When did the word "jazz" first appear in mainland UK
(or elsewhere for that matter)


07/11/12 -

My sister recently presented me a copy of a new jazz book 'Tracking Jazz - The Ulster Way' by Brian Dempster. Very interesting reading - it appears I missed an awful lot of really amazing jazz by 'emigrating' to England in the Fifties ! A piece that really grabbed my attention was, that a band calling itself the 'Glenarm Jazz Band', played a gig at the Glenarm Orange Hall on the 25th. April 1925. This ' is an indication that for the very first time in Northern Ireland the word jazz had emerged in any noteworthy musical forum'. Makes me wonder if it is known when the word jazz first emerged in a band name on mainland UK? No doubt some of your usual ' minds of knowledge' will know ! Incidentally, that Glenarm venture took place 'just 6 months before 24 year old Louis Armstrong had cut the first recordings under his own name'

Norman Gibson

10/11/12 -

Re., Norman Gibson's message about early usage of the term 'jazz'. I may be barking up the wrong tree, but I'd think it unlikely that a jazz band, as we understand the term, would have played somewhere like Glenarm that far back. Two possibilities spring to mind. First of all, there was a proliferation of kazoo bands in England in the 1930s, and they often called themselves jazz bands. I'm wondering whether our friends in Glenarm might have been an early example of one of these. Secondly, and more probably, it was common all over Britain, as well as Ireland, to describe ballroom dance bands as jazz, at one time. Indeed, I can remember the Joe Loss band and similar being so called as late as the 1950s. In Ireland, the ascription was particularly marked because the establishment, north and south of the border, believed that this was an unwelcome foreign import, and it was corrupting the morals of young people. -

Fred McCormick.

11/11/12 -

Dear Fred,

In response to Norman Gibson's request for the first use of the term "Jazz Band" in mainland UK, the earliest I have discovered (so far) is 5th July 1918. This was the Liberty Jazz Band at a banquet given by the US 835th Aero Squadron at their base "somewhere in England". I suspect this was an internal forces outfit, probably made up from members of a military band.

Regards, Graham Langley,
Archivist, British Institute of Jazz Studies
An archive of 20th Century writings on jazz, blues and related music

11/11/12 - Hi Fred,

Re: Fred McCormick's response yesterday, I am aware that early bands in America, calling themselves 'This or That' Jazz Band, played their music mainly for the purpose of dancing. After all, the first recorded description of 'jazz' in the press, described it as 'dance music with vigor and pep' (US spelling). Brian Dempster has been a long term jazz musician and respected journalist in NI and I trust his recording of the Glenarm 'Jazz' band. Perhaps I was not clear in my earlier e-mail, in that I was curious as to the earliest date a mainland UK band had the word 'Jazz' in it's name ! -

Norman Gibson

14/11/12 -  Hi Fred,

There is plenty of stuff available about the history of the word jazz, but in many ways it was about marketing/promoting your band because jazz was popular and many of the public had no idea what jazz really was, it was just popular. the word 'blues' was just the same, in America it became very popular and their are hundreds of tunes that are not strictly blues with the 'blues' tagged on just to sell them, musicians who visit your web site will be well aware of this.

Barrie Marshall

15/11/12 -

A perusal of Brian Rust's Jazz Records 1897 - 1942 will unearth some answers to the earliest UK bands to have 'Jazz' in their band name and their recordings. Moe Green's statement of the influence of the ODJB is spot on. Their 'sound' was the predominant influence on all 'jazz bands' in the UK for nearly a decade. We had to wait another twenty years before King Oliver, Jelly Roll Morton, Louis Armstrong had any influence in formulating a style for British jazz bands. Unfortunately the 'race card' is now the major factor when it comes to discussing who 'invented' jazz and P. C. brigade are now adament that the 'men of colour' (seems to be the new P. C. termanology) were the creators of jazz. For those with any real insight into the 'New Orleans melting pot' of the early 1900s, will tell you that is wasn't about 'race'. It was a musical art form that all 'colours' contributed to. Don't believe everything that Wynton Marsalis tells you!

Pete Lay
Just Jazz Editor

15/11/12 - Hello Fred,

I read with interest the items from Norman Gibson and Fred McCormick about the usage of the term 'jazz' in Northern Ireland. Always intrigued by the origin of the word 'jazz', I dug into Herbert Asbury's book 'The Gangs of New Orleans'.

This is not a book on jazz and only one page in 455 mentions the subject. It mainly deals with incompetent officials, criminals and crooked politicians (what goes around comes around maybe?) and is brilliantly researched. About 1895 in Storyville New Orleans, a company of young boys, one playing a harmonica another an old kettle, a cow bell and a gourd filled with pebbles. Assorted whistles, horns and any number of home made contraptions were played by the other boys and the vocalist sang the popular melodies of the day through a length of gas-pipe.

They called themselves 'The Razzy Dazzy Spasm Band' and were highly successful. Now in 1900 an unscrupulous hall owner and promoter (Jack Robinson) hired a group of professional musicians to play at the Haymarket dance hall on Customhouse Street. He even stole the 'Razzy Dazzy' name and put it on his billboards. When the young boys turned up with rocks and bricks to hurl, Robinson hastily repainted his billboards to read "The Razzy Dazzy Jazzy Band". And the word was coined!

Might I suggest at least two pages to accommodate all the other theories ?!?!!!

