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The African-American quartet from New Orleans in the United States is the originator of jazz music. It was created from the blues and ragtime music genres sometime between the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Jazz gained popularity in the United States during the 1920s, and ever since, it has been acknowledged as one of the primary musical expression genres. Jazz was influenced by both traditional and contemporary music genres due to the impact of African-American and European-American music. Swing and blue notes, vocals, improvisation, call-and-response, and polyrhythms are traits of jazz music (Panish 1997). Therefore, in summary jazz evolved from West African cultural music, African-American music, which was comprised of blues ragtime and military band music from the European culture.
As jazz began spreading throughout the world it adopted different distinctive styles depending on the musical cultures of various nations or regions for example in early 1910s, there grew the New Orleans jazz which utilized brass-band marches, the French quadrilles adopted beguine, blues ragtime and polyphonic improvisation (Crawford 2001). In the 1930s there evolved the Kansas City jazz which involved hard swinging to blues music and Gypsy jazz which applied improvisational and prominent styles (Levine 1989). In the 1940s, jazz evolved from danceable beats to music that was played at a faster tempo and increased utilization of chord-based improvisation otherwise known as Bebop. Towards the end of the 1940s cool jazz was adopted, which applied smooth and calm sounds that had long melodies.
Free jazz emerged in the 1950s where instruments were played to no specific beat, meter or formal structure. Hard bop emerged in the mid-1950s influenced by blues and rhythm, gospel and utilization of the piano and saxophone. Modal jazz emerged towards the end of 1950s where the musical scale was applied along with improvisation and musical structure. According to Schuller (1986), in early 1970s and late 1960s, jazz rock fusion emerged, in which jazz improvisation was combined with rock electric instruments, music notes and the high sound amplifier. During the early 1980s, smooth jazz was adopted, which gained popularity and was aired on radio. The 12st century saw the emergence of the Latin and Afro-Cuban jazz.
In what way were the early African-American and European-American jazz musicians viewed?
After slavery was abolished in 1865, African-Americans got the opportunity to acquire education. However due to segregation, job opportunities were very few for blacks. Most of them got jobs in the entertainment industry where they provided entertainment through minstrel shows, dances, vaudeville; eventually causing the formation of marching bands. As ragtime emerged, African-American pianists were already playing in clubs, brothels and bars. Ernest Hogan who was a black entertainer composed the ragtime sheet music whose songs gained popularity in 1895. In 1897, Vess Ossman composed the banjo medley called “Rag Time Medley”. In the same year, Tom Turpin published “Harlem Rag”. He was the first African-American to publish ragtime.
Blues music genre originated from the African-American community of the southern regions of the United States in the late 19th century. Blues emerged from work songs, spiritual hymns, shouts, chants, field hollers and narrative ballads (Crawford 2001). In accordance with Porter (2002), Handy W.C. adopted the folk blue music genre of the southern States; substituting the field holler and the guitar was slapped instead of being strummed. In 1912, Handy published “Memphis Blues” sheet music along with “St Louis Blues” among others, which applied the habanera rhythm, later being accepted as jazz standards.
The music of the New Orleans had a great impact on the early jazz musical genre. Apart from dance bands, there were several marching bands that were performed at lavish funerals; such events were organized by African-American and European-American society. Instruments utilized in dance, marching bands later became the main jazz instruments, which included drums, and European reeds tuned in the 12-tone scale. Papa Jack Laine who was the head of the marching band in New Orleans incorporated both blacks and whites in his band. Jack Laine was known as the “father of white jazz” because many prominent jazz players passed through his hands for instance Sharkey Bonano, George Brunies and members of the original Dixieland Jass Band. Due to segregation laws, jazz music was limited to the African-American and the mulatto communities. However, jazz pioneers included Buddy Bolden and Jelly Roll Morton who performed in bars and brothels from New Orleans. Lorenzo Tio and Alcide Nunez Louis Armstrong began their career in Storyville. Morton was the inventor of jazz piano from ragtime in 1938. He adopted the swing sensation from the rigid rhythm feeling of the ragtime. Armstrong also adopted the swing notes after being taught how to play the trumpet by D’ Jalma Ganier, the leader of Camelia Brass Band.
