The Subject Is Jazz: Early Jazz

Produced by
Norford, George, American
Universal Network Television, American, founded 1950
Subject of
de Paris, Wilbur, American, 1900 - 1973
Seldes, Gilbert Vivian, American, 1893 - 1970
Owned by
Smith, Ernie, American, ca. 1925 - 2004
acetate film
Duration (digital file): 00:30:11
Physical extent (film): 1200 ft
An episode entitled "Early Jazz," from the television anthology called The Subject is Jazz. It consists of a single reel of black-and-white, 16 mm acetate film with bilateral variable-area optical sound. The episode opens with title cards that read [The / National Broadcasting / Company / in cooperation with / The / Educational Television / and Radio Center / presents / the subject / is / jazz / With / Gilbert / Seldes / Early / Jazz]. An announcer speaks as the title cards appear, while a jazz band performs in the background. Host Gilbert Seldes then appears on screen and uses an analogy to compare jazz music to the Mississippi River. He then describes the sources/elements of jazz: drums from Africa, marching band music, hymns, British folk songs, and other miscellaneous sounds. Subsequently, he introduces Wilbur de Paris and his band, and the group performs "Muskrat Ramble."
Host Seldes then returns to the screen and discusses the development of jazz music in New Orleans. Some of the other topics/scenes in the episode include a New Orleans band playing hymns in a procession before and after a funeral; the musical instruments used in jazz (as he describes each musical instrument and the role it plays in the band, a band member plays that instrument in the background until all the instruments start playing); the proliferation of jazz to other cities in the United States. At one point, Wilbur de Paris then joins Gilbert Seldes on set and describes the development of jazz ensembles (the band then performs "Frankie and Johnny" in a New Orleans jazz style). Seldes then asks Wilbur de Paris to explain the difference between New Orleans jazz and Dixieland jazz (the band performs "Panama Rag" to demonstrate Dixieland music); de Paris is also asked to explain how his "new" New Orleans jazz differs from traditional New Orleans jazz. The episode ends with Gilbert Seldes describing the next episode in the series before the closing credits role.
Place depicted
New Orleans, Orleans Parish, Louisiana, United States, North and Central America
The Subject Is Jazz
Media Arts-Film and Video
sound films
black-and-white films (visual works)
16mm (photographic film size)
Instrumentalists (Musicians)
Jazz (Music)
Credit Line
Collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, Anonymous Gift in memory of Ernest (Ernie) R. Smith, Jazz Historian
Object number
Restrictions & Rights
Unknown - Restrictions Possible