Jazz Research Paper

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Jazz Music

Jazz is associated with the African American people and this is an influence unequaled in the field of music. The true spirit of jazz arises from a revolt from convention, custom, authority, and boredom, even sorrow, from everything that would confine the soul of man. The blacks that invented it called their songs the "blues," and they weren't capable of satire or deception. Jazz was their explosive attempt to cast off the blues and be happy, carefree happy, even in the midst of sordidness and sorrow. Jazz is a release of all the suppressed emotions at once. Jazz is a part of the direct process of African American music. In rhythm it goes directly back through ragtime, through the minstrel period, through the spirituals and dances to its African origin. Jazz, as we know it, is a product of the age in which we are living. For that reason, it is not pure black music, but rather, the African American reflected in modern life. The music is reflective of the restlessness and syncopated lives of the American temperament. The manner of production of jazz is rhythmic and usually referred to as "black rhythm." In it there must exist a spontaneous physical abandonment to the moving accents of the music. Jazz began as an improvisation. The first jazz players knew the tune, but all of the "quirks" and "turns" which made it "jazzy" were created as they progressed; each man for himself, blending, syncopating, gliding, harmonizing, throwing in offbeat and rhythmic patterns which somehow or another held together and made jazz. In addition, jazz has created its own method of instrumentation, unlike that of any other type of music. Molded in native rhythms, improvised melodies, stimulating harmonies, and refreshingly new methods of instrumentation, jazz has come to develop that quality of music which is an aspect of permanency, namely style.


As early jazz developed in the US, so did its popularity. Although other cities caught on, the primary region of the south that would have the most impact and a better scene was Louisiana, particularly the New Orleans. The New Orleans was known for its relaxed atmosphere and a diverse population of races- African, French, Italian, and Portuguese- and was home to gambling joints, dance halls, and saloons. The New Orleans jazz had developed a newer kind of sound- "Dixieland"- and brought out a new breed of talented jazz musicians such as Ferdinand "Jelly Roll" Morton, Joseph "King" Oliver and Louis "Satchmo" Armstrong. Jazz critic Max Harrison described Louis as "The first true virtuoso soloist of jazz, Armstrong was a dazzling improviser, technically, emotionally, and intellectually. He changed the format of jazz by bringing the soloist to the forefront, and in his recording groups, the Hot Five and the Hot Seven, demonstrated that jazz improvisation could go far beyond simply ornamenting the melody he created new melodies based on the chords of the initial tune" (1). Many New Orleans musicians, including Armstrong, migrated to Chicago, influencing local musicians and stimulating the evolution of the Chicago style-derived from the New Orleans style but emphasizing soloists, often adding saxophone to the instrumentation, and usually producing tenser rhythms and more complicated textures. Instrumentalists working in Chicago or influenced by the Chicago style included the trombonist Jack Teagarden, the banjoist Eddie Condon, the drummer Gene Krupa, and the clarinetist Benny Goodman. Also active in Chicago was Bix Beiderbecke, whose lyrical approach to the cornet provided an alternative to Armstrong's trumpet style. Many Chicago musicians eventually settled in New York City, another major center for jazz in the 1920's. (2) The New Orleans jazz style came to pass, replaced by the oncoming swing era. This was carried forward by the bands of Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Benny Goodman, Glen Miller, Artie Shaw, Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey, and many others (this...
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