Louisiana Five

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One of the first ensembles hired to record something resembling jazz, the Louisiana Five are, interestingly enough, accused of having a flora fetish by an observer astute enough to notice song titles…
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One of the first ensembles hired to record something resembling jazz, the Louisiana Five are, interestingly enough, accused of having a flora fetish by an observer astute enough to notice song titles such as "Orange Blossom," "Golden Rod," and "Weeping Willow," even a sheet music folio with a picture of the group studying the notation for "California Blossom." To be fair, the septet recorded dozens of titles between 1918 and 1920, examining a number of topics of which "Big Fat Ma," "Clarinet Squawk," "Down Where the Rajahs Dwell," and "Yelping Hound Blues" seem intriguing and unconcerned with any sort of vegetation. This string of recordings started only a few months following what are considered to be the first jazz sides in history, by the Original Dixieland Jass Band. Clarinetist Alcide "Yellow" Nunez had played with that group prior to numbering among the Louisiana Five.

The Emerson, Columbia, and Edison labels all put out Louisiana Five material, promoting the band heavily in Talking Machine World -- not a science fiction plot but a journal of the early phonograph era. The addition of cornet player Doc Behrendson on "Slow and Easy" is said to have added an entirely new dimension to the combo's sound, although nobody bothered to alter the mathematics in the name as a result. Other things were also happening that, as described in advertising from the time, sound like something off a John Zorn record: "...by a clever manipulation of the clarinet the effect of a yelping hound is realistically brought out and at the same time a perfect Fox Trot rhythm and also a humorous melody are maintained."

Still not in the Roaring Twenties, one critic described a Louisiana Five side as "cyclonic jazz, played by a quintet which has steeped its musical interpretive qualities in a concentrated essence of contortive jungle music." Edison promotional literature from the period also boldly defines the origin of the word "jazz" itself, claiming it comes from the African Gold Coast and means to "liven things up." On some recordings a lineup expanded even further is credited as the Louisiana Five Jazz Orchestra.