Where does jazz music come from?


Jazz music played by a group of musicians.

5. Stylistic overview and musical characteristics

The style and characteristics of jazz music are very difficult to define due to the many subgenres that have emerged from jazz and the fact that improvisation is one of the key elements of jazz music. In jazz, improvisation gives musicians the freedom to express themselves as they can create their own interpretation of a predetermined tune. Improvisation allows jazz musicians to have a musical conversation and helps give every jazz musician their own personal and unique sound. Jazz music can be played on any instrument or using the human voice. The most common instruments for jazz music are the saxophone, trumpet, piano, trombone, bass, drums, and guitar. Most styles of jazz also try to keep some sort of regular rhythm which can vary from a very fast tempo to a very low tempo.

4. The origins of jazz

The origins of jazz music can be traced back to the second half of the 19th century in New Orleans. New Orleans was the only place in America that allowed slaves to own drums, and the slaves from West Africa had a strong musical tradition that they wanted to keep alive. This ended up mixing over the years with religious hymns that black slaves incorporated, along with Afro-Cuban rhythms and European classical music to become what is known as jazz. After the abolition of slavery and the end of the Civil War (1861-1865), many African Americans found work in the entertainment industry as musicians. This eventually led to the emergence of ragtime music in the 1890s, the best known of ragtime musicians being Scott Joplin (circa 1867 / 68-1917). Ragtime will be the immediate precursor of what will become jazz, as other bands and musicians attempt to emulate the style by adding improvisation. New Orleans has been the key to the creation of jazz as many old and notable jazz artists have performed all over the city, particularly in the Red Light District of Storyville. It was also around this time that George Vital Laine (1873-1966), also known as “the father of white jazz”, conducted an integrated marching band that produced many of the city’s top jazz players.

3. Dissemination and development

The Jazz Age is a time in the 1920s when jazz really took off, spread and reached its peak. It was around this time that the styles of music and dance associated with it became popular not only in the United States but also in Europe. Jazz has become synonymous with the “Roaring Twenties”, along with illegal bars, flappers and prohibition. In 1918, just before the start of the jazz era, Paul Whiteman (1890-1967) and his orchestra became popular in San Francisco and in the years to come they toured America and Europe. Whiteman is one of the leading figures in the popularization of jazz among middle-class white Americans. Following Whiteman’s success, a number of black jazz musicians like Duke Ellington (1899-1974) and Louis Armstrong (1901-71) found success, jumping into jazz now that it was mainstream. The 1930s saw the end of the jazz era and the rise of great swing groups, although people like Count Basie (1904-84) and the aforementioned Ellington helped develop the great jazz group. Despite the dominance of jazz ending with the Great Depression, music continued to evolve with new styles and subgenres forming as its influence on pop culture continues to resonate through time.

2. Notable jazz musicians, past and present –

This section will briefly touch on two of the best known of these jazz musicians, Bille Holliday and Louis Armstrong. Billie Holiday (1915-59) had a career as a singer and songwriter that spanned nearly thirty years. Her unique vocal style was inspired by jazz instruments, and she had a major influence in the manipulation of vocal tempo and phrasing, as well as in jazz and pop music. This unique vocal performance and her ability to improvise led her to become a mainstream star in the 1930s and most of the 1940s. From the late 1940s, legal problems, drug abuse and Abusive relationships began to plague her, which tarnished her reputation and her success with the general public. In 1959, Holiday died of cirrhosis of the liver caused by her drug problems.

Louis Armstrong has a fifty-year career spanning the 1920s to the 1960s as a jazz singer, songwriter and trumpeter. Armstrong is probably the best-known jazz musician and helped refocus jazz on solo performances when he entered the scene in the 1920s. During his career, Armstrong not only became known for his playing on the trumpet and voice, but also for his impact as one of the first truly popular African American artists. Armstrong died in 1971 of a heart attack in his sleep.

1. Cultural significance and artistic heritage

In the decades since the end of the jazz era, music has continued to grow, change and redefine itself. The 1940s and 1950s saw the rise of bebop, Afro-Cuban jazz, hard jazz, west coast jazz, modal jazz, and free jazz. Jazz in the 1960s and 1970s saw the rise of Latin jazz, Afro-Brazilian, post-bop, jazz fusion, jazz-rock, and jazz-funk. In the 1980s, traditional jazz resurfaced alongside smooth jazz, acid jazz, nu jazz, jazz rap and punk jazz. Since the 1990s, there has been no dominant style or styles of jazz, but a variety of styles that are currently used by individuals and groups.


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