Timeline of King Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band (1917-1923)

June 5th, 2017


I was recently contacted via email by Andrew Taylor, a self-described lifelong jazz fan, Armstrong aficionado and history buff who is also an imaging professional and metadata librarian who explores data visualization, timelines and dynamic media in the manner being pioneered by some practitioners of “data journalism.”

Taylor’s coalescing interests and effort has resulted in an entertaining timeline he created leading to the 1923-1924 recordings of King Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band.

Taylor writes that the timeline “chronicles the development of the band that created them – beginning in March 1917 when the pre-Oliver edition of the band left New Orleans for Chicago (led by clarinetist Lawrence Duhé), continuing through Joe “King” Oliver’s own move from New Orleans to Chicago in August 1918, and concluding with the first KOCJB recording sessions on April 5-6, 1923. Over those two days the band cut their first 9 record sides and by the end of 1923 expanded the number of KOCJB sides to thirty-nine. These sides are the first recordings of substance by an African-American jazz band and constitute the most significant corpus of early recorded jazz.”

Taylor calls his work a “New Media Timeline,” and it “draws from established scholarship and includes photographs, audio recordings and film clips representative of the events described. Stories about other important artists as well as general historical events are interwoven into the core KOCJB narrative to provide context.”

Taylor tells me that once he was able to find a timeline tool he liked, in addition to utilizing established scholarship, he was able to make use of the historical newspapers that are becoming more accessible online.

“Through creating the timeline,” Taylor writes, “ I gained even more appreciation for the musicians it discusses, and the flawed nature of historiography. I particularly like that the quotes and many candid photographs [used in the timeline] undermine the racist caricatures that the world has created about these disciplined working musicians.”

Taylor’s favorite page is one featuring the band playing behind the blackface dancer, juxtaposed with Ed Garland’s interview quote talking about how boring it got playing behind her. “These were practical, talented people who knew the score, not clueless people who lucked into their professions.”

While his hope is to someday complete the timeline by finishing the Oliver Band’s California trip, he is focused on another project at the moment. “My goal is to present historical material in a novel way and thereby inspire new insights and perspectives about both the artists who pioneered jazz music and the times in which they lived.”

Click here to visit the timeline.

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