Jazz is a music genre that originated in the African-American communities of New Orleans, United States, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and developed from roots in blues and ragtime.

Jazz music is seen by many as “America’s classical music”.

Since the 1920s Jazz Age, jazz music has become recognized as a major form of musical expression.

It then emerged in the form of independent traditional and popular musical styles, all linked by the common bonds of African-American and European-American musical parentage with a performance orientation.

Jazz music is characterized by swing and blue notes, call and response vocals, polyrhythms and improvisation. Jazz has roots in West African cultural and musical expressions and in African-American music traditions including blues and ragtime, as well as European military band music.

Intellectuals around the world have hailed jazz as “one of America’s original art forms”.

As jazz music spread around the world, it drew on different national, regional, and local musical cultures, which gave rise to many distinctive styles.

  • New Orleans jazz began in the early 1910s, combining earlier brass-band marches, French quadrilles, biguine, ragtime and blues with collective polyphonic improvisation.
  • In the 1930s, heavily arranged dance-oriented swing big bands, Kansas City jazz, a hard-swinging, bluesy, improvisational style and Gypsy jazz (a style that emphasized musette waltzes) were the prominent styles.
  • Bebop emerged in the 1940s, shifting jazz from danceable popular music toward a more challenging “musician’s music” which was played at faster tempos and used more chord-based improvisation.
  • Cool jazz developed near the end of the 1940s, introducing calmer, smoother sounds and long, linear melodic lines.
  • The 1950s saw the emergence of free jazz, which explored playing without regular meter, beat and formal structures, and in the mid-1950s, hard bop emerged, which introduced influences from rhythm and blues, gospel, and blues, especially in the saxophone and piano playing.
  • Modal jazz developed in the late 1950s, using the mode, or musical scale, as the basis of musical structure and improvisation. Jazz-rock fusion appeared in the late 1960s and early 1970s, combining jazz improvisation with rock music’s rhythms, electric instruments, and highly amplified stage sound.
  • In the early 1980s, a commercial form of jazz fusion called smooth jazz became successful, garnering significant radio airplay. Other styles and genres abound in the 2000s, such as Latin and Afro-Cuban jazz.

Tradition and race

Since the emergence of bebop, forms of jazz music that are commercially oriented or influenced by popular music have been criticized.

According to Bruce Johnson, there has always been a “tension between jazz as a commercial music and an art form“. Traditional jazz enthusiasts have dismissed bebop, free jazz, and jazz fusion as forms of debasement and betrayal.

An alternative view is that jazz can absorb and transform diverse musical styles. By avoiding the creation of norms, jazz allows avant-garde styles to emerge.

For some African Americans, jazz music has drawn attention to African-American contributions to culture and history. For others, jazz is a reminder of “an oppressive and racist society and restrictions on their artistic visions“.

Amiri Baraka argues that there is a “white jazz” genre that expresses whiteness. White jazz musicians appeared in the Midwest and in other areas throughout the U.S. Papa Jack Laine, who ran the Reliance band in New Orleans in the 1910s, was called “the father of white jazz“.

The Original Dixieland Jazz Band, whose members were white, were the first jazz group to record, and Bix Beiderbecke was one of the most prominent jazz soloists of the 1920s.

The Chicago School (or Chicago Style) was developed by white musicians such as Eddie Condon, Bud Freeman, Jimmy McPartland, and Dave Tough. Others from Chicago such as Benny Goodman and Gene Krupa became leading members of swing during the 1930s.

Many bands included both black and white musicians. These musicians helped change attitudes toward race in the U.S.

Roles of women

Female jazz performers and composers have contributed throughout jazz music history.

Although Betty Carter, Ella Fitzgerald, Adelaide Hall, Billie Holiday, Abbey Lincoln, Anita O’Day, Dinah Washington, and Ethel Waters were recognized for their vocal talent, women received less recognition for their accomplishments as bandleaders, composers, and instrumentalists.

This group includes pianist Lil Hardin Armstrong and songwriters Irene Higginbotham and Dorothy Fields. Women began playing instruments in jazz music in the early 1920s, drawing particular recognition on piano.

