Jazz developed in the latter part of the 19th cent. from black work songs, field shouts, sorrow songs, hymns, and spirituals whose harmonic, rhythmic, and melodic elements were predominantly African. Because of its spontaneous, emotional, and improvisational character, and because it is basically of black origin and association, jazz has to some extent not been accorded the degree of recognition it deserves. European audiences have often been more receptive to jazz, and thus many American jazz musicians have become expatriates.
At the outset, jazz was slow to win acceptance by the general public, not only because of its cultural origin, but also because it tended to suggest loose morals and low social status. However, jazz gained a wide audience when white orchestras adapted or imitated it, and became legitimate entertainment in the late 1930s when Benny Goodman led racially mixed groups in concerts at Carnegie Hall. Show tunes became common vehicles for performance, and, while the results were exquisite, rhythmic and harmonic developments were impeded until the mid-1940s.
Jazz is generally thought to have begun in New Orleans, spreading to Chicago, Kansas City, New York City, and the West Coast. The blues, vocal and instrumental, was and is a vital component of jazz, which includes, roughly in order of appearance: ragtime; New Orleans or Dixieland jazz; swing; bop, or bebop; progressive, or cool, jazz; neo-bop, or hard-bop; third stream; mainstream modern; Latin-jazz; jazz-rock; and avant-garde or free jazz.
The heart of jazz, the blues is a musical form now standardized as 12 bars, based on the tonic, dominant, and subdominant chords. The "blue notes" are the flatted third and seventh. A statement is made in the first four bars, repeated (sometimes with slight variation) in the next four, and answered or commented on in the last four. In vocal blues the lyrics are earthy and direct and are mostly concerned with basic human problems—love and sex, poverty, and death. The tempo may vary, and the mood ranges from total despair to cynicism and satire.
Basing his songs on traditional blues, W. C. Handy greatly increased the popularity of the idiom. Important vocal blues stylists include Blind Lemon Jefferson, Leadbelly, Lightnin' Sam Hopkins, Robert Johnson, Gertrude (Ma) Rainey, Bertha (Chippie) Hill, Bessie Smith, Billie Holiday, Dinah Washington, and Muddy Waters.
The earliest form of jazz to exert a wide appeal, ragtime was basically a piano style emphasizing syncopation and polyrhythm. Scott Joplin and Irving Berlin were major composers and performers of ragtime. From about 1893 to the beginning of World War I this music was popularized through sheet music and player-piano rolls. In the early 1970s, ragtime, particularly Joplin's works, had a popular revival.
New Orleans, or Dixieland, jazz is played by small bands usually made up of cornet or trumpet, clarinet, trombone, and a rhythm section that includes bass, drums, guitar, and sometimes piano. When the band marched, as it often did in the early days, the piano and bass were omitted and a tuba was used. The three lead instruments provide a contrapuntal melody above the steady beat of the rhythm, and individualities of intonation and phrasing, with frequent use of vibrato and glissando, give the music its warm and highly personal quality. The music ranged from funeral dirges to the exuberant songs of Mardi Gras.
The pioneer black New Orleans jazz band of Buddy Bolden was formed in the 1890s. The Original Dixieland Jazz Band and the New Orleans Rhythm Kings, both white bands, successfully introduced jazz to the northern United States. The closing in 1917 of the notorious Storyville district of New Orleans produced an exodus of jazz musicians. Many went to Chicago, where the New Orleans style survived in the bands of King Oliver, and later in the music of Louis Armstrong, Jelly Roll Morton, and Johnny Dodds. Fate Marable, who had played on Mississippi riverboats since 1910, now began to organize riverboat jam sessions with outstanding musicians.
Meanwhile, distinctive styles developed in many cities, evolved by younger musicians who stressed a single melodic line rather than the New Orleans counterpoint. Bix Beiderbecke, a cornetist and pianist and a major Chicago-style musician, was influential in developing more complex melodic lines. Jazz spread to Kansas City, Los Angeles, and New York City.
Originating in Kansas City and Harlem in the late 1920s and becoming a national craze, swing was marked by the substitution of orchestration for improvisation and a rhythm that falls between the beats. The average big band had about 15 members (five reeds, five brass, piano, bass, and drums) and could generate overwhelming volume or evince the most subtle articulations. The bands led by Duke Ellington and Count Basie were the finest practitioners of this idiom, while those of Fletcher Henderson, Jimmy Lunceford, Benny Goodman, Artie Shaw, Glenn Miller, Tommy Dorsey (see under Dorsey, Jimmy), and Harry James were also outstanding. The music was often written to showcase soloists who were, or were intended to be, supported by the ensemble.
The vigor of the music notwithstanding, a revolt against the confining nature of the harmony, melody, and rhythm of swing arose in Kansas City and Harlem in the 1930s and reached fruition in the mid-40s. The new music, called "bebop" or "rebop" (later shortened to "bop"), was rejected at first by many critics. Bop was characterized by the flatted fifth, a more elaborate rhythmic structure, and a harmonic rather than melodic focus. Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Thelonius Monk, Kenny Clarke, and Charlie Christian were major influences in the new music, which became the basis for modern jazz. The influence of two swing musicians, the tenor saxophonist Lester Young and the drummer Jo Jones, was of paramount importance in influencing the harmonic and rhythmic direction of bop.
