About the image

Mon Apr. 2019 0 comments Editors Blog

One thing that distinguishes jazz music is its focus on improvisation. Louis Armstrong, a trumpet player from New Orleans and then Chicago, is considered the father of modern jazz improvisation. His trumpet solos were melodic and playful and filled with e

The Birth of Jazz

New Orleans, Louisiana, around the turn of the 20th century was a melting pot of cultures. A major port city, people from all over the world come together there, and as a result, musicians are exposed to a variety of music. European classical music, American blues, and South American songs and rhythms came together to form what became known as jazz. The origin of the word jazz is widely disputed, although it is thought to have originally been a sexual term.


·        Late 1800s–Today

The Blues: Back to the Source

Born in the South, the blues is an African American-derived music form that recognized the pain of lost love and injustice and gave expression to the victory of outlasting a broken heart and facing down adversity. The blues evolved from hymns, work songs, and field hollers — music used to accompany spiritual, work and social functions. Blues is the foundation of jazz as well as the prime source of rhythm and blues, rock 'n' roll, and country music. The blues is still evolving and is still widely played today.

New Orleans: The Melting Pot of Sound

Mardi Gras in New Orleans at the turn of the century
Photo: Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

"New Orleans had a great tradition of celebration. Opera, military marching bands, folk music, the blues, different types of church music, ragtime, echoes of traditional African drumming, and all of the dance styles that went with this music could be heard and seen throughout the city. When all of these kinds of music blended into

away from the melody into collective improvisations. one, jazz was born." —Wynton Marsalis

Listen to this traditional New Orleans standard called "Second Line." The melodyis repetitive and very singable. Notice the banjo rhythms in the background, and listen to the musicians break


Description: http://teacher.scholastic.com/activities/bhistory/images/ccblack_history_image1.jpg

Louis Armstrong

One thing that distinguishes jazz music is its focus on improvisation. Louis Armstrong, a trumpet player from New Orleans and then Chicago, is considered the father of modern jazz improvisation. His trumpet solos were melodic and playful and filled with energy that could only result from being composed on the spot. A leader of several groups in the 1920s and 30s, Armstrong inspired countless others to make the music their own by developing a personal style of improvisation. Description: http://teacher.scholastic.com/activities/bhistory/images/ccblack_history_image2.jpg


Improvisation: The Expression of Freedom
Improvisation is the most defining feature of jazz. Improvisation is creating, or making up, music as you go along. Jazz musicians play from printed music and they improvise solos. From the collective improvisation of early jazz to the solo improvisation of Louis Armstrong to the free jazz of Albert Ayler, Ornette Coleman, and John Coltrane, improvisation is central to jazz.

·        Mid–1930s

Swing: Sound in Motion

Swing is the basic rhythm of jazz. Swinging means being in sync with other people and loving it. Swing as a jazz style first appeared during the Great Depression. The optimistic feeling of swing lifted the spirits of everyone in America. By the mid-1930s, a period known as the "swing" era, swing dancing had become our national dance and big bands were playing this style of music. Orchestra leaders such as Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Fletcher Henderson, Paul Whiteman, and Benny Goodman led some of the greatest bands of the era.

Duke Ellington: Master Composer

Duke Ellington

Edward Kennedy "Duke" Ellington was born on April 29, 1899, in Washington, D.C. He began studying the piano at the age of seven. He started playing jazz as a teenager, and moved to New York City to become a bandleader. As a pianist, composer, and bandleader, Ellington was one of the creators of the big band sound, which fueled the "swing" era. He continued leading and composing for his jazz orchestra until his death in 1974. "Ellington plays the piano, but his real instrument is his band. Each member of his band is to him a distinctive tone color and set of emotions, which he mixes with others equally distinctive to produce a third thing, which I like to call the 'Ellington Effect.'" —Billy Strayhorn, composer and arranger

Listen to Wynton Marsalis explain the "Ellington Effect." Description: http://teacher.scholastic.com/activities/bhistory/images/ccblack_history_image3.jpg

Photo: Library of Congress One of the most significant figures in music history,



·        1940s

Bebop: The Summit of Sound

"If you really understand the meaning of bebop, you understand the meaning of freedom." —Thelonious Monk, pianist and composer

In the early 1940s, jazz musicians were looking for new directions to explore. A new style of jazz was born, called bebop, had fast tempos, intricate melodies, and complex harmonies. Bebop was considered jazz for intellectuals. No longer were there huge big bands, but smaller groups that did not play for dancing audiences but for listening audiences.

