In the city known as the “birthplace of jazz,” traditional jazz has always found an audience while modern jazz has struggled. Traditional jazz is considered a musical entertainment suitable for dancing, while modern jazz since bebop arrived in the 1940s has developed as a serious music meant for intellectual appreciation. Local New Orleanians seeking social dance music and tourists who are marketing traditional jazz in venues such as Preservation Hall have not been as supportive of modern jazz.
Despite the challenges, many modern jazz musicians have come from New Orleans. The first generation of musicians, including saxophonist Harold Battiste, pianist Ellis Marsalis, and drummer James Black, formed the “All For One” collective in the late 1950s, one of the first black owned record labels in the US. Drummers Ed Blackwell, Vernel Fournier, and Idris Muhammed all left their hometown to establish international careers with leading musicians. That was also the case for Ellis’ sons Wynton and Branford Marsalis in the early 1980s, along with saxophonist Donald Harrison Jr., trumpeter Terence Blanchard, and trumpeter Nicholas Payton a few years later. That group of musicians studied at the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts (NOCCA), as have many younger modern jazz musicians, including Jonathan Batiste, Christian Scott, and Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews.