AskDefine | Define Dixieland

Dictionary Definition

Dixieland n : the southern states that seceded from the United States in 1861 [syn: Confederacy, Confederate States, Confederate States of America, South, Dixie]

User Contributed Dictionary


Proper noun

  1. The southern states of the US; Dixie.
  2. A type of jazz that originated in New Orleans.

Extensive Definition

Dixieland or Dixie is a name for the southeastern portion of the USA; see: Southern United States, Dixie. This article is about the musical genre.
Dixieland music or sometimes referred to as Hot jazz is a style of jazz which developed in New Orleans at the start of the 20th century, and was spread to Chicago and New York City by New Orleans bands in the 1910s. Dixieland jazz combined brass band marches, French Quadrilles, ragtime and blues with collective, polyphonic improvisation by trumpet (or cornet), trombone, and clarinet over a "rhythm section" of piano, guitar, banjo, drums, and a double bass or tuba.
Well-known jazz standard songs from the Dixieland era, such as "Basin Street Blues" and "When the Saints Go Marching In", which are known even to non-jazz fans (for more information on Dixieland songs, see the List of Dixieland standards).


The style combined earlier brass band marches, French Quadrilles, ragtime and blues with collective, polyphonic improvisation. While instrumentation and size of bands can be very flexible, the "standard" band consists of a "front line" of trumpet (or cornet), trombone, and clarinet, with a "rhythm section" of at least two of the following instruments: guitar or banjo, string bass or tuba, piano, and drums.
The term Dixieland became widely used after the advent of the first million-selling hit records of the Original Dixieland Jass Band in 1917. The music has been played continuously since the early part of the 20th century. Louis Armstrong's All-Stars was the band most popularly identified with Dixieland, although Armstrong's own influence runs through all of jazz.
The definitive Dixieland sound is created when one instrument (usually the trumpet) plays the melody or a recognizable paraphrase or variation on it, and the other instruments of the "front line" improvise around that melody. This creates a more polyphonic sound than the extremely regimented big band sound or the unison melody of bebop.
The swing era of the 1930s led to the end of many Dixieland Jazz musicians' careers. Only a few musicians were able to maintain popularity. Most retired.
With the advent of bebop in the 1940s, the earlier group-improvisation style fell out of favor with the majority of younger black players, while some older players of both races continued on in the older style. Though younger musicians developed new forms, many beboppers revered Armstrong, and quoted fragments of his recorded music in their own improvisations.
There was a revival of Dixieland in the late 1940s and 1950s, which brought many semiretired musicians a measure of fame late in their lives as well as bringing retired musicians back onto the jazz circuit after years of not playing (e.g. Kid Ory). Many Dixieland groups of the revival era consciously imitated the recordings and bands of decades earlier. Other musicians continued to create innovative performances and new tunes. For example, in the 1950s a style called "Progressive Dixieland" sought to blend traditional Dixieland melody with bebop-style rhythm. Steve Lacy played with several such bands early in his career. This style is sometimes called "Dixie-bop".
Because Dixieland jazz today has a low profile in popular culture, many fans of contemporary post- bebop jazz are exposed only to the most commercial kind of "pickup" Dixieland bands one can still encounter at corporate conventions, political rallies and tourist destinations. These more modern-oriented fans often conclude, based on their limited exposure to it, that Dixieland is no longer a vital part of jazz. However, knowledgeable fans and critics seek out the "good stuff," that is, bands that include in their playlists the less-heard and often-overlooked jewels of pre-WWII hot jazz that continue to amaze audiences worldwide, documented on timeless recordings by King Oliver, Louis Armstrong, Jelly Roll Morton, Fats Waller, James P. Johnson, New Olreans Rhythm Kings, Bix Beiderbecke, Sidney Bechet, Clarence Williams, etc.


