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Buddy Bolden

Buddy Bolden

Charles "Buddy" Bolden 1877 - 1931

Pictured: Top: Jimmy Johnson (bass), Bolden (cornet), Willy Cornish (Valve Trombone), Willy Warner (Clarinet) Bottom: Brock Mumford (Guitar), Frank Lewis (Clarinet)

Jazz can be described as free-flowing music that originates in the richest part of a musician’s soul. No restrictive rules to stifle creativity or redirect passion – just feeling and knowing the right note to play at the right time. Jazz is the music that makes life worth living. The music of Charles “Buddy” Bolden helped form the expression of music we know today as JAZZ.

Bolden was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, the city that gave jazz life. After the death of his father, Bolden found comfort in playing music. As a teen, he joined a local dance band, where he honed his craft playing the cornet. The cornet is very similar to the trumpet. It is a brass instrument with three valves and nearly identical range to the trumpet.

Modern ensembles mostly use the trumpet. But in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, cornets were preferred.Whether jazz was "invented" by Bolden is not of concern. He is certainly one of the forms most influential founders, and he is attributed with the trumpet remaining the centerpiece of jazz music. After several years playing and learning in Charlie Galloway’s barber salon, Bolden formed his own band.

Bolden’s band had six members, none of which could read music. Thus, the musicians were relegated to either copying the music of the previous performer or ad lib on stage. Bolden and crew’s spontaneous adlibbing represented the genesis of one of jazz music’s most noteworthy qualities – improvisation. Blending the improvisational style of Bolden's band with gospel, blues, and ragtime is how jazz was formed

Bolden’s band earned their 15 minutes of fame after a controversial military performance. When news spread of their improvisation and lively shows, spectators from across the country started to pour into New Orleans nightclubs to watch them play. 

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Maya Angelou

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