Jazz is dubbed as one of the most complicated genre. With the other genres are standard and similar, Jazz is rather complicated and elusive. This genre has been born with one word, freedom. While on other music styles, there would be an emphasis on a selected part of the band, be the vocals or the beat, Jazz on the other hand is a collective group skills and passion.
Most people ask for the definition of Jazz but what they get is its origin. “Jazz is a genre of American music that sprouted from New Orleans in 1900’s”. To define Jazz, the nearest you could get would be to describe how it is played. Jazz has this hidden trait that it is not just music; it is a way of communication.
Jazz is played with a collection of musicians that has a paralleled passion and emotion that they can craft through unprecedented notes. It is a style of offbeat accents, improvisation, bended notes, varied pace, distinctive techniques and tone colors, with rhythmic patterns that syncopate. Jazz musicians tend to play their music with their mood and have the skills to alternate the melody, rhythm and tempo at will.
Musicians that thrive with this genre are driven by great passion and experience. Jazz, born from freedom has given the ability to communicate while playing. It is more of a feeling each other while in the zone of the music. Without talking or giving hand gestures, Jazz musicians can change the whole dynamics of the song, once they feel someone in the group is raising the mood.
For example, if the drum gradually fills in, it tells everyone to climb to climax. Another example if the rhythm section starts to calm down, it’s time for a solo, be a trumpet, the piano, the saxophone, or a lightly distorted guitar. Jazz doesn’t leap from one part of the song to the other, it is skillfully crafted to build up to peak moment and carefully descend to calm areas of the song.
Jazz started rooting in America through the African-American communities between the late 19th century and early 20th century. It has showed a union of African music and European African music that produce new styles of music like ragtime and blues.
As the 19th century is concluding, marching bands were trendy in America. Black men in the bands added syncopated rhythms and bending notes, creating unique melodies. Jazz has started conquering the world that it has absorbed different cultures that has given way to diverse and individually unique styles.
One of the early forms of Jazz was the New Orleans Jazz. It started in the early 1910’s in Storyville, the red-light district of New Orleans. This style has a main instrument playing while string bass, clarinet, trumpet, drums, and banjo improvise as the song progress. It created a polyphonic sound combining earlier brass band marches, beguine, French Quadrilles, ragtime and blues.
In 1930’s Louis Armstrong was in an orchestra which he played and sang. He bent notes, growled and made never heard sounds on the trumpet. His driven style describes the Chicago Jazz. Bandleaders arranged the tunes and lead the solos. This Jazz style had larger bands, adding saxophones, trombones and trumpets.
Bebop Jazz started around 1940’s. It has brought Jazz to another level, where it was played at faster tempos with complex harmonies and feral improvisation with solo instruments. It has turned Jazz from a dance popular music to an heightened “musician’s music”.
In late 1940’s Cool Jazz surfaced. It has dwelled calm, smooth sound with long and linear melodic lines. As 1950 came, Free Jazz emerged through exploring a style of playing unbound by regular meter beats and formal structures.
Bebop and Cool Jazz’s great musicians were Charlie Parker, known as Bird, an exceptional saxophonist and a great improviser, Ella Fitzgerald (singer), Chet Baker (singer, trumpet) and Miles Davis (trumpet).
Miles Davis was one of the most important figures in Jazz history and had great contributions in the introduction of several new Jazz styles. After he decided dropped out of Julliard School of Music in New York to play Bebop professionally, he joined other musicians playing a more subtle style which later called cool jazz.
Through 1950’s, Miles Davis started another style which based on mode, or musical scale as the basis of the musical structure and improvisation, rather than chords. This style was known as Modal Jazz, where melody is created by the soloist using a one or a few modes. In this approach, melody is more emphasized than harmony. In 1960’s he fused rock and jazz by introducing electric bass and electric piano in his band.
Hard bop came in the mid 1950’s bringing influences from rhythm and blues, gospel music and blues, emphasizing saxophone and piano playing. Jazz-Rock Fusion that developed in the end of 1960’s and the start of 1970’s collaborated rock rhythms with jazz improvisation, together with electric instruments. This created a cocktail of high amplified rock stage sound and relentless jazz progressions.
The Core of the Labyrinth
It has been considered that jazz is quite difficult to clearly define but if you look at it, one of its key elements is improvisation. Earlier blues and a form of folk music made improvisation as the center of jazz. These came from field hollers and work songs by the African-American workers in plantations. These songs were usually patterned with a repeated call-and-response.
Jazz has taught musicians to diversify. Contrary to Classical music that aims to create sonority with orchestra, Jazz dwells on the individuality of a player. Jazz is an outstanding contribution of America to the art of music. It is a genre that motivates evolution by seeking new levels of musical expression. Some has considered it as a restless genre.
By listening to jazz you will notice how it has separated itself from other genres. It has paved in the bending of notes, placing accents in unexpected places, giving a unique sensation. Jazz was able to absorb influences from different music styles freeing the creativity and vision of the musicians. It may be a reminder of the era of oppression and racism to those who started this genre, but this style of music was one of their first steps to freedom and to the world.