Rudi Blesh

Biography by

A supporter and propagandist for New Orleans jazz and ragtime, Rudi Blesh made an impact on the world of trad jazz. He attended Dartmouth College and then worked as a jazz critic for the San Francisco…
Read Full Biography

Artist Biography by

A supporter and propagandist for New Orleans jazz and ragtime, Rudi Blesh made an impact on the world of trad jazz. He attended Dartmouth College and then worked as a jazz critic for the San Francisco Chronicle in the early '40s and for the New York Herald Tribune starting in 1944. Blesh, who promoted jazz concerts early on, hosted the important jazz radio series This Is Jazz in 1947 (the broadcasts are being reissued by the Jazzology label). Although his narration comes across as a bit wooden and is full of cliches, it is due to his work that top New Orleans jazz artists were featured on the air on a regular basis. Blesh's 1946 history of jazz book Shining Trumpets was flawed and biased if well-intentioned but his 1950 survey They All Played Ragtime is a classic. Written with Harriet Janis, They All Played Ragtime was the first thorough study of ragtime and it helped start a mini-revival of the music. Around that time Blesh formed the short-lived but valuable Circle label (whose music has since been acquired by Jazzology) which recorded new dates by vintage players and released Jelly Roll Morton's Library of Congress performances. Rudi Blesh, who in later years taught jazz history at various colleges, helped rediscover Joseph Lamb and Eubie Blake and contributed occasional liner notes into the 1980s.