Origin & Characteristics

Jazz is greatly known as the peak of African American music in the twentieth century due to its originality with improvisation, amazing performers and composers and artistry. Many saw jazz as ‘America’s classical music’ or ‘African American Classical Music’. Jazz has various characteristics improvisation, syncopation, rhythmic blues feeling and harmonic complexity. Jazz was influenced by various  other genres, such as ragtime and blues. Jazz originated in New Orleans and it had a heavy presence of different ethnicities contributed to cultural influences. The first jazz band was led by Buddy Bolden and it was known for its deep feeling of blues, improvisational and melodies. Jazz was also very well known in Chicago in 1918 when Joe ‘King’ Oliver arrived and spread jazz over Chicago with his band ‘The Stroll’. Between the years of 1925 and 1928, Louis Armstrong made famous recordings known as ‘Hot Fives and Sevens’. These recordings defined the improvisational sound of jazz. It had the elements of  unique melodic harmonies and melody.

Elements of jazz, such as Double time, shout chorus, big band jazz, riff and jungle sound. Double time is a section a music is doubled for dramatic effect, Shout Chorus is section of a song that is the climax that is usually near the end of the song. Big Band Jazz was formed in New Orleans in the late 1920s. Riff is a short recurrent melodic-rhythmic phrase. Jungle sound is the unique timbres instrumentation.

Within jazz there are eight subgenres, they are Swing, Bebop, Cool Jazz, Hard Bop, Modal Jazz, Free Jazz , Jazz Fusion, and Young Lions. Swing jazz is a big band jazz style developed in the 1930s that had horn riffs. Rhythmic drive and boogie-woogie bass line. Bebop is a combo jazz that involved style from big band swing in the 1940s. It had elements of fast tempos, harmonic structure, and improvisational lines. Cool Jazz is a style of the 1950s that is associated with the west coast, having a relaxed and light tone feeling. Hard bop is a combo jazz style of the 1950s that incorporated the phrasings and harmonies of blues rhythm, blues and gospel music. Modal jazz is based on repetition of one or two chords. Free jazz is a style that began in the late 1950s and took a new turn in jazz leaving behind fixed harmonies and improvisation. Jazz Fusion is a style created in the 1970s that incorporated rhythms, harmonies and melodic motives from funk and rock. Young Lions is a style of the 1980s that was led by Wynton Marsalis designed to highlight traditional jazz.

Important Performers

Louis Armstrong

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Joe ‘King’ Oliver

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Barney Bigard

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Social implication & Commodification

Radio broadcasts was a key component to forming and maintaining the reputation of jazz bands. There two different types of broadcasts during the jazz era ‘sustaining programs’ and ‘sponsored programs’. Sustaining were broadcasts that aired at night from hotels and clubs. Sponsored were broadcasts that aired from companies, such as Coca-Cola and Lucky Strike. There was clear racial segregation when it came to broadcasts, white bands were more likely to get a deal than black bands. Black bands could get sometimes get on sustaining programs, but they could never get sponsored programs that were completely white.  There were several forces that shaped the music of jazz and changing the cultural meaning in the twentieth century , such as urbanization, racism, recordings and broadcasting technology, modernism, World Wars I & II, and the civil rights movements.

Influences of Future Genres & Conclusory Opinions

Jazz was a highlight and peak in the black community and it took a turn in the musical genres of America. Jazz’s improvisation, amazing performers, composers and artistry is what makes it stand apart from all other genres before its time. Jazz lead the influence of many subgenres in jazz with many elements from other genres, such as funk, rock, blues and ragtime.