International Society for Jazz Research

Ory’s Creole Trombone

Transkription und Analyse der ersten Schallplattenaufnahme einer schwarzen New Orleans Jazzband

"Ory's Creole Trombone," the first documented recording in the New Orleans "Black jazz musician" style, is particularly faithful to the original New Orleans style, which is no longer apparent in its original form in the recordings of New Orleans bands in Chicago as those musicians who migrated to the North often changed their way of playing. In King Oliver's recordings of 1923, for example, there is almost no trace of Ragtime, whereas it is very marked in "Ory's Creole Trombone". The same is true for the recordings of Freddie Keppard (1926) or Sam Morgan (1927), who both brought classic New Orleans bands into the recording studio.

The detailed analysis of "Ory's Creole Trombone" makes the difference clear. Characteristic for the older stylistic form of the piece is the way it is composed; namely, analogous to classic Ragtime, with 16-bar units. These are handled like regular Ragtime strains which sets them apart from a jazz chorus. Similarly, the melody, rhythm and harmony of Kid Ory's composition are also characteristic of this older stylistic approach. All the formal and musical elements identify Ory's piece as Ragtime. The musicians, too, in playing their individual parts and in taking their roles in collective improvisation, do so as they do in Ragtime. In units A and B and their repetitions, the melodic improvisations remain directly along the lines of the original melody. Melodic tones are changed only by substituting notes or chords; large melodic intervals are filled in occasionally by diatonic, or even more rarely, by chromatic passages. The fundamental melodic structure always remains apparent.

Concerning rhythm, the musicians use, in addition to numerous types of symmetrical rhythms, simple, formula-like types of asymmetric rhythm. But for a few exceptions, these are limited to one-bar elements, especially in units A and B. Two and three bar elements of asymmetric rhythms appear almost solely in unit C. This is the trio part of the piece; here the musicians abandon the Ragtime mode and move over to typical jazz.

A characteristic feature of this New Orleans jazz style is the use of the 16-bar melody of unit C as a chorus. Thus this unit can be repeated in any order. In the recording under consideration, 3 choruses are played one after the other in collective improvisation. They are interrupted only by the insertion of unit D. In later recordings of this piece, by Louis Armstrong, 1927, for example, the chorus repetitions of the C unit are solo improvisations on the trumpet (Louis Armstrong) or clarinet (Jimmie Noone). The entire effect is more jazz-like.

In the C unit the musicians abandon the one-bar formulations from units A and B and play two-, three- and four-bar phrases instead. Improvising melodic change by altering notes or chords gives way to the creative invention of "new" melodies.