The history of Jazz

Essay, 2018

6 Pages, Grade: A-


History of Jazz

Jazz refers to a music genre that is believed to have cropped up at the start of the 20thcentury. Different scholars have approved that that Jazz music came from African-American communities in the southern parts of the U.S. It is believed that this was the first American music style that remains to be responsible for international music, and that its development arose from the post-Civil War and the Emancipation era (Gioia 27). Notably, this was a period that saw the flow of the freed slaves, which enabled them, spread their rhythm and tonality African culture, a phenomenon that was facilitated by the availability of the bands of Civil War Armies musical instruments.There are distinct factors that may be attributed to the growth of jazz music including: spirituals and field hollers of the slave workers, beats of ragtime syncopation, and demos of brass bands along with deep down snarl of the American blues. Notably, jazz is mainly based on improvisation, and it can be observed to have evolved over the years while balancing traditional forces, with the pursuit of new approaches and ideas with the modern jazz being on an exhilarating progressive mode following a similar path as will be explored in this paper.

According to distinct music scholars, Jazz echoes a cultural multiplicity and individualism of its mother country- the United States. Essentially, amidst the 20th-century turn, New Orleans was the area of miscellaneous cultures that had fused together (Hardie 24). A great number of people came from diverse regions and nations with varied intents, which in turn caused the exposure of musicians to copious music genres. For instance, some of these music genres included the American blues, European classical music, and even South American songs and rhythms, which all fused to form jazz (Gioia, 2011)

Significantly, Louis Armstrong, the trumpet player from New Orleans, who had unique melodic and playful solos, encompassed by a lot of energy, has been observed to be the father of jazz improvisation. Around 1920s and even 1930s, Armstrong was the leader of a number of music groups, and he enthused a great number of others to engage in music by coming up with individual improvisation style (Shepherd et al. 142). The earlier recordings played significant roles in jazz expansion in New Orleans, leading to a substantial elevation in popularity and sophistication of the music, with major cultural centers in America beginning to feature jazz bands (Gridley 43). In the 1940s, Kansa City, New York City, and Chicago had booming music scenes where fans filled dance halls to witness jazz assemblages (Hardie 373). With respect to this, scholars claim that this was a time that was labeled as the Swing Era, which stood for the lilting swing rhythms utilized by the Big Bands (Gioia 128).

Evidently, the period of 1940s saw a flow in smaller ensembles like quintets and quartets, with a significant number of musical groups taking the path of saxophone and trumpet, drums, bass, and piano. During this period, the Big Bands opened opportunities for several musicians and musical groups to tryout with divergent approaches to improvisation (Hardie 54). Furthermore, members of the Big Band, Charlie Parker the saxophonist and Dizzy Gillespie the trumpeter started developing an extensively honorable and harmonious style that was dubbed as Bebop. The term Bebop represented an onomatopoeic reference to the rhythmic hits heard in the music; Bebop referred to the accented music melodic lines, abbreviated as ‘bop’ since the artists assumed this style to be modern jazz (Gioia 369). Consequently, the Bebop era marshaled in artists such as Johnny Hartman and Joe Carroll, responsible for the transfer of the rapid melodic lines alongside the complex bebop phrasing to singing (Shepherd et al. 102).

