Encyclopedia  |   World Factbook  |   World Flags  |   Reference Tables  |   List of Lists     
   Academic Disciplines  |   Historical Timeline  |   Themed Timelines  |   Biographies  |   How-Tos     
Sponsor by The Tattoo Collection
Jazz
Main Page | See live article | Alphabetical index

Jazz

For other article subjects named jazz see jazz (disambiguation).

Jazz
Stylistic origins: African American music Blues and European marching band music
Cultural origins: West African music African American music 1910s New Orleans Storyville
Typical instruments: Guitar - Saxophone - Trombone - Piano - Clarinet - Trumpet - Bass - Drums
Mainstream popularity: As "straight-ahead jazz," sporadic; mostly in pop forms like Swing; also steadily influential in some pop music forms with "jazz extensions," e.g., rhythm and blues, neo soul and cool jazz
Derivative forms: Latin jazz - Swing
Subgenres
Bebop - Hard bop - Dixieland - Cool jazz - Free jazz - Jazz fusion - Modal jazz - Soul jazz - Smooth jazz
Fusion
Jazz fusion - Smooth jazz - Jazz rap - Acid jazz - Nu jazz
Musicians
Bands - Bassists - Clarinetists - Drummers - Guitarists - Organists - Pianists - Trombonists - Trumpeters
Other topics
Jazz standard

Jazz is a musical art form rooted in West African cultural and musical expression and in the African American blues tradition, with diverse influences over time, commonly characterized by blue notes, syncopation, swing, call and response, polyrhythms and improvisation. It grew out of a cross-fertilization of folk blues, ragtime, and European music, particularly marching band music. It has been called the first original art form to develop in the United States of America. World-renowned African-American composer, trumpeter and jazz historian Wynton Marsalis has called jazz "the musical expression of the nobility of the race."

   

Table of contents
1 History
2 Improvisation
3 Styles
4 See also
5 External links

History

   

Roots of jazz

   
At the root of jazz is the blues, the folk music of former African slaves in the American South and their descendants, heavily influenced by West African cultural and musical traditions, that evolved as black musicians migrated to the cities -- most notably, the
Storyville district of New Orleans -- in the late 19th century. Many early jazz musicians made a living playing in small bands hired to lead funeral processions in the New Orleans African-American tradition. The instruments of these groups became the basic instruments of jazz: brass, reeds, and drums. Purportedly, the availability of war-surplus band instruments from the American Civil War aided the trend.
   
Early jazz influences found their first mainstream expression in the marching band music of the day, which was the standard form of popular concert music at the turn of century. Black musicians frequently used the melody, structure and beat of marches as points of departure; but, says "North by South, from Charleston to Harlem," a project of the National Endowment for the Humanities: "...a black musical spirit (involving rhythm and melody) was bursting out of the confines of European musical tradition, even though the performers were using European styled instruments. This African-American feel for rephrasing melodies and reshaping rhythm created the embryo from which many great black jazz musicians were to emerge." These Africanized bands played a seminal role in the articulation and dissemination of early jazz. Traveling throughout black communities in the Deep South and to northern big cities, these musician-pioneers were the Hand helping to fashion jazz's howling, raucous, free-wheeling, "raggedy," ragtime spirit, then later quickening it to its more eloquent, sophisticated, swing incarnation.
   
One unlikely player in this phenomenon was African-American minister Rev. Daniel J. Jenkins of Charleston, South Carolina, who in 1891 established The Jenkins Orphanage for boys. In 1895, Jenkins instituted a rigorous music program in which the orphanage's young charges were taught the religious and secular music of the day, including overtures and marches. Precocious orphans and defiant runaways, some of whom played ragtime in bars and brothels, were delivered to the orphanage for "salvation" and rehabilitation; and made their contributions, as well. In the fashion of the Fisk Jubilee Singers and Fisk University, the Jenkins Orphanage Bands traveled widely, earning money to keep the orphanage afloat. It was an expensive enterprise. Jenkins typically took in approximately 125-150 "black lambs" yearly, and many of them received formal musical training. Less than 30 years later, five bands operated nationally, with one traveling to England--again in the Fisk tradition. It would be virtually impossible to overstate the influence of the Jenkins Orphanage Bands on early jazz, scores of whose members went on to play with jazz legends like Duke Ellington, Lionel Hampton and Count Basie. Among them were the likes of Cat Anderson and Jabbo Smith.
   
