Origin, history and background information
Jazz is an original American musical art form which originated around the beginning of the 20th century in African American communities in the Southern United States out of a confluence of African and European music traditions. The use of blue notes, call-and-response, improvisation, polyrhythms, syncopation and the swung note of ragtime are characteristics traceable back to jazz's West African pedigree. During its early development, jazz also incorporated music from New England's religious hymns and from 19th and 20th century American popular music based on European music traditions.
Jazz has, from its early 20th century inception, spawned a variety of subgenres, from New Orleans Dixieland dating from the early 1910s, big band-style swing from the 1930s and 1940s, bebop from the mid-1940s, a variety of Latin-jazz fusions such as Afro-Cuban and Brazilian jazz from the 1950s and 1960s, jazz-rock fusion from the 1970s and later developments such as acid jazz.
By 1808 the Atlantic slave trade had brought almost half a million Africans to the United States. The slaves largely came from West Africa and brought strong tribal musical traditions with them. Lavish festivals featuring African dances to drums were organized on Sundays at Place Congo, or Congo Square, in New Orleans until 1843, as were similar gatherings in New England and New York. African music was largely functional, for work or ritual, and included work songs and field hollers. In the African tradition, they had a single-line melody and a call-and-response pattern, but without the European concept of harmony. Rhythms reflected African speech patterns, and the African use of pentatonic scales led to blue notes in blues and jazz.
In 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 such music internationally, combining syncopation with European harmonic accompaniment. Louis Moreau Gottschalk adapted African-American cakewalk music, South American, Caribbean and other slave melodies as piano salon music. Another influence came from black slaves who had learned the harmonic style of hymns and incorporated it 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. Paul Oliver has drawn attention to similarities in instruments, music and social function to the griots of the West African savannah.
1890s - 1910s
Emancipation of slaves led to new opportunities for education of freed African-Americans, but strict segregation meant limited employment opportunities. Black musicians provided "low-class" entertainment at dances, minstrel shows, and in vaudeville, and many marching bands formed. Black pianists played in bars, clubs and brothels.
New Orleans Music
The music of New Orleans had a profound affect on the creation early jazz. Many early jazz performers played in the brothels and bars of red-light district around Basin Street called "Storyville." In addition, numerous marching bands played at lavish funerals arranged by the African American community. The instruments used in marching bands and dance bands became the basic instruments of jazz: brass and reeds tuned in the European 12-tone scale and drums.
1920s and 1930s
Prohibition in the United States (from 1920 to 1933) banned the sale of alcoholic drinks, resulting in illicit speakeasies becoming lively venues of the "Jazz Age", an era when popular music included current dance songs, novelty songs, and show tunes. Jazz started to get a reputation as being immoral and many members of the older generations saw it as threatening the old values in culture and promoting the new decadent values of the Roaring 20s.
The 1930s belonged to popular swing big bands, in which some virtuoso soloists became as famous as the band leaders. Key figures in developing the "big" jazz band included bandleaders and arrangers Count Basie, Cab Calloway, Fletcher Henderson, Benny Goodman, and Glenn Miller.
Trumpeter, bandleader and singer Louis Armstrong, known internationally as the "Ambassador of Jazz," was a much-imitated innovator of early jazz.
Swing was also dance music and it was broadcast on the radio 'live' coast-to-coast nightly across America for many years. Although it was a collective sound, swing also offered individual musicians a chance to 'solo' and improvise melodic, thematic solos which could at times be very complex and 'important' music.
Outside of the United States the beginnings of a distinct European style of jazz emerged in France with the Quintette du Hot Club de France. Belgian guitar virtuoso Django Reinhardt popularized gypsy jazz, a mix of 1930s American swing, French dance hall "musette" and Eastern European folk with a languid, seductive feel. The main instruments are steel stringed guitar, violin, and double bass. Solos pass from one player to another as the guitar and bass play the role of the rhythm section.
In the late 1930s there was a revival of "Dixieland" music, harkening back to the original contrapuntal New Orleans style. This was driven in large part by record company reissues of early jazz classics by the Oliver, Morton, and Armstrong bands of the 20s.
In the mid-1940s bebop performers helped to shift jazz from danceable popular music towards a more challenging "musician's music." Differing greatly from swing, early bebop divorced itself from dance music, establishing itself more as an art form but lessening its potential popular and commercial value. Influential bebop musicians included saxophonist Charlie Parker, pianists Bud Powell and Thelonious Monk, trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie and Clifford Brown and bassist Ray Brown.
