Jan 5, 2011
This week’s Podcast takes a look back to the dawn of jazz, courtesy of a conversation with author David Fulmer. Fulmer is the author of a series of novels set in Storyville, the sin capital of New Orleans in the early decades of the 20th century. Fictional characters mingle with historical figures from the world of jazz, including Buddy Bolden, Jelly Roll Morton, and a barely out of short pants Louis Armstrong.
published novel, Chasing the Devil's Tail, won a
Shamus Award in
2002 and an AudioFile Golden Earphones
Award in 2008. It was nominated for a Los Angeles Times Book Prize,
a Falcon Award and
a Barry Award, and
was selected for Borders "Best of 2003 List" among other
Jass, the second Storyville mystery, was published in January of 2005. It was selected for the Best of 2005 lists by Library Journal and The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, and won the Georgia Author of the Year Award for Fiction.
Rampart Street was published in January of 2006. A BBC America audio book of the novel was released in February of 2006. It was selected as for New York Magazine's list of "The Best Novels You've Never Read" and the audio book version won the 2007 Benjamin Franklin Award for Adult Fiction.
Not all his work centers around the jazz world. The Dying Crapshooter's Blues was published in January of 2007. The Blue Door, published in January, 2008, was nominated for the 2009 Shamus Award for Best Novel. Lost River was released in January 2009. His seventh novel, The Fall, was released in March 2010. He promises more Storyville books in the future.
Fulmer and I discussed how he re-creates a by-gone era, and in wonderful detail describes what the sweaty clubs of Storyville must have felt and sounded like when “jass” was being born.
Appropriate music from this time period punctuates the interview, including:
Jelly Roll Morton - “Buddy Bolden’s Blues (I Thought I Heard Buddy Bolden Say)” from Last Sessions: The Complete General Recordings. He claimed that he originated jazz in 1902, but that might just be boasting. Regardless, pianist Ferdinand Joseph LaMothe a.k.a. Jelly Roll Morton (1885-1941) turned folk music and ragtime into what we might today think of as jazz.
Original Dixieland Jass Band – “Tiger Rag” from The Complete Original Dixieland Jazz Band. The first commercial jazz recording was made on August 17, 1917 in New York City for Aeolian-Vocalian Records, but since it was made in a soon to be obsolete format, it was re-recorded on March 25, 1918 on Victor records. While the song had been played for at least a decade before this recording was made, but it was copyrighted then, with credit going to band members Nick La Rocca, Eddie Edwards, Henry Ragas, Tony Sbarbaro, and Larry Shields, along with Harry Da Costa. Please note that none of them were African-American.
Cookie’s Gingersnaps – “Here Comes the Hot Tamale Man” from The Complete Freddie Keppard Heritage. Cornet player Freddie Keppard supposedly sounded the most like Buddy Bolden of anyone who recorded pre-1930. The Gingersnaps are one of many names used by Doc Cooke (an actual Doctor of Music) and his Orchestra, which featured Keppard, Jimmy Noone, Johnny St. Cyr, Zutty Singleton and Luis Russell, many of whom worked extensively with Louis Armstrong.
King Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band – “Dipper Mouth Blues” from Louis Armstrong – A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. Perhaps the finest collection of musicians to come out of New Orleans (the recording was made in Chicago) was the members of the band led by Joe “King” Oliver. He began playing around 1908, and by 1923, he had put together an all-star band of he and Louis Armstrong on cornet, Honore Dutrey on trombone, Stump Evans on sax, Johnny St. Cyr on banjo, Johnny Dodds on clarinet, Baby Dodds on drums, Lil Hardin (later Armstrong) on piano, and Bill Johnson on bass.
New Orleans Rhythm Kings – “Wolverine Blues (2nd Take)” from 1922-1923- Birth Of Jazz. The New Orleans Rhythm Kings Gennett recordings were a big influence on many of the white bands and musicians of the 1920s. Unlike La Rocca, Paul Mares did not try to deny the African-American roots of Jazz. The New Orleans Rhythm Kings were heavily influenced by King Oliver's Creole Jazz Band and became the first group to put out a "racially mixed" Jazz record in 1923 with "Sobbin' Blues", featuring Jelly Roll Morton. Morton went on to record five more tunes with the band.