For all its genius, early jazz, with its humble, folk roots, was the product of primarily self-taught musicians. But an impressive postbellum network of black-established and -operated institutions, schools and civic societies in both the North and the South -- of which Jenkins' orphanage was only one -- plus widening mainstream opportunities for education, produced ever-increasing numbers of young, formally trained African-American musicians, some of them schooled in classical European musical forms. Lorenzo Tio and Scott Joplin were among this new wave of musically literate jazz artists. Joplin, the son of a former slave and a free-born woman of color, was largely self-taught until age 11, when he received lessons in the fundamentals of music theory from a classically trained German immigrant in Texarkana, Texas.
   
An important event in the development of jazz was the tightening of the Jim Crow (racial segregation) laws in Louisiana in the 1890s. Accomplished African American musicians no longer were allowed to work with whites but were easily able to find work in all-black bands and orchestras, applying conservatory standards to black music.
   

Early 20th century

   
By the turn of the century, American society had begun to shed the heavy-handed, straight-laced formality that had characterized the Victorian era. Public dance halls, clubs, and tea rooms opened in the cities; and black dances like the
cakewalk and the shimmy were eventually adopted by a white public, especially the flappers. White audiences saw them first in vaudeville shows, then performed by exhibition dancers in the clubs.
   
Much of the music for this dancing was not jazz, but it was new, and the fashion for new music did involve enthusiasm for some idea of jazz. Popular composers like Irving Berlin made attempts at jazzy writing, though they seldom used the specific musical devices that were second nature to jazz players--the rhythms, the blue notes. Nothing did more to popularize the idea of jazz than Berlin's hit song of 1911,"Alexander's Ragtime Band," which became a craze as far from home as Vienna. Although the song wasn't written in rag time, the lyrics describe a jazz band, right up to jazzing up popular songs, as in the line, "If you want to hear the Swanee River played in ragtime...."
   
Meanwhile, two disparate, but important, inventions of the second half of the nineteenth century quietly had set the stage for the incipient music soon to be known as jazz to capture the spotlight in American popular music. George Pullman's invention of the sleeping car in 1864 brought a new level of luxury and comfort to the nation's railways; and Thomas Edison's invention, in 1877, of the phonograph record made music accessible to virtually everyone.
   
Pullman's ingenious, rolling sleeping quarters provided employment to legions of African-American men, who criss-crossed the nation as sleeping car porters; and by the 1920s, the Pullman Company employed more African-Americans than any single business concern in the United States. But Pullman porters were more than solicitous, smiling faces in smart, navy blue uniforms. The most dapper and sophisticated of them were culture bearers, spreading the card game of bid whist, the latest dance crazes, regional news and a heightened sense of black pride to cities and towns wherever the railways reached. Many porters also sold "race records" to augment their income, speeding artistic innovations to musicians eager to hear the latest; spreading among the general public an awareness of and appreciation for this rapidly evolving musical form; and, in the process, putting jazz on the fast track to first U.S., then worldwide, acclaim.

1920s to 1950s

With Prohibition, the constitutional amendment that forbade the sale of alcoholic beverages, the legal saloons and cabarets were closed; but in their place hundreds of speakeasies appeared, where patrons drank and were entertained by musicians. The presence of dance venues and the subsequent increased demand for accomplished musicians meant more artists were able to support themselves by playing professionally. As a result, the numbers of professional musicians increased, and jazz--like all the popular music of the 1920s--adopted the 4/4 beat of dance music.

