April 30, 2014 - 14:51 AMT
Born in New Orleans: Jazz pioneers celebrated April 30
In 2011, UNESCO designated April 30, as the official International Jazz Day, timed to the April 29 birthday of Duke Ellington.
The legend has it that jazz music was born in New Orleans, travelling on old paddle-steamers to Mississippi, Memphis, St. Louis, Chicago and finally, New York.

The legend is not far from truth: The Original Dixieland Jass Band (ODJB) were a New Orleans, Dixieland jazz band that made the first jazz recordings in early 1917. Their "Livery Stable Blues" became the first jazz single ever issued. The group made the first recordings, and claimed authorship, of many jazz standards, the most famous being "Tiger Rag".

The band consisted of five musicians who previously had played in the Papa Jack Laine bands, a diverse and racially integrated group of musicians who played for parades, dances, and advertising in New Orleans.

ODJB billed itself as the Creators of Jazz; it was the first band to record jazz commercially and to have hit recordings in the new genre. Band leader and trumpeter Nick LaRocca argued that ODJB deserved recognition as the first band to record jazz commercially and the first band to establish jazz as a musical idiom or genre.

The names of jazz giants that followed would take pages; here belong Duke Ellington, a composer, pianist and bandleader of jazz orchestras; George Gershwin, the author of Porgy and Bess and famous Rhapsody in Blue; jazz trumpeters Louis Armstrong and Miles Davis, saxophonists Charlie Parker, singers Jane Fitzgerald, Nina Simone, Dionne Warwick, Ray Charles, Luther Vandross, pianist Oscar Peterson, Count Basie, Thelonious Monk – and countless others, each with their own original unsurpassed sound, recognizable from the first seconds.

Armenian jazz cannot go unmentioned here: the first Armenian jazz band was founded by composer Tsolak Vardazaryan in 1936. In 1938, composer Artemiy Ayvazyan founded the Armenian State Jazz Orchestra. The orchestra's first drummer Robert Yolchyan became the legend of Soviet and Armenian jazz, successfully developed his own style during the decades and continued to play and gave master-classes until his death in early 2000s.

Other jazz bands were founded in Nairi Cinema Hall, Yerevan Park of Communars, etc. In 1954, Konstantin Orbelian organized а quintet of Armenian Radio. In 1966 in the same radio, young composer Martin Vardazaryan founded the Estrada Orchestra, which in the 1970s was renamed to Estrada Symphonic Orchestra under the direction of Melik Mavisakalyan and Yervand Yerznkyan. Later, Stepan Shakarian founded the jazz sextet of Radio, jazz-trios were founded by David Azaryan and Artashes Kartalyan. Jazz pianist Levon Malkhasian ("Malkhas") founded his jazz trio in cooperation with Armen Toutounjyan ("Chico") and Arthur Abrahamyan. In 1998, Malkhas become one of the initiators of Yerevan International Jazz-Festivals. Among the leading modern jazz musicians are Armen Martirosyan (conductor, pianist), Vahagn Hayrapetian ("Petian", piano) and Armen Hyusnunts (saxophone).

In 2011, UNESCO designated April 30, as the official International Jazz Day, timed to the April 29 birthday of Duke Ellington.

Karine Ter-Sahakian / PanARMENIAN.Net