Jazz in the 1930s & 1940s

by : Deja Johnson

1930s & 1940s America

The era from the 1930s and 1940s America was a time of development for the United States. During this ten year period America experienced the Great Depression, The Dust Bowl and World War II. The Great Depression began in 1929 and lasted to 1939 and was caused by a stock market crash. Many Americans lost their jobs, and homes changing the family dynamic forever as women had transitioned from the traditional housewife role to working to help provide for their families. For Black people the Great Depression worsend their conditions as they faced racial inequality. Black people were the first people laid off and received little to no government aid. The Dust Bowl began in 1930 in the Midwest and Southern Plains. The Dust Bowl caused an agriculture drought that killed people and livestock. The effects of the Dust Bowl caused the biggest migration in America with about 2.5 million people who fled to the west coast. At the end of this era in 1939 was the start of World War II. World War II was caused by the German invasion of Poland. The war did increase the employment rate at the time but did cause hardships for families as many men had to leave home to fight in the war. Despite the hardships that many faced during the 1930’s and 1940’s black people were able to develop the sound of Jazz. Traditional Jazz and Swing Jazz became a popular sound of music during this time in African American communities.

During the Great Depression African American had to work low paying jobs in hopes of survival. In this picture workers can be seen picking through peas.

The Dust Bowl caused many families to migrate. This family is securing all of their belongings onto their car as they are preparing to move west.

Africans Americans were allowed to fight in World War II. This African American troop appears to be briefing.

Traditional Jazz

Traditional Jazz or known as Trad Jazz or New Orleans Jazz reached a level of popularity in the 1930s and 1940s. Traditional Jazz developed in New Orleans due the presence of Carribean influence. Bass instruments like the Trumpet and Saxophone are used to create the sound of Jazz. Jazz music is typically upbeat and downbeat and is the first music that is representative of world culture. Buddy Bolden was the first known Jazz musician. Louis Armstrong was also an early Jazz musician and carries the title as the father of Jazz, because he consolidated all of the aspects of Jazz before he came. Although Jazz gained its originality in New Orleans it was not restricted there. Jazz migrated to areas of Detroit and Chicago and later Harlem. People used Jazz as a form of entertainment especially in the night life of Harlem. Jazz had an influence on the entire world as artists like Sam Wooding had taken his music to Berlin and later Barcelona & South America. 

In this video Louis Armstrong performing his song “What a Wonderful World.”  In this performance you can hear the sounds of the piano and the trumpet.

Swing Jazz

Swing Jazz is a form of Jazz that developed in the mid to late 1930s. Swing music can best be described as a fixed upbeat sound. The swing era introduced Jazz to the dance floor as the swing sound influenced dancing. Swing Jazz used more string instruments rather than bass instruments like Trad Jazz. Unlike Trad Jazz, Swing Jazz was usually performed by large bands.

This video is mix of Ella Fitzgerald and Duke Ellington performing “It Dont Mean a Thing.” In the video one can see a large group performing and hear the upbeat tempo of the piano being played.

Popular Jazz Instruments






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