Belated Birthday Wishes to Buddy Bolden!
“Cornetist Buddy Bolden is one of the premier legendary figures of jazz. Credited as the founder of “jass,” later to be called jazz, he was the first player to pursue an improvisational style. Much is unknown about Bolden’s life, however, and it has been difficult for jazz historians to separate myth from reality, and the legend continues to grow.” (source)
“Jazz, obviously, did not originate from one single personality, yet Buddy Bolden seems to have been accepted as the first legend of jazz. Indeed, in his Encyclopedia of Jazz, Leonard Feather writes: “Since his career predated the making of commercial records of his kind of music, there is nothing of him but legend.” That legend was first told via the recollections of New Orleans-style music pioneers, such as King Oliver and Bunk Johnson, who mentored Louis Armstrong and played in Bolden’s bands during the late 1800s.
But who was Buddy Bolden? Many aspects of his life remain a mystery and it is perhaps his shadowiness that makes him so fascinating. Any biographical notes on him are a mix of fact and fiction and the truth, most likely, lies somewhere in between. He was born on September 6, 1877, in New Orleans, Louisiana.” (source)
“More factual information is known about his contemporaries than about Bolden himself, many of whom seem to have felt the need to keep his memory alive by talking about him and singing his praises. Even Jelly Roll Morton, who called himself the inventor of jazz, called Bolden “the most powerful trumpet in the world” and paid homage to him by recording the “Buddy Bolden Blues,” which most likely stemmed from a composition by Cornish. Armstrong was only a child when Bolden was making waves in New Orleans, yet he too claimed that Bolden had been “too good for his time.” It seemed that the sound of Bolden’s cornet was a most cherished memory to those who had heard it and its memory carried a spirit of rebellion and hope. Bechet supported this idea by claiming that playing the “Buddy Bolden Blues” could have thrown you in jail.” (source)
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Grey Armstrong is a writer and instructor of Black culture, history, and dance. His work focuses on unpacking unconscious bias, cross-cultural communication, in addition to culture formation. He also travels the world teaching African American vernacular dances and giving lectures of Black history and culture. He is the founder of the popular blog and website Obsidian Tea, which explores themes of the Black experience and culture, Anti-racism Praxis, developing cultural competency, and the evolving relationship between Black and white Americans in the United States from the trans-Atlantic slave trade onwards
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