"Blues for Jimmie Noone" - Kid Ory
This, my last transcription from the blues album, completes the collection of leftover standards that follow the history of early jazz from New Orleans to Chicago and Los Angeles. And who better to encapsulate the blues influence on early jazz but Noone-other than Jimmie Noone? Perhaps always overshadowed by Sidney Bechet as a clarinetist and band leader, Noone fought to remain at the front of the pack but the constant hustle of looking for steady work and a place to call home may have led to his shortened career. The hardships of Jimmie Noone are still all too common themes even a century later.
The influence of the blues on early jazz reflects the struggle not for perfection but rather for survival: the blood-pumping pulse of assimilating rhythms, the woeful cries of glorious horns, and the simplification of ornate song forms. The fight to maintain one’s composure, to hold on to their own integrity in the madness of a post-industrial world at war, has become an American tradition and to practice it is to remain relevant, competitive, and fierce. To master this skill is to possess the fire, to hold onto the flame fueled by voodoo or mojo, until it either burns out, engulfs its holder, or is extinguished.
“Blues for Jimmie Noone” was pieced together on the day that he died. A slower blues, it attempts to utilize a simpler, more somber tone for reflection in the way that a funeral dirge only sounds just enough to get by, just enough to survive with minimal effort. In doing so, the music provides the opportunity to re-examine our own practices and traditions, to get rid of what is no longer needed; the frantic trumpet is the only solo to generate applause from the conservative audience while the bowed bass mourns with a droning hum. The traditions of jazz, rooted in the blues, remain relevant throughout modern music because the pain and suffering of American life are ever-present. All we can do is just try to get by, to try just enough to survive.
Little footage exists of Jimmie Noone in performance, but somehow there is an album of Jimmie Noone, Kid Ory, and Louis Armstrong playing together. Here is YouTube sample.
Recommended reading: Creole Trombone: Kid Ory and the Early Years of Jazz by John McCusker. Published by University Press of Mississippi.