From its early development until the present, jazz has also incorporated music from 19th and 20th century American popular music. The word jazz began as a West Coast slang term of uncertain derivation and was first used to refer to music in Chicago in about 1915; for the origin and history, see Jazz (word).
Jazz has, from its early 20th century inception, spawned a variety of subgenres, from New Orleans Dixieland dating from the early 1910s, big band-style swing from the 1930s and 1940s, bebop from the mid-1940s, a variety of Latin jazz fusions such as Afro-Cuban and Brazilian jazz from the 1950s and 1960s, jazz-rock fusion from the 1970s and late 1980s developments such as acid jazz, which blended jazz influences into funk and hip-hop.
Jazz can be hard to define because it spans from Ragtime waltzes to 2000s-era fusion. While many attempts have been made define jazz from points of view outside jazz, such as using European music history or African music, jazz critic Joachim Berendt argues that all such attempts are unsatisfactory One way to get around the definitional problems is to define the term “jazz” more broadly. Berendt defines jazz as a "form of art music which originated in the United States through the confrontation of blacks with European music"; he argues that jazz differs from European music in that jazz has a "special relationship to time, defined as 'swing' ", "a spontaneit and vitality of musical production in which improvisation plays a role"; and "sonority and manner of phrasing which mirror the individuality of the performing jazz musician" .
Travis Jackson has also proposed a broader definition of jazz which is able to encompass all of the radically different eras: he states that it is music that includes qualities such as “ 'swinging', improvising, group interaction, developing an 'individual voice', and being 'open' to different musical possibilities”.Krin Gabbard claims that “jazz is a construct” or category that, while artificial, still is useful to designate “a number of musics with enough in common part of a coherent tradition”.
While jazz may be difficult to define, improvisation is clearly one of its key elements. Early blues was commonly structured around a repetitive call-and-response pattern, a common element in the African American oral tradition. A form of folk music which rose in part from work songs and field hollers of rural Blacks, early blues was also highly improvisational. These features are fundamental to the nature of jazz. While in European classical music elements of interpretation, ornamentation and accompaniment are sometimes left to the performer's discretion, the performer's primary goal is to play a composition as it was written.
In jazz, however, the skilled performer will interpret a tune in very individual ways, never playing the same composition exactly the same way twice. Depending upon the performer's mood and personal experience, interactions with fellow musicians, or even members of the audience, a jazz musician/performer may alter melodies, harmonies or time signature at will. European classical music has been said to be a composer's medium. Jazz, however, is often characterized as the product of democratic creativity, interaction and collaboration, placing equal value on the contributions of composer and performer, 'adroitly weigh[ing] the respective claims of the composer and the improviser'.
In New Orleans and Dixieland jazz, performers took turns playing the melody, while others improvised countermelodies. By the swing era, big bands were coming to rely more on arranged music: arrangements were either written or learned by ear and memorized - many early jazz performers could not read music. Individual soloists would improvise within these arrangements. Later, in bebop the focus shifted back towards small groups and minimal arrangements; the melody (known as the "head") would be stated briefly at the start and end of a piece but the core of the performance would be the series of improvisations in the middle. Later styles of jazz such as modal jazz abandoned the strict notion of a chord progression, allowing the individual musicians to improvise even more freely within the context of a given scale or mode. The avant-garde and free jazz idioms permit, even call for, abandoning chords, scales, and rhythmic meters.
Commercially-oriented or popular music-influenced forms of jazz have both long been criticized, at least since the emergence of Bop. Traditional jazz enthusiasts have dismissed Bop, the 1970s jazz fusion era [and much else] as a period of commercial debasement of the music. According to Bruce Johnson, jazz music has always had a "tension between jazz as a commercial music and an art form" . Gilbert notes that as the notion of a canon of jazz is developing, the “achievements of the past” may be become "…privileged over the idiosyncratic creativity...” and innovation of current artists. Village Voice jazz critic Gary Giddins argues that as the creation and dissemination of jazz is becoming increasingly institutionalized and dominated by major entertainment firms, jazz is facing a "...perilous future of respectability and disinterested acceptance." David Ake warns that the creation of “norms” in jazz and the establishment of a “jazz tradition” may exclude or sideline other newer, avant-garde forms of jazz.
