the 1890s and after the birth of the Blues New Orleans witnessed
the emergence of a more sophisticated style of music known
as Jazz. Jazz is a term inspired by and somewhat derived from
the name of the jasmine plant (originally it was called jass).
The fragrant white and yellow leaves from the jasmine flower
were used to make perfume and also name a new type of music
that blended blues, ragtime, marching brass band, spirituals
and minstrel songs.
kinds of sounds and improvisations put together formed America's
greatest contribution to the history of music. Jazz is based
on improvisation, syncopation and a spontaneous reinterpretation
of what a jazz musician does to any given piece of music be
it Creole, Latino, American popular, ragtime, military march,
classical or the blues.
one of the earliest forms of jazz, is essentially instrumental
music with highly syncopated rhythms and usually played on
piano. Ragtime takes its name from the "ragged"
or syncopated rhythms that occur on the off beats. In ragtime
piano music the left hand provides steady notes on the beat
while the right hand provides the syncopation by playing notes
off the beat. Many early rags were improvised versions of
military marches. Rags being more syncopated than marches
kept the duple meter of the march as well as the 16 bar strains
inherent in the form. A ragtime piece can be diagrammed as
follows: The CC and DD sections are usually different in character
and mood than the AA BB.
BB CC DD
most commercially successful rag was published in 1900. It
was Scot Joplin's "Maple Leaf Rag." Maple Leaf was
the first piece of sheet music to sell more than one million
to Maple Leaf Rag by Scott Joplin:
BB (A) CC DD
early jazz performers couldn't read music but had highly developed
musical ears. Many jazz musicians learned to "play by
ear." Playing by ear promoted more improvisation. Dixieland,
the nick name for New Orleans, Louisiana and now the nick
name for all the Southern states, is also the name for an
early type of jazz music. Dixieland jazz combines improvised
rags, blues and collective group improvisations. Many different
instruments holding their own melodies in an intensely polyphonic
texture is the hallmark feature of Dixieland jazz.
standard combination of instruments used in Dixieland includes
a variety of brass instruments such as trumpet, trombone,
tuba as well as the woodwinds, saxophone (tenor and alto)
clarinet, and the rhythm section of piano (banjo or guitar),
bass and drums.
musicians such as Buddy Bolden, "King" Oliver and
Jelly Roll Morton all contributed to the Dixieland style of
jazz but ironically an all white band, named inappropriately,
The Original Dixieland Jazz Band. This group was the first
to record in this new highly energetic, syncopated and polyphonically
improvised music. They were the first jazz band to sell more
than a million recordings of their first record in 1917.
to Tiger Rag by The Original Dixieland Jazz:
Armstrong is regarded as the most influential and gifted improvisers
in jazz history. He is considered the first great improviser
because his solos have a heightened sense of drama, melodic
intricacy and a rhythmic complexity. His musical and technical
virtuosity paved the way for many of today's jazz virtuosos.
Louis Armstrong's improvised solos were often seemingly pre-composed.
trumpeter Louis Armstrong performing at the Basin Street
Club. June 27, 1956
Armstrong was born in New Orleans and at an early age worked
during the day delivering coal and played Dixieland jazz in
clubs at night. By the time he was 21 he joined "King"
Oliver's band working in Chicago and then formed his own band
called the "Hot Five" (or when necessary the Hot
Seven). Armstrong's charismatic personality endearing smile
and musical intensity made him a cultural icon in America.
to West End Blues by Louis Armstrong:
big band jazz the practice of dividing ensemble sections into
trumpets, trombones, saxophones, etc. and then doubling parts
(like a symphony orchestra) is common. The opposite of doubling
parts is to have one person per part such as a small combo.
By the 1930s these big bands were the rage and the type of
music they played was called swing. Swing is the name of a
dance where a couple "swings" their partner back
and forth in rhythm. In jazz, swing is the type of music danced
to and performed by big bands.
to It Don't Mean A Thing If It Ain't Got That Swing
by Duke Ellington:
jam sessions held after big band concerts there was an opportunity
for musicians to play in smaller ensembles and in many cases
challenge each other in improvisation. Often these jam sessions
involved musicians trading solos in contest of their virtuosity.
Smaller night clubs began hiring less expensive smaller combos
for their musical entertainment. Two originators of bebop
were trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie and alto saxophonist Charlie
of the characteristics of Bebop:
Extremely fast tempos over 300 beats per minute.
Very notey melodies, in disjunct motion, with chromatic
independent of the main melody (head).
Substitutions (alternations of the common chord changes)
that go beyond the common chord types (1-3-5 or the 7 notes
Sax, trumpet, string bass, drum set, piano (or guitar).
AABA/ improvised solos/AABA. The head (main melody of the
often played by two instruments in unison.
Gillespie on muted trumpet, Thelonious
Monk on piano, Curley
Russell on bass and
Buddy Rich on drums play
Charlie Parker's Quintet Mohawk.
JAZZ (later Smooth Jazz)
the 1950's the transformation of jazz was taking place. Swing
bands were less common and bebop was in its heyday. Even though,
many listeners never took to bebop and a very unique American
musician on the international scene was ready to introduce
a new style of music called "cool" jazz. His name
was Miles Davis.
Davis started his career as a bebop musician and sideman to
Charlie Parker. Davis invented a slower, more sedate, contemplative
and relaxed style of jazz where the timbre was lush (muted
trumpet, soft instruments like vibes or french horn) and the
vibe was coooool.
to Flamenco Sketches by Miles Davis:
and then Dianna Krall's 90s version of cool
jazz (now called Smooth Jazz):
There are many kinds of jazz today but the popularity of modern
jazz is not like what it used to be during the Swing era.
Never the less the art form survives and today it has many
substantial artists that contribute to it. One of the most
limitless forms of jazz is know as Free jazz. In Free jazz
there is no conforming to traditional jazz forms or chord
structures, regular rhythmic patterns or melodic lines. Instead
there is an agreement amongst musicians to allow themselves
to improvise in a manner that is independent of the other
ensemble members. The form and the music can go anywhere in
any direction. There can be total freedom in every aspect
or sometimes just one steady grounding factor.
to Free jazz performed by Ornette Coleman:
form of jazz know as Fusion is music that combines elements
of jazz, rock and world music. Due to the abstractness, density
and difficulty of Free jazz and the overwhelming popularity
of rock music many jazz musicians partake in music that is
straightforward in its chord progressions, repetitive in its
rhythmic patterns and accessible in its over all melodic content.
to Palladium by one of the most popular fusion
groups Weather Report: