American Legion

By Dylan Jones

The music style that group Tabla chose to write about for the ethnography was jazz. For my
first ethnography assignment I chose to write on the jazz/blues that takes place in the bright and soulful
city of New Orleans. I chose jazz/blues because I visited New Orleans on February 18-20, where I was
fortunate enough to experience three full days of New Orleans style jazz and blues. I became familiar
with the way jazz is played, the instruments used, and the feelings of the people who play jazz in the
city of New Orleans. To the people of New Orleans jazz/blues is the true way of life. For the second
assignment I went to the American Legion in Tallahassee on March 1st for a rock and roll performance.
The musicians at the American Legion where very similar to the musicians that I saw in New Orleans.
However, the people that played at the American Legion did not give off the same vibe of those from
New Orleans. The people in New Orleans expressed their hearts and souls through the music they were
playing. The feelings and aura differed at the two events.

The event at the American Legion March 1st was a very good performance and I enjoyed it very
much. However, this performance was more of a rock and roll style compared to jazz. This
performance at the American Legion was much more centered around the guitar and vocal aspect of
music. At this event they had three guitarists, a drummer, and a singer. The music had a different feel
than I felt when I was in New Orleans listening to true jazz. The three guitarists basically played the
same exact music note for note other than the three different tones the guitars gave out. Where as a
jazz group in New Orleans mixed it up a lot more and played different notes, and was more in and out
with their music. For example in Jazz the trumpet, saxophone, and trombone would play together at
times but they would stop often and let the other instruments play to create many different sounds and
tones. The rock performance was mainly the guitars playing the same exact music and the drummer
and singer were fighting for the loudest volume. It was a lot louder in a sense that all members where
playing their instruments/singing for the top sound. They are still playing in harmony, but it did not
sound nearly as good as the jazz groups playing in harmony. In jazz they are all working together more
in a sense attempting to mix the sounds equally to make a perfect sound. The jazz performances had
many more instruments that gave out a variety of sounds and a much more eloquent conglomerate.
This is what makes these two different music styles unique.

The dancing for these two performances were also at the opposite ends of the spectrum. For
jazz, the common dance consisted of a lot of snapping, clapping, and light steps moving side to side. It
was very soulful and seemed to really put people at ease. People were in a total state of relaxation
when dancing to jazz. The rock performance was a lot more jumping up and down and waving your
arms everywhere like crazy- in this dancing, you let it all go.
People were yelling, jumping, and screaming. It was a much more aggressive and wild style of
dancing. Of these two performances the rock and roll was by far my favorite because you could go
crazy, be wild and it was acceptable and encouraged.

The most interesting parts of both the jazz and rock were the interviews I obtained from these
musicians. The rock musicians were also in love with their music but in a different way than the
people of New Orleans were. The rock musicians still liked their music, but they seemed to also enjoy
the lifestyle that went with it. They spoke of all the parties and drinking that took place around their
music. Also the road tripping from place to place and all the different things they did. This included
meeting lots of very interesting people and all the highlights of being a “rock star.” These rock
musicians also received pay for all of their performances unlike many of the jazz musicians I spoke to.
However, this showed me the differences in the love for the music rock musicians had compared to jazz
musicians. The jazz musicians of New Orleans seemed to express more love and soul than that of the
rock musicians. Most were not paid for the music they played; they did it for the love of jazz. These
musicians have grown up around jazz and have played jazz their entire life. One man even joked that
he learned to play the trumpet before he could even walk. This was the common in the responses of the
people who played jazz, every person I interviewed had a sparkle in their eye when we spoke of it. It
was a lifestyle that these people have lived by their entire life, and would continue it until the day they
died. Another man joked that at his funeral he “didn’t want any pipe organs playing, and that he
wanted a trumpet and saxophone jamming nothing but jazz”. He explained he wanted people to feel as
happy as possible and jazz was the only way that this would happen. Overall jazz really affects people
and puts smiles on the faces of everyone, especially in New Orleans.

There are many differences and similarities between jazz and rock. The rock concert was very
entertaining and really showed me a lot. Taught me the ways rock is played and the lifestyle that goes
along with it. Also how the guitars, drums, and vocalist work together to create very interesting songs
that people can dance to and have a great time listening and partying to. It is now my favorite music to
dance to and I look forward to going to many rock and roll concerts in the future. Before I went to
New Orleans I did not have a care for jazz and did not understand why it was the first thing brought up
when people talked about New Orleans. However, New Orleans taught me the most about any style of
music and really made me understand jazz as a whole. I absorbed the most information listening and
talking to people who expressed their true feelings from the heart about jazz. The lifestyle surrounding
jazz and the people who play it really touched me. It is not only a music style but it is a way of life,
which has created its own culture in New Orleans. Every bar, every street corner, and alleyway there
was someone playing jazz. Jazz is like the national anthem to the people of New Orleans, they respect
it as a whole. Those are the facts and opinions about these two very different categories and cultures of
music. Both have very deep roots and mean a lot to the people who play them. This information I
have obtained has made me have a lot greater appreciation for both styles of music and I have gained a
lot of respect for both.


Work Cited can be found on main page entitled "Live Jazz"
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