The main features of New Orleans jazz are the unscripted ensemble work, the unwritten but generally acknowledged rhythms that may be used, and the defined roles of the instruments.


"The longer the band has been playing together the closer the harmony in the ensemble work" is a good maxim to judge a New Orleans band by; strings of solos generally indicate that the musicians do not either play together very often or that they do not have much confidence in each other. Another good way to judge the quality of a NO band is to listen to, and perhaps even time, the same tune played on different occasions; if the band is good no two versions should be the same. You can usually tell a good band if they can play tunes to a different feeling every time they play it, often changing the length of the song.


In addition to the 2/4 rhythm NO bands also generally play stomps, rags, and marches. Whilst stride and boogie woogie played by the pianist as a solo passes without much comment the use of some of the rolling Creole rhythms are frequently frowned upon.


The generally accepted roles are as follows:

Cornet / trumpet : Front line: the lead instrument, plays the main theme.

Trombone : Front line: underpins the cornet.

Reeds (clarinet, alto or tenor sax) : Front line: weaves the front line together.

Drums : Rhythm section.

Bass (double bass, tuba, sousaphone, or bass sax) : Rhythm section.

Banjo / guitar : Rhythm section.

Piano : Optional extra ! Belongs to both front line and rhythm section: the only instrument without a clearly defined role.

If you want to know more about New Orleans style Traditional Jazz then there are many artists who exemplify the idiom.

For the early period listen to Louis Armstrong Hot Five or Hot Seven tracks. Many feature that well known trombonist Kid Ory, who in the depression went back to his chicken farm until re-discovered in 1943. Apart from his skill on cornet and later trumpet I suggest Armstrong rather than his mentor Oliver as the Okey label he recorded for used more advanced recording techniques than their rivals and Oliver's recordings, like those of the first white band to record, The Original Dixieland Jass Band, sound tinny and flat. As an example of an early white band I recommend Bix Biderbeck's New Orleans Lucky 7, or Bix & his Gang not only for the variation in interpretation but also, again, because of the quality of the recordings. For a more orchestrated style you cannot go past Jelly Roll Morton recordings.

The American revival of the '40s and early '50s is typified by Eddie Condon's Chigargoans, who kept the flag flying more publicly than any of the others, though you may wish to consider Muggsey Spanier & his All Stars. Another band that should be featured is Lu Watter's Yerba Buena Jazz Band who were the prime revivalist on the west coast from the '40s onward; they were also instrumental in getting revivalists to go back to the original recorded sources. At the same time many of the original, mainly black, New Orleans jazzmen were re-discovered and brought out of retirement; a good example here would be the aforementioned Kid Ory who started recording again in '43 and continued to do so until his death in the '60s.

Revival was also taking place in Europe, mainly the UK, and Australia during the late '40s and early '50s. Australia just has to be represented by Graeme Bell & his Australian Jazz Band. Likewise Europe by the Guvnor, Ken Colyer. Early recordings by Chris Barber and Acker Bilk should also be sought. Mention has to be given to the fact that in the 'early '60s there were few British traditional jazzmen who had not either played in a Colyer band (Barber, Bilk, Bob Wallis, John RT Davis, Monty Sunshine etc), or belonged to a band that did not contain an ex-Colyer sidesman. To illustrate the continuity of style you must listen to a later Colyer track and one or two by a current UK New Orleans style band.

Although New Orleans jazz has always been, and inevitably continue to be, a minority music in NZ with its limited and sparsely spread population, it has and continues to have, a wide following elsewhere. The traditional jazz scenes in both Britain and Australia continue to be vibrant and America is at present in the grips of another "mini" revival.

If you want to read reviews on some of the CDs in my collection, click here.

From this page you can also access some biographies on bands whose CDs have been reviewed.

The amount of recorded material becoming available, both re-issues and new releases, is overwhelming. Prime sources for anyone interested are:

CD Jazz, PO Box 30 005, Lower Hutt, NEW ZEALAND

Independent Jazz List, 17 Clare Road, South Reddish, Stockport, Lancashire SK5 7QW ENGLAND

Lake Records 15 Banklands, Workington, Cumberland CA14 3EW, ENGLAND.

If you would like to see the full Lake Records catalogue click here.

Upbeat have a Web site that contains their current catalogue and those of some other labels.

Nalle's Jazz Shop in Sweden have a large selection of European bands.

In America Jazzology and Jazz Crusade have a very large catalogue of CDs for sale.

For more information on the early history of traditional jazz, complete with sound tracks, click here

For a FAQ on Traditional Jazz try Stan Kline's home Page

General information on the American scene can be found on the following sites:

Dixie Page

Jack&Evelyn's Dixieland Jazz

Ron Capps,The Jazz Clearinghouse

Traditional Jazz page

Tom's Home Page

Information on UK Jazz can found on:

Fred Burnett, Preston

Kings Jazz Review

For a biography on the father of European Traditonal Jazz, Ken Colyer see:

The Ken Colyer Unofficial Home Page

Information on Jazz in the Netherlands can be found on:

Revival Jassband Home Page

For Canadian Jazz click here:

Candian Jazz Links

For a Swedish jazz band click here:

The Gota River Jazz Band

Whilst information on Jazz in Australia can be found on:


A 'hot jazz' jazz band playing in the style of Bix Beiderbecke is the The New Wolverine Jazz Orchestra

In Perth, Western Australia there is the O.T.T. Chicago Swing managed by Martha Klarenbeek

If you live in NZ, or are visiting, you may be interested in meeting up with the Hamilton Jazz Society.

Established in 1985 by a group of local jazz supporters it holds monthly meetings, from February to November, at the Te Rapa Racecourse, usually on the last Sunday of the month.

A wide variety of Jazz is represented at these popular meetings covering most tastes and styles.

A bar, buffet meals and dancing are also available making it an enjoyable night out for all the family.

For further information see