Everything You Never Knew About Hot Jazz

Learn about this early jazz style

Musicians playing in jazz band on stage

Blend Images / Getty Images

Also referred to as Dixieland music, hot jazz got its name from its blazing tempos and fiery improvisations. The popularity of Louis Armstrong’s early bands was instrumental in spreading hot jazz to Chicago and New York. Hot jazz remained popular until a surge in swing bands in the 1930s pushed hot jazz groups out of the clubs. 

Origins and Characteristics 

With its origins in New Orleans in the early 1900s, hot jazz is a blend of ragtime, blues, and brass band marches. In New Orleans, small bands played hot jazz at community events ranging from dances to funerals, making the music an integral part of the city. Improvisation is an essential aspect of Dixieland jazz and has remained an integral part of most, if not all, jazz styles that followed. 


A hot jazz ensemble traditionally includes a trumpet (or cornet), clarinet, trombone, tuba, banjo, and drums. Being the highest pitched brass instrument, the trumpet, or cornet, takes charge of the melody for the majority of the song. On the other hand, the tuba is the lowest pitched brass instrument and thus holds the bass line. The clarinet and the trombone typically add frills to the song, dancing around the melody and bass line. The banjo and drums keep the song steady by establishing chords and keeping the beat, respectively. 

Essential Hot Jazz Songs

These songs are classic examples of hot jazz. 

  • West End Blues by Louis Armstrong 
  • Black Bottom Stomp by Jelly-Roll Morton
  • Snag It by King Oliver 
  • Willie the Weeper by Louis Armstrong