Technology meets the History of Jazz

Jan 29, 2011
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Technology meets the History of Jazz

One of my favorite cities in the US is New Orleans. I was originally introduced to this city when I had to go there on business some 20 years ago and fell in love with its people, food and culture. I take two weeks each year and designate them as eating holidays and, while one week may take place in Asia or Europe, the other week almost exclusively is in New Orleans. This city is known for its wonderful food scene with great dishes like Oyster Po Boys, red beans and rice, gumbo, jambalaya and the mufaletta and my favorite, a N’awlins crawfish feed.

It is also the home of Paul Prudhomme, who put Cajun cooking on the map after he left New Orelans most famous restaurant, Commanders Palace. His replacement, Emeril Lagasse has gone on to become one of the most famous chefs in America thanks to the Food Network, and his great restaurants in New Orleans have helped refine that region's cuisine.

But what New Orleans is most known for is the Birth of Jazz. As a kid I was always drawn to the TV when Louis Armstrong was playing or when I heard Billy Holiday or Mahalia Jackson singing. But I did not really get a serious appreciation of the history of Jazz and the contribution Armstrong and a legion of early Jazz greats like Scott Joplin, Sidney Bechet, Fats Waller, John Coltrane, Charlie Parker, Count Basie, Miles Davis and a multitude of others have had on every type of music from the blues to modern day rock and even rap.

That appreciation came when I watched Ken Burns’ PBS special on Jazz and then bought the DVD collection of this special for myself to go back to and watch on my own time. This is a wonderful labor of love that PBS and Burns have given us and anyone interested in music history should watch it sometime in their lifetime.

Now there is a new application for the iPad called the History of Jazz [iTunes link], an Interactive Timeline that takes full advantage of the iPad’s full media capabilities and shows how the iPad and tablets can deliver a completely new way to interact with content. The program is laid out so that there are dates tied to each phase of Jazz’ history starting with Scott Joplin and Buddy Bolden in the 1890’s. In this section you learn that ragtime began as a dance and was the music of the red light districts of America. It highlights these Jazz pioneers and then links you to You Tube videos that either highlight the music of that time, or in the case of later stages where video of these Jazz greats exist, show them actually performing some of their greatest hits. I especially loved watching Louis Armstrong doing “When the Saints Go Marching In” or Fats Waller doing “Your Feet’s Too Big”.

Each timeline segment of Jazz is highlighted by great examples of the musicians and music that defined each period covered. It even has a section on what they call Future Jazz greats and highlights Joshua Redman doing “Jazz Crimes” and a performance of Sherik’s Syncopated Taint Septet’ “ Live @ Easy Street.”

And at $9.99 it is a steal. This is not in any way trying to be a comprehensive history of Jazz. But you do get a wonderful short history of Jazz and some of the iconic music performances helps the history of Jazz come alive and gives people a better appreciation of the impact Jazz has had on the music scene around the world.


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