Transcript for Jazz Parades: Feet Don't Fail Me Now
ALAN LOMAX (NARRATOR): America has a patchwork culture of the dreams and songs of all its people.
[A montage of clips from other films in The American Patchwork Series]
NARRATOR: This is Alan Lomax. Come with me now on an adventure in our marvelous patchwork culture.
[Scene of a jazz parade]
Fail me now.
Don’t fail me now.
Fail me now.
Don’t fail me now.
NARRATOR: “Feet Don’t Fail Me Now” is a song out of the modern New Orleans Jazz revival. It’s about music that makes you want to move. It’s about movement that takes you into the street where you can join with others. The words are English but the sentiment is African. It’s the good time music of New Orleans, the town where jazz was born out of a fusion of African and European elements.
[Scenes of New Orleans]
NARRATOR: This tired, old Caribbean city produced a new music, an international mix that had something for everybody.
[Montage of scenes from everyday life in New Orleans]
NARRATOR: Jazz in its myriad forms became the music that the whole world dances and romances to. New Orleans has always been a rich town, once America’s greatest port, the outlet for the entire Mississippi valley and so became our first pleasure capital with bars, dance halls and bordellos that gave work to local musicians, white and black, like the composer Jelly Roll Morton.
[Photo: Jelly Roll Morton]
NARRATOR: Jelly Roll, like Stravinsky and Ansermet who were staggered at the brilliant collective improvisation in jazz, focused on the orchestration style of the early jazz band.
[People file out of St. James’ Methodist Church]
NARRATOR: He said that it came from jazz parades. And the jazz parades, he said, took place every Sunday morning after church.
JELLY ROLL MORTON (V/O): They used to have clubs, clubs all over the city. These clubs were always ones with parades at least once a week. Every Sunday there was a parade in New Orleans.
[Parade by the Zulu Social and Pleasure Club of New Orleans featuring The Majestic Band]
NARRATOR: These New Orleans jazzmen danced with their horns. They also play with tone, range, whooping, yelling, and laughing. They are part of a street ballet with a cast of hundreds where everybody is doing their own thing right on the beat.
[Music by The Majestic Band and dancing by the crowd]
NARRATOR: This isn’t chaos, it’s black tradition right out of Africa.
[Video footage of a West African ceremonial parade]
NARRATOR: This is how West Africans parade with the band an integral part of the dancing crowd.
[Scene switches back and forth between the jazz parade in New Orleans and the West African ceremony]
WOMAN: They had their shirts alike. They had their pants alike. They had their shoes alike. They had their hats alike. And they had their umbrellas alike.
NORMAN DIXON: You have your clothes made. You have your fan made. You have your streamers made and you want to have it all together when you hit the streets because you’ll have all the people looking at you. You’re just not going to have two or three people, man you’re going to have a congregation of people, you know. And once that band hear that number, “boomp da boomp” you’re going to get out there and “doop da doop.”
NARRATOR: From a distance the band has a big goal for unity, but close in you can hear the bandsmen breaking out of the arrangement in hot licks responding to each other…
[Identifies a saxophone player as Floyd Anckle and the parade band as The Majestic Band.]
NARRATOR: …and also reacting to the huge crowd of dancers that has now joined the parade the so called “second line.”
MAN: It’s a dance when you feel good, do your thing. What you feel is good for you.
WOMAN: When you feel good and do your thing, and you [dancing] jump back out and….hey, hey. [Laughs].
[Crowd dances to the parade band music]
NARRATOR: Now if you want to shake all over like the second liners are doing, your feet have got to hug the ground. This is another part of the African heritage, the sliding step.
[Parade stops near a red brick building. A vinyl sign hanging on the side of the building reads, “Club Silver Dollar Welcomes the Zulu S.P. Club Parade, Sunday * May 15 * 12 noon”]
NARRATOR: Well, the parade has now paused at one of the watering holes set up to honor the proud Zulus—the only black club allowed to participate in official Mardi Gras in the bad old days.
[Historical Photo: Zulu Social and Pleasure Club members dressed in “black-face”]
NARRATOR (commenting on the photo): It may seem strange that they wore black face even though they were black, but that was the custom. In fact, up through the twenties most black entertainers wore black face on stage. It was their only way in.
MAN: They looked down on us because we were black. And we used black faces in our carnival parade and even the black community turned their backs on us during those times.
ALAN LOMAX (interviewing the man): Now they don’t feel that way?
MAN: No, sir.
LOMAX: They’re proud of you now?
MAN: We’re at the top of the heap. We was proud of it then you know and we are still proud of it.
LOMAX: You really have broken through that old race line.
MAN: The only time you get a crowd like this together in New York is when you have a riot.
NARRATOR: It was in these organizational bands that jazz originated back after the Civil War. You see the problem was that the blacks, although they had legitimate democratic, political aspirations, couldn’t realize them in the days of Reconstruction. They were strongly repressed here in Louisiana so instead of moving into the streets with violence, they moved into the streets with music.
