You must picture . . . a two-block-wide, mile-long area of unpainted, unkept structures . . . If one came at night, one could hear the sounds of the early bands mixed with the sounds of laughter and the sounds of arguments, sometimes ending in fierce fights . . . Arrested once were three women fighting over cornet player Buddy Bolden.
So reads a paragraph in the text that accompanies Karl Koenig's "Jazz Map of New Orleans," the New Orleans Club's official guide to more than 800 locations connected with the history of the city's musical culture in the early decades of the century.
Included in the indexed, road-map-sized document are long-forgotten cabarets, dance halls and "sporting house" districts (one of which was the site of the aforementioned fight over Buddy Bolden), residences of legendary jazz pioneers and outdoor facilities like Milneberg, a Lake Pontchartrain resort where as many as 60 jazz bands, black and white, would play on a single weekend.
Ideally, one should take advantage of the map's tour potential in person -- the possibilities are laid out block-by-block in an accompanying booklet. However, if not booked on a trip to New Orleans soon, one ought to consider the next best thing: joining Karl Koenig Friday night for a tour by proxy at the first meeting of the recently formed American Federation of Jazz Societies.
The three-day meeting, for which representatives of most of the newly formed organization's nearly 50 member societies have registered, will be Friday through Sunday at the Westpark Hotel in Rosslyn.
Jazz critic Martin Williams of the Smithsonian will deliver the keynote address Saturday morning.
Other speakers include Eunice Lockhart-Moss, executive director of the Washington-based National Jazz Service Organization, and D.C.'s own Herald Gray, a federation vice president.
The meeting will recess Saturday afternoon and evening so delegates can attend the Potomac River Jazz Club's noon to midnight 14-band jazz jubilee, an American Cancer Society benefit, in Georgetown University's South Dining Hall.
Koenig's multimedia presentation will incorporate slides, film, props such as an antique Albert System clarinet and his own piano accompaniment from turn-of-the-century sheet music.
"I show how Stephen Foster's 'Camptown Races' came from a slave spiritual," says Koenig, "and I've got the original sheet music of 'Mississippi Rag,' the first rag that was published."
Koenig's immersion in jazz includes performing it three nights a week at a New Orleans club, teaching jazz piano, giving addresses on the university lecture circuit on subjects like "Women Pianists in Early New Orleans Jazz Bands," producing TV and radio jazz programs and acting as a consultant to jazz museums, writing fiction on New Orleans jazz themes and researching its history for articles in scholarly journals.
Koenig, a Potomac Park native, studied classical music at the University of Maryland and Catholic University and eventually earned a PhD in the subject. He later played piano in D.C.-area jazz combos and traveled with big bands from coast to coast.
It was during a visit to New Orleans some years ago that he became interested in the history of New Orleans jazz and decided to settle there.
"I kept running across these places and I started keeping a list," he says, explaining how the map project began. "The list got bigger and bigger so I started putting them on a map. I went around to the various neighborhoods to talk to people and see how many other places I could find.
"I've talked to most of the jazz people of New Orleans who are still alive and asked them to check it out and see if I was accurate or if they remembered something -- and not only famous people, but people on the streets.
"If we think in terms of around 1900 when there were no record players," muses Koenig, warming to his subject, "when they used music for everything -- picnics, socials, political functions, church -- it was the right environment and the right time to do live music and it evolved into jazz.
"It was so powerful, I don't think there's any field of music that hasn't been affected by it."
To register for the American Federation of Jazz Societies meeting, call 966-5037; for information on the jubilee call 698-PRJC. The Jazz Map of New Orleans is available by writing to 1627 S. Van Buren, Covington, La. 70433.