After all the devastation after Hurricane Katrina, I, as a jazz musician, wonder about the safety of the Hogan Jazz Archive's collection of memorabilia along with the building that contained the Eagle Saloon, Jelly Roll Morton's home, and Buddy Bolden's shotgun home on First Street.
One year after Katrina, this is an important question for all jazz aficionados.
Although Tulane University was affected by the hurricane, the Hogan Jazz Archive housed on the campus is in fine shape. It would indeed be a shame to lose such an important collection. In 1958, a Ford Foundation grant established the Archive of New Orleans Jazz. The initial oral history fieldwork was conducted by three men, including William Ransom Hogan, who then was chairman of the Department of History at Tulane University. In 1974 the archive was renamed to honor Dr. Hogan.
Every year, thousands of researchers visit Tulane to examine the reels of interviews, recorded sound collection, orchestrations and sheet music, films and videos, photographs, jazz monographs and journals in the archive. While its primary mission has been related to the history of jazz, the collection has, in recent years, been expanding to include other types of music in New Orleans like gospel, ragtime and rhythm and blues.
The building that housed the Eagle Saloon is standing at 401 S. Rampart St., but it is vacant. The building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2002. Until 1907, it was the home of "Little Jake" Itzkovich's Eagle Loan Office. When Jake moved his office, Frank Douroux, turned the building into a tavern and named it the Eagle Saloon after the loan office. The saloon became a popular hangout for musicians. On the third floor was the ballroom for the combined Odd Fellows/Masonic Lodge. When those groups had dances in the ballroom, Buddy Bolden's, John Robichaux's and Bunk Johnson's bands played.
The Bolden family lived in the shotgun house at 2309 First St. from 1887 to 1907, and the house is still standing. Buddy Bolden, who lived from 1877 to 1931, is considered the first bandleader to play the improvised music that later would be known as jazz. He left school in 1890 and learned to play cornet. His first cornet teacher, Manuel Hall, lived a block away from him. Called the "king" of the cornet in New Orleans, Bolden started playing for parades and dances in about 1895, and his band eventually became one of the most popular in the city. Everything we know about his legendary playing comes from oral histories since there are no Bolden records. There are, however, stories about a lost cylinder recording. In 1907, Buddy Bolden's physical and mental health deteriorated and he was placed in a psychiatric institution for the rest of his life. Trombonist Frankie Dusen took over Bolden's band and renamed it the Eagle Band after the Eagle Saloon.
Jelly Roll Morton lived at 1443 Frenchmen St., and the last time I drove by, it was boarded up and definitely unoccupied.
Born on Oct. 20, 1890, Jelly Roll Morton -- aka Ferdinand Joseph La Menthe or La Mothe -- was a virtuoso pianist, bandleader and composer unlike any other. He claimed that he invented jazz and his business card boldly declared him the "originator of jazz." It's believed that he was born in Gulfport, Miss., but his family moved to New Orleans when he was very young. He grew up playing in saloons and brothels when he was still a boy, probably around age 10. Not much is known of his early musical training, but he seems to have been influenced by Tony Jackson. Around 1904, Morton became an itinerant musician in many cities in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida. Later, with New Orleans as his base, Morton traveled to many parts of America including New York City and Los Angeles.
In 1922 he moved to Chicago, where he made his first recording. By 1926 he was recording with his group the Red Hot Peppers. By the 1930s, he was fading from the scene until Alan Lomax interviewed and recorded him. This renewed Jelly Roll's career and his popularity until he died in 1940.