What is jazz music? Jazz music is a unique, improvisational genre characterized by its syncopated rhythms, distinctive harmonies, and expressive melodies. Originating in the African-American communities of New Orleans, Louisiana, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Jazz musicians often create music spontaneously, letting the melody evoke a wide range of emotions.
What is the history of jazz music?
Jazz music has a rich and complex history that has evolved and transformed over time. It originated at the turn of the 20th century and has gone through various distinctive phases. While it may be difficult to arrive at a precise and all-encompassing definition of jazz, it is widely recognized as a constantly evolving and changing form of music.
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The complex history behind jazz and race
Jazz holds a varied significance among African Americans. For some, it highlights the cultural and historical contributions of African Americans. For others, it serves as a reminder of a restrictive and racially oppressive society that has curtailed their artistic expression. Amiri Baraka suggests the existence of a “white jazz” genre that embodies whiteness.
White jazz musicians emerged primarily in the Midwest and across the U.S. Papa Jack Laine, who led the Reliance band in New Orleans in the 1910s, was referred to as “the father of white jazz”. The first jazz band to make a recording was the Original Dixieland Jazz Band, consisting of white members, and Bix Beiderbecke was among the notable jazz soloists of the 1920s.
The Chicago Style was formulated by white musicians, including Eddie Condon, Bud Freeman, Jimmy McPartland, and Dave Tough. Other artists from Chicago like Benny Goodman and Gene Krupa went on to become influential figures in the swing era of the 1930s.
Overall, many ensembles comprised both Black and white musicians, helping to shift attitudes toward race in the U.S.
Where does the word “jazz” come from?
Considerable research has been conducted into the origin of the term ‘jazz’, with its history thoroughly chronicled. It’s thought to be derived from ‘jasm’, an 1860s slang term symbolizing ‘pep’ or ‘energy’.
The term ‘jazz’ first appeared in print in a 1912 Los Angeles Times article, where a minor league baseball pitcher used the term “jazz ball” to describe an erratic pitch, stating that “it wobbles and you simply can’t do anything with it”.
The application of the term in the realm of music was first recorded in the Chicago Daily Tribune in 1915. Its inaugural documentation in a New Orleans musical context was in a November 14, 1916 Times-Picayune article discussing “jas bands”.
Musician Eubie Blake, in an interview with National Public Radio, recalled the slang nuances of the term, noting that “When Broadway picked it up, they called it ‘J-A-Z-Z’. It wasn’t called that. It was spelled ‘J-A-S-S’. That was dirty, and if you knew what it was, you wouldn’t say it in front of ladies.” The term ‘jazz’ was eventually chosen by the American Dialect Society as the Word of the 20th Century.