"Jazz is the type of music that can absorb so many things and still be jazz. "~ Sonny Rollins
"Jazz washes away the dust of every day life. " ~ Art Blakey
"Man, if you have to ask what it (jazz) is, you'll never know. " ~ Louis Armstrong
Referred to as “America’s classical music,” jazz is one of North America’s oldest and most celebrated musical genres.
The history of jazz can be traced back to the Unites States in the early part of the 20th century. From Ragtime and Blues to Big Band and Bebop, jazz has been a part of a proud African American tradition for over 100 years. A strong rhythmic under-structure, blue notes, solos, “call-and response” patterns, and improvisation of melody all characterize jazz music. Throughout the history of jazz, these characteristics have worked together in establishing an inventive style and musical genius. Louis Armstrong, Miles Davis, and Billie Holiday are examples of some of the most celebrated jazz musicians of America’s past. These and many other famed musicians throughout the history of jazz have not only inspired modern musicians, but have also instilled modern music lovers with an appreciation for musical history.
The history of jazz has its roots firmly planted in the American cities of New Orleans, Chicago, and New York City. And the musical tradition within these cities still lives on today. See a detailed listing of the most prominent jazz clubs within these renowned jazz cities.
1700s – Music has always played an important role in African American culture. The roots of jazz can be traced back to the times of slavery where slave work songs were created in the form of “call-and-response.” To tell a story, and pass the time, a song leader would call out a line and the rest of the workers would resond to his call.
Soulful songs called “spirituals” were also sung by slaves. These expressed their strong religious beliefs as well as their desire for freedom.
Elements of both work songs and spirituals are a part of the foundation of jazz.
1800s – During this era, America became known as the “land of opportunity.” Many Europeans immigrated to different American cities in search of fortune and a better life. With these immigrants came a variety of musical traditions as well, such as Irish gigs, German waltzes, and French quadrilles. The African American composer Scott Joplin combined these newly introduced European compositional styles with the rhythmic and melodic music of the black community. This became known as "ragtime." Ragtime - It is often referred to as the founding style of jazz. It originated in the southern United States during the late 1800's, and was composed primarily for the piano. Ragtime music is characterized by the vibrant and enthusiastic rhythms often associate with African dance. In 1899, pianist Scott Joplin published the first of many ragtime compositions.
Blues emerged at the end of the 19th century as an accessible form of self-expression in African-American communities of the United States from spirituals, work songs, field hollers, shouts and chants, and rhymed simple narrative ballads. The use of blue notes and the prominence of call-and-response patterns in the music and lyrics are indicative of African influences. The blues influenced later American and Western popular music, as the blues form became a basic pattern of jazz, rhythm and blues, bluegrass and rock and roll. The term "the blues" refers to the "the blue devils", meaning melancholy and sadness. Usually blues vocalists sang with the instrumental accompaniment of guitar, piano, and harmonica.
Swing music, also known as swing jazz or simply swing, is a form of jazz music that developed in the early 1930s and had solidified as a distinctive style by 1935 in the United States. Swing uses a strong anchoring rhythm section which supports a lead section that can include brass instruments, including trumpets and trombones, woodwinds including saxophones and clarinets or stringed instruments including violin and guitar; medium to fast tempos; and a "lilting" swing time rhythm. Swing bands usually featured soloists who would improvise a new melody over the arrangement. The danceable swing style of bandleaders such as Benny Goodman and Count Basie was the dominant form of American popular music from 1935 to 1945.
Jazz fusion. In the late 1960s and early 1970s the hybrid form of jazz-rock fusion was developed by combining jazz improvisation with rock rhythms, electric instruments, and the highly amplified stage sound of rock musicians such as Jimi Hendrix. Miles Davis made the breakthrough into fusion in 1970s with his album Bitches Brew. Musicians who worked with Davis formed the four most influential fusion groups: Weather Report and Mahavishnu Orchestra emerged in 1971 and were soon followed by Return to Forever and The Headhunters. Although jazz purists protested the blend of jazz and rock, some of jazz's significant innovators crossed over from the contemporary hard bop scene into fusion. Jazz fusion music often uses mixed meters, odd time signatures, syncopation, and complex chords and harmonies. In addition to using the electric instruments of rock, such as the electric guitar, electric bass, electric piano, and synthesizer keyboards, fusion also used the powerful amplification, "fuzz" pedals, wah-wah pedals, and other effects used by 1970s-era rock bands. Notable performers of jazz fusion included Miles Davis, keyboardists Joe Zawinul, Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock, vibraphonist Gary Burton, drummer Tony Williams, violinist Jean-Luc Ponty, guitarists Larry Coryell, Al Di Meola and John McLaughlin, Frank Zappa, saxophonist Wayne Shorter, and bassists Jaco Pastorius and Stanley Clarke.
Funk is an American musical style that originated in the mid to late 1960s when African American musicians blended soul music, soul jazz and R&B into a rhythmic, danceable new form of music. Funk "de-emphasizes melody and harmony and brings a strong rhythmic groove of electric bass and drums" to the foreground.