After beginning in New York City, progressive, or cool, jazz developed primarily on the West Coast in the late 1940s and early 50s. Intense yet ironically relaxed tonal sonorities are the major characteristic of this jazz form, while the melodic line is less convoluted than in bop. Lester Young's style was fundamental to the music of the cool saxophonists Lee Konitz, Warne Marsh, and Stan Getz. Miles Davis played an important part in the early stages, and the influence of virtuoso pianist Lennie Tristano was all-pervasive. The music was accepted more gracefully by the public and critics than bop, and the pianist Dave Brubeck became its most widely known performer.
By the mid-1950s a form of neo-bop, or hard-bop, had arisen on the East Coast. John Coltrane, Sonny Rollins, Cannonball Adderley, Horace Silver, Art Blakey, and Max Roach led various small groups that produced an idiom marked by crackling, explosive, uncompromising intensity. About the same period, a number of outstanding musician-composers, including Gunther Schuller and John Lewis of the Modern Jazz Quartet, produced "third stream" jazz, essentially a blend of classical music and jazz. Jazz has also been successfully combined with Afro-Latin music, as in the music of Candido, Machito, Eddie Palmieri, and Mongo Santamaria.
In the last half of the 1950s there were three major trends in contemporary jazz. First, a general modern jazz form had developed in the period since World War II, which can be called "mainstream," best exemplified by the music of Gerry Mulligan's various bands. Second, a number of instruments that either had never been used seriously in jazz, such as the flute, oboe, and flügelhorn, or had been unpopular, such as the soprano saxophone, were used to bring new instrumental voices into the music. Third, avant-garde or free jazz leaders such as John Coltrane, Ornette Coleman, Eric Dolphy, Pharaoh Sanders, Archie Shepp, Cecil Taylor, and Rahsaan Roland Kirk continued to explore new harmonic, melodic, and rhythmic relationships. The new jazz is often atonal, and traditional melodic instruments often assume rhythmic-percussive roles and vice versa.
In the late 1960s many jazz musicians, such as Miles Davis, Wayne Shorter, Larry Coryell, Gary Burton, Keith Jarrett, and Chick Corea, investigated the connections between rock and jazz in a musical style known as fusion. After the rapid innovations of the 1960s and 70s, the jazz of the 1980s appeared less form-bending and somewhat revivalist, with musicians reluctant to follow trends and accept labels. Emerging in the early 1990s was a style often called acid jazz, a hybrid form that combined traditional jazz, soul, and funk with Latin and hip-hop rhythms. Some of the prominent jazz artists of the 1980s, 1990s, and early 2000s include Wynton and Branford Marsalis, Terence Blanchard, David Murray, John Carter, Henry Threadgill, Cyrus Chestnut, and Joshua Redman.
Jazz has always been a distinctively American idiom, with Europeans largely forming an appreciative audience and Europe's jazzmen following trends begun in the United States. At the end of the 20th cent., however, many Scandinavian and French musicians, feeling that mainstream American jazz expression had retreated into the past, began creating a new genre nicknamed "the European." Returning to jazz's roots as dance music, they combined elements from European house, techno, drum and bass, and jungle music with acoustic, electronic, and sampled sound to create a more popular and populist variety of jazz. Musicians involved in this movement include Norwegian pianist Bugge Wesseltoft and trumpeter Nils Petter Molvaer, French pianists Martial Solal and Laurent de Wilde, French saxophonist Julien Lourau and flutist Malik Mezzadri, Sweden's Esbjorn Svensson Trio, and France's Ludovic Navarre and St. Germain groups.
Jazz artists in America have suffered much and received little. In many cases the misery of their lives and public indifference have driven them to find relief in drugs and alcohol. Despite hardships they have produced a richly varied art form in which improvisation and experimentation are imperative; jazz promises continued growth in directions as yet unforeseeable.
See G. Schuller, Early Jazz (1968) and The Swing Era (1989); A. McCarthy et al., Jazz on Record: The First Fifty Years (1969); F. Kofsky, Black Nationalism and the Revolution in Music (1970); M. Williams, The Jazz Tradition (1970); D. Kennington, The Literature of Jazz (1971); L. G. Feather, ed., The New Edition of the Encyclopedia of Jazz (1972); H. Panassié, The Real Jazz (1960, repr. 1973); J. Berendt, The Jazz Book (1984); W. Balliett, 56 Portraits in Jazz (1986); G. Giddens, Visions of Jazz: The First Century (1998); B. Kernfeld, ed., The New Grove Dictionary of Jazz (1998). For blues see C. Keil, Urban Blues (1966); P. Oliver, Aspects of the Blues Tradition (1970); A. Murray, Stomping the Blues (1976); G. Giddins, Riding on a Blue Note (1981). For ragtime see W. J. Schafer and J. Riedel, The Art of Ragtime (1974).
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.