[Dixielandjazz] Polkas and OKOM and Compromises

Walker, Maurice maurice.walker at gwl.com
Fri Feb 28 12:59:55 PST 2003

>Like we use a guitar as the primary chord instrument. That is not a new
idea. The original New Orleans Bands, starting with Buddy Bolden and the
very beginning of jazz used a guitar as well as the double bass. So who
the hell is any OKOM maven to tell me that I am not playing New Orleans
jazz? Hey, I may be the only one following the original path.

>For all those meat heads saying that OKOM is banjo-tuba only, I say
BS. That was a commercialization of the original jazz by players
who wanted to get in on the action and record. It is not "authentic".
It is good music for sure, but not the only way to go.

>Steve Barbone

As you point out, the early New Orleans bands invariably used string bass
and guitar. This is confirmed by photographs from the teens, in the period
before NO bands began to be recorded. I used to wonder about this, and why
the early recorded bands invariably used banjo and tuba.  I came to
understand that the key word is "recorded".  Early acoustic equipment did
not do well recording either string bass or guitar. The tuba and the banjo
were used in their place because they did record well. 
In an article in the West Coast Rag years ago, NO bassist Steve Brown
related how he was prevented from recording because the force of his bass
kept causing the recording needle to jump from the groove or ruined the
recording in some similar way. (Presumably all early bass players
experienced the same problem.)  He finally learned to sit out when the band
was making a test pressing, which was done using a softer wax.  Final
pressings using a harder wax didn't experience the skipping problem. 
When the equipment improved, the banjo and the tuba were fairly quickly
replaced by the bass and the guitar, restoring the instrumentation which had
been typical before the NO bands began to record.
The fact that most of the old recordings we treasure were done with banjo
and tuba reflects the limitations of the equipment of the time.  As a banjo
player (and sometimes doubler on tuba), it pains me greatly to have to face
up to this.

Maurie Walker
Who still hasn't learned to play guitar

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