The Pre-Jazz Life and Music of Buddy Bolden

Howard Fishman at Salmagundi:

The hallmarks of the Buddy Bolden myth go something like this: in the whispery pre-jazz world of turn of the twentieth century New Orleans, one titanic musical presence loomed larger than any – Bolden, the Paul Bunyan of the cornet. He played louder, harder, and hotter than any horn player before, or since. Unlike the ensembles led by his contemporaries, most or all of whom read printed sheet music on the bandstand, Bolden’s band was primarily made up of “ear” players. They were among the first (some claim the first) to bring the art of improvisation to the kinds of ensembles that preceded the advent of the musical style we now call jazz – mostly string bands and small orchestras performing marches, hymns, rags, and popular songs of the day. No recordings of Bolden and his band exist, though an unverified story persists that he made at least one Edison wax cylinder that has never been found – the Holy Grail of early jazz. But the legend that’s been handed down is that Bolden’s playing and his ability to read and draw from the energy of his adoring, excitable audiences was radical, incendiary, and transgressive.

more here.