Cool jazz emerged in the late 1940s in New York City, as a result of the mixture of the styles of predominantly white jazz musicians and black bebop musicians. Cool jazz recordings by Chet Baker, Dave Brubeck, Bill Evans, Gil Evans, Stan Getz and the Modern Jazz Quartet usually have a "lighter" sound which avoided the aggressive tempos and harmonic abstraction of bebop.
Hard bop is an extension of bebop (or "bop") music that incorporates influences from rhythm and blues, gospel music, and blues, especially in the saxophone and piano playing. Hard bop was developed in the mid-1950s, partly in response to the vogue for cool jazz in the early 1950s. The hard bop style coalesced in 1953 and 1954, paralleling the rise of rhythm and blues. Miles Davis' performance of "Walkin'," the title track of his album of the same year, at the very first Newport Jazz Festival in 1954, announced the style to the jazz world.
Free jazz and the related form of avant-garde jazz, are subgenres rooted in bebop, that use less compositional material and allow performers more latitude. Free jazz uses implied or loose harmony and tempo, which was deemed controversial when this approach was first developed. The bassist Charles Mingus is also frequently associated with the avant-garde in jazz, although his compositions draw off a myriad of styles and genres.
Latin jazz has two main varieties: Afro-Cuban and Brazilian jazz. Afro-Cuban jazz was played in the U.S. directly after the bebop period, while Brazilian jazz became more popular in the 1960s. Afro-Cuban jazz began as a movement in the mid-1950s as bebop musicians such as Dizzy Gillespie and Billy Taylor started Afro-Cuban bands influenced by such Cuban and Puerto Rican musicians as Xavier Cugat, Tito Puente, and Arturo Sandoval. Brazilian jazz such as bossa nova is derived from samba, with influences from jazz and other 20th century classical and popular music styles.
Soul jazz was a development of hard bop which incorporated strong influences from blues, gospel and rhythm and blues in music for small groups, often the organ trio which featured the Hammond organ.
In the late 1960s and early 1970s the hybrid form of jazz-rock fusion was developed. Although jazz purists protested the blend of jazz and rock, some of jazz's significant innovators crossed over from the contemporary hardbop scene into fusion. Jazz fusion music often uses mixed meters, odd time signatures, syncopation, and complex chords and harmonies, and fusion includes a number of electric instruments, such as the electric guitar, electric bass, electric piano, and synthesizer keyboards.
There was a resurgence in interest in jazz and other forms of African American cultural expression during the Black Arts Movement and Black nationalist period of the early 1970s. Musicians such as Pharoah Sanders, Hubert Laws and Wayne Shorter began using kalimbas, cowbells, beaded gourds and other instruments not traditional to jazz. Jazz continued to expand and change, influenced by other types of music, such as world music, avant garde classical music, and rock and pop music.
1980s - 2000s
In the 1980s, the jazz community shrank dramatically and split. A mainly older audience retained an interest in traditional and "straight-ahead" jazz styles. Wynton Marsalis strove to create music within what he believed was the tradition, creating extensions of small and large forms initially pioneered by such artists as Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington.
In the early 1980s, a lighter commercial form of jazz fusion called pop fusion or "smooth jazz" became successful and garnered significant radio airplay. Smooth jazz saxophonists include Grover Washington, Jr., Kenny G and Najee.
In the late 1980s and early 1990s, several subgenres fused jazz with popular music, such as Acid jazz, nu jazz, and jazz rap.
The more experimental and improvisational end of the spectrum includes Norwegian pianist Bugge Wesseltoft and American bassist Christian McBride. Toward the more pop or dance music end of the spectrum are St Germain who incorporates some live jazz playing with house beats. Radiohead, Björk, and Portishead have also incorporated jazz influences into their music.
In the 2000s, straight-ahead jazz continues to appeal to a core of listeners. Well-established jazz musicians whose careers span decades, such as Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock, John McLaughlin, Sonny Rollins, John Surman, Stan Tracey and Jessica Williams continue to perform and record. Some innovative jazz artists to emerge in the 1990s and 2000s with a wide following include The Bad Plus, Brian Blade, Larry Goldings, Gonzalo Rubalcaba, and Medeski, Martin, & Wood.