American Patchwork: Jazz Parades ("Feet Don't Fail Me Now")

Grade Level
3-6, 7-9, 10-12, Adult

American Patchwork: Jazz Parades ("Feet Don't Fail Me Now")
The film can be streamed at,127 or purchased at

Jazz Parades
Level: 4-5, 6-8, Secondary
Focal-point questions: 

Q: Lomax compares Jazz parades with West African parades; what are some of the similarities mentioned? 
A: Improvisation, Dancing — "everyone is doing their own thing, right on the beat", and Audience participation ("the second line").
Q: What is the "second line"? 
A: Audience members who join in the parade music, dancing along with the band; sometimes they find instruments to play, too! 
Q: Discuss the Jazz Parades, the West African Parades, and parades that you have attended. What are the similarities? What are the differences? What is the "sliding step"?
A: A way of dancing so that your feet "hug the ground".
Q: Why does the second line use a "sliding step"? 
A: So that you can "shake all over" when you dance.


Try the sliding step - keep your feet close to the ground as you dance to New Orleans jazz. As the students dance, the teacher may choose to imitate the rhythm of the steps of one of the students with an instrument (drum, recorder, piano). Can the students figure out whom the teacher is imitating?

Break into pairs , each pair consisting of one dancer and one instrumentalist. Can the student playing the instrument follow the movement of the dancer with his or her improvisation? In jazz parades, sometimes the dancers follow the music, sometimes the music follows he dancers!

Origins of Jazz
Level: 6-8, 9-12
Focal-point questions: 

Q: African Americans were extremely repressed in New Orleans during reconstruction, but "instead of moving to the streets with violence," what did they do?
A: They moved to the streets with music.
Q: Jazz musicians in early New Orleans jazz did not take their "cue" from music notation, or from a conductor. What was their cue? 
A: The dancers.
Q: To whom does Lomax refer to as "the most famous musician from New Orleans, perhaps America's most original musician"? 
A: Louis [pronounced "Louie"] Armstrong.


Find some recordings of Louis Armstrong's music. Stage your own Jazz parade in your school, either with a recording or playing your own instruments. "When the Saints Go Marching In" is usually included in band method books; can you play it and march through the halls of your school at the same time? Do you have "second line"?

Preservation Hall
* Cautionary for Teachers: Sex and violence are mentioned within this segment.
Level: Secondary, Adults
Focal-point questions: 

Q: What was the historic contribution of Preservation Hall? 
A: To bring the music of New Orleans back into the life of the city, "to give musicians a place to play where people would hear it, where the music was the important thing."
Q: What does clarinetist Willie Humphrey say about jazz music? 
A: "If you don't feel it, you don't know nothin' about jazz."
Q: What does banjo player Emmanuel Sayles say about jazz? 
A: "Jazz is pertaining to sex. Thats why the high class 'colored' people didn't like it, and the white folks liked it because they knew what it meant and they knew that they liked to hear it. That's the real gospel truth. Jazz is pertaining to sex."
Q: What did the bassist, Chester Zardis say about his mother's opinion of his desire to learn music?
A: That the women would kill him, "because all the musicians the women was killing at that time. I said 'I'm gonna take my chances.' I don't mind dying for the bass."
Q: What does trumpet player Kid Thomas Valentine have to say about learning music and performing "in the old days"? 
A: That old-time jazz musicians would learn by rote, work on one piece of music for three or four month; they played in a bakery - still with only one piece of music - "'How about a fast one?' Same number. 'Play the slow one.' Same number!".


Many cities have jazz clubs with interesting histories. Locate one, attend a performance, and do some research on the history of that particular club; either by interviewing an employee or owner, conducting research on the internet or in the local library, or both.

Level: 6-8, 9-12
Focal-point questions: 

Q: What are some of the principals Bill Russell mentions when talking about the "explanation" of New Orleans jazz?
A: They always play the same recognizable tunes, with a "wonderful beat", in moderate tempo ("never play nothin' faster than you can walk".)
Q: For whom did John Robicheaux's band play? 
A: The white people on St. Charles Avenue, in the "millionaires' homes".
Q: Who was Jelly Roll Morton? 
A: Famous pianists and composer, one of the most famous musicians from New Orleans.
Q: What were some of the functions at which early brass bands played?
A: They played at funerals and election-day events.

Activity #4:

Jelly Roll Morton's "King Porter Stomp" has become a jazz standard. Listen to several versions of the piece (bands led by Glen Miller, Fletcher Henderson, Benny Goodman and Wynton Marsalis have all recorded it), with close attention to the points Bill Russell named as being central to New Orleans jazz.

• In the newer versions of the "King Porter Stomp", is the melody prominent? 
• Can you sing or hum along? Does it have a recognizable tune? 
• Does it have that "wonderful beat"? 
• Is the tempo moderate, or is it "faster than you can walk"?

