Jazz: Master of Improvisation

Jazz was born in the African American communities of New Orleans, which in the 1800’s was the most musical city in the nation. The genre is both rooted in blues and ragtime as well as the black experience within America. It is largely characterized by its improvisation, which was built into the lives of many slaves in that they had to improvise to survive, leading to the creation of music rooted in persistence, pain and promise.

The traditional jazz music that was created in new Orleans morphed into something different as black people migrated to Chicago and New York and jazz music became more popularized  by whites. Eventually whites were singing, dancing, and swinging to jazz music, like always, taking this original art form and turning it into something of there own and profiting from it. This is routine for them though, so we it’s really no surprise by now considering they have stolen and profited off of ragtime and the blues previously. However in 1939, Charley Parker decided to take back the musical form of jazz and emphasize its key characteristic, improvisation. After discovering a new way to play that broke the confines of simple soloing that was the current jazz sound, he created a new style of jazz called “bebop”. This style was semi rejected by the world at first. It was not until 6 years later in 1945 when Parker teamed up with Dizzy Gillespie and some other musicians, did bebop become recognized and have a significant effect on the jazz world and sound. More forms of jazz came after bebop, including Cool Jazz which was a direct reaction to the loud and fast melodies of bebop. Cool jazz paid special attention to the brass instruments and was smooth and legato in sound. The music was played quietly so drummers would often play using brushes (soft/light drumming usually on the snare) to keep from overpowering the sound. Lastly came free jazz, which was a form of jazz that can be describes as “organized chaos”, in that though all the instruments are in the same key, and revolve around similar notes and chords, the order is random and improvisation is key.

Jazz is a sound founded in greatness. Founded in black culture, and is a celebration of life. Future generations of black musicians, as well as all African Americans from every generation can see the legacy of power, in that black people took the worst circumstances and created magic. I am in love with my people, and the fact that I come from ancestors that are amazingly resilient and continued to push their music, voice and freedom through the suffocation of the white population, overcoming any and all adversities they were faced with. I will never stop being amazed.

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