More than fifty years ago, New Orleans was a melting pot filled with numerous cultures, a wide variety of races, and differing religions. However, aside from all of the differences that made New Orleans so unique, everyone had one thing in common. The one thing in common was their love for music. Like Aaron Neville, an American vocalist, once said, “In New Orleans, music is part of the culture. You’re raised with it, from the cradle to the grave, and all in-between.
One major figure that set the stage for Jazz music in the twentieth century was Charles “Buddy” Bolden. Charles was born on September 6, 1877 in New Orleans, Louisiana. Growing up, Charles suffered the loss of his father to pneumonia at the age of six but it is said that this only made his family closer. Bolden began to play the coronet when he was merely a teenager and joined a small band led by Charlie Galloway. It wasn’t long until he left the band to start something of his own.
According to Blackpast.org, “No one in the band could read sheet music so all compositions played were either copied from other bands or created on the spot, helping to generate the spontaneous improvisation that would become a hallmark of jazz.” Although the term jazz wasn’t popular during this time, it soon came to be. Needless to say, Charles Bolden already had the talent, and the love for jazz deep in his soul.
No known recording of Charles Bolden’s music has survived.
However, he did numerous covers which displayed his talent just as well. One of the numbers that Charles and his band played was “Careless Love.” At the one minute and forty-five second mark of this song, there is strictly an instrumental part where you can easily hear a coronet being played just as Charles Bolden would do. You can also hear other instruments such as a piano, a saxophone, a clarinet, and trombones all of which were other parts of Charles Bolden’s band. A link to this piece will be at the end of this paper for the readers to listen to. Another song, “My Bucket’s Got a Hole in It” was another piece that was associated with Charles and his band. At the beginning of the song, you clearly get a blue’s music feel along with a jazzy feel due to the instruments being played. The first minute and a half of this song is filled with horns such as coronets and trombones, drums, saxophones and clarinets. Charles Bolden had the tendency to use ragtime and blues in his music and this piece did as well.
While Charles Bolden left such an unforgettable impact on Jazz music , his ending to his career was one that caused him to never pick up an instrument again. Afflicted with schizophrenia and alcoholism, Charles Bolden had to spend the last twenty-four years of his life in an insane asylum in Jackson, Louisiana. He was later buried in a cemetery in New Orleans.
Regardless of Bolden’s sorrowful ending to his music career, Charles left a forever-lasting impact on jazz music. His ability to improvise, the brilliance of his tone, the power of his coronet, his perfect blend of ragtime and blues, and much more are what musicians nowadays strive for. He was the inspiration for other jazz artists such as Joe King Oliver, Edward Ory, and Sidney Bechet who were very successful as well. However, there will only be one “King” of jazz, and that is Charles “Buddy” Bolden.