NARRATOR: And here is the final scene of this four hour street ballet. The Zulus disappear into their clubhouse then the crowd surges in and splits up the band in typical Afro-Caribbean style. On stage the bandsmen play with sound in the way that made jazz great. They don’t play by note, they improvise taking their cues from the dancers.
[Music and Dance]
NARRATOR: This is how jazz grew, in the middle of the dancing crowd.
[Music and Dance]
NARRATOR: Eighty years ago, New Orleans had 600 bands like this busy at its balls, picnics, and celebrations and that gave hundreds of Creole musicians a chance to work out their artistry and to improve the techniques of jazz. Some of these people stayed home, thank goodness, and some of them got to be world famous. People like King Oliver and Kid Ory, Sidney Bechet, and of course the great Louis Armstrong.
[Music by Louis Armstrong]
NARRATOR: Louis Armstrong, perhaps America’s most original musician, was raised an orphan. He hauled coal for a living and then went on to light up the whole world with his trumpet. New Orleans has dedicated a park to Armstrong. This is a town that cares for its past. It has preserved its fine old Spanish and French architecture and it takes pride in the exquisite iron work of the black slave artisans and its delicious French and Creole food traditions. And by providing a hall where old time jazz musicians could play every night the year round its jazz devotees had brought the great music of New Orleans back into the life of the city. Preservation Hall where this miracle was wrought is hidden away in a side street in the French Quarter. In its garden we find the director of this magical place, Allan Jaffe.
ALLAN JAFFE: The hall was started so there would be a place where the musicians could play and where people would come and hear it, where the music was the important thing. We had a lot of trouble when it first started trying to arrange concert tours with people saying, “My goodness, how can we book a tour a year in advance for a musician that was fifty years old or sixty years old.?” Well, that same musician is still playing now. Twenty years later, he is playing strong. The musicians who are playing a really a group of survivors.
[Willie Humphrey playing clarinet]
WILLIE HUMPHREY: You got to feel it. If you don’t feel it, you don’t know nothing about jazz. It’s like the fellas working railroads and tampin’ ties, “Ho! Ho!” And it starts, “Mmm, ho!” And it work easy, you know. “Ho, we!” And from that they start singing little hymns and little things like that. It makes they work very simple. People feel it, you see. And that’s the same with this music. I like that. It have action. A little action, good tone.
[Emmanuel Sayles playing banjo]
EMMANUEL SAYLES: Jazz is pertaining to sex. I mean real low-down jazz. I was told that a long time ago, just like I told you about a man and a woman, a woman and a man. It’s pertaining to sex, that’s why the high class colored people didn’t like jazz or nothing like that. And the white folks liked it because they knew what it meant and they knew that they liked to hear it, see. And that’s the real gospel truth, jazz is pertaining to sex.
[Chester Zardis playing bass]
CHESTER ZARDIS: I bought a bass from Mr. Billy Marero. The best bass player you had. And I didn’t want my mother to know that I was going to learn music, because she say the women was gonna kill me because all the musicians the women was killing at that time. I said, “I’m going to take my chances.” I don’t mind dying for the bass.
NARRATOR: This looks rather like a European musical recital, but actually the African street band formula is still at work with (inaudible) improvising in front of the hot rhythm section.
[Alonzo Stewart playing drums]
KID THOMAS VALENTINE: We came up, nobody showed us a note. You know how long to learn a number?
ALAN LOMAX: No, I don’t know.
KID THOMAS VALENTINE: Three, four months, sometimes longer than that for one, one number, we’d take one at a time.
LOMAX: You practiced one number for three or four months?
KID THOMAS VALENTINE: That right. One, just one. And when you got that perfect, took another one. All right? Finally we had three numbers. So, a fella had a bakery, used to bake bread. He hired us to play them three numbers for the people. They asked us, “How about a fast one?” Same number. “Play the slow one.” Same number! But people them days appreciated music, you know what I mean?
NARRATOR (V/O): The man at the record stand is Bill Russell, the dean of jazz scholars and he doesn’t like to miss a single performance of the Preservation Hall Band. His house on Orleans Street is a treasure cave of jazz information, boxes of manuscripts of old music, of photos and letters from all the jazz greats.
ALAN LOMAX: What’s the best explanation of jazz by a jazz band that you ever came across?
WILLIAM RUSSELL: Well, it’s remarkable how all the early musicians seem to agree on certain principles. Like Bunk (Johnson) and (Warren) “Baby” Dodds when they explained that the New Orleans music always has the melody going—that people like to hear that melody; recognizable tune; and, of course, there’s that wonderful beat that has to go with it; and the fact that they use a more moderate tempo. As Bunk once said, never play anything…never play nothing any faster than you can walk.