In 1917, Original Dixieland Jass Band recorded their first jazz performance “Livery Stable Blues”. In 1918, during the First World War, James Reese who was a member of “Hellfighters” band migrated with ragtime to Europe.
During the early 1900s, the U.S. government banned the sell and consumption of alcohol, which led to the formation of illicit joints where there were live jazz performances. Because of this, jazz was associated with immorality and the media even began to degrade the quality of jazz. However, in 1919, Kid Ory and his band musicians from the original Creole Jazz band from New Orleans started performing in Los Angeles and San Francisco and they recorded their first black jazz performance in 1992. After the success of the white band, which toured Europe, black jazz musicians began following suit among them, Duke Ellington, Earl Hines, Fletcher Henderson, Lionel Hampton, Don Redman and Claude Hopkins. Redman and Henderson developed the technique of “talking to one another” during their hot swing music performance (Schuller 1986). In the 1920s jazz music adopted homemade instruments from country music like the musical saw, washboard, jugs, and kazoos and so on. By the end of the 1930s the New Orleans- jazz style was famous and jazz music was recognized everywhere in the world.
Jazz performers who began to shift from swing jazz to the bebop style in the early 1940s include Charlie Parker (saxophone player), Max Roach (drummer), Bud Powell and Thelonius Monk (pianists) and Dizzy Gillspie and Clifford Brown (trumpeters). The bebop style did not have much potential or commercial appeal because it separated itself from the popular dance music. Duke Ellington borrowed some musical rhythms from the European contemporary music. However, bebop was regarded as a divergence from jazz and jazz fans were rather hostile and unresponsive towards this musical style. Despite the controversy of bebop, it was eventually accepted as a jazz vocabulary by the end of the 1950s. In agreement with Panish (1997), the tense atmosphere created by the bebop music was replaced with smooth jazz, which applied linear melodic lines. Smooth jazz first evolved in New York in the early 1950s. The pioneer musician of smooth jazz was Miles Davis who released the Birth of the Cool in 1957. More jazz musicians namely Bill Evans, Gill Evans, Gerry Mulligan, Chet Baker, the Modern Jazz Quartet and Dave Brubeck later followed him.
Cool jazz was later closely linked to the West Coast Jazz performed by female singers Mel Torme, Anita O’ Day and Chet Baker. Cool jazz was also adopted in Europe. It later evolved to modal jazz, free jazz and bossa nova. Miles Davis was the pioneer of hard bop. He first applied that music style during his 1954 performance of “Walkin’” at the first Newport Jazz Festival (Porter 2002). Other hard bop pioneers were the quintet Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers comprised of Blakey (lead singer), Horace Silver (pianist) and Clifford Brown (trumpeter).
Modal jazz evolved from the work of George Russell. Miles Davis also applied the modal technique in his performance Kind of Blue in 1959, which became the most purchased jazz album. Other musicians who adopted this musical style were Jackie McClean and two musicians who featured in Kind of Blue, Bill Evans and John Coltrane.
Free jazz emerged from a wide range of music styles from Africa, India and Arabia, which were combined into an intense display of religious, ecstatic and orgiastic musical style. Ornette Coleman and Cecil Taylor played the first free jazz music. Other artists who followed suit were Bill Dixon, Steve Lacy, John Tchicai, Albert Ayler, Jimmy Guiffre, Carla Bley, Micheal Mantler, Sun Ra, Larry Coryell, Roswell Bud, Don Cherry, John Contrale and Pharaoh Sanders (Levine 1989).
Free jazz gained a lot of popularity in Europe because of musicians such as Taylor, Steve Lacy, Eric Dolphy and Ayler. European artists like John Tchicai and Micheal Mantler traveled to U.S. from Europe to learn the music style. European contemporary jazz, which is somewhat similar to free jazz emerged in Europe due to upcoming European musicians such as Kenny Wheeler, Zbigniew Namyslowski, Mike Westbrook, Peter Brotzmann, Albert Mangelsdorff and John Surman. Keith Jarrett defended free jazz against criticism from traditional fans in the 1990s.
