On February 26, 1917, while America simmered on the brink of war, the Victor Talking Machine Company recorded what would become the first “jazz” phonograph record, and nine days later released it to an unsuspecting public. The sounds on that wax disc – made by five young rebels from New Orleans calling themselves “The Original Dixieland ‘Jass’ Band” – heralded a concurrent revolution in MUSIC that took the country by storm and went on to captivate an entire planet. 100 years later, Dan Levinson’s Roof Garden Jass Band – featuring Jeff Barnhart on piano – will take you back to that historic moment in
time and delight your senses with those very same sounds that exalted a war-weary nation and propelled it into a wild, hypnotic, jazz-induced frenzy!
In 1987, Dan Levinson, then a senior at New York University, organized a five-piece band for a concert in New York City celebrating the 70th anniversary of recorded jazz. The phenomenal success of that event inspired a repeat performance across the continent in the Roof Garden of the famous Variety Arts Center in downtown Los Angeles, from which the band took its name. Since then, Dan Levinson’s Roof Garden Jass Band has performed for jazz societies throughout the Northeast, as well as at the Bix Beiderbecke Memorial Jazz Festival in Davenport, IA, the Tribute to Bix Festival in Racine, WI, the Orange
County Classic Jazz Festival in Costa Mesa, CA, the Hot Steamed Jazz Festival in Essex, CT, and Dick Hyman’s Jazz in July Festival at the 92nd Street Y in New York City.
Dan Levinson’s Roof Garden Jass Band is the only band in existence devoted exclusively to the neglected era in musical history when ragtime was transitioning into jazz, roughly 1917 to 1923. The esoteric term “rag-a-jazz” is sometimes used to describe this rich, captivating hybrid of ragtime and jazz, but, in truth, the music has no universally recognized name. Jazz music set the world on its ear when the first records appeared. Today – nearly a century later – “rag-a-jazz” maintains its infectious appeal.
The band’s repertoire consists of note-for-note re-creations of early jazz recordings made by pioneering bands such as the Original Dixieland Jazz Band (the first band to make a record bearing the word “jazz” – or “jass,” as it was known then), the Original Memphis Five, the Louisiana Five, the Frisco Jazz Band, the New Orleans Rhythm Kings, the Georgians, and other bands active before King Oliver made his historic recordings in 1923.
The Roof Garden Jass Band’s debut CD, Salutes the ODJB and the Beginning of Recorded Jazz, was released in 1998 on the Loup-garous label, followed by Blue Roses of Far and Near (2000) and Echoes in the Wax (2003), both released on the Stomp Off label.