Buddy Bolden wasn't the only star at the Odd Fellows Hall on the Eagle Saloon's third floor. John Robichaux's Orchestra was also immensely popular, and as a Creole band with classical training and sight-reading skills, the Orchestra presented a more refined alternative to the rambunctious sounds of the Bolden band. Led by the violinist and arranger Robichaux, the Orchestra played many of the same parks and dance halls as Bolden, which meant that Robichaux and Bolden often competed for audiences, gigs, and money. The two bands even engaged in the occasional “cutting session,” in which the leaders and their sidemen would try to out-blow each other while the audience cheered on their favorites. In a time when New Orleans music was transforming profoundly, these musical battles represented the clash between Old and New.
Thankfully, local pianist and arranger Tom Hook recently formed a band to perform and record Robichaux's music (Robichaux, like Bolden, never recorded his bands). Hook's impressive recreation of this music began with a visit to Tulane University's Hogan Jazz Archive, where he was able to study and work with Robichaux's original arrangements firsthand. To learn more about Hook's New John Robichaux Society Orchestra (and to hear their astonishing recordings), click the link below.