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Subversive SoundsRace and the Birth of Jazz in New Orleans$
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Charles B. Hersch

Print publication date: 2008

Print ISBN-13: 9780226328676

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: March 2013

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226328690.001.0001

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Dissemination: Morton, La Rocca, and Armstrong

Dissemination: Morton, La Rocca, and Armstrong

(p.165) Five Dissemination: Morton, La Rocca, and Armstrong
Subversive Sounds

Charles B. Hersch

University of Chicago Press

This chapter focuses on the dissemination of jazz from New Orleans outward. It shows how Jelly Roll Morton (Creole), Nick La Rocca (white), and Louis Armstrong (black) spread the carnivalesque values of the Crescent City, continuing the musical miscegenation that began there. In particular, each man's story illustrates the complex relationship between physiognomy, racial identity, musical style, and commercial success. With a focus on Armstrong, who thought of his music as a device for racial rapprochement, the chapter argues that the contrasting fates of the three men was influenced by their racial identities and their relationship to those identities. Though La Rocca and the Original Dixieland Jazz Band achieved mass success and Morton created innovative and influential compositions and recordings, only Armstrong reached a wide audience for the long haul. Using African devices to transform popular songs, Armstrong and his impure, subversive sounds challenged racial boundaries for decades.

Keywords:   New Orleans, Jelly Roll Morton, Nick La Rocca, Louis Armstrong, Crescent City, physiognomy, racial identity, musical style, commercial success, popular songs

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