A Short History of Jazz Music


Coach Jarrod shares a short history of Jazz music, ahead of the Jazz festival in Vitoria-Gasteiz.

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unique: Being the only one of its kind; unlike anything else.

melting pot: A place where different cultures or styles blend together.

speakeasies: Secret bars during Prohibition where alcohol was sold illegally.

flapper culture: A social and cultural movement in the 1920s known for young women who wore short skirts, bobbed their hair, and embraced new fashions and lifestyles.

characterized: Described or distinguished by specific features or qualities.

cool jazz: A style of jazz that is relaxed, with lighter tones and less intensity.

modal jazz: A style of jazz that uses musical modes rather than chord progressions as a harmonic framework.

free jazz: A style of jazz that is free from traditional rules and structures, often involving collective improvisation.

fusion jazz: A genre that combines elements of jazz with rock, funk, and world music.

evolving: Gradually developing or changing over time.

A Short History of Jazz Music

Jazz music is a lively and unique genre that began in the early 20th century in the United States, mainly in New Orleans. It has deep roots in African American musical traditions, such as blues, ragtime, and spirituals.

New Orleans was a melting pot of different cultures, including African, Caribbean, and European influences, which helped create the perfect environment for jazz to develop.

In the 1910s and 1920s, jazz started to become popular across the country, moving from New Orleans to cities like Chicago and New York. This period, known as the Jazz Age, featured important musicians like Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, and Bessie Smith. Louis Armstrong’s trumpet playing was innovative and new, while Duke Ellington’s compositions were sophisticated and complex. Jazz became the music of choice in speakeasies, which were secret bars during Prohibition, and it was closely associated with the energetic flapper culture.

The 1930s and 1940s were known as the Swing Era. This time was characterized by big bands that played danceable music. Famous musicians from this era included Benny Goodman, Count Basie, and Glenn Miller. Their music was popular at dance halls and on the radio. However, in the late 1940s, a new style called bebop emerged. Bebop was faster and more complex, focusing on improvisation and technical skill. Key bebop musicians included Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie.

During the 1950s and 1960s, jazz continued to change and grow. New styles like cool jazz, modal jazz, and free jazz developed. Important musicians from this time included Miles Davis and John Coltrane. They experimented with new sounds and pushed the limits of what jazz could be. In the 1970s, jazz started to blend with rock, funk, and world music, creating the fusion genre.

Today, jazz is still evolving and remains an important and influential art form. It is celebrated for its improvisational nature and its ability to bring together different musical and cultural elements. Jazz continues to inspire musicians and listeners around the world.

Let’s Chat About That

  • 1. How does improvisation in jazz affect the way musicians play together during a performance?
  • 2. What role did jazz music play in important social changes, like the civil rights movement, in the 20th century?
  • 3. How have new technologies, like recording and digital music, changed jazz music and how people listen to it?
  • 4. How have different cultures around the world influenced jazz, and how has jazz influenced other types of music?
  • 5.What are some key differences between old-style jazz and modern jazz, and how do today’s jazz musicians honor the past while creating new music?