While the term Dixieland is still in wide use, the term's appropriateness is a hotly debated topic in some circles. For some it is the preferred label (especially bands on the USA's West coast and those influenced by the 1940s revival bands), while others (especially New Orleans musicians, and those influenced by the African-American bands of the 1920s) would rather use terms like Classic Jazz or Traditional Jazz. Some of the latter consider Dixieland a derogatory term implying superficial hokum played without passion or deep understanding of the music.
According to jazz writer Gary Giddins, the term Dixieland was widely understood in the early 20th century as a code for "black music." Frequent references to Dixieland were made in the lyrics of popular songs of this era, often written by songwriters of both races who had never been south of New Jersey. Other composers of the "Dixieland" standards, such as Clarence Williams and Jelly Roll Morton, were native New Orleanians.
Dixieland is often today applied to white bands playing in a traditional style. Some critics regard this labeling as incorrect. From the late 1930s on, black and mixed-race bands playing in a more traditional group-improvising style were referred to in the jazz press as playing "small-band Swing," while white and mixed-race bands such as those of Eddie Condon and Muggsy Spanier were tagged with the Dixieland label.

Modern Dixieland

Today there are three main active streams of Dixieland jazz:

Chicago style

"Chicago style" is often applied to the sound of Chicagoans such as Jimmy McPartland, Eddie Condon, Muggsy Spanier, and Bud Freeman. The rhythm sections of these bands substitute the string bass for the tuba and the guitar for the banjo. Musically, the Chicagoans play in more of a swing-style 4-to-the-bar manner. The New Orleanian preference for an ensemble sound is deemphasized in favor of solos. Chicago-style dixieland also differs from its southern origin by being faster paced, resembling the hustle-bustle of city life. Chicago-style bands play a wide variety of tunes, including most of those of the more traditional bands plus many of the Great American Songbook selections from the 1930s by George Gershwin, Jerome Kern, Cole Porter, and Irving Berlin. Non-Chicagoans such as Pee Wee Russell and Bobby Hackett are often thought of as playing in this style. This modernized style came to be called Nicksieland, after Nick's Greenwich Village night club, where it was popular. though the term was not limited to that club.

West Coast revival

The "West Coast revival" is a movement begun in the late 1930s by the Lu Watters Yerba Buena Jazz Band of San Francisco and extended by trombonist Turk Murphy. It started out as a backlash to the Chicago style, which is closer in development towards swing. The repertoire of these bands is based on the music of Joe "King" Oliver, Jelly Roll Morton, Louis Armstrong, and W.C. Handy. Bands playing in the West Coast style use banjo and tuba in the rhythm sections, which play in a 2-to-the-bar rhythmic style.

New Orleans Traditional

The "New Orleans Traditional" revival movement began with the rediscovery of Bunk Johnson in 1942 and was extended by the founding of Preservation Hall in the French Quarter during the 1960s. Bands playing in this style use string bass and banjo in the rhythm section playing 4-to-the-bar and feature popular tunes and Gospel hymns that were played in New Orleans since the early 20th century such as "Ice Cream," "You Tell Me Your Dream," "Just a Closer Walk With Thee" and some tunes from the New Orleans brass band literature. The New Orleans "revival" of the 1960s added a greater number of solos, in a style influenced by mid-century New York Dixieland combos, as this was less of a strain on some musicians of advanced years than the older New Orleans style with much more ensemble playing.
There are also active traditionalist scenes around the world, especially in Britain and Australia.
Famous traditional Dixieland tunes include: "When the Saints Go Marching In," "Muskrat Ramble," "Struttin' With Some Barbecue," "Tiger Rag," "Dippermouth Blues," "Milneburg Joys," "Basin Street Blues," "Tin Roof Blues," "At the Jazz Band Ball," "Panama," "I Found a New Baby," "Royal Garden Blues" and many others. All of these tunes were widely played by jazz bands of both races of the pre-WWII era, especially Louis Armstrong. They came to be grouped as Dixieland standards beginning in the 1950s.

Styles influenced by Dixieland/Trad Jazz

Musical styles with important influence from Dixieland or Traditional Jazz include Swing music, some Rhythm & Blues and early Rock & Roll also show significant trad jazz influence, Fats Domino being an example. The contemporary New Orleans Brass Band styles, such as the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, The Primate Fiasco, the Hot Tamale Brass Band and the Rebirth Brass Band have combined traditional New Orleans brass band jazz with such influences as contemporary jazz, funk, hip hop, and rap.

