New Orleans is universally considered to be the birthplace of the uniquely American brand of music known as Jazz. From the dance halls of South Rampart Street and the “cribs” of the Storyville red light district in the late 19th and early 20th centuries came a musical mix of many cultures and preexisting genres that eventually melded into yet another distinct genre. In a span of just two or three decades it had became America’s gift to the world of popular music and the music of choice for a great generation.
The New Orleans Jazz National Historical Park was created in 1994 to commemorate this memorable musical legacy. The park’s purpose is to preserve information, resources, and sites related to the beginnings and progressions of jazz in New Orleans.
Because of its location as a major seaport in the 19th century, New Orleans drew immigrants and visitors from many nations, each of whom brought their native customs, rituals, and musical idioms with them. In addition to the founding French Creoles and later Spanish colonists, waves of other Europeans streamed in and made their contributions to the mix. The real “seasoning in the gumbo,” however, came from African natives brought here as slaves, often through the French colonies of the West Indies. From their ancient tribal chants, rituals and instruments came the distinct rhythms that eventually evolved into jazz.
Buddy Bolden, widely considered to be the father of jazz, was a New Orleans native whose blaring trumpet could reputedly be heard miles away from the South Rampart Street clubs he and his band frequented. Following in his footsteps was a cavalcade of other immortal jazz pioneers from the Crescent City, including Jelly Roll Morton, Kid Ory, Bunk Johnson, Freddie Keppard, King Oliver and the greatest of them all – Louis Armstrong, whose distinct solos and trademark gravelly voice brought jazz to the world.
From its headquarters and Visitors Center across from the French Market, the NOJNHP offers regular jazz performances, lectures, films, and visual displays, and it is also the starting point for jazz walking tours. The center stocks activities calendars from which you can learn about the thriving live jazz scene around New Orleans.
The NOJNHP also hopes to restore several historic jazz-related properties in Louis Armstrong Park along North Rampart Street, including the early 20th century Perseverance Hall. These sites are not yet open to the public.
All events presented at the NOJNHP Visitors Center are free and open to the public.