Jazz Music
From slave music to a great art



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Notes of a black spiritual song

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Music whose roots are in the elements of African music, and its beginning is in the music of the slaves in the United States. Except elements of African rhythms, early jazz drew on Creole bands educated in the European classical tradition, spirituals, marching bands, ragtime, and the blues.
Buddy Bolden (1877-1931), a legendary cornet player, but with not a single note of his playing survives on record, was probably the first real "Jazz player", as he was the first who combined the different musical elements (the blues, embellishments on the melody of a tune and the rhythm emphasis) to create a new music.
This music is characterized by using highly syncopated melodies and jumpy, unstable rhythms. Harmony is rich and influenced by trends like impressionism and a-tonality, and use of ancient modes. Jazz puts emphasis on improvisation - a player inventing the musical piece in the course of performance and without planning.
Louis Armstrong & Benny Goodman / stamp of The Republic of RwandaIn jazz, wind instruments are accepted as melodic instruments, and the rhythm instruments - piano, guitar, double bass, drums - provide accompaniment (although often contribute to improvisations customary in this style).
Jazz is the art of interpretation, and pre-written arrangements are rarely played. Most performers play pieces known to every jazz musician ("standards"), whereas the curious part is the one-time performance, full of improvisation and includes a new interpretation for each and every ensemble and player.
The religious music that set the foundations to jazz is called the "spirituals". These beautiful and moving religious songs were sung by the new-Christian slaves and gave hope for a better future in the promised land of freedom. Songs that talked about the daily troubles from the life of the African American brought about the gloomy Blues, that combined the "blue notes" - a diminution of thirds and sevenths in the key - and became its trademark. In fact, the blues is the secular counterpart of the spirituals. B.B. King and John Lee Hooker are two of the greatest blues artists.
There are different styles in jazz, such as the Swing - a floating, usually orchestral style, made by artists like Duke Ellington, Benny Goodman and Count Basie into a sophisticated, well-processed style, especially during the time of the "Big Bands". Louis Armstrong, among jazz's giants, gave it its dignified dimension, and became the messenger of jazz around the world, with jazz hits such as "What a wonderful world" and "Hello Dolly".
The Ragtime - an originally pianist style invented by Scott Joplin ("The Entertainer"), and the jumpy Bebop of Charlie Parker and Miles Davis.
Nowadays, the innovative style of "fusion" is very popular. Composers like Chick Corea ("Spain"), ensembles like "Weather Report" and players like Michael Brecker and the Marsalis Brothers mix diverse musical influences into complex, interesting jazz performances.
Some important composers of classical music also combined elements of jazz in their work. Particularly known are Gershwin's many works ("Rhapsody is Blue", and the opera about the life of black people "Porgy and Bess"), and Stravinsky's ("Concerto Ebony for a Jazz Orchestra").

Jazz StylesLook@wwwLook@www.allmusic.com
The rebel and protest songs of black people in the US. They spoke of biblical subjects and following Christ, but in fact were songs of hope for liberation from bondage, and after emancipation - songs of hope for improvement in the life of the black people in racist America. Spirituals like "Swing low, sweet chariot" and "Go down Moses" became known by vocal ensembles like Fisk Jubilee Singers (c. 1871).
Main figures: singers as Marian Anderson and Paul Robeson

Bluesa midi file
The music of sorrow and suffering of African Americans, both vocal and instrumental. The most persistent characteristic of the blues is a twelve-bar pattern and a slow tempo and the name is related to the “blue notes,” i.e., the third and seventh scale degrees which are used either natural or flatted. The form was popularized in the 1910s by composer W.C. HandySearch the web for sites about this figure, with songs like "Memphis Blues", "St. Louis Blues" and "Basin Street Blues". In the early 1960s, the blues was discovered by Rock musicians, such as Jimi HendrixSearch the web for sites about this figure, Jimmy PageSearch the web for sites about this figure and Eric ClaptonSearch the web for sites about this figure. They have used the blues as a foundation for offshoot styles, but also continued to create traditional blues.
Main figures: John Lee Hooker, Muddy Waters and B.B. King and singers like Bassie Smith and Billie Holliday

An early written, unimprovised, jazz predecessor usually performed on the piano. Its names means "rhythm of tears or rags", due to the lack of uniform rhythm. Began during the 1880-1900 period, mainly by Scott Joplin from St. Louis - ragtime's greatest composer and player with famous pieces, such as "The Entertainer"'The Entertainer' - Ragtime by Scott Joplin and "Maple Leaf Rag". This style mixed aspects of marches and classical music, such as a syncopated two-beat rhythm with a melody line, and had a great influence on the earlier forms of jazz (with the presence of blues and improvisation).
Famous composers in the 20th century, such as Stravinsky (in his "Ragtime for 11 instruments") and Milhaud ("The creation of the world") integrated ragtime into their works.
Main figures: Scott Joplin and James P. Johnson

