It was 11 years ago when I spent some time in New Orleans. There I met this very old negro (he insisted in being called a “negro”), Mr. Georges de Saint-James, 95 years, a man who was there when Storyville was shut down in 1917.
Georges told me a lovely story about his aunt, Miss Nevilla LaBlanc – ah, those beautiful creole names! – who played hide-and-seek once, with her little sister Lou Lou Belle in the attic of George’s grandpa, where they found an old dusty box, containing an Edison cylinder with an almost unreadable name & a date engraved: “Bud Bolton Blues” – New Orleans, April 1, 1894.
Georges’s aunt had no use for it, and she also didn’t know what this weird artifact was, and so, short before Nevilla died, she gave the cylinder to her nephew who proudly presented it to me when I met him accidentally in front of Ferdinand “Jelly Roll” Morton’s house (pictured above).
We had no adequate machine to play it, but I knew immediately: This was almost unbelievable.
Anyway, we finally had proof for how Buddy Bolden really sounded, once and for all. The legend came to life.
Some dirty laughs later, caused by a couple of funny boarding house stories by Georges, among them the tale how he beat “Jelly Roll” in a marathon game of pool, I advised the old man to donate the cylinder to the New Orleans Jazz Museum, together with my e-mail address, because I wanted to be the first German jazz man to hear the true sound of Buddy Bolden.
And here it is, quite hissy, and almost inaudible, but Buddy’s brassy voice from the past will come through loud and clear, the more often you play the track.
The scholars from the Jazz Museum did their digitally best to filter out the horn’s bluesy blasts, and they succeeded. — Thanks a load for the splendid effort, mates!
Buddy Bolden Blues In G, cornet solo for T.A. Edison, New Orleans, 1894.