Partial List of Dixieland musicians

Some of the artists historically identified with Dixieland are mentioned in List of jazz musicians.
Some of the best-selling and famous Dixieland artists of the post-WWII era:
  • Louis Armstrong All-Stars, organized in the late 1940s, featured at various times Earl "Fatha" Hines, Barney Bigard, Edmond Hall, Jack Teagarden, Trummy Young, Arvell Shaw, Billy Kyle, Marty Napoleon, Big Sid Catlett, Cozy Cole, Barrett Deems and Danny Barcelona.
  • Kenny Ball, had a top-40 hit with "Midnight in Moscow" in the early 1960s, is a leader of the British Trad movement.
  • Eddie Condon, guitarist who led bands and ran a series of nightclubs in New York City and had a popular radio series. Successor bands played until the 1970s, and their mainstream style is still heard today, especially in touring bands led by cornetist Ed Polcer who was a co-owner of Condon's last nightclub in New York.
  • Jim Cullum Jazz Band, led by cornetist Jim Cullum, based in San Antonio, TX. Founded in 1962 in partnerhsip with his late father, was originally known as the Happy Jazz Band. The Jim Cullum Jazz Band is currently featured on the long-running USA public radio series, Riverwalk Jazz. Cullum's Landing Jazz Club has been in continuous operation on the San Antonio Riverwalk since 1963.
  • The Dukes of Dixieland, the Assunto family band of New Orleans. A successor band continues on in New Orleans today.
  • Pete Fountain, clarinetist who led popular bands in New Orleans, retired recently.
  • Al Hirt, trumpeter who had a string of top-40 hits in the 1960s, led bands in New Orleans until his death.
  • Tim Laughlin, clarinetist, protege of Pete Fountain, who has led many popular bands in New Orleans, and often tours in Europe during the summer.
  • George Lewis was a New Orleans clarinetist featured at Preservation Hall in the 1960s, also led his own band.
  • Turk Murphy, trombonist who led a band at Earthquake McGoons and other San Francisco venues from the late 1940s through the 1970s.
  • New Black Eagles Jazz Band, based in Boston, plays in the traditional New Orleans style, was featured on the soundtrack of the Ken Burns film Baseball.
  • Original Salty Dogs, originated at Purdue University in the early 1950s and continues today. Plays in the West Coast revival style with banjo and tuba. Has made many recordings, including many with Bessie Smith-styled vocalist Carol Leigh.
  • Chris Tyle, cornetist, trumpeter, drummer, clarinetist, saxophonist, leader of the Silver Leaf Jazz Band. Also known as a jazz writer and educator. A member of the Jazz Journalists Association.


  • In Dresden, Germany, Dixieland is the name of Europe's biggest international jazz festival. 500,000 visitors celebrate it mainly on the river. A smaller festival, called "Riverboat Jazz Festival" is held annually in the picturesque Danish town of Silkeborg.
  • In the US, the largest traditional jazz festival, the Sacramento Jazz Jubilee, is held in Sacramento, CA annually on Memorial Day weekend, with about 100,000 visitors and about 150 bands from all over the world. Other smaller festivals and jazz parties arose in the late 1960s as the rock revolution displaced many of the jazz nightclubs.
  • The enormously famous New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival features jazz and many other genres by local, national, and internationally known artists.
  • In Tarragona, Catalonia, Spain's only dixieland festival has been held annually the week before Easter, since 1994, with 25 bands from all over the world and 100 performances in streets, theatres, cafés and hotels: Tarragona international dixieland festival.
  • In Ascona, Switzerland, the JazzAscona New Orleans & Classics festival features Dixieland and other jazz styles and draws people to the shores of Lake Maggiore each summer: New Orleans Jazz Festival.


There are several active periodicals devoted to traditional jazz: The Mississippi Rag, the Jazz Rambler, and the American Rag published in the US; and Jazz Journal International published in Europe.
Dixieland in German: Dixieland (Jazz)
Dixieland in Estonian: Diksiländ
Dixieland in Modern Greek (1453-): Ντίξιλαντ
Dixieland in Spanish: Dixieland
Dixieland in Persian: دیکسی‏لند
Dixieland in Finnish: Dixieland
Dixieland in French: Dixieland
Dixieland in Hebrew: דיקסילנד
Dixieland in Croatian: Dixieland
Dixieland in Indonesian: Dixieland
Dixieland in Italian: Dixieland
Dixieland in Japanese: ディキシーランド・ジャズ
Dixieland in Dutch: Dixieland
Dixieland in Norwegian: New Orleans jazz
Dixieland in Slovenian: Dixieland
Dixieland in Swedish: Dixieland
Dixieland in Ukrainian: Диксиленд
Dixieland in Chinese: 迪克西蘭
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