The first jazz recording was made by the Original Dixieland Jazz Band in 1917. Band members included Henry Ragas

The first jazz recording was made by the Original Dixieland Jazz Band in 1917. Band members included Henry Ragas

Nanaimo musicians honour jazz’s first recording with anniversary concert

Nanaimo International Jazz Festival Association hosts anniversary concert celebrating jazz's first recording.

The idea to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the first jazz recording started when Andrew Homzy was a teenager.

He discovered that the first recording was created on Feb. 26, 1917 by five New Orleans musicians at the Victor Recording Studio in New York. The group created the recordings Dixie Jass Band One-Step on side A and Livery Stable Blues on side B.

“I thought wouldn’t it be great to have a concert on that day,” said Homzy, about the 100th anniversary of the recording.

With the anniversary approaching, Homzy talked to his friend James McRae about the idea and they agreed to work on the concert. The result is the upcoming Nanaimo Celebrates Jazz’s 100th Birthday concert at the Port Theatre Sunday (Feb. 26) at 7:30 p.m.

Homzy said the first recordings were created without any electricity.

“The recordings sound very shrill to our ears,” said Homzy, adding that the ear has to get used to the sound to form an appreciation of the music. “In listening to the early recording, it’s like listening to a friend you have come to respect, whose first language isn’t English.”

He said after listening, you realize that the musicians were “professional and very accomplished and creative and were exploring brand new territory.”

Because of the way the sound was recorded, Homzy said the drums were more noticeable and although there was a piano player it is very faint.

“The drummer had to hold back so he didn’t overpower the recording,” said Homzy.

The concert features the Black-Lister-McRae Trio, which consists of James McRae, Miles Black and Ken Lister, and Andrew Homzy’s NOLA NightHawks. The NOLA NightHawks is a 10-piece jazz band that plays a mix of traditional jazz and contemporary music.

In addition to celebrating the first recording, the concert is also a fundraiser for the Nanaimo International Jazz Festival Association, which formed last fall, with the dream of creating a jazz festival in Nanaimo that would become a destination event featuring both local and international jazz talent.

Homzy said the association hopes to create a three-day festival, but the length will be determined by fundraising and sponsorship the association receives.

“We’re still waiting for a few more pieces to fall into place,” said Homzy about the festival.

At the end of the concert there will be an improvisational jazz jam session. Homzy said he is expecting about 25 musicians for the jam.

Homzy said the association has several goals including the creation of a jazz festival in Nanaimo.

Association members also want to support jazz events and jazz musicians in the Nanaimo region throughout the year.

He said a festival is great, but musicians still need to be able to pay their rent, so creating opportunities for jazz musicians to perform throughout the year in the Nanaimo region is important.

Homzy said a lot of jazz music is improvisational, adding the music jazz musicians perform “only happens in the moment and then it is gone.”

“Listening to a recording is like looking at a black-and-white photograph of a painting,” he said. “Listening to it live is what it is all about.”

The association wants to help build an audience for jazz music.

“It’s not going to happen overnight,” he said.

Tickets are $30, $25 for Port Theatre and Nanaimo International Jazz Festival Association members or $15 for university students available in advance by calling 250-754-8550 or visit www.porttheatre.com.

For more information about the association please go to www.nanaimojazzfest.ca.

arts@nanaimobulletin.com

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