[Historical photos of jazz parades]
WILLIAM RUSSELL (referring to an early photo of a jazz band he is holding in front of the camera): Joe Robichaux was one of the very first famous musicians here. In the 1890s he organized his band, early in the 1890s.
WILLIAM RUSSELL: Yeah blacks. And they were all readers. It was more of a society group. They played probably more for the white people up on St. Charles Avenue say for the millionaires’ homes.
LOMAX: Melodies like this one from the downtown Creole section echo in the whole stream of jazz. The music has a special savor. It’s the music of a forgotten age when the proud, free colored community flourished in Louisiana 400,000 strong. Some began as privileged servants. Others were the offspring of mixed liaisons but they acquired property, taught their children fine French manners, built beautiful homes and prospered in trade. They served under Jackson in the Battle of New Orleans. Their regiments helped to defeat the south in the Civil War and their golden skin women shone at the world famous Creole Balls and they were very musical as Jelly Roll tells us.
JELLY ROLL MORTON (V/O): We always had some kind of musical instruments in the house. I, myself was inspired by going to the Prince Opera House once. I remember the old building very well on Royal Street. They used to play numbers like Faust, and tunes like that, you know—classic numbers. This is “Misery of the Troubadour.”
[Photo: Jelly Roll Morton’s home in New Orleans]
WILLIAM RUSSELL: This is Jelly Roll Morton’s old home in the early 1900s and the late 1890s. Jelly Roll Morton the famous pianist, the most famous of all the New Orleans composers, possibly the most famous of all the musicians from here.
NARRATOR: In the French downtown the street names read like a Creole song, Villere, Liberty, Marais and the musicians raised in the shadow of the French Opera House gave jazz its French tang.
[Photo of Walter Decou. Music by Walter Decou]
NARRATOR: (Walter) Decou taught the clarinet to speak Creole.
[Photo of Sidney Bechet. Music by Sidney Bechet]
NARRATOR: (Sidney) Bechet who took Paris by storm.
[Photo of Shepard]
NARRATOR: Shepard, King of Chicago before Oliver. Then Perez, whose band could cross the race line.
[Alan Lomax and William Russell standing in front of a building in New Orleans]
WILLIAM RUSSELL: This is one of the old halls. Perseverance Hall was built back in the middle of the 19th century. One of the benevolent and aid societies that is insurance and it was also a good-time place where they gave many dances. One of the main bands that played here was Bunk Johnson’s group, it would be the Superior Band.
ALAN LOMAX: He was the man who helped Louis Armstrong get started.
WILLIAM RUSSELL: Yeah, it was back in the early days of the 1900s.
ALAN LOMAX: When did the blacks in New Orleans start building these places of association?
WILLIAM RUSSELL: Some of them are in the, oh, by 1830 or 1840. Certain ones will be dated way back before the Civil War.
ALAN LOMAX: And these were associations of free men?
WILLIAM RUSSELL: In that case it would be, if it was before the Civil War. They were insurance organizations. And if a member died they’d have the brass band.
NARRATOR: (P.B.S.) Pinchback, the first black governor of Louisiana, urged all the clubs to sponsor brass bands. And so it was to their happy sound the emancipated slaves poured into the polls and sent their representatives to the state legislature.
[Historical photos of Louisiana’s earliest black legislators]
NARRATOR: These free men of color, among whom was Jelly Roll’s great uncle, wrote a new constitution for Louisiana that established civil rights, universal suffrage, free education and rights for women. It was the most advanced political document of that time. Later racists murdered several of these remarkable black lawmakers and in the notorious New Orleans race riots (of 1866) a mob of police shot down blacks who had assembled to cheer the passage of the new constitution. As reaction deepened in the south during Reconstruction, the social clubs, with their rules of secrecy, began to be more and more important to the folk of New Orleans.
MAN (V/O): This is one of the few places where our people had a chance to go and be themselves.
ALAN LOMAX: What is the benefit of the organization for the members?
MAN: Well it is more or less a fraternal organization, sort of a secret organization. And the bands, as you notice today, you see them in all sizes from five years on up and they jump, they do everything. And just like you got a little kid out there tonight, it looks like he’s about three years old. And sooner or later, maybe two-, three- years later he’ll be ready to join one of the social clubs or one of the fraternal clubs that have the parades. Whenever they say parade, we are ready.
MAN #2: The people got the soul. We don’t have it. They always say, “The band got the soul.” We don’t have no soul. The people got the soul.
[The Young Men Olympians parade]
NARRATOR: We’re at the anniversary parade of the Young Olympians social club golden music, brilliant costumes. Below the surface runs the deep tide of African tradition. You see it in the crouching, sliding step and the improvisation of the dancers but most strongly in the change of levels from low to high then back again which is so characteristic of Africa. And here were dancers under cars, on top of cars, up on telephone poles.
