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French Quarter Festival- Second Line Parade
French Quarter Festival- Second Line Parade

The Birthplace of Jazz

The history of jazz ripples through New Orleans. From our melting pot of cultures came musical art

Paul Broussard
Brass Band at Sauvage and Ponce de Leon - Jazz Fest After Parties

Trying to put your finger on exactly when jazz was born can’t be done. We don’t know when but we do know where: It happened here in New Orleans. In fact, it’s happening right now. Jazz is born, dies, and is reborn every day. 

When did jazz originate?

Of course jazz wasn't born on a particular day – it was created over time. It was a meeting, a mixing, a melding of many cultures, many emotions and many skills.

Some say jazz grew out the drumming and Voodoo rituals that took place in New Orleans’ Congo Square before the Civil War. Others say jazz was born in 1895, the year Buddy Bolden started his first band. Still others say it happened in 1917, when Nick LaRocca and his Original Dixieland Jazz Band recorded the first jazz record, "Livery Stable Blues." But Ferdinand "Jelly Roll" Morton had his own theory. He said, "It is evidently known, beyond contradiction, that New Orleans is the Cradle of Jazz, and I myself happen to be the inventor in the year 1902."  

How was jazz created?

The most likely explanation is some New Orleans cats took the music they heard at home, in church and in barrooms, put it all together, and created a new sound. A wild, jubilant music. A music that makes you feel free and easy. Makes you feel alive. Makes you want to get up and dance. And dance we did and always will to the birth of American music.

Some of the earliest forms of the genre are referred to as dixieland. Traditional New Orleans jazz usually includes a cornet, trumpet, and trombone. 

Sorena Briley
French Quarter Street Performer

Which jazz musicians are from New Orleans?

Where do we begin... some of the most known jazz greats from New Orleans include Louis "Satchmo" Armstrong, Jelly Roll Morton, Pete Fountain, Wynton and Ellis Marsalis, Harry Connick Jr., Kermit Ruffins, Danny Barker, Trombone Shorty, and Jeremy Davenport to name a few. Head to Musical Legends Park to see statues dedicated to many of these greats.

Rebecca Todd
Jazz Legends by BMike

Where can I hear jazz live in New Orleans?

A trip to New Orleans is not complete without hearing some bebop, and there are plenty of jazz clubs to choose from. Jeremy Davenport and Kermit Ruffins have their own clubs that you can check out on a regular basis. Another great option for the whole family is Preservation Hall.

To learn more about the history of jazz, visit the New Orleans Jazz Museum.