1930s and 1940s Jazz
by Kaia Bruce

Jazz is a genre that originated in the 19th and 20th centuries and thrived in New Orleans, Louisiana. It was a form of music that combined European music and West African slave music. This post introduces the history of Jazz, major influences, and different forms of Jazz.

Introducing Jazz

  • Jazz music began in New Orleans, Louisiana.
  • Compared to classical music, Jazz is more upbeat.
  • When first beginning, Jazz music was considered a sin and those who played Jazz were looked down upon.
  • Ragtime and Blues music were the foundation of Jazz.
  • Jazz and bLues were taken to the north, Chicago, by southern migrants.
  • In the early 1930s, Jazz was taken to countries across the world; such as France and London.
  • In the early 1940s Jazz moved from Harlem to “the street that never sleeps” (52nd street). 
  • Kansas City was the hub of Western and Southern Jazz musicians.

Jazz Influencers

                                           Buddy Bolden

Buddy Bolden was the first Jazz legend; the father of Jazz. 

                                         Louis Armstrong

Louis Armstrong became the metaphor of jazz. Armstrong was most known for his phrasing and clarity of tone in the playing of the trumpet. Armstrong consolidated all of the elements of Jazz music that came before him; he understood all the different aspects of American music.

                                         Coleman Hawkins

Coleman Hawkins established the saxophone as a Jazz instrument. 

                                           Duke Ellington

Duke Ellington was a band leader and composer who contributed to the cultural renaissance.

                                             Bessie Smith

Bessie Smith was the empress of the blues; she could be called the first female Jazz vocalist. 

                                            Billie Holiday

Billie Holiday, also known as Lady Day, was a swing singer. She sang with intimacy and charisma. She was extremely modern and lOUIS Armstrong was her idol.

                                            Dizzy Gillespie

Dizzy Gillespie was a trumpet player that started the “Big Four”. He performed Afro-Cuban Jazz music.


                                             John Cultrane

John Cultrane grew a new way of playing Jazz. He played with Miles Davis and would take extended solos. His contributions to Jazz are remembered as the most important of that decade.

                                             Ornette Coleman

Ornette Coleman made everyone sound like a traditionalist. He serves as the principal founder or Free Jazz.

                                              Miles Davis

Miles Davis was a trumpet player referred to with the “Birth of the Cool”.

                                            Sarah Vaugh

Sarah Vaugh was the queen of Bebop; definitive diva. She sounds more like a horn; she had tone and pitch that was unique and distinctive. 

Different forms of Jazz

                                   Trad Jazz/ New Orleans Jazz

Trad Jazz is the earliest form of Jazz. This was the traditional mix of European and African music.

                                      Afro-Cuban / Jazz Fusion

Afro-Cuban Jazz began in the 1940s. Dizzy Gillespie began collaboration with Post that brought modern Jazz face to face with its roots (Afro-Cuban Jazz). 

                                                 Free Jazz

Free Jazz is improvisation. It was performed by Ornette Coleman to free Jazz from restrictions. It is described as organized chaos to make a dramatic point. 


Munk, Gillespie, and Parker got together to produce a unique form of Jazz, Bop. To most, Bebop was Jazz taken in a new direction. It was moving and uplifting music that had a natural evolution of culture. Everyone had their own individual expression in Bebop. 


Harlem Swing was a style of dancing with Jazz music. It refers to soloists who would improvise on melody over arrangement. 

In the videos above, Duke Ellington, Billie Holiday, and Buddy Bolden, three major influences in Jazz, all perform and express their own versions of Jazz music.