A man who is most likely Cedaredge's number one Dixieland music fan, Don Clayton, gave a great review of the 101st Army Dixieland Band performance in Town Park on June 21.
"These folks are terrific," he said following their performance. "It's the best Dixieland music I've heard since the last time I was in New Orleans."
Don and his wife, Shirley, have enjoyed Dixieland music for years. In their home, Don has a large collection of the music. One of his favorites is a recording of the Dukes of Dixieland group. Don and Shirley have also enjoyed authentic Bourbon Street Dixieland music at the famous Preservation Hall and other venues on occasions when they have visited New Orleans.
Don and Shirley's love of music goes even deeper than their shared admiration for Dixieland style. They both played in their high school band, he on trumpet and she on French horn. Shirley continues to perform on her instrument with the Montrose Community Band.
Don played with a group of other men who were all stationed at the Great Lakes Naval Station where he took his training in electronics during time in the Navy. He has also performed professionally with a dance band.
One memorable musical excursion the pair made was a river boat cruise. Don recalls the musical experience was highlighted by a calliope booming out its air powered sound from atop the boat's top deck.
Another memorable musical experience was visiting New Orleans three weeks prior to Mardi Gras; the town was full of its traditional music at that time.
Don and Shirley still visit the area from time to time and love to enjoy the music when they are there.
Don says his love of Dixieland music stems from its spirit. "It is joyful music," he explains. "It came out of the bayou country, and the people who lived there didn't have a whole lot to be joyful about."
He explains that the music is a combination of Spanish and French/Canadian (or Cajun) influences with American contributions that came out as Dixieland.
One reason that Don admires the music style and its performers is because in the original Dixieland "there were no charts." By that he means the musicians played with no sheet music to guide them. "It was all by improvisation and inspiration," Don says.
A Dixieland band would start with a melody or tune and begin improvising on it. The style of "call and place" developed as the director of the band would call on each of the musicians in turn to perform 16 measures while accompanied by the others in the band. By knowing his musicians and their musical preferences, the directors would choose them for solos to move the performance in a certain direction, Don explained.
Lance Christensen, lead trumpet player for the 101st Dixieland Band, told his Town Park audience during their performance last week that the music genre "was the rock of the 1920s." Don agrees that the great original Dixieland bands began about that time.
The music genre experienced a revival during the Great Depression and then again after World War II, Don said. It has since then been somewhat eclipsed by the popularity of rock and roll.
Funerals with musical processions are a noted cultural institution in New Orleans. Don said he doesn't personally care for the slow tempo funeral dirge numbers such as the classic "St. James Infirmary." But during the procession back from the grave yard, or the "second line," the music takes on its native joyful character and improvisation, and it is the spirit of the second line music that Don loves.