By 1808 the Atlantic slave trade had brought almost half a million Africans to the United States. The slaves largely came from West Africa and brought strong tribal musical traditions with them. Lavish festivals featuring African dances to drums were organized on Sundays at Place Congo, or Congo Square, in New Orleans until 1843, as were similar gatherings in New England and New York. African music was largely functional, for work or ritual, and included work songs and field hollers. In the African tradition, they had a single-line melody and a call-and-response pattern, but without the European concept of harmony. Rhythms reflected African speech patterns, and the African use of pentatonic scales led to blue notes in blues and jazz.
In the early 19th century an increasing number of black musicians learned to play European instruments, particularly the violin, which they used to parody European dance music in their own cakewalk dances. In turn, European-American minstrel show performers in blackface popularized such music internationally, combining syncopation with European harmonic accompaniment. Louis Moreau Gottschalk adapted African-American cakewalk music, South American, Caribbean and other slave melodies as piano salon music. Another influence came from black slaves who had learned the harmonic style of hymns and incorporated it into their own music as spirituals. The origins of the blues are undocumented, though they can be seen as the secular counterpart of the spirituals. Paul Oliver has drawn attention to similarities in instruments, music and social function to the griots of the West African savannah.
Emancipation of slaves led to new opportunities for education of freed African-Americans, but strict segregation meant limited employment opportunities. Black musicians provided "low-class" entertainment at dances, minstrel shows, and in vaudeville, and many marching bands formed. Black pianists played in bars, clubs and brothels, and ragtime developed.
Ragtime appeared as sheet music with the African American entertainer Ernest Hogan's hit songs in 1895, and two years later Vess Ossman recorded a medley of these songs as a banjo solo "Rag Time Medley". Also in 1897, the white composer William H. Krell published his "Mississippi Rag" as the first written piano instrumental ragtime piece. The classically-trained pianist Scott Joplin produced his "Original Rags" in the following year, then in 1899 had an international hit with "Maple Leaf Rag." He wrote numerous popular rags combining syncopation, banjo figurations and sometimes call-and-response, which led to the ragtime idiom being taken up by classical composers including Claude Debussy and Igor Stravinsky. Blues music was published and popularized by W. C. Handy, whose "Memphis Blues" of 1912 and "St. Louis Blues" of 1914 both became jazz standards.
The music of New Orleans had a profound effect on the creation of early jazz. Many early jazz performers played in the brothels and bars of red-light district around Basin Street called "Storyville. In addition, numerous marching bands played at lavish funerals arranged by the African American community. The instruments used in marching bands and dance bands became the basic instruments of jazz: brass and reeds tuned in the European 12-tone scale and drums. Small bands of primarily self-taught African American musicians, many of whom came from the funeral-procession tradition of New Orleans, played a seminal role in the development and dissemination of early jazz, traveling throughout Black communities in the Deep South and, from around 1914 on, Afro-Creole and African American musicians playing in vaudeville shows took jazz to western and northern US cities. Afro-Creole pianist Jelly Roll Morton began his career in Storyville. From 1904, he toured with vaudeville shows around southern cities, also playing in Chicago and New York. His "Jelly Roll Blues," which he composed around 1905, was published in 1915 as the first jazz arrangement in print, introducing more musicians to the New Orleans style. In the northeastern United States, a "hot" style of playing ragtime had developed, notably James Reese Europe's symphonic Clef Club orchestra in New York which played a benefit concert at Carnegie Hall in 1912, and his "Society Orchestra" which in 1913 became the first black group to make Jazz recordings. The Baltimore rag style of Eubie Blake influenced James P. Johnson's development of "Stride" piano playing, in which the right hand plays the melody, while the left hand provides the rhythm and bassline.
The Original Dixieland Jass Band's "Livery Stable Blues" released early in 1917 is one of the early jazz records. That year numerous other bands made recordings featuring "jazz" in the title or band name, mostly ragtime or novelty records rather than jazz. In September 1917 W.C. Handy's Orchestra of Memphis recorded a cover version of "Livery Stable Blues". In February 1918 James Reese Europe's "Hellfighters" infantry band took ragtime to Europe during World War I, then on return recorded Dixieland standards including "The Darktown Strutter's Ball".
