Banu Gibson and the New Orleans Hot Jazz Orchestra

Jazz music is an art of expression of human life and reassessment of one’s traditional values. The origin of this style if music remains speculative to date. However, it is estimated that jazz appeared around 1895 in New Orleans. However, despite its growth and success among the African American population since its appearance, the first jazz composition was officially recorded just in 1917. The history of this music style has numerous evidence that it goes back to African tribal drums music and that of European symphonic orchestras. It combined the elements of marching band music, ragtime and blues. The difference between jazz compositions and other music styles is that the former can be improvised, and this can be done either by one performer or by many musicians at a time (Shipton). One can clearly state that jazz music is created through the synergy of musical effect and performers’ expression.  The word ‘jazz’ originated from a vulgar term used for sexual acts. In earlier days, it was associated with accommodation houses, but later it became used to designate a musical art (Gioia). It reflected spontaneous melodic phrasing whether improvised or guided. Jazz at its inception performed the role of the spiritual and cultural tool to convey messages to wide audience. Its first performers used a few musical instruments like banjo, tuba, cornet and guitar. At the discussed music style was developing, string instruments and the acoustic guitar started being used. Today, popular jazz instruments are trumpet, saxophone, bass, drums, trombone and guitar in addition to the human voice. This paper will discuss the Savannah Symphony performed by Banu Gibson and the New Orleans Hot Jazz Orchestra focusing on the music performance, its cultural context and the intended meaning of this music in the society.

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The Savannah Symphony was performed by Banu Gibson together with the New Orleans Hot Jazz Orchestra. This piece of the classical jazz music has catchy melodies from the 1920s to 1940s. The New Orleans Hot Jazz Orchestra was founded in 1932 and consisted of six musicians who played different instruments (Smith, et al.). The cultural context of the Savannah Symphony was to demonstrate the African Americans’ love for music even though they were enslaved. The beauty of jazz is that each song connects past messages to current events through improvisation. The rhythmic chordal accompaniment of the piano on the background produced a classical jazz sound that excited the audience. Banu Gibson’s tonal expression emphasized the cultural context and intention of the jazz music through reinterpretation of the traditional motives and rhythms of the composition. It is a symbolic depiction of the evolution of people causing the intense reaction of audience when this music style is played. The emotions of Banu Gibson are castigated by the emotional unity with the first jazz singers who used to sing without instruments. Her incredible voice filled the excited crowd in the theater. The whole performance was sciatic and memorable. It reminded me of the many bands that used to play in New Orleans’ streets day and night. The beautiful accompaniment included piano, bass, guitar and saxophone played music. While singing, Banu played the banjo during the show and the consequent performances after the Savannah Symphony. The language of the composition was harmonic. Banu Gibson sang in many different pitches, sometimes in a high pitch and other times in a low one. The tonality of the show was exceptional. It seemed that Banu Gibson’s singing was being answered by the accompanying instrument and, at times, many instruments at once. This style is referred to as call and response. While the band was playing, Banu Gibson was doing a little tap dancing on the stage further exciting the audience (Smith, et al.).

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African American culture has had a significant influence on jazz since its inception. This music style arouse from the Black Americans’ actual condition of slavery before the American Civil War. African Americans used to sing songs while working in the field having no access to instruments due to slavery at that time. They also sang during their free time to distract themselves from the constant supervision of the enslavers. The songs gave them hope for freedom. The intention of Banu Gibson’s Savannah Symphony was to tell a story about an old performer of jazz who died in the savannah and his love for music. The motive of the performance was to recreate history and tell it to the contemporary society. Jazz music has always been used for dancing, even in today’s setting. Banu Gibson was doing little tapping as the band was playing, showing the essence and evolution of dancing in jazz (Hennessey).

Listening to music benefits a lot both the mind and the body. Jazz listeners are known to be smart and creative. This is established from the evolution of numerous dancing styles from jazz since its inception. Upbeat music helps people to focus, raises the heartbeat, motivates them and boosts their productivity. It provides the listeners with a tug of tension and response. The smooth notes alternate with irregular rhythms that challenge the brain. Moreover, several researches conducted in the United Kingdom have concluded that jazz has some healing effects.  It was established that patients with high blood pressure, weak immune system, chronic pain, migraines, difficulties with memorizing and anxiety started feeling relieved after listening to this style of music. Relaxing jazz compositions are an effective relaxer providing an effect equal to that of the massage treatment. Overall, I felt the jazz music is very entertaining though I do not listen to it often. Banu Gibson and the New Orleans Hot Jazz Orchestra’s performance made me appreciate the discussed music style irrespectively of the performer. The singer’s voice in combination with the instrumental music created a spectacular performance. It is safe to say that Banu Gibson and the members of the New Orleans Hot Jazz Orchestra are very talented and it will be a pleasure to see another performance of the musicians.

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