Posted on August 2, 2013
In New Orleans, every day is a good day to listen to jazz!
The only time I ever visited New Orleans, my friends and I stayed in a place on Jackson Square, and we could listen to saxophone music played by an amazing woman—jazz floating up, wafting to our ears on morning sunbeams, dwindling down in plaintive riffs at night. It was wonderful!
Of course, we also took a walk up and down the various streets in the French quarter, listening to other jazz musicians playing their thing. Jazz here, jazz there, everywhere more and more jazz.
Today New Orleans is celebrating one of its home-grown jazz musicians, the unforgettable Louis Armstrong. A jazz trumpeter THIS good just had to have a nickname or two, and in his case, they were “Satchmo” and “Pops.” Since Armstrong was born in early August (8-4-1901, to be exact), this first weekend of August is called “Satchmo Days.” Three full days of free music on two stages, according to the ads!
Just what is jazz?
Jazz music had its beginnings in the early 20th Century, in the South (of the United States), in black communities. It combines “European” harmonies and musical forms and “African-based” music, and it has certain common features: a strong, even forceful, rhythm, improvisation, and syncopation.
You probably know that strong rhythm implies a beat, often created by beating drums.
Improvisation means playing music in a more carefree or creative way rather than in a highly rehearsed way. When you improvise, you might change the musical piece slightly from whatever was written down or rehearsed, adding trills, making up new bits, changing things up, lengthening a good riff because the audience is responding well to it...
Syncopation is a variety of rhythm in which there are unexpected bits of tune during the off-beats. It interrupts the regular flow of rhythm. Even though syncopation happens in all forms of music, it is fundamental in jazz and the other styles that grew from jazz.
There are so many kids of jazz and outgrowths of jazz. There is ragtime and swing, ska and funk, reggae and jazz fusion, rhythm and blues and even rock and roll—all are part of or grew from jazz!
Check out the PBS Jazz Kids Timeline.
The Smithsonian has a Jazz Duet lesson to help you try call-and-response improvisation.
My kids' favorite Louis Armstrong song is “What a Wonderful World.” Check it out...
You may have seen here or there mention of the “fact” that Louis Armstrong was born on July 4, not August 4, as I stated above. All his life Armstrong said and, apparently, believed that he was born on July 4. He said that his mom called him “firecracker baby.” All his important papers (yes, I'm talking draft application, driver's license, Social Security application) listed July 4 as his birthdate. Even though a baptismal certificate has been found that lists August 4 as the birthdate, many people celebrate Armstrong on what is now called his “traditional birthday.”
Also on this date:
Here are my Pinterest pages on August holidays, historical anniversaries in August, and August birthdays.