Ian Royle

15/11/12 - Hi Fred,

Re earliest jazz bands. I have a vague memory of hearing a recording of an American (military?) marching band in an on-line Internet archive, playing St Louis Blues. Unfortunately I can't remember the archive in question. The recording, I think, dated from around 1917, or possibly even earlier. It wasn't a jazz performance by any means, and I can't remember the word jazz appearing on the record label. But by 'eck, it didn't half shift.

Sorry to be even more vague than usual, but would anyone know anything about this?

Fred McCormick.

18/11/12 - Hi Fred,

the military band mentioned by Fred is undoubtedly Jim Europe's 369th. Infantry Band the " Hellfighters " They recorded a number of tracks for Pathe Freres Phonograph Co. of Brooklyn in 1919 including " St. Louis Blues ". You should check out their " Down Home Rag " recorded in Dec. 1913. Frantic doesn't come close to describing the tempo ! Europe's musicians were expert readers but at the time the white folks didn't like to think the darkies were that clever so the band had to memorise the arrangements and play without music ! As for the word jazz. A plaque on the dock in New Orleans states that it originated with the J. S. Sreckfus Line which used to employ bands for dancing. When one of their sternwheelers was coming in the kids used to run about crying " here come the J. S. " In Louisiana the word jazz is usually pronounced " jayezz but this is tenuous in the extreme. It will have to join all the other suggestions. Enjoyable as it is I doubt the search for its origin will ever be decided but we keep on digging.

Moe Green

18/11/12 - Dear Fred,

I agree with Fred McCormick, who said that there were many bands calling themselves "Jazz" bands, when all they really were, were bands formed mostly by small children, some adolescents and adults and usually led by adults. However they date from even earlier than Fred suggests. These didn't have conventional instruments as played in any kind of formal musical outfit, let alone a professional or semi-professional band and certainly not Jazz as we know it. They consisted of home made contraptions that, when blown or banged, would resemble the sound of conventional instruments. Lots of kazoos. To call them "Jazz" bands was a travesty of justice!!! They certainly misled me in my researches for a while.

The Manchester Archives in Marshall Street, Ancoats have photographs of two of them: "Styal Jazz Band", which played in the 1918 Peace Celebrations at Styal, Cheshire. [Archive ref: 9/43] . The "Trafford Park Jazz Band", of ca. 1925, was run by, or the photograph was donated by, Mrs. Cissie Swindells . [Archive ref: 808/6, (fl. 1979)]. The only conventional instrument in both bands was a bass drum, or something resembling a bass drum. One looked distinctly home-made.

Moe Green has already mentioned the ODJB, which definitely sparked off the term in Britain when they started at the Hammersmith Palais, London - for at least a while the term was used (perhaps?) sparingly, that is, until it was discovered that all these Jazz bands
(the real ones with black musicians in them) that emanated from New Orleans, and had ended up in several cities on the banks of the Mississippi and beyond as far as St. Louis, Memphis, Chicago, San Francisco and ultimately, New York. "Jazz", thus became a 'dirty' word. Such bands used to play in the brothels and low-down dives in Storeyville, New Orleans. When in 1917, compulsory purchase orders ousted all the prostitutes, bar owners and musicians ("Jazz" musicians and vocalists) in order to level the area and expand the dockyard, because Navy ships were to be built in a great hurry and on a massive scale of operations for World War One, which the Americans and Canadians had recently joined us for, as Allies, the term "Jazz" was suddenly seen as an extremely unacceptable label for the music. So, bands would have to call themselves "The So-and-So Orchestra" or "The ? ? Syncopators"; anything that didn't actually mention "Jazz", even if that's the kind of music that they were playing, especially when using the instruments that we eventually came to regard as conventional Jazz band instruments.

In the 1920s, the Palais-de-Danse movement caught on, as a result of the (eventual) success of the ODJB at the Hammersmith Palais. There was a large chain of them, that lasted right up to at least the 1950s. Yet, all the bands that played at these venues from Scotland to Lands End, were known as the such-and-such-a-place Palais-de-Danse band (rarely mentioning the leader, let alone individual musicians). That was how they were described in early 20s newspapers. The emphasis was on admission price and car parking locations. These bands had at least two banjos, a trumpet, a trombone, a drummer (with skulls and cymbals), possibly a piano, multi- reed players, often two or three of them (playing anything from cor-anglais, oboe, flute, piccolo, stritch, all the range of saxophones) and possibly a souzaphone, rarely a double bass at that time. They played ODJB and later Fred Elizalde-inspired pieces; unashamedly displaying popular Jazz sheet music on their music stands, unlike the Revival bands, who hid the "dots" from view during performances. Fred Elizalde introduced a degree of respectability to the form of music and to the term itself, as Ellington had done in the USA. And it was all Jazz of one type or another, but they couldn't call it "JAZZ" - a taboo term!!! Even in the 30s it was still a "frowned-on" term. The Second World War changed all that, and pretty soon the 1940s 'Revival' was all that was needed to allow everyone to use it freely.

Yours in Jazz,
Joe Silmon-Monerri

19/11/12 - Hi Fred

I have to say that I have been amused at how long the word 'jazz', and it's origins, has been discussed before that thoroughly delightful little friend and gentleman Joe Silmon, has come up with the answer to the question I posed ! That is, the first band on mainland UK to have 'jazz' in it's name, would appear to have been the Styal 'Jazz' Band which played in Styal Cheshire in 1918 ! Unless, of course, someone knows better ! This reply, I should add, is not by way of a complaint, as I have thoroughly enjoyed reading all the subscribers' contributions. We can all learn something new everyday and I do thank them. -

Norman Gibson.

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