[Scene switches back and forth between the Young Men Olympians’ parade and an African processional]
NARRATOR: Then somebody said, “Wait till you see old Spiderman. He dances on the tops of houses.” And in a moment here came Spiderman in his red shirt climbing right past me.
JOHNNY COOL STEVENSON: We call our parade “Super Sunday” and that’s just the way you feel. To see all those people there to participate in your parade is a big thing. You say to yourself how in the world did we do it? But we’re doing it. Some people walk down the street skipping, some people jump, some people roll, you can do anything.
MAN (O/C): And Spiderman is known for climbing the buildings.
ALAN LOMAX (interviewing Spiderman): You told me the last time I saw you that when you were doing this you were thinking about giving your people, your black people a good name and giving them something to…
SPIDERMAN: It is to give them what they want, you know. See, if I give them what they want, they always going to do for me.
MAN (O/C): And he always add an extra touch to it by jumping up there and doing his thing
NARRATOR: Spiderman’s talent gives him status in the network of clubs in which the neighborhood depends. Near The Glass House where the Young Olympians headquarter we hear what the leaders of the club have to say about their parades.
NORMAN DIXON: It’s a tradition. Like I was saying, you know, with the music—the bum, bum and the… Whatcha call that thing?
MAN (O/C): The dot, dot.
NORMAN DIXON: Yeah, you pick them up and you let them down, you know. But normally in the whole thing it is I mean our organization is based upon…well we bury the dead and we take care of the sick.
JOHNNY COOL STEVENSON: Finances are tight. People can’t get jobs, you know, things like this here. And it’s hard. So everybody need to come together and work together. We want that. This is all it’s all about, you know. You want the communication, you want happiness between the brothers and the sisters, you know.
MONK BORDREAUX: I’ve been behind it all my life, you know dancing on the sideline having a good time, you know. But I see these guys in the street they are having a better time than me and they looking sharp.
NORMAN DIXON: They spend roughly from around, say from four-fifty, five hundred, to six hundred dollars. It’s according to how you want to look. Now some of them say well about three, three hundred, three-fifty—they going to look alright. But it’s the more money you put into it, it’s the better you are going to look. And this is what it’s all about, you know, to look good and to feel good and to get out there and to do some good.
NARRATOR: The money spent on fine clothes is an investment in the pride and the solidarity of the group. That combined with the hot performance style generates an exciting sense of the potency and the uniqueness of the black community that can even outweigh family ties.
MAN: Once a year, for yourself, you spend the money for yourself. You avoid your family, just for to have that one day.
ALAN LOMAX: The women back you in this?
MAN: The family’s all the way behind you.
NORMAN DIXON: See your family, they have to be with you 100% in order for you to participate because if you don’t…. You don’t have to get up and go if you don’t have the backing of your family.
[Scenes from the Young Men Olympians’ parade]
WOMAN (V/O): When they parade it’ll be like Mardi Gras day, everybody come out.
ALAN LOMAX (V/O): What do the women come for?
WOMAN (V/O): A lot of reasons. The way they look, the way they smile, way they dance, way they talk, way they shake, they well-dressed. Oh, everything good with clothes. They be paying $300 for the shoes they parade in. I think it’s beautiful, me.
MAN#2 (V/O): The vast majority of the people are poor people. Some of these kids want so bad to be a part of this parents will spend their last dime so a son or a daughter can be involved in this. And some of the kids who may get into a little trouble at home. They get into one of these clubs…well they know if they get into too much stuff they can’t belong so that kind of keeps them straight.
NARRATOR: And so in a very real way the jazz parades deal with juvenile delinquency and they boost community morale meanwhile they make every weekend into a kind of Caribbean festival. Then on Mardi Gras the tribes of black Indians take to the streets and their mock battles look like part Indian, part African, and part Ziegfeld.
[Scenes from a carnival featuring black Indians]
JOHNNY COOL STEVENSON: For many, many years the Indians have been the big, big thing on carnival day. Everybody wants to see the Indians. The Indians work hard and when you see they costumes you understand what I am telling you.
MAN: They consist of nothing but beauty.
[Closeup of a man dressed in a bright pink Indian costume]
WOMAN (O/C): Pretty Spy Boy, ohhh!!! Pretty White Eagle’s got a golden crown.
[Man dressed in a headdress adorned with bright blue feathers]
NARRATOR: The singer in the blue feathers is a carnival devotee named Bird. Like his Caribbean cousins Bird spends the whole year designing next year’s carnival costume. A true bohemian he lives in the Garif and works only enough to support his art.
[Bird interviewed in his home in New Orleans]
BIRD: I buy the Indian books and I get me a few artists to draw the pictures for me. And when they draw them the way I want them to draw it, then I outline them. And when I outline them, I outline the patches in pastel colors with the beads. I sews from morning, evening, noon, night, to the next morning. Sometimes the needles break and I gotta delay myself. Stop, go uptown and buy myself some more needles. That’s right. I got more needle holes in my hands than I think they got people in the hospital there.
