Jazz History

The jazz music that you hear today is a beautiful art form that started from the African-American neighbourhoods of New Orleans, Louisiana, at the turn of the twentieth century. The diversity of the music that comes from this genre is astounding.

The many varied styles of jazz are all unique because the main characteristics of jazz are based on improvisation. It is a genre that is open to other musical influences and how it sounds all depends on how the musician wants to express himself or herself.

The Roots of Jazz
Music historians believe that jazz music originated in the areas where there was a large concentration of slaves in the early eighteenth century. In the New Orleans area, there was a special market where the slaves regularly met, and it became the melting pot of all the people who were uprooted from the African continent.

What’s interesting about jazz music is that it was distinctly developed in the United States. It had developed from simple chants and calls from the African tradition and was melded with influences from European musical elements and composition. What started with simple instruments fashioned from items they found in the plantation gradually developed into a full-blown musical style with the use of European influences like the use of trumpets, bass, and the piano.

Early Years
Only a few people knew about jazz in the early 1800s as it was developing in the plantations of the southern states. But when slavery was abolished, there was suddenly a huge influx of black musicians who were looking for work. Because there was segregation, they were still limited to performing and playing their music in specific places of entertainment. This limitation, however, paved the way for jazz music to be recorded on sheet music. They were exposed to more instruments that could be used for their band and style like the piano, trumpets, and saxophone. The first jazz style recorded was ragtime.

The Band Era
Jazz bands were the rage as many of these African-American entertainers played in dance halls and vaudeville theatres. These bands and other solo musicians got their start from playing in brothels and bars but got wider exposure when they started moving out to the bigger cities such as Chicago.

As jazz music became more popular, the ragtime music that was associated with it gradually developed into a style that was deemed more acceptable to the white community. The swing was the result and sounded like a stripped-down version of ragtime.

The Jazz Age
True to its roots in underground entertainment, jazz music was often played in the speakeasies that hosted shows as they sold banned liquor during the Prohibition years. The genre was associated with the immoral and decadent leanings of the younger generation.

But this was also the time when many of the great jazz artists like Louis Armstrong made significant progress in making jazz a formal musical genre. Improvisation and scat singing was developed along with the rise of the big jazz bands that toured the United States.

Modern Jazz
Jazz went through many different phases during the 1940s and 1950s that its roots were almost virtually forgotten by the general public. The style eventually made a comeback through small groups and bands like the one popularised by Nat King Cole. John Coltrane and Miles Davis are also credited for the renewed interest in jazz in the 1960s because of their exceptional work with the trumpet.