Dizzy Gillespie: A Jazz Visionary

"The first time you hear Dizzy Gillespie play the trumpet, you may think that the tape was recorded at the wrong speed. He played so high, so fast, so correctly." —Wynton Marsalis

Trumpeter, bandleader, and composer John Birks "Dizzy" Gillespie was born on October 21, 1917, in Cheraw, South Carolina. He got his first music lesson from his father and took off from there. He moved to New York City in 1937 and met musicians such as Thelonious Monk and Charlie Parker. Together they experimented with jazz and came up with the bebop sound. Dizzy also helped to introduce Latin American rhythms to modern jazz through his collaborations with artists such as Machito and Chano Pozo. His bold trumpet playing, unique style of improvisation, and inspired teachings had a major influence, not only on other trumpet players, but on all jazz musicians in the years to come. He died in Englewood, New Jersey, on January 6, 1993. Description: http://teacher.scholastic.com/activities/bhistory/images/ccblack_history_image4.jpg

Dizzy Gillespie: Photo: William P. Gottlieb/Ira and Leonore S. Gershwin Fund Collection, Music Division, Library of Congress.



Latin and Afro-Cuban Jazz: Beyond the Borders

"Afro-Cuban jazz celebrates a collective musical history. Through its percussive beat, it unites ragtime, blues, swing, and the various grooves of Cuban music. It proclaims our shared musical heritage." —Wynton Marsalis

The combination of African, Spanish, and native cultures in Latin America created a unique body of music and dance. Jazz musicians from Jelly Roll Morton to Duke Ellington to Dizzy Gillespie combined their music with this Latin sound to create a powerful blend. In the 1940s and 50s, when musicians from Cuba began to play with jazz musicians in New York, the circle was complete. By combining the musical traditions of North, South, and Central America, Latin jazz celebrates our musical differences and helps us to find a common ground.

Gillespie and Chano Pozo, a Cuban musician, created a new form of Latin jazz called CuBop. Listen to the difference between swing and Latin grooves.

Sample of Afro-cuban Jazz https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T2JnyCuAQMg&list=RDQMrJANEp1PNwo&index=34





Expansion of Jazz

Thanks to early records, the music of Armstrong and others in New Orleans could reach a broad radio audience. The music’s popularity began to increase as did its sophistication, and major cultural centers around the country began to feature jazz bands. Chicago, Kansas City, and New York had the most thriving music scenes in the 1940s, where dance halls were filled with fans that came to see large jazz ensembles. This period is known as the swing era, referring to the lilting “swing” dance rhythms employed by the Big Bands.

Benny Goodman popularized the music for white audiences. Other influential bandleaders were Cab Calloway and Count Basie.

Billie Holiday

One of the greatest jazz vocalists of the 1930s to the 1950s, Billie "Lady Day" Holiday could wrench enormous emotion out of any word in a jazz tune. She made her first recordings with Benny Goodman but found wider fame with Count Basie's orchestra.



Big Bands gave musicians the opportunity to experiment with different approaches to improvisation. While members of a Big Band, saxophonist Charlie Parker and trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie began to develop a highly virtuosic and harmonically advanced style known as "bebop," an onomatopoeic reference to the rhythmic punches heard in the music. Parker and Gillespie performed their music in small ensembles all over the country, and musicians flocked to hear the new direction jazz was taking. The intellectual approach and technical facility of these pioneers of bebop set the standard for today’s jazz musicians. Other bebop influencers include Thelonious Monk and Max Roach.


Ella Fitzgerald

One of jazz's most popular singers for 50 years was Ella Fitzgerald, who sold 40 million records in her lifetime and toured the nation widely, leading her own band. She started her career during the Big Band era but adapted to bebop and other styles, becoming a pioneer in scat singing.


Miles Davis

In 1944, Miles Davis joined Charlie Parker's band (his idol), but it wasn't long before his experimentation and improvisation led him to front his own projects. (See "Kind of Blue," the biggest-selling jazz album of all time.) His 1960s quintet, which included John Coltrane, is lauded as one of the most influential in jazz—and this was even before he recorded "Bitches Brew." He's the most influential jazz artist of the second half of the 20th century, due to his constant reinvention of himself and jazz music.