Jazz Research Journal, Vol 11, No 1 (2017)

Early New Orleans band photography

Alan John Ainsworth
Issued Date: 2 Aug 2017

Abstract


Band photographs are important records of early New Orleans jazz. The cultural, racial and economic environment in New Orleans shaped band photography and gave rise to a series of distinctive visual conventions—the formal, instrumental array, posed action and novelty poses. New Orleans bands were integral to New Orleans’ musical and social culture, mediating musicians’ relationship with the market and providing space for the negotiation of racial, personal and musical identities. The ensemble tradition elevated accomplishment and presentational style, but economic uncertainty, competition between musicians for work and exposure to a capricious labour market were ever-present; racial factors were also critically important. The visual conventions were consciously deployed to meet these challenges, allowing musicians to publicize individual and ensemble skills and create musical and racial identities. Set in context, New Orleans band photographs point to the complex and shifting af nity between musicians and ensemble. 

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DOI: 10.1558/jazz.33607

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