Recently my friend Lovano gave me a book that traces the history of jazz from its earliest New Orleans beginnings through today, chronicling the contributions of Italian Americans to this great music. “Bebop, Swing, and Bella Musica”, written by Bill Dal Cerro and David Anthony Witter is not only a fascinating read, but a strong reference for lovers of jazz history.
Filled with interesting facts and stories, this is a must have book for those who study or teach jazz history. I will relate one of those stories now. Jazz pioneer coronetist Nick La Rocca (New Orleans, 1889-1961), was one of the members of the group the Original Dixieland Jazz Band founded by drummer “Papa” Jack Laine around 1915. The ODJB was the first band to export the sounds of New Orleans around the country and help popularize the music eventually known as jazz. It was also the first band to record a jazz record in 1917.
My connection to this story is very coincidental. According to legend, the ODJB arrived in Chicago in 1916. Someone in the audience heckled the band saying “Here comes another jack ass band from New Orleans”. LaRocca thought the idea was funny, so he called the band the Original Dixieland Jack-Ass band from that point forward, which later became shortened to “jass”. Later jass became “jazz”.
So what, you say, where’s your connection? Well, several years ago I carved this funny bunny and called him jack-ass. After reading the jazz story about Nick LaRocca and the ODJB I have discovered new meaning and a new purpose for my jack-ass. I now refer to him as “father jazz”.
Pick up the book, you won’t be disappointed.
All the best-