; I think that the
more that is listened to, the more subjective that becomes, and may not, in
the long run, matter anyway.  However, it has been postulated in print that
the concept that jazz was born in N.O and moved up the river to Chicago,
period, is too sweeping a generalization.  Certainly no one will argue
against the fact that N.O. was, in essence, the birthplace of jazz, and that
the greatest early players and the definitive style was born in N.O,
however, the argument has been made that different regional hybrid musical
styles based on traditional black African song, popular music and ragtime,
were springing up in black communities throughout the United States.  It's
certainly possible that we can gain a broader understanding of black music
of the early part of the century and hence the development of jazz, by
exploring whatever was recorded and, perhaps, labelled something else, and
never reissued in all these years.  Perhaps there's no recorded evidence,
but then again, maybe there is, that, though it might not revolutionize our
understanding, might certainly add to it.

Another thing I would like to add is that the music of people like Europe or
the Ciro's Orch may likely fall under a broader definition of jazz.  After
all, if Bitch's Brew is a jazz album, and The Art Ensemble of Chicago is a
jazz group, and Norah Jones is being hailed as a jazz singer, and even
people like Bob James and Spyro Gyra and Kenny G  are categorized as jazz,
certainly I would think that Europe would also be categorized as such as his
music is certainly closer to jazz than the man who brought us the theme to
"Taxi." ; )

BTW, some of you who responded to me regarding this topic offlist, I
appreciate your posts but have not had time to respond to each of them
individually.  I'll reply to everyone early in the week.

All for now,

Rob McCallum

----- Original Message -----
From: Anton Crouch <a.crouch at unsw.edu.au>
To: DJML <dixielandjazz at ml.islandnet.com>
Sent: Sunday, August 24, 2003 2:50 AM
Subject: [Dixielandjazz] Re: 1st Jazz recording?

> Hello all
> Rob McCallum raises an interesting issue with his claim that the Ciro's
> Coon Club Orchestra London recordings of 1916 are the first jazz
> recordings. He also opens a can of worms because, if the Ciro's records
> jazz, it's open slather all the way back to 1897 to find earlier examples.
> First, I agree with me ole mate Bill Haesler that these Ciro's records are
> not jazz. They are ragtime-influenced banjo performances of popular tunes.
> They are syncopated, but they don't swing and I can't hear any blues
> influence.
> Steve Barbone's reference to James R Europe is most interesting. A lot of
> Europe's early (pre 1917) work dances along very nicely but, to me, it
> lacks that spark that we call jazz.
> The BIG issue is "what is that spark"? Its absence or presence can be
> demonstrated by comparing, for example, Europe's March 1919 recording of
> "Darktown strutters ball" with the ODJB's May 1917 (sorry Steve) version.
> Another, even clearer, example is the difference between the performances
> of "High society" by Prince's Band (May 1911) and King Oliver (June 1923).
> all the best
> Anton
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