[Displaying his needlepoint]
BIRD: This is some extras stuff that I’m working on. (Pointing to a decorative item lying on his bed) And that’s an apron there I’m making, see. (Explaining the meaning of the symbols and subjects sewn on the apron) They had traveled so far, this Indian woman and man, until they see the birds. And then they know they are facing water. (Pointing to an item hanging on a hanger) That’s my vest to my other suit. You see that hawk on it for the White Eagles. (Picking up a belt like item) That’s totem pole faces. I design them into a Dickey you see.
NARRATOR: All of this Indian symbolism in Black Mardi Gras is sort of puzzling until you realize that the blacks are identifying with the Indian resistance against white subjection and at the same time are disguising the meaning of their own warlike behavior on carnival day.
[Historical film footage of Buffalo Bills Wild West show]
NARRATOR: All of this was stimulated when Buffalo Bill brought his Wild West Show to New Orleans in the 1880s. His tamed Sioux were invited to march in the Mardi Gras parade where blacks were then excluded. And from that time on, the Indian theme has more and more dominated black carnival.
[Scene from a Black Carnival]
[BLACK INDIAN DRESSED IN YELLOW SINGING]
Well I got a Flag Boy
That whoop’n holler…
NARRATOR: Actually the style of these costumes is more African than Indian. This swollen, cylindrical form is the absolute norm in African ritual regalia.
[Back with group of Young Men Olympians sitting outside of The Glass House]
[MONK BORDREAUX SINGING WITH GROUP]
Nobody run and nobody bow
Shallow water, oh mama
Say Mardi Gras is coming
An’ we ready to die
Shallow water, oh mama
Say mama tol’ me‘fore you leave home
You a little bitty boy but you carry it on
NARRATOR: The wall of the house, a paper box, a glass, anything can be a part of a black Indian rehearsal. These rehearsals that are a vital part of neighborhood life begin months before Mardi Gras.
GERALD MULLEN: Sunday evenings, say from like maybe the latter part of October. This is when what they call Mardi Gras season really starts at least for the blacks anyway because we have Indian practice every Sunday. Every Sunday, it’s just like going to church, a religious person going to church because if you believe in this you are going to be there no matter what it costs.
MAN: It’s in the blood, it’s born in the blood.
[Pretty White Eagles gathered at Darryl’s, rehearsing songs for the carnival]
Gonna take em down now
Ay pa ka way!
Early in the morning
Ay pa ka way!
NARRATOR: The White Eagles get together at Darryl’s uptown with Bird in dark glasses heading a West Indian style rhythm band as The Spy Boys of two tribes perform in African war dance style and act out the hostile encounters that they’ll have on carnival day even including the grimaces.
[CONTINUED GROUP SINGING]
Ay pa ka way!
Tue-eey [kill him]
Spy Boy hollin’
Flag Boy hollin’
Oh, da Indian crown
Ay pa ka way
[At the home of Bird, he explains and demonstrates for the camera the mock confrontations performed during carnival]
BIRD: Then we go into action, you know. Paa! When da big chief come! Paa! Witch doctor! And I shake them shakers and bless them each time. And I be the last man to run away from there. Then, clown around him. And he folds his arm and he make that point like that and we run down the street. Then we get to our action, you know. A li’l dancing and I have them going on like that all day, all day.
BIRD (dressed in full regalia): Witch doctor! The crazy White Eagles liked say. Hoo-na-nay!
ALAN LOMAX: The songs that you sing in Mardi Gras, they’re real old, aren’t they?
BIRD: Ooooh! They gonna stay here!
ALAN LOMAX: How old are they?
BIRD: They been here before I was born. I’m masking thirty years and I’m fifty-six years old. And they got dudes masking older than I am. So you take it from there and you understand what I’m talking about.
ALAN LOMAX: Just how…..
BIRD: That’s my number one favorite song.
Oh my Big Chief
Oh Lord my Big Chief
Big Chief of the nation
The Wild, wild creation
He won’t bow down
He won’t bow down
Not on the ground
Not on the ground
But we love to hear you call him
NARRATOR: Jelly Roll told me that when a tribe left its home turf and entered another neighborhood these mock hostilities might turn into bloody battles and someone could end up in the morgue. I see these costume dramas as about the only public way that was permitted to blacks to express the rage and anger they felt at the deep racial injustice of those days. Of course they also channeled neighborhood antagonisms—the hatred that the Creoles of downtown felt about the newcomers from uptown, the blacks from upriver. All of the old jazzmen talked to me about this as if it was a real centerpiece of their lives.
[Preservation Hall: interviewing members of the Preservation Hall Jazz Band]
EMMANUEL SAYLES: You take downtown, uptown, river, and back of town. You live in river front, you go in back of town you liable to be running, white or black. You live downtown, you go uptown, white or black, you liable to be running.
LOMAX (O/C): If you didn’t run, what would happen?
EMMANUEL SAYLES: I mean the guys, the gangs would jump on you. Your own color would jump on you.
CHESTER ZARDIS: I used to have a piece of iron in my sleeve right there all the time, big piece of iron, like that. And when I walk up there he ask me what’s my name. I say, “Why you wanna know my name?” Pop! I done hit him, see. I hit him in the head and blood start running like that. So we fit there for a long time. We’d fight, fight them man. I had blood coming down, didn’t know where the blood was coming from. From my head, somebody had hit me on my head and the blood’s coming down. So I look at their bunch. They was full of blood, see. So now, when you see me jumping on that bass, say “he got it now, he got it.” Just like a person goes to sing in church and they get religion, fall out like that, I ain’t gonna fall out on them strings.
[Music by the Preservation Hall Jazz Band]
NARRATOR: The blues came in from uptown with the river roustabouts, the shanty dwellers, the mule skinners, the migrants from cane and cotton fields. Uptown musicians introduced the blues into jazz and then it was mellowed, Creolized.
[JAMES “SING” MILLER SINGING AND PLAYING PIANO]
Yes, now hurry down sunshine,
See what tomorrow bring.
Yes, now hurry down sunshine,
See what tomorrow bring.
If it don’t bring me Friday,
Don’t bring me a doggone thing.
I see you runnin’ around,
Runnin’ around in your brand new car.
And can’t get no gas.
Yes, I see you runnin’ on, pretty baby,
Runnin’ around in your brand new car.
EMMANUEL SAYLES: The blues is colored people…black man’s music. She come from disappointment, despair, troubles you, and you’re just singing and telling a story. Sort of rids your body and mind of certain burdens, suffering you went through.
[JAMES “SING” MILLER SINGING AND PLAYING PIANO]
Yes now Jelly, Jelly, Jelly, Jelly, Jelly
Jelly stays on my mind.
Jelly Roll killed my pappy
Run my mommy stone blind.
[Historical photo of Johnny Dodds and Buddy Bolden with music]
NARRATOR: The hard cry of the blues that gave jazz its soul came from the mean and dangerous streets of uptown. This was the terrain of Johnny Dodds, of Kid Ory, of Oliver, and many other great jazz men. Louis Armstrong was born on this street. Here somehow jazz orchestration acquired the power of its working class origins, led by Buddy Bolden—“the blowin’-est man since Gabriel,” Jelly said. “Any time it was a quiet night at Lincoln Park dance hall, he’d turn that trumpet round toward the city and call his children home.”
[Photos of historical maps of New Orleans]
NARRATOR: Below us lies Storyville where jazz was not born, but raised. Storyville was declared New Orleans’ official red light district in 1898. And when its madames found that jazz kept their customers happily spending money they became in effect the first patrons of the new music. Here where the Green Swaz Boulevard runs along Basin Street, once the railroads ran right into the heart of the city. Little boys approached the traveling salesmen with advertising about the happiness that awaited them in Storyville. As Jelly Roll remarked, “There was everything in the way of hilarity there.” The guidebook said that upstairs beautiful women everlastingly alert for a good time awaited the sex star of men of those days. And on the street yonder the poorer prostitutes rented the cribs with a bed and a basin for fifty cents a night and sold themselves for a quarter.
[Historical photos of Storyville prostitutes]
NARRATOR: Storyville never closed. Its countless cabarets and jazz clubs had work for all the jazz men in New Orleans. On the job, uptown and downtown didn’t matter anymore. What mattered was how the whole band sounded, how the music kept them hopping. So downtown Creoles and uptown blacks had to bury their age-old fears of one another and I believe that jazz owes its emotional power to the human triumph accomplished at the moment that these two joined in collective improvisation. The child of that union still jumps for joy wherever jazz is hot.
[Live music by the Preservation Hall Jazz Band]
ALLAN JAFFE: The usual thing is that New Orleans jazz went to Chicago and then it became swing. And then it went to New York and became this…and became Be-bop. And it’s a whole transition of jazz. I think that New Orleans jazz stayed in New Orleans and eventually became Rhythm-and-Blues and now Rock-n-Roll. And the popular music of today has really a lot more to do with New Orleans jazz than the things that people call jazz.
[Live music performed by The Dirty Dozen Brass Band]
ALAN LOMAX (interviewing members of The Dirty Dozen Brass Band): It doesn’t sound like, quite like old time New Orleans music—sort of like it but different. How did that happen? Tell me about it.
GREG DAVIS (appearing with Roger Lewis): Well, we couldn’t get work doing it like it was supposed to be done. And then a lot of the older guys wouldn’t do funerals or parades anymore anyway.
