The origins of Jazz date back to the late 1800’s, with its emergence from the city of New Orleans, Louisiana. With a diverse population of French, Spanish, Creole, and African Americans, the city hosts a variety of different music forms, meshing together to create a beautiful and unique genre. The Jazz sound is characterized by improvisation, syncopation, swing, and other musical styles. It finds its roots in earlier genres such as blues and ragtime.
With famous musicians such as Louis Armstrong, racial barriers were transcended with Jazz, which became an artform that black and white Americans both enjoyed. Jazz musicians, with much success, often enjoyed social luxuries that ordinary blacks of the time were not afforded. It allowed the black musician to be placed on a pedestal and praised for their sheer raw talent. With the great migration, Jazz musicians found themselves in the big city of Chicago, where the genre became extremely popular. Whites, who were so intrigued by the sound, often times found themselves in black clubs under the trance of the music. Blacks of the time still, however, could not move so freely between the spaces of their white counterparts because of segregation and discrimination. Other notable Jazz figures include Buddy Bolden, John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Duke Ellington, Benny Goodman, and Charlie Parker.
The Jazz era really received its hallmark embrace during the time of the Harlem Renaissance, where black artistry was celebrated. It brought black people together and celebrated black joy. The “swing” heard in the syncopation was complemented by great dancers or “swingers” of the time.
The commodification of the genre was one met with little friction, as everyone knew and loved Jazz music. Jazz bands traveled all over the country, performing successfully in almost any place they wanted. Its inclusivity of a diverse group of people allowed for the development of many subsets of jazz including free jazz, cool jazz, bebop, modal jazz, jazz fusion, and others. Jazz continues to inspire genres and artists today such as Kendrick Lamar and J Cole.
Here are a couple of my favorite songs with Jazz influences: