Upon entering a modern record store, one is confronted with a wide variety of choices in recorded music. These choices not only include a multitude of artists, but also a wide diversity of music categories. These categories run the gamut from easy listening dance music to more complex art music. On the complex side of the scale are the categories known as Jazz and Classical music. Some of the most accomplished musicians of our time have devoted themselves to a life-long study of Jazz or Classical music, and a few exceptional musicians have actually mastered both. A comparison of classical and Jazz music will yield some interesting results and could also lead to an appreciation of the abilities needed to perform or compose these kinds of music.
Let's begin with a look at the histories of the two. The music called classical, found in stores and performed regularly by symphonies around the world, spans a length of time from 1600 up to the present. This time frame includes the
Renaissance, Baroque, Classical, Romantic and Contemporary periods. The classical period of music actually spans a time from of 1750 to 1800; thus, the term Classical is a misnomer and could more correctly be changed to Western Art
Music or European Art Music. European because most of the major composers up till the 20th century were European. Vivaldi was Italian, Bach was German,
Mozart and Beethoven were Austrian; they are some of the more prominent composers. Not until the twentieth century with Gershwin and a few others do we find American composers writing this kind of art music. For the sake of convention, we can refer to Western Art Music as Classical music.
Jazz is a distinctively American form of music, and it's history occupies a much smaller span of time. Its origins are found in the early 1900s as some dance band leaders in the southern U.S. began playing music that combined ragtime and blues. Early exponents of this dance music were Jelly Roll Martin (a