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Jazz : A Historical Outline

Jazz : A Historical Outline

Did jazz come before blues?  Or blues before jazz?  Or is jazz a part of the blues or is blues a part of jazz?

So what is jazz?  Someone asked Louis Armstrong and his reply, “Man, man, if you gotta ask, you’ll never know.”

Roots of Jazz –

  • West Africa contributed drumming improvisation and complex rhythms.
  • Europe contributed folk tunes and hymns
  • America contributed a breeding ground for these things to mix
  • Jazz is the first genre of music to solely culminate in the United States
  • All other forms prior to jazz came from Western or Europe, or were formed somewhere else.
  • Jazz equals American Music Art Form!
  • Early records are categorized as “race records.”
  • Jazz helped breech the race barrier
  • First integrated ensembles came in the 1930’s.  The audiences were integrated, too.
    • Benny Goodman was the first white band leader to hire black musicians.a

Characteristics of Jazz –

  • Born in New Orleans, Louisiana
  • Performed in brothels, clubs, streets, river boats, speak easys…
  • Syncopated (off-beat) rhythms and swing (lilting) subdivision.
  • Encompassed the ‘aleatoric’ or improvisational nature of negro spirituals.
  • Three different components make this genre distinct:
    • Harmony
    • Rhythm
    • Improvisation

Timeline of Jazz – 

1890’s – 1910’s   Jazz is born; Ragtime

1910’s – 1920’s  Blues

1920’s – 1930’s  Dixieland

1930’s – 1940’s  Sing / Big Band

1940’s  Bebop

1940’s – 1950’s  Cool

1960’s  Free Jazz

1960’s – 1980’s  Fusion (Jazz/Rock)

1980’s – Current  Rock, R&B, Funk, Modern Jazz

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