Jazz Music and its Association with Black Intellectualism

Jazz Music

Jazz Music History and Early Roots

     Jazz music was just starting out in the late 1800s and early 1900s with a popular early artist named Buddy Golden. This kind of music has its roots in New Orleans, where the art form was created. New Orleans, or NOLA as many people like to call it, and specifically Congo Square, was a melting pot for people of all different races and social and economic classes. Though this was the case, it was still very much tied to the black community. Jazz tends to be very upbeat and lively, its music that can be danced to, but not all jazz music is that way. Other artists such as John Coltrane opted for a different type of jazz that seemed more sophisticated. Jazz music came from the Blues. Before that there was Ragtime and Folk music. Particularly the Blues and Folk music were associated with a lower class of people who were very sad after slavery, and that’s what the sang about. However, ragtime came with complicated rhythms and sounds and thus came Jazz soon after with just as much, if not more complexity. This can be especially found through scatting, a vocal emulation of instruments, from artists such as Ella Fitzgerald and Al Jerreau. But while listening, you can hear a clear distinction between Ragtime and Jazz. Once Jazz arrived, black people were no longer concerned with simply telling their post-slavery or sad relationship stories. New Orleans provided the type of environment that just let our people be. Jazz was a way of expression and free thinking. As opposed to dancing to all kinds of jazz music, people began to listen to the raw emotion that was coming through a subgenre like Modal Jazz. For these reasons, Jazz music was great for the mere pleasure of listening.

Intellectualism and Jazz

     During the mid-1920s the Harlem Renaissance movement was going on in and around New York City, a place where Jazz music was also becoming very popular. The Harlem Renaissance was the time for black people to reinvent themselves. This movement was to create The New Negro. Many artists and intellectuals of the Renaissance enjoyed Jazz music and wrote poetry with its style in mind. As stated above, Modal Jazz was a subgenre of Jazz music. Within it is mostly improvisation, which means there is no right or wrong way to play within the chords. This gave musicians a chance to not only show others what they could do, but to give themselves a chance to express on the spot, how they were feeling. Free Jazz music had even less constraints on the way to play. They really just did whatever they felt and often times it just worked. It can easily be said that at this time that the young black people who propelled this genre were becoming way more educated and sophisticated during this newfound freedom, and that is how Jazz music came to be.

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