Stride piano
Derived from ragtime in New York in the early 1920s, a style with more syncopated bass line. Mostly played by virtuoso pianists, who resembled one-man bands by immensely fast playing techniques.
Main figures: Willie "the Lion" Smith, James P. Johnson and Fats Waller

The traditional jazz being played by white musicians, in the 1920s in Chicago. Also called "New Orleans jazz", "Chicago jazz" and "Classic jazz", this style usually demonstrates collective improvisations during choruses. In the 1950s, Dixieland had a revival by many groups of amateur jazz musicians.
Main figures: the "Original Dixieland Jass Band"

Traditional / New Orleans Jazz
New Orleans jazz as it emerged and into the 1930s is a descendant of the marching brass bands. The New Orleans Jazz, which overlaps with Dixieland, did not tend to emphasize solos in favor of group playing and common improvising. When the center of Jazz music had shifted up north, from New Orleans to Chicago, the most important jazz musician ever, Louis Armstrong, was summoned up north by Joe "King" OliverSearch the web for sites about this figure and opened jazz from the blues to a more swinging style with sophisticated improvisations.
Main figures: Louis Armstrong, Buddy Bolden, Jelly Roll Morton and Joe "King" Oliver

The "Big band" jazz music of the 1930's (through WWII) was with written arrangements, rather repetitious riffs and sophisticated solos. There were very popular ensembles of ten or more musicians in three sections: saxophone, brass, and rhythm. This style of jazz is particularly identified with Benny Goodman's orchestra.
Main figures: Fletcher Henderson, Chick Webb, Benny Goodman, Duke Ellington and Count Basie.

Complex jazz style developed in the early 1940s by saxophonist Charlie Parker, pianist Thelonious Monk and trumpet player Dizzy Gillespie. This school of jazz believed in innovation in harmony, rhythm and apects of performance practice. The bebop is characterized by improvised solo performances in dissonant and complex patterns, often by accentuation of the second and fourth beats in each four-four measures and by the twelve-bar “blues” phrase structure, and sometimes by the singing of nonsense syllables.
Main figures: Charlie Parker, Thelonious Monk and Dizzy Gillespie

Cool Jazz
A mixture of bop with some aspects of swing (less dissonant, softened tones and accents on the rhythm section). In this style, as in the swing, musicians put arrangements in the center again. It was nicknamed "West Coast jazz" since most leaders of this genre were centered in Los Angeles. Some instrumentations, such as the ones made by Gil EvansSearch the web for sites about this figure and Miles Davis, started to include non-traditional instruments such as tubas and French horns.
Main figures: Lester Young, Bill Evans, Gerry Mulligan, Miles Davis and Stan Getz

Progressive / Modal Jazz
General term for "modern jazz," which covers various bop and post-bop styles, including the more meditative and looser 'modal jazz', of improvisation based on a series of modes rather than chord changes. Modal jazz clearly emphasized the importance of melodic ideas in improvisations, thus freed up the soloists from the chord structures of bebop. Miles Davis was one of the first musicians who played 'modal jazz'.
Main figures: Miles Davis and John Coltrane, McCoy Tyner, Bill Evans

FusionMinuette - Israeli Jazz band plays jazz with arab influence
Since the late 1960s, the fusion became a popular jazz style. The fusion is a hybrid of jazz improvisation with rock rhythms and energies. Miles Davis with his album 'Bitches Brew', Herbie HancockSearch the web for sites about this figure with his popular jazz-funk album 'Headhunters', and other influential musicians fused rock rhythms with jazz structures and by that introduced jazz to a new set of audiences.
Main figures: Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock and Chick Corea. Groups like 'Weather Report' and 'The Mahavishnu Orchestra'

Free Jazz (sometimes known as freebop)
From the 1950's to the 1960's, some musicians, lead by Saxophonist Ornette Coleman, took jazz in more exploratory and avant garde directions. They extended considerably or totally abandoned traditional forms, melody, harmony, and rhythm. Although free jazz expanded the tonal and harmonic palette of listeners, it never won huge public success.
Main figures: Ornette Coleman, Don Cherry and John Coltrane

Jazz legends on stamps

John Coltrane / stamp of The USAColeman Hawkins / stamp of The USALouis Armstrong / stamp of The USA
Charles Mingus / stamp of The USAThelonious Monk / stamp of The USACharlie Parker / stamp of The USA

Blues images copyright (c) by David BellBlues images copyright (c) by David BellBlues images copyright (c) by David BellBlues images copyright (c) by David Bell
Blues musician on stage

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Louis Armstrong's web site

Jazz All Stars


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