LOMAX: Couldn’t stand the march, huh?
GREG DAVIS: Correct. And because of the fact the younger crowd was the ones hiring us, we had to play music to suit them.
[Dirty Dozen Brass Band playing: Gregory Davis on trumpet, Charles Joseph on trombone, Kirk Joseph on sousaphone, Roger Lewis on tenor saxophone, Ephrem Townes on trumpet]
[DIRTY DOZEN BRASS BAND SINGING]
Twinkle twinkle little star
How I wonder what you are
Up above the world so high
Like a diamond in the sky.
One went East, one went West,
One went under granma’s dress.
One sees Christmas, One sees stars,
One sees a hole in granma’s draw’rs.
[Alan Lomax interviews people at a dance hall while the Dirty Dozen Brass Band performs]
MAN: What can I say about (inaudible). Dirty Dozen, Dirty Dozen they’re the best. Last Hour, this is the place.
MAN #2: Love, peace and harmony, that’s all we want.
ALAN LOMAX (addressing a young woman): I once heard when you crossed your feet and danced like this you might get kicked out of church. Is that true anymore?
WOMAN: No, no uh huh, you just do what you feel.
[Music and Dancing)
NARRATOR: New Orleans jazz matured in its dance halls in scenes like this one. In white dances the band generally keeps separate and sets the rhythm for the dancers to work with. But in black style, the band often joins the dancers and they heat up the rhythm together—the musicians finding inspiration in the endless variety of dancing on the floor.
(Music and Dancing)
[Alan Lomax interviews Allan Jaffe at the Preservation Hall]
ALLAN JAFFE: It’s the people’s music. It belongs to people. The minute the musician forgets that the reason he’s there playing is for people who are dancing, people who are listening, people who are having a good time…. It’s the art and the music is something that came along with it. They’re not sitting there trying to make art.
ALLAN LOMAX: If there is something being played at the Pearly Gates, if there are Pearly Gates, that’s the music that I’d like to have played for me when I go in, in case they admit me. It’s this sound that makes me feel the best.
[The Dirty Dozen Brass Band plays “A Closer Walk With Thee” in a funeral parade]
NARRATOR: This is a very old way of handling the crisis of death. The friends come together to rejoice, to celebrate the dead man, to give him a great sendoff, to make them feel that life can go on and to make him feel that he’s honored by them. This is a very ancient tradition that endures in the New Orleans funeral.
[Alan Lomax interviews Gregory Davis of the Dirty Dozen Brass Band]
ALAN LOMAX (O/C): Who was the man?
GREG DAVIS: He goes by the name of Popeye.
LOMAX: How do the people feel? Don’t they feel like it’s disrespectful to the dead?
GREG DAVIS: Oh man, it would be an insult if we didn’t play. This is his sendoff, his last party. So to heaven or hell wherever he’s going this will be his last party on earth.
[Alan Lomax interviews funeral parade observers and participants]
MAN: He was actually a man of life
WOMAN: Very kind, very kind.
MAN: And loved by a lot of people, you know. And he would have been appreciated about this very, very much
WOMAN: Yep. This is what he would want.
MAN: This is what he would have wanted. This is what I want.
WOMAN: This is what I’m doing. I’ve never done it before
MAN: But I mean I’m going to have it in my will. I’m going to have it. I’m really going to have it.
[Scenes of the funeral parade. Identifies parade official Lionel Paul Batiste, Sr.]
[Alan Lomax interviews two unidentified women at the funeral parade]
Just a closer walk with thee
Grant it, Jesus, if you please
WOMAN (explaining): And they played that. But now when they come out of the church, well, the band plays a sad hymn too. And further, about a block, well then they start playing the second line music. I just love the second line.
ALAN LOMAX: How many times have you done it in your life?
WOMAN: Oh Lord, I would like a band. I would like a second line cause I love it, it’s in my bones and it’s in all of my children’s bones.
[Alan Lomax interviews parade official Gloria Irving]
GLORIA IRVING: This is in the Bible. They say rejoice over the dead and cry over the incoming, you understand? So I guess this is just some parts in the Bible—we rejoices. Some of it’s sad. Some of it, you know, people enjoy, you know. When we get ready to cut the body a-loose the band’ll get on the side and play. The people will get on the side, you know. And when the funeral coming through they’ll play until the funeral done passed. After the funeral be done passed everybody get together and dance on back.
[Alan Lomax interviews several unidentified bandsmen and one unidentified woman]
BANDSMAN: When I first started when I was young, about fifteen years old. I was playing my first funeral and I was joining the casket and I cried playing that funeral. A funeral’s a beautiful thing.
WOMAN (O/C): It’s sad.
BANDSMAN: And you feel sad. But when you end it up there is no more sadness there. You turn the body a-loose.
ALAN LOMAX (O/C): What does it mean to say you turn the body loose?
