red hot jazz jazzbanner

Leon Roppolo (1902-1943)

Leon RoppoloLeon Roppolo (March 16, 1902 – October 5, 1943) was considered a genius by his contemporaries and like Bix Beiderbecke and Buddy Bolden he was another of the tragic young men of early Jazz. He is remembered as being a pioneer of the jazz solo, as opposed to the collective improvisation of most New Orleans bands and for his lyrical and modern clarinet and alto saxophone playing.

He was born in Lutcher, Louisiana, upriver from New Orleans. His family moved to New Orleans about 1912 and within a year or two he was playing music professionally at Lake Pontchartrain and Bucktown. At age fifteen he went on a vaudeville tour with Bee Palmer, the Shimmie Queen. He later played music with Carlisle Evans on the Mississippi River boat bands where he was reunited with his boyhood friends Paul Mares and George Brunies. In 1921 the three young men journeyed north to Chicago where they joined the Friars Society Orchestra which later became known as the New Orleans Rhythm Kings.

The band was together for about a year and a half and in that time they served as role models for many young White Jazz musicians like Bix Beiderbecke, and the Austin High Gang. When New Orleans Rhythm Kings broke up in 1924 Mares and Roppolo went to New York and played in Al Siegal’s Orchestra in New York City. Roppolo apparently made some recordings with the Original Memphis Five and California Ramblers but the sides were presumably unissued, or if issued unidentified.

In the summer of 1924 Roppolo took off for Texas where he joined Pecks Bad Boys. He then went north again and played in the Carlisle Evans band on a river boat that ended up in New Orleans. Back home he reunited with Mares who had put together another version of the New Orleans Rhythm Kings and recorded with Abbie Brunies’ Halfway House Orchestra.

In 1925 he went insane and was confined to a mental institution for the majority of his life, but continued to play and organized a band in the institution. He was released briefly in the early 1940s and played a few gigs in New Orleans before going back to the institution where he died in 1943.

  •  
  • 26
  •  
  •  

Redhotjazz.com was a pioneering website during the "Information wants to be Free" era of the 1990s. In that spirit we are recovering the lost data from the now defunct site and sharing it with you.
Most of the music in the archive is in the form of MP3s hosted on Archive.org or the French servers of Jazz-on-line.com where this music is all in the public domain.
Files unavailable from those sources we host ourselves. They were made from original 78 RPM records in the hands of private collectors in the 1990s who contributed to the original redhotjazz.com. They were hosted as .ra files originally and we have converted them into the more modern MP3 format. They are of inferior quality to what is available commercially and are intended for reference purposes only. In some cases a Real Audio (.ra) file from Archive.org will download. Don't be scared! Those files will play in many music programs, but not Windows Media Player.

Syncopated Times Radio

New Trad Jazz & Swing releases, interviews, live concerts, and a full roster of radio hosts.

 [Schedule]

Or look at our Subscription Options.