Ragtime and Blues Influence on Jazz

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Ara Cho
Ethno 50A
October 14, 2011
Seeing Ragtime and Blues as Parents of Jazz
Jazz is a music genre that has complex characteristics and history of development and thus many musicians and scholars face troubles in defining what jazz is. In general, jazz is believed to have born in New Orleans. Jazz developed for the pleasure of the social dancers. According to the “Understanding Jazz: What Is Jazz?” of John F. Kennedy center for the Performing Arts, Jazz was created mainly by Afro-Americans, and had elements of European and Afro-American culture. Also, it emphasizes few elements of Jazz, which are swing-feel, syncopation, and improvisation. These different culture and elements of jazz may be explained by how jazz developed from popular music styles of 1800’s. There can be many different music styles that could have effected development of jazz, but ragtime and blues were the two essential music style in development of jazz. Ragtime and Blues are similar in that they both were forerunner of Jazz in closely overlapping time period, but those two music styles were different in many ways: the origin of the music, whether instrumental or vocal, and which musical technic each music genre focused on. Thus both ragtime and blues were critical in jazz development, but they influenced jazz in different ways.

Again, most important similarity between ragtime and blues is that they both were essential to development of jazz, and both were the music style of the late 1800’s. According to Ted Gioia in his book The History of Jazz, “Ragtime music rivals the blues in importance – and perhaps surpasses it in influence- as a predecessor to early jazz” (pp.20). On the other hand, LeRoi Johns and Imamu Baraka claim in Blues People: Negro Music in White America, “Blues is the parent of all legitimate jazz”(pp.17). People may have different opinions about whether one music style is more important than the other, but it is undeniable that both ragtime and...
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