A third nineteenth-century invention, radio, came into its own in the 1920s, after the first public radio station in the U.S. began broadcasting in Pittsburgh in 1922. Radio stations proliferated at a remarkable rate, and with them, the popularity of jazz. Jazz became associated with things modern, sophisticated and decadent. The second decade of the new century, a time of technological marvels, flappers, flashy automobiles, organized crime, bootleg whiskey and bathtub gin, would come to be known as the Jazz Age.

Through a few recordings aimed at black audiences, Louis Armstrong made the first decisive change in jazz. He played with the usual New Orleans march combo, in which everyone improvised simultaneously. But he was an extraordinary improviser, capable of creating endless variations on the initial melody. Armstrong also popularized scat, an improvisational vocal technique in which nonsensical syllables or words are sung or otherwise vocalized, often as part of a call-and-response interaction with other musicians onstage. His unique, gravely voice and innate sense of swing made scat an instant hit. Jazz became a solo form, and big bandleaders -- perhaps, most notably, Cab Calloway -- and, later, trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie and vocalists like Ella Fitzgerald, jumped on the scat bandwagon. Instrumentally and vocally, Armstrong became the most celebrated and imitated jazz artist of his time.

In the early 1920s, popular music was still a mixture of things--current dance numbers, novelty songs, show tunes. "Businessman's bounce music," as one horn player put it. But musicians with steady jobs, playing with the same companions, were able to go far beyond that. The Ellington band at the Cotton Club and the various Kansas City groups that became the Count Basie band date from this period.

Over time, social strictures regarding racial segregation began to relax in entertainment. White bandleaders, who tended to mold the music more to orthodox rhythms and harmony, began to recruit black musicians. In the mid-1930s, Benny Goodman hired pianist Teddy Wilson, vibraharpist Lionel Hampton, and guitarist Charlie Christian to join small groups. During this period, the popularity of swing (genre) and big band music was at its height, making stars of such men as Glenn Miller and Duke Ellington. Swing, the popular music of its time, covered a broad spectrum from "sweet" to "hot" bands, with the jazz content varying across the range.

A development of swing known as "jumping the blues" anticipated rhythm and blues and rock and roll in some respects. It involved the use of small combos instead of big bands and a concentration on up-tempo music using the familiar blues chord progressions. One brief variation, known as boogie-woogie, used a doubled rhythm--that is, the rhythm section played "eight to the bar," eight beats per measure instead of four. Big Joe Turner, a Kansas City singer who worked in the 1930s with Swing bands like Count Basie's, became a boogie-woogie star in the 1940s and then in the 1950s was one of the first innovators of rock and roll, notably with his song "Shake, Rattle and Roll". Another jazz founder of rock and roll was saxophonist Louis Jordan.

Development of bebop

The next major stylistic turn came with bebop, led by such distinctive stylists as the saxophonist Charlie Parker (known as "Yardbird" or "Bird") and Dizzy Gillespie. This marked a major shift from music for dancing towards a complex art form of the first rank. Hard bop was a move away from cool jazz, an attempt to make bop more appealing to audiences by incorporating influences from soul music, gospel music, and the blues. Later, bebop and hard bop musicians, such as trumpeter Miles Davis, made more stylistic advances with modal jazz, where the harmonic structure of pieces was much more free than previously and frequently only implied by skeletal piano chords and bass parts. The instrumentalists then would improvise around a given mode of the scale. Soul jazz was a development of hard bop which centred on the Hammond organ.

Jazz and rock music: jazz fusion

With the growth of rock and roll in the 1960s, came the hybrid form jazz-rock fusion, again involving Davis, who in 1968 released the fusion albums "In a Silent Way" and "Bitches Brew." Jazz at this stage was no longer center stage in popular music, but was still breaking new ground and combining and recombining in different forms. Notable artists of the 1960s and 1970s jazz and fusion scene include: Carlos Santana, Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock, Joni Mitchell, Sun Ra, Peter Skellern, Soft Machine, Caravan, Frank Zappa, Wayne Shorter, Jaco Pastorius, and Weather Report. The only band that has developed continuously from the late 70s until the present day (2004) and has known an unusual popular reception for a jazz band is the Pat Metheny Group.

