The histories of both ragtime and the blues have already been documented in scores of studies, but still largely untold is the story of the most direct antecedent of orchestral jazz, the New Orleans brass bands. A major difference between these bands and those which flourished elsewhere in the years following 1880 is their immediate proximity to African Caribbean rhythms and folk culture, a factor that largely accounts for the development of non-reading and improvising bands as distinguished from those that followed more conventional European traditions. During their peak years, the bands provided almost daily employment for dozens of jazzmen, among them Buddy Bolden, Bunk Johnson, Joe Oliver, Kid Ory, Johnny Dodds, Sidney Bechet and Louis Armstrong, as well as those with only local reputations. Taken from the title of a popular dirge, Fallen Heroes offers a wealth of data concerning the personnels, practices, and changing customs of these bands from the pre-jazz era through the late 1960s.
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