Jazz Music From Austin’s East Side

Jazz has been called the most important musical contribution by African-Americans to the world’s music. From the turn-of-the-century funeral processions in New Orleans to clubs and concert stages throughout the world, jazz has entertained all types of audiences.

Throughout the history of jazz, many of the most colorful and influential jazz musicians have come from Texas. In the early 1900s when jazz began to spread beyond the south, America was infatuated with ragtime music, and the King of Ragtime was Scott Joplin from Texarkana. Ragtime, Blues, brass bands, and popular music all contributed to the big band sounds of the 1930s and 40s. The big band brought jazz into the forefront of American music as performers and audiences expanded the influence and acceptance of jazz as an art form.

Texans Teddy Wilson and Charlie Christian played with one of the most popular big band leaders, Benny Goodman, each setting high standards that others saw as their models. Oran “Hot Lips” Page was a master of the trumpet with the legendary Count Basie Orchestra, and went on to conquer the New York Jazz scene. Before and after World War II, Texan like saxophonists Illinois Jacquet, Arnett Cobb, and Eddie “Cleanhead” Vinson helped create a Texas style that carries through to the present time, playing in influential bands. Bassist Gene Ramey worked with many important bands and musicians.

During the 1950s jazz continued to develop, with Kenny Dorham and Ornette Coleman among the Texans who made significant contributions – Coleman through the creation of a new style of music, the free jazz style. Since then, Texas, and the musicians of East Austin, has continued to be an important source for numerous talented jazz musicians, including such respected and stylistically diverse musicians as John Carter, the Crusaders, Gil Askey, Martin Banks, The Rhythm Kings, James Polk, Pam Hart, Connie Jo Kirk, Hannibal Lokumbe, and so many more.


This project is supported in part by the Cultural Arts Division of the City of Austin Economic Development Department.