Recent developments

Since then, the stylistic diversity of jazz has shown no sign of diminishing, absorbing influences from such disparate sources as world music and avant garde classical music, including African rhythm and traditional structure, serialism and the extensive use of chromatic scale, by such musicians as Ornette Coleman or John Zorn. However, jazz's audience has shrunk dramatically and split somewhat, with a mainly older audience retaining an interest in traditional, "straight-ahead" jazz styles, a small core of practitioners and fans interested in highly experimental modern jazz, and a constantly changing group of musicians fusing jazz idioms with contemporary popular music genres, forming styles like acid jazz, which contains elements of 1970s disco, acid swing which combines 1940s style big-band sounds with faster, more aggressive rock-influenced drums and electric guitar. Jazz enjoyed a resurgence in the 1980s with bands like Pigbag and Curiosity Killed the Cat achieving chart hits in Britain. Sade Adu became the definitive voice of smooth jazz. Starting in the 1970's with artists like Keith Jarrett, Pat Metheny Group, Jan Garbarek, Ralph Towner or Eberhard Weber, the ECM record label established a new chamber-music aesthetics, preferably on acoustic instruments, heading to a world-music concept, also sometimes referred to as the European leg of jazz.

Latin jazz deserves its own category or two - specifically, there are two main styles of music that combine jazz harmonies and other concepts with rhythms and instruments from Africa and Latin America: Brazilian jazz and Afro-Cuban jazz.

Improvisation

It is difficult to define precisely what jazz is; but, clearly, a key element of the form is improvisation. Improvisation has been since early times an essential element in African and African-American music and is closely related to the pervasiveness of call and response in West African and African-American cultural expression. The exact form of improvisation has changed over time. Early folk blues music often was based around a call and response pattern, and improvisation would factor into the lyrics, the melody, or both. Part of the Dixieland style involves musicians taking turns playing the melody while the others make up counter lines to go with it. By the Swing era, big bands played carefully arranged sheet music, but the music often would call for one member of the band to stand up and play a short, improvised solo. Finally, in Bebop, improvisation takes center stage, as almost the entire focus of the music is on clever, improvised solos, with little attention given to the melody, or "head", of each piece.

When jazz musicians improvise, they usually use a chord progression - the series of chords that define the harmonic structure of a piece of music. For example, the Charlie Parker composition "Now's the Time" is 12 bars long and follows what jazz musicians call a "twelve-bar blues" progression. After the melody, the rhythm section keeps playing the same 12 bars of music, while each soloist in turn improvises new melodies within the harmonic structure of the chords. It is possible to get a better idea of what is happening musically by humming the melody while listening to the solo. In this manner, it becomes clearer that the improvised melody is closely related to the chord progression of the piece. Fitting an improvised melody to the harmony is known as "playing the (chord) changes." As previously noted, later styles of jazz, such as modal jazz, abandoned the strict notion of a chord progression, allowing the individual musicians to improvise more freely within the context of a given scale or mode. When a pianist or guitarist improvises chords while a soloist is playing, it is called comping.

Styles

See also

External links

American roots music
Appalachian | Blues (Ragtime) | Cajun and Creole (Zydeco) | Country (Honky tonk and Bluegrass) | Jazz | Native American | Spiritualss and Gospel | Tejano

Jazz | Jazz genres
Bebop - Dixieland - Cool jazz - Free jazz - Hard bop - Modal jazz - Soul jazz
Swing jazz - Acid jazz - Jazz fusion - Jazz rap - Nu jazz - Latin jazz - Smooth jazz