Buddy Bolden band recording (lost cylinder recording; 1900s)

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Buddy bolden.gif

Only known picture of the Bolden band to exist, Buddy can be seen 2nd on the left in the background.

Status: Lost

Buddy Bolden was an African-American cornetist who has been credited by historians and contemporary players as a key figure in the development of jazz. Buddy Bolden and his band were active in New Orleans from 1900-1907, and during this time they became hugely popular until Bolden was incapacitated by the schizophrenia which would lead to his eventual incarceration in a mental institution until his death in 1931.

Buddy Bolden and his band played a looser form of ragtime than his contemporaries, one that incorporated elements of the blues, black gospel music, and marching band music. Bolden was known as a powerful player, with an improvisatory style that was novel amongst New Orleans bands of the time, and a clear precursor to the improvisation that would mark early jazz apart from ragtime. Bolden has also been credited, by jazz composer and trumpeter Wynton Marsalis, with creating the "Big Four", the first syncopated bass drum pattern to deviate from the typical marching band beat, which allowed for greater instrumental improvisation.[1] The Buddy Bolden band, contrary to the typical practice of the time, made string instruments the rhythm section and established brass instruments as the front line instruments - it is said to be the first brass band to play the blues. Bolden has been credited as a major inspiration by many early New Orleans jazz players, such as Kid Ory and Louis Armstrong.[2]

Despite the Bolden bands significance in the early history of jazz, the only testimony to Bolden's sound comes from the accounts of his contemporaries, as there are no surviving records known of his playing. Rumors of an extant recording were rife in the 1950's among New Orleans jazz collectors, given credence by trombonist Willy Cornish's admission that a recording had been made in 1898. Jazz researcher Donald M. Marquis, whose work In Search of Buddy Bolden: First Man of Jazz stands as the pre-eminent account of Bolden's life, found that a recording was made by a local saloon operator Oscar Zahn on his Edison phonograph sometime in the 1900's. Unfortunately, Zahn's recordings were left neglected in a storage shed that was torn down in the early 1960's. Even if the recording survived this or had been retrieved earlier, the lack of care put into preserving these recordings, and the humidity of the New Orleans climate means that any such recording would no doubt be left unplayable. [3] As no such recording has been discovered, over one hundred years since its creation, it can be safely assumed that it has been permanently lost.


  1. Marsalis, Wynton, (2000, DVD n. 1), Jazz, PBS
  2. Winke, J. (2013, December 14). "Buddy Bolden: The Insane Life of the Founder-Father of Jazz". Retrieved from https://www.allaboutjazz.com/buddy-bolden-the-insane-life-of-the-founder-father-of-jazz-buddy-bolden-by-jeff-winke.php
  3. Sager, D. (2014, November 6th). "The Elusive Buddy Bolden". Retrieved from https://blogs.loc.gov/now-see-hear/2014/11/the-elusive-buddy-bolden/