These days, there is not much to see at the rural Hawke’s Bay crossroads of Moteo Pā Road and Moteo Marae Road, 10km west of Napier: half-a-dozen letter boxes, some modest houses, and some vineyards in the distance. This unlikely location nurtured one of New Zealand’s earliest jazz bands, with an all-Māori lineup of musicians. The Moteo Jazz Band was very popular in the province, and travelled and performed further afield, including to Waikato, where the appeared alongside Princess Te Puea’s influential concert party Te Pou o Mangatāwhiri.
The Moteo Jazz Band emerged in the 1920s from the Moteo String Orchestra, which was active during the end of the First World War. The origins of their interest and knowledge in contemporary popular music – and jazz – is unknown, but there is a strong likelihood that Walter Smith was involved.