by Andrew Koslosky KGCHS, Contributing Writer

In the late 19th century, Jazz Music was often considered America’s original and true art form.  It traces its origins to New Orleans, La., a city with a rich history of culture with a blend of African American, Creole, and European music traditions.

This cultural melting pot was the birthplace to a genre of music that would eventually take the world by storm.

Jazz Music, featured Field hollers and work songs from the cotton fields of the Deep South, African American Church music from uptown New Orleans, European classical forms familiar to the French-Creole population of downtown New Orleans (known today as the French Quarter), piano rags from the Midwest, Blues from the Mississippi Delta, American military marches and more.

All of these elements would combine to become the granddaddy of all musical genres, simply known as Jazz. By the turn of the 20th century, Jazz could be heard all over New Orleans, performed by both black and white bands.

New Orleans musicians, hired to perform on paddle-wheel riverboat cruises on the Mississippi River, spread the music to Memphis, Saint Louis, Kansas City, and Chicago. Its popularity would grow with great speed.

Our state of Mississippi is certainly part of this music history.  Known as the birthplace of the Delta Blues, the histories of Blues and Jazz are often traced along the same pathways, especially on the Gulf Coast.

The two genres were intertwined from the earliest days. Blues was a key element in the music of Pass Christian’s illustrious native son Captain John Handy (1900-1971) and other locals who played traditional Jazz or Rhythm & Blues.

Pass Christian has celebrated its rich American musical heritage with festivals, including, “Jazz in the Pass.”

The first Jazz in the Pass was held on Sunday, May 8, 1999, as Pass Christian’s contribution to the Coast Tricentennial celebration for the area. It continued for the next eight years with a mission to promote an appreciation for Pass Christian’s musical heritage. The popular event was discontinued after Hurricane Katrina and then returned bigger and better than ever, with the support of Pass Christian Main Street in 2011.

Over the years, the mission celebrated the historic music of Captain John Handy on saxophone; Joe B. Jackson on piano; The Jeannette Salvant Kimball; and the Watson Brothers’ Band along with all the other amazing artists from this community. The festival continued to grow each year until it became a major event.

Today the “Jazz in the Pass” mission is to continue celebrating our music and culture with an emphasis on the joy of music, the amazing universal language that instinctively encourages community spirit.

Also, the festival will introduce and encourage students to participate while performing all types of music. An essential vision is to sustain the Jazz Educational Program in the Pass Christian Junior and Senior High Schools, allowing visiting professional musicians a place to demonstrate their expertise and provide lectures for the students.

This year’s Jazz in the Pass event takes place at Pass Christian’s War Memorial Park on Sunday, May 26, 2024 starting at 12pm and ending at 8pm. The event is free and open to the public! It promises to be a special day celebrating the rich heritage of music in this special town, Pass Christian, Mississippi.

Until next week…walk with Jazz.