Creole Trombone: Kid Ory and the Early Years of Jazz

. 2012. 176p. 978-1-61703-626-2. 35.
Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist McCusker (photographer, New Orleans Times-Picayune) delivers a definitive biography of jazz pioneer Edward “Kid” Ory (1886–1973) that chronicles his significance as an artistic innovator (he invented the “tailgate” style of trombone playing, one of the pillars of Dixieland jazz) and as a sideman in the seminal Louis Armstrong’s Hot Five sessions (during which he composed  “Muskrat Ramble”). The author creates something beyond the standard chronological biography, masterfully using Ory’s life story to examine themes of race and economic oppression from the sugarcane fields of Ory’s youth to his self-identification as white in later years. (He was born into a mixed-race family.) McCusker buttresses his own research with Ory’s remarkable unpublished autobiography, which contains such gems as a description of a preteen Louis Armstrong sitting in with Ory’s group and the trombonist’s encounters with unrecorded jazz legend Buddy Bolden. This detailed record of Ory’s life challenges many assumptions about the period.
VERDICT A well-researched look at an oft-chronicled period, this book uses solid research to dispense with romantic apocrypha. An essential title for any serious popular music collection.

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