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New Orleans jazz

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Jazz was born in New Orleans, shaped in the early twentieth century by the twin talents of Louis Armstrong and Joe “King” Oliver from a diverse heritage of African and Caribbean slave music, Civil War brass bands, plantation spirituals, black church music and work songs. In 1897, in an attempt to control the prostitution that had been rampant in the city since its earliest days, a law was passed that restricted the brothels to a fixed area bounded by Iberville and Lower Basin streets. The area, which soon became known as Storyville, after the alderman who pronounced the ordinance, filled with newly arrived ex-plantation workers, seamen and gamblers, and, from the “mood-setting” tunes played in the brothels to bawdy saloon gigs, there was plenty of opportunity for musicians, in particular the solo piano players known as “professors”, to develop personal styles. After Storyville was officially closed in 1917, there was a mass exodus of musicians to Chicago and New York. Many more jazz artists left the city or gave up playing altogether during the Depression; but in the 1950s, the city fathers literally changed their tune and began to promote jazz as a tourist attraction. Nowadays jazz remains an evolving, organic art form, and you’re spoilt for choice for places to hear it, whether in Second Lines, at the city’s many festivals, in dive bars or sophisticated lounges.

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