Inescapably, the arrangements of swing consisted of composed sections, even though there were other segments designated for improvisation. However, a Bebop tune was comprised of a key theme (head), extended solos over the theme’s harmonic structure and then a final statement of the theme. In this era, musicians had the potential of composing novel and multifaceted melodies over the famous chords progressions. These artists executed their music in small ensembles across the nation as other musicians and fans assembled to hear the new direction taken by jazz. In addition, focusing on improvisation, Bebop facilitated an explosion of creativity and innovation (Shepherd et al. 496). It remains quite imperative to note that this phenomenon was inspired by the emerging harmonically and rhythmically experimental players in the swing period such as Lester Young, Coleman Hawkins, Roy Eldridge and Art Tatum (Gioia 82). Young became famous by working with both Count Basie’s big band along with Billie Holliday, the jazz vocalist (Shepherd et al. 496). Apparently, he played with a lighter tone, applying smoother tonguing and less-vibrato not to mention that he also played less swinging (straighter) eighth notes. Fortunately, this caused the development and importation of swing, comprising of aspects such as triplet-based swing feel alongside liking for the American blues. For example, Hawkins, Young among other saxophonists of this swing era influenced the role of the instrument, a role that was taken further by Charlie ‘Bird’ Parker’s alto playing in the 1940s (Shepherd et al. 496). Conversely, Bebop musicians played at fast tempos where the soloists were less concerned with lyricism, yet engaged in rhythmic and harmonic complexity (Hardie, 2013).

As a result, jazz scholars organize and explain the evolution of jazz in as much as the same way the classical scholars explain the evolution of classical music. The history of all music genres can be seen to be chronologically presented with each music era developing from the preceding era as observed in the evolution of Classical music from Baroque and jazz Bebop from swing (Ward 123). Just like in other music genre evolution, there are diverse styles of jazz music that arose from the interaction of American and African diverse cultures. In this regard, these styles among the emerging ones include work songs, New Orleans, Bebop, Chicago style as well as fusion (Hardie 289). For instance, Ragtime founded the basis of jazz styles, which developed because of the use of pianos giving vibrant rhythms accompanied by African dance. Again, blues developed in the 20th century, which was performed using pianos, harmonica in conjunction with guitar, followed by traditional jazz (Dixieland)/New Orleans jazz that developed in 1920s, integrating American blues, ragtime and brass band into a musical arrangement (Hardie 21). The advent of Big Band after the rise and popularity of Dixieland jazz witnessed the merging of jazz instruments to generate swing music; a high energy jazz that crowded dance floors. Bebop came in 1940s, which included a group size of about 4-6 musicians, and had complex melodies alongside chord progressions that were challenging to dance (Ward 211). Finally, free jazz came up at about 1960s, with jazz styles gaining a novel twist. For example, Wayne Shorter remains to be a prominent saxophonist and a composer in the current jazz movements such as jazz-rock fusion and modern jazz. In this sense, ‘free jazz’ was a movement that emerged after Shorter collaborated with Miles Davis and the group Weather Report, facilitating the popularity of jazz-rock fusion; a movement based on the conventional harmonic and rhythmic structures desertion (Shepherd et al. 497). Meanwhile, there are various fashions that have come up because of the changing times in the globe and due to the distinct taste of listeners, and most importantly influenced by technological advancement.

In conclusion, jazz remains to be anexceptionallyadvanced art that continues to evolve and grow in numerous directions. Apparently, the current jazz music sounds new and changed from the preceding music. Over the years, jazz scene has compounded various styles including avant-garde music, jazz and rock music fusion, Latin jazz, and other innumerable jazz styles. Modern jazz has assumed various inclinations with musicians being able to employ its unique nature so as to generate distinctive and artistic styles, although incorporating with the traditional jazz facets. The idea of music fusion, especially merging jazz with the other music genres has given this music genre a fresh turn, commercializing it in copious ways: hence, abridging its growth and support.

Works Cited

Gioia, Ted. (2011). The History of Jazz. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Gridley, Mark. JAZZ STYLES History & Analysis (11th Edition). 2011. New Jersey: Prentice Hall.

Hardie, Daniel. Jazz Historiography: The Story of Jazz History Writing. 2013. Bloomington: iUniverse.

Shepherd, John, Horn, David, Laing, Dave, Oliver, Paul and Wicke, Peter. Continuum Encyclopedia of Popular Music of the World Part 1 Performance and Production, Volume 2. 2003. London: A&C Black.

Ward, Geoffrey. Jazz: A History of America’s Music. 2001. London: Pimlico.


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The history of Jazz
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Mutinda Jackson (Author), 2018, The history of Jazz, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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