Other Contenders

In consulting virtually any survey text on jazz history, one finds a chapter devoted to jazz origins in New Orleans, sometimes with a disclaimer stating that "jazz-like" music was also developing in other locales, although this point of view is becoming increasingly rare. Note this passage from Gary Giddins and Scott DeVeaux, Jazz (2009): "…in the beginning, jazz was local, even provincial-a performing tradition unique to the port city of New Orleans, which took its distinctive character from the ever-changing social conditions of that metropolis. The style known as New Orleans jazz (or Dixieland) proved irresistible enough to attract the attention of the whole country, but only in increments as it wandered north of its home base. New Orleans jazz ultimately became the foundation of jazz itself." Alyn Shipton's recent treatment of the subject in A New History of Jazz (2001) portrays New Orleans musicians as "Jazz Johnny Appleseeds" sowing seeds of musical revolution in Chicago and San Francisco. But the idea that jazz was "born in New Orleans" still remains a theory rather than a fact, and it is occasionally a good thing to test a theory, which is what this class is about. There are three alternate perspectives on jazz origins: first, other North American cities or regions that lay claim; second, transnational theories that eschew American "exceptionalism" and place New Orleans within a broader cultural context, such as the circum-Caribbean; and third, arguments positing early initial incubation in New Orleans but idiomatic "completion" elsewhere, notably Chicago.

Nick LaRocca (1917) of the Original Dixieland Jazz Band claimed to have invented jazz, but where? Was it in New Orleans or Chicago?

Jelly Roll Morton (circa 1917): He left New Orleans in 1907. How did his extensive travels throughout the United States transform his playing style?