Africans, Jazz, & Congo Park Square

While I can’t claim to be a great devotee of jazz I have been aware of it since being a teen in the 1950s. I remember people like Al Hirt, Pete Fountain, Ella Fitzgerald, and Duke Ellington appearing on The Ed Sullivan Show and that’s probably where my limited knowledge of jazz began. I also need to mention Mad Magazine since they often featured cool characterizations of players like Dizzy Gillespie and Charley Parker. I mean, if jazz was good enough for Mad, it must be something I needed to be aware of.

In the Navy, I spent a couple of years stationed in Newport, Rhode Island, the home of the world-famous, Newport Jazz Festival. There were a couple of small jazz clubs in Newport and even though I wasn’t old 21 I could pass and I’d occasionally go to one, sip a Scotch and soda, and take in the sounds.

Jazz has been called America’s music but the same can be said about several forms of music including jazz, Dixieland, Gospel, blues, and rock. While these forms may have originated in America their true origins lie with the African Americans who were brought here and enslaved. If you have any comparative talent you can easily see that these American kinds of music all have a central theme, they are based on African rhythms brought here by slaves. And, if you read a little about the origins of jazz you’ll be taken to a place in New Orleans where jazz is thought to have been born, Congo Square in what is today, Louis Armstrong Park.

One of the easiest and most enjoyable ways to learn about the history of jazz is to go to YouTube and type in, Congo Park. That’s where I found the short video below. I also listened to Wyton Marseilles talk about jazz and listened to a half-hour musical presentation he made honoring the park.

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