Papa Celestin's Original Tuxedo Jazz Orchestra: It's Jam Up


It's Jam Up


Papa Celestin's Original Tuxedo Jazz Orchestra


New Orleans Jazz of the 1920s (Stardust )

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Papa Celestin (cornet),

Richard Alexis or George McCullum (cornet); August Rousseau or William Matthews (trombone); Clarence Hall, Oliver Alcorn (reeds); Jeannette Salvant (piano), Henry Kimball, Jr. (banjo), Simon Marrero (tuba), Josiah Frazier (drums)


Composed by Papa Celestin


Recorded: New Orleans, October 25, 1927


Rating: 90/100 (learn more)

The band is called the "original" Tuxedo Jazz Orchestra, but there is little original about it. Papa Celestin had actually started performing at the Tuxedo Dance Hall on North Franklin Street (near Storyville) back in 1910, and the venue had closed long before the first jazz records were made. Celestin, for his part, was in his forties before he had his own chance to preserve his music on disk. A full history of this ensemble, if it could be traced with any depth, would likely serve as a primer on early New Orleans jazz. Louis Armstrong joined the Tuxedo Band back in 1921, and later described it as a "thrilling pleasure." Other band members, such as Johnny St. Cyr and Zutty Singleton, went on to play on many of the most important jazz recordings of the era.

This track sounds like a throwback to an earlier period when jazz was still in an embryonic stage. The opening statement seems better suited to a procession than a nightclub, and like Jelly Roll Morton's "Dead Man Blues" from the previous year, begins by evoking a funeral march, before shifting into raw and lowdown jazz. Celestin was more focused on tone and texture than improvisational brilliance, and the open horn solo here is likely played by Richard Alexis. But Papa's personal history encompasses one of the great success stories of New Orleans jazz. He enjoyed a successful comeback during the trad jazz revival of the 1940s, and went on to play for President Eisenhower at the White House. He even shows up in a Cinerama movie. This venerable master of the New Orleans funeral procession certainly earned a grand one of his own: some 4,000 friends and admirers marched for Papa Celestin at his death in 1954.

Reviewer: Ted Gioia

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Jelly Roll Morton: Dead Man Blues
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