Early in April in the year 1845, a 15-year old American pianist named Louis Moreau Gottschalk performed at the Salle Pleyel in Paris. On the program was Chopin's Piano Concerto in E minor, and Chopin happened to be in the audience that day. Although already quite weak from the consumption that would eventually kill him, Chopin went backstage to congratulate the young American on his performance. What exactly Chopin said depends on whom you asked. Gottschalk's first biographer claims it was, "Very good, my child, let me shake your hand," while Gottschalk's sister insists it was, "I predict you will become the king of pianists!"
In 1845, Parisian society was curious about anything American after experiencing other exotic specimens from the New World, including P.T. Barnum's circus and George Catlin's paintings of Native American life. The New World was definitely "in."
Four years later, on today's date in 1849, Gottschalk returned to the Salle Pleyel, this time performing some of his own original compositions, including a work, entitled "Bamboula," after the name of a deep-voiced Afro-Caribbean drum. Gottschalk had been born in New Orleans, and was exposed from childhood to Cuban and Haitian rhythms and music. The Parisian audiences had never heard anything like it, and gave Gottschalk a standing ovation. Responding to demands for more of the same, Gottschalk wrote and performed a "Louisiana Quartet" of four original Creole-inspired piano pieces, works which anticipate by many decades both the rhythms and colors of American jazz.