[Dixielandjazz] Oliver, revivalism and classification

Anton Crouch a.crouch at unsw.edu.au
Sat May 3 17:59:14 PDT 2003

Hello all

It's interesting how a number of threads can come together. From a simple
discussion of the merits of a budget issue of the King Oliver Creole Jazz
Band 1923 sides we've moved to the "New Orleans revival" and then to the
Marsalis/Crouch/Murray view of "what is jazz". As an aside, I'm not related
to Stanley Crouch.

My comments on these matters are:

To say  "if there had been no King Oliver Creole Jazz Band then there would
have been no Hot Fives and Sevens! And very definately (sic) there would
have been no Lu Watters revival!" (Jerry) is extreme and untestable.

That Watters and his players chose the CJB as a model to copy is not in
dispute but the really interesting thing is that the CJB, with its two
cornet lead, was not typical of New Orleans jazz bands at that time. Up
until the arrival of Louis Armstrong in the CJB (August 1922), Oliver was
the only cornet player. Do any DJMLers (?Dan Hardie) know of any 6 to 7
piece New Orleans groups with two cornets before 1922/23? Oliver did play
in a 3 cornet, 3 reed dance band led by Jelly Roll Morton in 1922. 

Did Oliver "invent" the two cornet "classic jazz" group? If so (and also,
if not) where did the idea come from? A Spanish influence (cf the unison
trumpets of Mexican mariachi)? Or was Oliver simply "lazy", as reedman Rudy
Jackson has reported?

The "revival" itself was more a musico-economic phenomenon than a musical
milestone. I think it was also as much a convenient peg for the "mouldy
figs" to hang their views on as it was a reaction (looking back) to swing
and (looking forward) to bop. We shouldn't forget that Kid Howard, Joe
Thomas, Punch Miller and Kid Rena were active in the 1930s and, if not
making many records, were well known from their club work and radio

The Marsalis/Crouch/Murray dogmatism provokes strong reactions but I can't
see why people get so upset by it. Assuming that music evolves (and, yes,
it does change but does not "progress"), M, C & M are doing nothing more
than proposing a classification system. Arguing as to whether modern music
is "jazz" is no more relevant than arguing as to whether modern music is
"classical". With the benefit of hindsight we don't have a problem
differentiating between baroque and romantic music and I suggest that in a
100 years time people will have no problem with the classification of the
music we currently call "jazz". There always have been (and probably always
will be) "lumpers" and "splitters" - Marsalis, Crouch and Murray are
"splitters", an approach that is entirely mainsteam in biological

And you thought discography was a dry subject! Ha.


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