[Dixielandjazz] Arrangements vs. Improvisation

Edgerton, Paul A paul.edgerton at eds.com
Tue Mar 18 16:20:19 PST 2003

Norrie Thomson wrote:
"If we are speaking about ensemble playing rather than a continuous string
of solos, we should remember that before Louis came on the scene all jazz
was ensemble."

A blanket statement like that needs some qualification, don't you think?
What, in the context of this statement, qualifies as "jazz?" How about

Your statement implies that Louis somehow changed jazz from "ensemble
playing" into "a continuous string of solos." Would you explain why you
think so? Is it because he recorded with a studio band (Hot Five-1925)
assembled specifically to showcase his trumpet, or is it because he was
improvising his solos?

There are earlier recordings featuring solos (New Orleans Rhythm Kings-1923)
but it's not clear if they were improvised in the same sense that
Armstrong's Hot Five sessions were.

None of this diminishes importance of Louis Armstrong. He was arguably the
first soloist worthy of showcasing, and he certainly brought improvised
solos to the record-buying public's attention. But it's a bit of a stretch
to suggest there were no solos in jazz prior to Louis Armstrong, isn't it?

This really just plays to the notion that improvisation is the essence of
Jazz... Is it really?

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