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The River City Dixieland Jazz Band

Formed in Charleston in 1997, The River City Dixieland Jazz Band is more than just an entertaining ensemble of talented instrumentalists. It is also a dedicated group of professionals who specialize in the presentation of traditional American jazz, “N’Orleans style”. 

Historically, Charleston has always shared many characteristics with its Louisiana counterpart. But now, the Holy City can also say it has that special spirited sound that’s rarely heard anywhere else, real Dixieland jazz! 

River City will provide a unique Charleston experience for all, even families with small children. 
Hearing and seeing the various instruments in the band always fascinate the kids, and to everyone’s 
delight, they’ll want to dance to this spirited music that people of all ages find so appealing. Dixieland
jazz is a happy, toe-tappin’ kind of music that’s never too loud, fun to dance to and entertaining even for those who just want to listen.

Your guests can  sing along to familiar tunes like “Ain’t She Sweet,” “Five Foot Two,” and “Bill Bailey, Won’t You Please Come Home.” Of course, they’ll also have the opportunity to try their luck dancing to the city’s most famous tune, “The Charleston”. The band’s renditions of Louis Armstrong’s “Hello Dolly” and “Wonderful World” are always great crowd pleasers too, as well as “The Muskrat Ramble,”
“Tiger Rag,” “Sweet Georgia Brown” and our traditional red-hot closer, “When the Saints Go Marching In”.

River City’s recent appearances include many private functions at landmark venues such as Charleston Place Hotel, Boone Hall, Magnolia and Middleton Plantations. Other familiar establishments downtown include the Blind Tiger and 9 months of weekly performances at the Southend Brewery on East Bay Street. 

You too will find River City to be a great choice for a variety of functions including private parties, corporate meetings, outdoor gatherings and special events. Give us a call. Let’s see how a little Dixieland Jazz can make your next function one they’ll remember.

The Music

Traditional jazz is above all, unstructured.  Rarely is a tune played exactly the same way twice.  As one musician comments, “There is a surprise in every box.”  It is this spontaneity that gives Dixieland its special style and sense of freedom.  Every musician makes up his part as he goes along.  The King, as the cornet player was called in early bands, sets the pace and carries the melody.  The trombone and clarinet fill in the chordal structure, while the rhythm section is the engine that makes it all work together. 

The origins of jazz are a bit muddled, because there were no recordings at the end of the 19th century—no vinyl, no tape, no CDs, not even radio.  The only people who heard music were the people who heard it being played.  We surmise that the elements of this new musical expression were Ragtime, the Blues, and Parade Music.  Ragtime was highly syncopated music for dancing, and was often played by pianos.  It became popular because perforated paper rolls could be made of this music which could then be played on a player piano—an early form of recording, and those could be mass produced, so many people could hear one person’s playing of a ragtime tune.  Ragtime was highly structured and written out.  Not much improvisation. 

The blues came out of the black work songs in the South.  The characteristics of this element include a significant freedom of expression and personalization of the tune and the lyrics.  It also used what we call “the blue notes” of the scale.  These provide a minor tension in a tune, and when added on to a regular tune (like a Rag or a march), give it more color. 

Finally, the parade bands provided the training for many musicians.  They played Sousa marches and other things an Army band might play—and they used instruments left in New Orleans by the departing Union Army musicians in pawn shops.  Their venue was the streets of New Orleans—for birthdays, weddings, funerals, political rallies or any other excuse.  The trombone player often sat on the tailgate of a wagon, so he could extend his slide and use it to the best advantage.  The clarinet players, who had been trained in classical music to play in the Creole symphonic orchestras, began to play the piccolo obligato parts on the trios of the marches, gradually expanding the style throughout the piece, while the cornet carried the tune throughout.  And of course, parade music is all about the beat, because you march to it. 

Initially, New Orleans jazz had few soloists, and most of them were cornet players.  The beat was pretty even (1,2,3,4).  But as jazz moved up the Mississippi River to St. Louis and Chicago, other soloists began to emerge and what we now call Chicago-style Dixieland features solos by every player, and a strong two-beat rhythm (on beats 2 and 4), like rock and roll. 

But mainly this music is about having fun, and expressing joy in life.  It’s simple stuff.  It makes your toes wiggle, and it makes you smile.  Nearly everyone likes it.  So do we, and we’re happy to share it with you.  This is America’s music, mixing African and European music in a unique way which emphasized personal freedom of expression.  It is like New Orleans gumbo—not really one thing or another, but a wonderful mixture of cultures and flavors that is unique and memorable.  Bon appétit!!!



Ain’t Misbehavin’
Ain’t She Sweet
Alexander’s Rag Time Band
Baby Face
Basin Street Blues
Bill Bailey                                                           
Bourbon Street Parade                             
Buddy Bolden Blues
Butter Beans    
Bye Bye Blackbird    
Do You Know What It Means To Miss N’orleans
Down By The Riverside                                              
Five Foot Two
Georgia Camp Meeting                                             
Georgia On My Mind
Hello Central, Give Me Dr. Jazz
Hello Dolly
Honeysuckle Rose
How Come You Do Me Like You Do?                    
I Found A New Baby
Ja Da
Just A Closer Walk With Thee
Midnight In Moscow
Muskrat Ramble
Save Yo’ Confederate Money
St. James Infirmary
Struttin’ With Some Barbeque
Sweet Georgia Brown
That’s A Plenty  
The Blues My Naughty Sweety Gives To Me
The Charleston South                                           
The Preacher
The Tin Roof Blues
Tiger Rag                                                            
Up A Lazy River
Washington & Lee
When The Saints Go Marching In
Wonderful World
Yes Sir, That’s My Baby

Song List

The Music