BANDSMAN: When you bring em on down, you start cutting them loose, letting ‘em go to the cemetery and getting ready to have more of the jazz part of the funeral.
[JELLY ROLL MORTON (V/O) singing the spiritual “Steal Away”]
Steal away home to my Lord.
JELLY ROLL MORTON (V/O): So, that was always the end of a perfect death.
[Jelly Roll Morton (V/O) singing]
Didn’t he ramble,
Didn’t he ramble,
Ramble all around
In and out the town,
Didn’t he ramble?
[Second line funeral parade music by the Dirty Dozen Brass Band after the body has been laid to rest in the graveyard]
[Alan Lomax interviews several unidentified bandsmen and one unidentified woman]
BANDSMAN (O/C): Band start playing, “Da-da-da.”
Didn’t he ramble,
Didn’t he ramble
Ramble all alone,
This joint, that joint, everywhere,
Didn’t he ramble?
ALAN LOMAX: I see, you mean he was going from one joint to another.
BANDSMAN: Yeah, this joint, that joint, this joint.
WOMAN: He rambled all night long. I heard ‘em say that, “He just rambled.”
BANDSMAN: Three o’clock in the morning.
WOMAN: Until something cut him down. Now what?
BANDSMAN: Till the butcher cut him down.
WOMAN: All right. I’m trying to make you remember.
[Scenes of the Dirty Dozen Brass Band leading a jazz parade. Crowd sings “Feet Don’t Fail Me Now”]
[Fade to black]
JELLY ROLL MORTON (V/O): And that would be the last of the dead man. He is gone and everybody came back home and [inaudible] truly to stick right close to the Bible. That means rejoice at the death and cry at the birth. New Orleans big close with a scripture.
[Credits roll with music by the Preservation Hall Jazz Band]
This program is dedicated to:
Allan Jaffe, Kid Thomas Valentine, Emanuel Sayles, Alonzo Stewart, Emmanuel Paul
Written, directed and produced by Alan Lomax
Editor: Alison Ellwood
Camera: Jim Brown
Series Producer Post Production: Elisabeth Fink Benjamin
Location Manager: Greg Davis
Associate Producer: Jaime Barrios
Additional Camera: Toby Armstrong, Bruce Conque, Larry Davis
Sound: Kenny Delbert, Gary Olsen
Consultants: Bill Russell, Allan Jaffe, Michael P. Smith, Andrew Kaslow, Al Rose, Kurt Jerde, Forrestine Paulay
Consulting Producer: Geoffrey Haines-Stiles
Consulting Editor: Peter Kinoy
Online Editor: Donna Faiella
Production Coordinators: Matthew Barton, Andrew Kaye, Christine Krause
Assistant Editor: Mark Tobin
Sound Mix: Regina Mullen
On Line Assistant: Joe Salleres
Preparatory Edit: Clayton Rawson, Claire Hayward
Artwork: Trang Do
Studio Camera: Mark Benjamin
Art Camera: Mark Spada
Subtitling: Noel McClanahan, Stefan Bruck
Post Production Facilities: Videogenix, The Tape House, REBO Studio, Sync Sound, NVI
Footage Courtesy Of: Karen Morell, U. of Washington, Buffalo Bill Cody Museum, Cody, WY, Petrified Films, INC., Relner Moritz Associates, Ltd., Luis Alvarez, Encyclopedia Ethnographica, Dr. Himmelhaber, Harold Schultz, Igor de Garine, SCET Productions, Guy de Moal
Photos Courtesy of: New Orleans Historic Collection, Amistad Research Center & Hogan Jazz Archive, Tulane U., Murphy Library, U. of Wisc., Hill Memorial Library, LSU, Michael P. Smith, Arthur Bedou Collection, Louisiana State Museum, Special Collections, Xavier Univ., David Stone Martin, F.J. Bellocq, Frank Riggs Collection
Storyville, New Orleans, New Orleans Jazz, A Family Album by Al Rose
Black Beauty, White Heat a Pictorial History of Classic Jazz
The voice of Jelly Roll is from the Lomax recordings for the Folk Song Archive in the Library of Congress
Thanks to: Maurice Martinez, Sandra Jaffe, Richard Allen, Karen Snyder, Carol Kulig, The Glass House, Darrell’s, The Zulu Social and Pleasure Club, Pan American Films, The Museum of American Folk Art, Dennis Duke
Collection of quilts courtesy of: Thomas K. Woodward, American Antiques and Quilts
Equipment Loans From: Anton Bauer Lighting, Lowell Lighting, Video Tech Batteries, Sachtler Camera Support, Fujinon Electronics
Special Thanks: Ikegami Electronics
Special Thanks To: Shirley Duggan and the family of Marshall Poland
American Patchwork Series was developed by the Association for Cultural Equity at Columbia University and Hunter College
All songs and arrangements are protected by copyright ©1990 ACE