Jazz and History

(3) The Word "Jazz"

Tom "Red" Brown(1888-1958)

Tom Brown's Dixieland Jass Band, 1915

It was in 1913. When Joe Frisco, who was a famous vaudevillian in Chicago, came to New Orleans to have live. Tom Brown, a trombone player, called for several musicians for their back band. He was quite impressed with the music called "Jass Music" at that time, and he spoke about the music after having gone back to Chicago. This was the first time that a word "jass" appeared on the paper. Frisco invited Tom Brown's "Tom Brown's Dixieland Jass Band" to Chicago in 1915. This means that there had been Jass Music in New Orleans even before that.

In 1916, another promoter traveled from Chicago to New Orleans in order to seek a "Jass Band", and he found one; "Stein's Dixie Jass Band" leaded by Johnny Stein. In the same year, based on Stein's band, Nick LaRocca an Italian organized "Original Dixieland Jass Band", and he became a leader. February of the next year, this band made the first Jazz record, which was sold so many, and band's name spread all around the world. The music was called "Jass" at first; however, in Chicago, people changed name from jass, jas, jasz to jazz ultimately in order to distinguish from New Orleans "jass". This way, "Jazz" seemed to be made in Chicago.

Stein's Dixie Jass Band, 1916

Original Dixieland Jass Band, 1916

Even though stories about the origin of word "Jazz" and the music itself vary and mix each other, I think that the story noted above is reliable. According to another story, there had been "Razz's Band" in New Orleans.

Originally, "Jass" was considered as a slung that mentioned having sex, or it seemed to come from a French word "jaser" meaning to cheer up somebody. Even if you look up "jass" in your dictionary, it is not there for now. In addition, people called a place for prostitute "Jass House" or "Jazz House."

It might be hard to imagine that a band had a live show in a Jyoro-ya (meaning a Japanese prostitute), even though some girls might play shamisen with their fingernails instead of picks in small rooms. A man could be so cute, if he comes back from Jass House saying "They are good at playing Jazz, so I came back doing nothing but listening it."

Lafcadio Hearn, naturalized to Japanese and named KOIZUMI Yakumo, went back to New Orleans in 1877. His pupil described about him that he frequently enjoyed visiting New Orleans. Hearn's pupil wrote about the life of Creole in New Orleans, but did not seem to have known anything about music. The only licensed prostitution through out the US history lasted about 60 years in New Orleans.

[translated by Mariko Ukawa]

@ Index       Previous Next