Bix Beiderbecke formed The Wolverines in 1924. Also in 1924 Louis Armstrong joined the Fletcher Henderson dance band as featured soloist for a year, then formed his virtuosic Hot Five band, also popularising scat singing. Jelly Roll Morton recorded with the New Orleans Rhythm Kings in an early mixed-race collaboration, then in 1926 formed his Red Hot Peppers. There was a larger market for jazzy dance music played by white orchestras, such as Jean Goldkette's orchestra and Paul Whiteman's orchestra. In 1924 Whiteman commissioned Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue, which was premièred by Whiteman's Orchestra. Other influential large ensembles included Fletcher Henderson's band, Duke Ellington's band (which opened an influential residency at the Cotton Club in 1927) in New York, and Earl Hines's Band in Chicago (who opened in The Grand Terrace Cafe there in 1928). All significantly influenced the development of big band-style swing jazz.
Swing was also dance music and it was broadcast on the radio 'live' coast-to-coast nightly across America for many years. Although it was a collective sound, swing also offered individual musicians a chance to 'solo' and improvise melodic, thematic solos which could at times be very complex and 'important' music. Included among the critically acclaimed leaders who specialized in live radio broadcasts of swing music as well as "Sweet Band" compositions during this era was Shep Fields.
Over time, social strictures regarding racial segregation began to relax, and white bandleaders began to recruit black musicians. In the mid-1930s, Benny Goodman hired pianist Teddy Wilson, vibraphonist Lionel Hampton, and guitarist Charlie Christian to join small groups. An early 1940s style known as "jumping the blues" or jump blues used small combos, up-tempo music, and blues chord progressions. Jump blues drew on boogie-woogie from the 1930s. Kansas City Jazz in the 1930s marked the transition from big bands to the bebop influence of the 1940s.
In the early 1940s bebop performers helped to shift jazz from danceable popular music towards a more challenging "musician's music." Differing greatly from swing, early bebop divorced itself from dance music, establishing itself more as an art form but lessening its potential popular and commercial value. Since bebop was meant to be listened to, not danced to, it used faster tempos. Beboppers introduced new forms of chromaticism and dissonance into jazz; the dissonant tritone (or "flatted fifth") interval became the "most important interval of bebop and engaged in a more abstracted form of chord-based improvisation which used "passing" chords, substitute chords, and altered chords. The style of drumming shifted as well to a more elusive and explosive style, in which the ride cymbal was used to keep time, while the snare and bass drum were used for unpredictable, explosive accents.
These divergences from the jazz mainstream of the time initially met with a divided, sometimes hostile response among fans and fellow musicians, especially established swing players, who bristled at the new harmonic sounds. To hostile critics, bebop seemed to be filled with "racing, nervous phrasesDespite the initial friction, by the 1950s bebop had become an accepted part of the jazz vocabulary. The most influential bebop musicians included saxophonist Charlie Parker, pianists Bud Powell and Thelonious Monk, trumpeters Dizzy Gillespie and Clifford Brown, tenor sax player Lester Young, and drummer Max Roach. (See also List of bebop musicians).
Free jazz and the related form of avant-garde jazz broke through into an open space of "free tonality", in which meter, beat, and formal symmetry all disintegrated, and into which a range of World music from India, Africa, and Arabia were melded into an intense, even religiously ecstatic or orgiastic style of playing. While rooted in bebop, free jazz tunes gave players much more latitude; the loose harmony and tempo was deemed controversial when this approach was first developed. The bassist Charles Mingus is also frequently associated with the avant-garde in jazz, although his compositions draw from a myriad of styles and genres. The first major stirrings came in the 1950s, with the early work of Ornette Coleman and Cecil Taylor. In the 1960s, performers included John Coltrane (A Love Supreme), Archie Shepp, Sun Ra, Albert Ayler, Pharoah Sanders, and others. Free jazz quickly found a foothold in Europe in part because musicians such as Ayler, Taylor, Steve Lacy and Eric Dolphy spent extended periods in Europe. Keith Jarrett has been prominent in defending free jazz from criticism by traditionalists in the 1990s and 2000s.
In the late 1980s and early 1990s, several subgenres fused jazz with popular music, such as Acid jazz, nu jazz, and jazz rap. Acid jazz and nu jazz combined elements of jazz and modern forms of electronic dance music. While nu jazz is influenced by jazz harmony and melodies, there are usually no improvisational aspects. Jazz rap fused jazz and hip-hop. Gang Starr recorded "Words I Manifest," "Jazz Music," and "Jazz Thing", sampling Charlie Parker and Ramsey Lewis, and collaborating with Branford Marsalis and Terence Blanchard. Beginning in 1993, rapper Guru's Jazzmatazz series used jazz musicians during the studio recordings.