Popular musicians of the time were Lovie Austin, Sweet Emma Barrett, Jeanette Kimball, Billie Pierce, Mary Lou Williams

Jazz Music

When male jazz musicians were drafted during World War II, many all-female bands took over. The International Sweethearts of Rhythm, which was founded in 1937, was a popular band that became the first all-female integrated band in the U.S. and the first to travel with the USO, touring Europe in 1945. Women were members of the big bands of Woody Herman and Gerald Wilson.

From the 1950s onwards many women jazz instrumentalists became prominent, some sustaining lengthy careers. Over the decades, some of the most distinctive improvisers, composers and bandleaders in jazz music have been women.

Origins

Jazz music originated in the late 19th to early 20th century as interpretations of American and European classical music entwined with African and slave folk songs and the influences of West African culture.

Its composition and style have changed many times throughout the years with each performer’s personal interpretation and improvisation, which is also one of the greatest appeals of the genre.

Blended African and European music sensibilities

By the 18th century, slaves gathered socially at a special market, in an area which later became known as Congo Square, famous for its African dances.

By 1866, the Atlantic slave trade had brought nearly 400,000 Africans to North America. The slaves came largely from West Africa and the greater Congo River basin and brought strong musical traditions with them.

The African traditions primarily use a single-line melody and call-and-response pattern, and the rhythms have a counter-metric structure and reflect African speech patterns.

An 1885 account says that they were making strange music (Creole) on an equally strange variety of ‘instruments‘—washboards, washtubs, jugs, boxes beaten with sticks or bones and a drum made by stretching the skin over a flour-barrel.

Lavish festivals featuring African-based dances to drums were organized on Sundays at Place Congo, or Congo Square, in New Orleans until 1843.

There are historical accounts of other music and dance gatherings elsewhere in the southern United States. Robert Palmer said of percussive slave music:

Usually, such music was associated with annual festivals when the year’s crop was harvested and several days were set aside for celebration. As late as 1861, a traveler in North Carolina saw dancers dressed in costumes that included horned headdresses and cow tails and heard music provided by a sheepskin-covered “gumbo box”, apparently a frame drum; triangles and jawbones furnished the auxiliary percussion. There are quite a few [accounts] from the southeastern states and Louisiana dating from the period 1820–1850. Some of the earliest Delta settlers came from the vicinity of New Orleans, where drumming was never actively discouraged for very long and homemade drums were used to accompany public dancing until the outbreak of the Civil War.

Another influence came from the harmonic style of hymns of the church, which black slaves had learned and incorporated into their own music as spirituals.

The origins of the blues are undocumented, though they can be seen as the secular counterpart of the spirituals. However, as Gerhard Kubik points out, whereas the spirituals are homophonic, rural blues and early jazz “was largely based on concepts of heterophony.

During the early 19th century an increasing number of black musicians learned to play European instruments, particularly the violin, which they used to parody European dance music in their own cakewalk dances.

In turn, European-American minstrel show performers in blackface popularized the music internationally, combining syncopation with European harmonic accompaniment.

In the mid-1800s the white New Orleans composer Louis Moreau Gottschalk adapted slave rhythms and melodies from Cuba and other Caribbean islands into piano salon music.

New Orleans was the main nexus between the Afro-Caribbean and African-American cultures.

New Orleans

The music of New Orleans had a profound effect on the creation of early jazz music.

The reason why jazz music is mainly associated with New Orleans is due to the slaves being able to practice elements of their culture such as voodoo, and they were also allowed drums.

Many early jazz performers played in venues throughout the city, such as the brothels and bars of the red-light district around Basin Street, known as “Storyville“.

In addition to dance bands, there were numerous marching bands who played at lavish funerals (later called jazz funerals), which were arranged by the African-American and European-American communities.

The instruments used in marching bands and dance bands became the basic instruments of jazz music: brass, reeds tuned in the European 12-tone scale, and drums.

Small bands which mixed self-taught and well-educated African-American musicians, many of whom came from the funeral procession tradition of New Orleans, played a seminal role in the development and dissemination of early jazz music.

These bands traveled throughout Black communities in the Deep South and, from around 1914 onwards, Afro-Creole and African-American musicians played in vaudeville shows which took jazz music to western and northern US cities.

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*This article was originally published at en.wikipedia.org.