From bop styles, emerged post-bop jazz, which was a small combo jazz constantly played by Charles Mingus, Herbie Hancock, John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Bill Evans and Wayne Shorter. Post-bop jazz derived its influence from modal jazz, hard bop, free jazz and the avant-garde. The main post-bop albums that were recorded include Search for the NewLand recorded by Lee Morgan, Maiden Voyage performed by Hancock, Speak No Evil recorded by Shorter, The Real McCoy performed by McCoy Tyner and Miles Smiles recorded by Davis.
Soul jazz evolved from hard bop, it incorporated the blues, gospels, and rhythm and the trio, the drummer, tenor saxophonist and the Hammond, performed it. Soul jazz emphasized repetitive grooves, melodic hooks and simpler improvisations (Crawford 2001). It was also greatly influenced by Horace Silver; his songs applied the funky style and gospel-oriented piano tunes. Other soul jazz instrumental players were Jimmy Smith, John Hammond Smith and Jimmy McGriff. Key tenor saxophone players were Stanley Turrentine and Eddie Davis (Schuller 1986).
During the black revolution in the 1960s and 1970s, jazz evolved to become African-American inspired. Thus, many jazz performances were given titles that were linked to Africa. According to Porter (2002), various examples are “Oribin African” by Art Blakey, “Marabi” by Cannonball Ardderley, “Black Nile” by Wayne Shorter, “Appointment in Ghana” by Jackie McLean, “Blue Nile” by Alice Coltrane, “Zambia” by Lee Morgan and “Yoruba” by Hubert Laws among others. Weston and Turrentine performed a jazz piece called “Niger Mambo” which applied both Afro-Caribbean and jazz instruments played in West African musical style. Other jazz musicians also started using African music instruments in their performances like kalimbas, kayambas, bearded gourds among others.
In the late 1960s and 1970s, jazz was fused with rock to form jazz fusion. Characteristics of jazz fusion include complex chords, syncopation, harmonies, odd time signatures and mixed meters (Schuller 1986). In 1969, Miles Davis released the first jazz fusion album In a Silent Way where he applied the electric instrument. He also composed Bitches Brew album rock, funk and African styles. Jazz also evolved into jazz-rock, though many fans protested against jazz and rock being fused together. Good examples of jazz rock-rock albums were Emergency released in 1970 and Agharta released in 1975. Jazz-funk emerged in mid-1970s and it applied a prominent backbeat, electrified sounds and electronic analog synthesizers (Panish 1997). Apart from rock, jazz-funk was influenced by Afro-Cuban music, traditional African rhythms and the Jamaican reggae beats. Hancock and Davis were also composers of jazz-funk music.
Jazz continued to grow and reincarnate under the influence of different musical types like pop, rock, world music and avant-garde classics. Jazz musicians demonstrated creativity by improvising jazz musical instruments for instance the jazz harp played by Alice Coltrane, the bagpipes played by Rufus Harley and the electrically amplified jazz violin used by Jean-Luc Ponty.
In 1987, jazz was declared a unique form of American music because John Conveys Jr. a Democratic Representative advocated for the passing of that bill. During the 1980s a certain artist, Wyton Marsalis denied fusion and free jazz, modal jazz, post-bop, and created music that applied the traditional jazz styles utilized by pioneer jazz artists like Duke Ellington and Louis Armstrong (Porter 2002). In fact numerous musicians who were active in forming fusion jazz, jazz-rock, bop and post-bop began to abandon electronic instruments to go back acoustic jazz performance for example Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock, Bill Evans, Joe Henderson and Stan Getz.
Despite the resurgence of traditionalism, there emerged a new form of jazz known as smooth jazz in the early 1980s. Artists played smooth jazz in urban markets in various U.S. States. In the later 1980s and early 1990s, jazz rap evolved from the incorporation of hip-hop into jazz music to form jazz-rap however, jazz rap was not much of a success.
Crawford, Richard. America's musical life: a history. WW Norton & Company, 2001
Levine, Lawrence W. "Jazz and American culture." Journal of American Folklore, 1989, 6-22
Panish, Jon. The color of jazz: race and representation in postwar American culture.
University of Mississippi, 1997
Porter, Eric. What is this thing called jazz? African American musicians as artists, critics,
and activists. Vol. 6. Univ of California Press, 2002
Schuller, Gunther. Early jazz: Its roots and musical development. Vol. 1. Oxford University
Press, USA, 1986.
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