Thursday, March 9, 2017

The Beginning of Jazz with Dominic James La Rocca from Bravo!


The Stormy Petrel of Jazz

The petrel is a seabird, known for flights that carry it very far from land. When it soars into view, its appearance is said to foretell the arrival of storms. This is why humans have long regarded troublesome individuals as being petrels...stormy petrels. One such human was the early jazz great, Dominic James La Rocca.




La Rocca was born in 1889 in New Orleans, to poor Sicilian immigrant parents. He began his musical career playing trumpet with a local brass band. In 1914 he formed the Original Dixieland Jass (now Jazz) Band.

Within a few years the band was popular enough to be playing in New York City and to be giving birth to jazz music's first recordings. La Rocca's penchant for trouble came in the great American metropolis, when he tried to pay rivals to return home and leave New York to La Rocca's group. He was also suspected of slashing the drum heads of a drummer from a rival band. He had some angry encounters with his fellow band members as well as with the press. His problems with the media--even into his later years--was in angrily trying to convince them to give him more credit for the development of jazz.

In 1925, La Rocca quit the band and returned to his hometown. He made an incredible career change when, for some years, he was a contractor in the construction business. He later got back into the music world, rejoining the band to successfully tour and record. In the last years of his life he became a harsh braggart. La Rocca only added to his reputation for graceless behavior by denigrating others in the field, including his own fellow band members. 

However, since his death, at the age of 71 in 1961, Dominic La Rocca's career can be balanced between his personality and his musical skills and original contributions.




On balance, it appears that dominic La Rocca had the first band to use the word jazz. His jazz band was also the first to perform in a motion picture, the first to cut jazz records and the first to have a jazz recording surpass the million mark in sales.





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