RLP-1058
GEORGE LEWIS with the ORIGINAL ZENITH BRASS BAND

Traditional New Orleans marching-band music

Jazz Archives #1000(10”) 

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Original Zenith Brass Band: Kid Howard (tp) Peter Bocage (tp) Jim rovinson (tb) George Lewis (cl) Isadore Barbarin (mellophone) Harrison Barnes (baritone horn) oe Howard (tu) Baby Dodds (snare drs) Lawrence Marrero (bass dr)

New Orleans; February 26, 1946


SIDE 1

  1. Fidgety Feet (2:54) (LaRocca – Shields – Ragas)

  2. Shake It and Break It (2:43) (traditional)

  3. Bugle Boy March (2:52) (traditional)

SIDE 2

  1. Salutation March (2:40) (traditional)

  2. If Ever I Cease to Love (2:46) (traditional)

  3. Tain’t Nobody’s Biz-ness If I Do(2:45) (Grainger – Robbins)


   These recordings are just about as close as we can ever hope to come to one important aspect of the basic, original sound of jazz.

   Much of the music that forms the background of traditional jazz is forever lost to us. We can never know exactly how it sounded when Buddy Bolden’s cornet cut through the night at Tin Type Hall, or when the marching bands paraded down the hot, wide streets of New Orleans. Since technology was not kind enough to coincide with art, there was in those turn-of-the-century days no more than the first crude glimmering of the phonograph industry, and no one on hand to consider that there might be any value in recording this crude Negro music.

   Some of the many strains and influences that ultimately blended into the earliest jazz have been preserved. Piano ragtime survives by virtue of having been extensively reproduced on player-piano rolls; while the primitive blues retained their early form long enough for many entirely authentic examples to find their way onto records in the 1920s. (For illustrations of such music, see the partial listing of Riverside “Jazz Archives” LPs at the end of these notes.) But for the music of he marching bands, we must turn to later re-creations such as those which make up this album.

   Fortunately, these recordings were designed to be as close to the real thing as you could hope to have this long after the fact. In 1946, Rudi Blesh went to New Orleans and assembled a most interesting band which combined actual veterans of the earliest days with somewhat younger players who had grown u hearing the traditional music and whose own musical styles had never departed too far from the classic jazz forms. Blesh has described the personnel of this “typical street band” in his book “Shining Trumpets” (Alfred A. Knopf: 1946)”

   “The trumpeters were Kid Howard and Peter Bocage, the latter a veteran Creole who played for years with Armand Piron’s Orchestra. Jim Robinson, one of the greatest living tailgate players, was trombonist, and George Lewis, finest living exponent of the New Orleans clarinet style was included … Joe Howard, tuba, (then) seventy-four, was oldest of the group. Originally a trumpeter, he worked on the riverboats around 1916-19 and taught sight reading to Louis Armstrong when he joined the band on the S.S. Sidney. The incomparable Baby Dodds performed on snares, and Lawrence Marrero, also a fine banjo and guitar player, beat the small parade drum.

   (Of these men, only Dodds had preciously gone on to become a familiar figure in the jazz world outside the New Orleans environment, although Lewis, Robinson and Marrero had only recently traveled to New York as part of Bunk Johnson’s band and were later, along with Kid Howard, to become part of a group led by Lewis that has gained nation-wide recognition as im….

   … displayed here provides an interesting ….of the range of marching-band music. At least one of the tunes – ‘Tain’t Nobody’s Biz-ness If I Do – is of post-New Orleans vintage, being a popular song of the 1920s. But the point is that the predeccessors of a group like this one never hesitated to adapt contemporary popular ballads to their purposes. The only test was whether the structure was suited to the raggy brass-band treatment, a test which this number certainly passes.

The use of fidgety Feet, which lists three members of the Original Dixieland Jazz Band as its composers, is possibly more a case of borrowing back one’s own than anything else, since much of the “original” repertoire of the early white Dixielanders was clearly derived from traditional material that long been used by local Negro musicians. Shake It and Break It is a specimen of traditional jazz-band material that has been known by more than one name; not necessarily a march, it still lends itself readily to marching-tempo adaptation. The other three numbers are specifically marches: Bugle Boy and Salutation are played relatively straight-forwardly and, it must be assumed, much as they were performed at parades and concerts, picnics and funerals, in the early-century era when music such as this was a fundamental part of New Orleans Negro social life,


   If Ever I Cease to Love is well known as the ”theme song” of the Mardi Gras, dating well back into the 19th century. Blesh calls this “unquestionably the best document to date of … early brass band jazz,” and it is certainly an impressive production, with its interpolation of Little Brown Jug as a counter-melody and with an impressive series of breaks.

   The polyphony of these recordings, the syncopation with strong suggestions of ragtime, and the heavily brassy sound will probably take some getting used to even for ears relatively familiar with early traditional jazz recordings. But soon enough it’s apt to fall into place to come through as vibrant and forceful music clearly related to early jazz and an extremely effective recreation of what would otherwise be an almost entirely missing link in the story of jazz.


   Riverside’s Jazz Archives Series includes several important examples of other ‘source materials’ of jazz – ragtime and folk-blues, as well as key recordings of early jazz. These include;

RAGTIME PIANO ROLL, vols. 1, 2 and 3 (RLPs 1006, 1025, 1049)

BACKWOODS BLUES (RLP 1039)

The Folk-Blues of BLIND LEMON JEFFERSON (RLP 1014)

BLIND LEMON’S Penitentiary Blues (RLP 1053)

NEW ORLEANS HORNS (RLP 1005)

LOUYIS ARMSTRONG with KING OLIVER’S CREOLE JAZZ BAND (RLP 1029)

JELLY ROLL MORTON: Classic Jazz Piano, Vols, 1 and 2 (RLPs 1038, 1041)

   In addition, George Lewis can be heard on three other Riverside  LPs:

New Orleans Revival; BUNK JOHNSON and KID ORY (RLP 1047)

GEORGE LEWIS’ New Orleans Jazz Band and Quarter (RLP 2507)

GEORGE LEWIS, with Red Allen (RLP 2512)

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Tape-editing by J. Robert Mantler

Notes by Orrin Keepnews

Cover art by Robert J. Lee; typographical design by Gene Gogerty


RIVERSDIE RECORDS are released by BILL GRAUER PRODUCTIONS

418 West 49th Street New York 19, N.Y.