Jazz is a musical style that originated at the beginning of the 20th century in black communities in the Southern United States. It was born out of a mix of African and European music traditions. Its African pedigree is evident in its use of blue notes, improvisation, polyrhythms, syncopation and the swung note. From its early development until
One of the reasons why I regard jazz history as a distinct genre is the fact that the majority of jazz histories have been conceived outside of the general historiographical discourse of academic historians. None of the early jazz histories were written by academically trained historians. As John Gennari points out, the first American jazz historians were “art and literary critics, a lapsed art music composer, a cartoonist, and freelance writers of various persuasions who took on the study of jazz as an avocational interest” (121).
We knew forty years ago, when the Hornbostel hypothesis was first suggested, that for more than three hundred years more West African languages had evolved not only from vowels and consonants but also from a third element of articulation which was based simultaneously on variations of pitch, timbre and timing.
Many scholars have tried to link the blues convention of a singer accompanied by solo guitar back to earlier African traditions, envisioning the blues as a New World continuation of the West African performance practices associated with the griots, the musical bards of their aural-oral societies. Certainly come similarities can be seen in the two musical idioms.
The Latin tinge was already a long-established fact of New Orleans music well before the arrival of jazz on the scene - perhaps not surprising for a city that was still only around one-eighth Anglo-American in the years following the Louisiana purchase.
To many jazz aficionados in the sixties, the death of John Coltrane in 1967 came to be associated with a crisis in jazz itself. Since its birth in the ragtime of the 1890's, jazz had been undergoing an evolutionary progression characterized by increasing sophistication in the use of harmonic, melodic, and rhythmic concepts that in many ways paralleled the much slower evolution of European classical music. Jazz had progressed from Dixieland in the century's teens on through swing in the thirties , bebop in the forties, cool, hard bop and modal in the fifties, and finally the free jazz developed by John Coltrane and other avant-garde performers in the early sixties.
Most early classical composers (such as Aaron Copland, John Alden Carpenter—and even Igor Stravinsky, who became smitten with jazz) were drawn to its instrumental sounds and timbres, the unusual effects and inflections of jazz playing (brass mutes, glissandos, scoops, bends, and stringless ensembles), and its syncopations, completely ignoring, or at least underappreciating, the extemporized aspects of jazz. Indeed, the sounds that jazz musicians make on their instruments—the way they attack, inflect, release, embellish, and colour notes—characterize jazz playing to such an extent that if a classical piece were played by jazz musicians in their idiomatic phrasings, it would in all likelihood be called jazz.
Jazz music had been played as a form as entertainment since its inception. During the swing era jazz music developed into tremendous music to dance to. Jazz groups seldom performed just for listening. Swing dansing was an extremely popular past time. During this era, jazz achieved wide popular appeal. One of Count Basie's recordings, One O'Clock Jump, sold over a million copies.
At the turn of the century, the streets of New Orleans were awash in blues music, ragtime and the native brass-band fanfares. The latter, used both in the Mardi Gras parades and in funerals, boasted a vast repertory of styles, from military marches to "rags" (not necessarily related to Scott Joplin's ragtime music). The Excelsior Brass Band, formed in 1880, raised the Creole drummer John Robichaux and the Creole clarinetist Alphonse Picou. The Onward Brass Band, formed around 1884, featured Creole cornet player Manuel Perez. Notably missing from this mix was religious music, that played a lesser role in the birth and development of jazz music. Also missing was white popular music, that would define the "commercial" format of jazz music, but not its core technical characteristics.
Jazz's musical heritage was mostly European, which became increasingly influenced by the American Negro music that augmented it. The dance orchestra became enlarged from the 'Quadrille Orchestra' (violin, flute, clarinet, trumpet & string, bass) into what was called the 'Society Orchestra' or 'String Band -- adding trombone, piano, trap drums and later, saxophones.
The popular image of the 1920s, as a decade of prosperity and riotous living and of bootleggers and gangsters, flappers and hot jazz, flagpole sitters, and marathon dancers, is indelibly etched in the American psyche. But this image is also profoundly misleading. The 1920s was a decade of deep cultural conflict. The pre-Civil War decades had fundamental conflicts in American society that involved geographic regions. During the Gilded Age, conflicts centered on ethnicity and social class.