Social Clubs
Level: 6-8, 9-12
Focal-point questions: 

Q: Why did social clubs become more important after reconstruction? 
A: "It was one of the few places where our people had a chance to go and be themselves."
Q: What are some of the similarities Lomax points out between social club and African parades? 
A: A low, shuffling dance step, improvised dance, a change of volume/intensity/expressive level during dance (from "low to high and back again").
Q: Why does "spider man" dance on the roof tops?
A: "To give the people what they want", and to add that "extra touch."
Q: What are some important functions of the social clubs in the video?
A: Funerals, finding jobs for members, "working together", communication, and in order to "...look good, feel good, go out there and do some good."


While dancing to New Orleans jazz, try to imitate the shuffling step. As you move, explore different levels in your dancing, from "low to high and back again." Can you dance on a chair? Can you dance while laying on the ground? Try and locate some props for your dance - umbrellas and fans. Imitate the dancers on the video; spinning your umbrella and flourishing your fan.

Black Indians
Level: 6-8, 9-12
Focal-point questions: 

Q: When do the "tribes of Black Indians take to the streets"? 
A: Mardi Gras.
Q: When does Bird work on his costume for Carnival? 
A: All year long.
Q: What event inspired the "Black Indian" concept? 
A: The "tame Sioux" from Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show were invited to participate in the Carnival parade. At the time, Blacks were excluded.
Q: What instruments are being used in the Black Indian Rehearsal?
A: The side of a house, a glass bottle, a cardboard box.
Q: What is one of the reasons Lomax gives for the popularity of the Black Indian performances? A: It is one of the only permissible ways Black men could express their rage and anger at the oppression and racial injustice of those days. 


Discuss some of the stereotypical "Indian" images and themes portrayed in this section. Compare and contrast the "Black Indians" and Plains Indians, like the Sioux Nation that inspired the Black Indians. Discuss some of the similar feelings between Native Americans and African Americans toward white people in the United States. During rehearsal, the Black Indians act out the "hostile encounters" they will have on the day of the parade. 

• Can you act out some of these types of encounters? 
• What does your "war grimace" look like? 
• Can you incorporate these into a dance?
* Cautionary for Teachers: There is nudity within this segment.
Level: Adults
Focal-point questions: 

Q: From what neighborhoods of New Orleans did the blues emerge? 
A: From "uptown, and from the river roustabouts, the shanty dwellers, the people called "mule skinners" and the migrant workers.
Q: What are some reasons given for singing the blues?
A: To "keep the Black man busy", to express disappointment and despair, to rid the body and mind of certain burdens
Q: Who were the first patrons of the new music, called jazz?
A: The madams in the brothels.
Q: Why did they invite jazz bands into their businesses?
A: It kept their patrons "happy and spending money".
Q: The uptown Blacks and the downtown Creoles were bitter rivals. Why did they join forces, in what Lomax calls the spark that created jazz bands?
A: To form jazz bands; emotional power.


The Lomax Digital Archive has amassed recordings of music and interviews; all free to listen to online. Of special interest to those seeking more information on the blues in New Orleans are Lomax's 1949 interviews of Alphonse Picou, Paul Dominguez and Johnny St. Cyr. Listen to Cyr's "Guitar Blues", and the interview of Cyr about New Orleans blues.

Brass Band
* Cautionary for Teachers: There are some mature themes in this segment.
Level: 9-12
Focal-point questions: 

Q: What reasons do members of the featured brass band give for not playing the "old way"? 
A: They couldn't get work doing it they played it the way it was "supposed to be done"; the younger crowd was hiring them, so they had to play music to suit the audience.
Q: What song does the Dirty Dozen Brass Band sing in the movie? 
A: "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star"


In brass bands, the band members often dance with the audience. Can you dance and play an instrument at the same time like they do?

Level: 4-5, 6-8, 9-12
Focal-point questions: 

Q: What are the purposes of a New Orleans-type funeral?
A: To celebrate the life of the person who as died, to give the person a "good send off", to make the survivors feel that life can go on, to make the person who has died feel honored, to play for the "last party on earth" for the person who has died.
Q: Have you been to a funeral? Was it similar to this one, or was it different? How so? When does the band start playing the "second line music"?
A: After the funeral, about a block away from the ceremony.
Q: Does the community view the funeral parade as disrespectful to the dead? What do you think? 
A: No, they would view the absence of a funeral procession as disrespectful.


Interview people, and read about, music to honor the passing of people in their lives. What does the music sound like—in Native American cultures, in European cultures such as Greece or Italy, in the burial of a national leader (former President Gerald Ford of the U.S., or Princess Diana of the U.K.)?

Designed by Jessica Blackwood