|Nick La Rocca
|Dominic James "Nick" La Rocca was born in New Orleans in 1889, the son of
Girolamo and Vittoria La Rocca, who had immigrated from Salaparuta, Sicily. He was a
composer, trumpeter, cornetist and the leader of the Original Dixieland Jass Band. The
name was changed from "Jass" to "Jazz" in 1917, when a record company didn't like the
connotation of the word "Jass" and Mr. La Rocca suggested that they turn the last two
letters around, making it "Jazz."
But Nick La Rocca gave us more than just the name.
The Original Dixieland Jazz Band is regarded as a seminal group in the development
of Jazz. Their "Dixieland Jass One Step"/"Livery Stable Blues" recording was the
very first commercially released Jazz record and they were the first to have hit records
in the genre. Nick La Rocca was the composer of the Jazz classic, "Tiger Rag," one
of the most recorded Jazz standards of all time, and many other well-known songs.
While in London in 1919, the Original Dixieland Jazz Band was chosen as the official
band of the "Victory Ball" (celebrating the Versailles Treaty which ended WWI), where
they performed for King George V, Marshall Foch and General Pershing.
Mr. La Rocca was an important influence to many later Jazz musicians. Louis
Armstrong said that he was inspired by the music of Nick La Rocca and his band
and referred to the group as the "creators of a new sound."
Nick La Rocca retired from music in the 1920's, returning to it only briefly in the
1930's. He lived out his life in New Orleans and died there in 1961.
A recent film, "From Palermo to New Orleans...and There Was Jazz," details the
story of Nick La Rocca's life and the lives of other Sicilians who made important
contributions to music in the United States. In 2008, the Nick La Rocca Cultural
Arts Center opened in Salaparuta, Sicily.
Jimmy La Rocca carries on the family tradition. He's an accomplished musician,
composer and the leader of the current and highly regarded Original Dixieland Jazz
Band, performing to sell-out crowds all over the world. On a personal note, I'll add that
the current ODJB is my favorite Jazz band -- if I don't hear their renditions of "Old Joe
Blade" and "Bluin' the Blues" at least once a day, my world just isn't the same.
You'll find the link to the ODJB website below.
|Above, Nick La Rocca, New Orleans, date unknown;
below, Original Dixieland Jazz Band, 1918 postcard.
|The link to this page is:
You'll find more on the Original Dixieland Jazz Band on the Bands Page.
~ ~ ~
Visit the ODJB website:
Original Dixieland Jazz Band
Photo Credits: Carl.Savich@Wikimedia.Commons;