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History of Jazz


What is jazz

    Jazz is music that includes qualities such as swing, improvising, group interaction, developing an 'individual voice', and being open to different musical possibilities. The concept is wide and confusing, but it is considered that jazz originated in the late 19th to early 20th century as interpretations of American and European classical music entwined with African and slave folk songs and the influences of West African culture. Its composition and style have changed many times throughout the years with each performer's personal interpretation and improvisation, which is also one of the greatest appeals of the genre.


    As an African heritage, it's significant the use of blue notes, improvisation, polyrhythms, syncopation and swung note. And from Europe, the use of developed instruments, music theory, chords and writing system.

Black Spiritual - Long John



Ragtime is a jazz style that enjoyed its peak popularity between 1895 and 1918. Its main characteristic trait is its syncopated, or 'ragged', rhythm. It began as dance music in the red-light districts of American cities such as St. Louis and New Orleans years before being published as popular sheet music for piano. Generally it is written for piano solo, and the tempo is fast. In its origin there weren't lyrics.

Ragtime was a modification of the march made popular by John Philip Sousa, with additional polyrhythms typical of African music. The ragtime composer Scott Joplin became famous through the publication in 1899 of the Maple Leaf Rag and a string of ragtime hits that followed. For at least 12 years after its publication, the Maple Leaf Rag heavily influenced subsequent ragtime composers with its melody lines, harmonic progressions or metric patterns.

Ragtime fell out of favor as jazz claimed the public's imagination after 1917, but there have been numerous revivals since. First, in the early 1940s many jazz bands began to include ragtime in their repertoire and put out ragtime recordings on 78 rpm records. A more significant revival occurred in the 1950s as a wider variety of ragtime styles of the past were made available on records, and new rags were composed, published, and recorded.

Main Street - Life's a Happy Song


The Suntones - Danny Boy

Ringmasters - Java Jive

Barbershop Quartet

   Barbershop vocal harmony is a style of a cappella close harmony, or unaccompanied vocal music, characterized by consonant four-part chords for every melody note in a predominantly homophonic texture. Each of the four parts has its own role: generally, the lead sings the melody, the tenor harmonizes above the melody, the bass sings the lowest harmonizing notes, and the baritone completes the chord, usually below the lead. The melody is not usually sung by the tenor or baritone, except for an infrequent note or two to avoid awkward voice leading, in tags or codas, or when some appropriate embellishment can be created. We don't know when it was created but at the end of the 19th Century was popular. Its peak of popularity will be in the 30's. 


   Barbershop music is generally performed by either a barbershop quartet, a group of four singers with one on each vocal part, or a barbershop chorus, which closely resembles a choir with the notable exception of the genre of music.  Some bands in this style are: The Suntones, the Ringmasters or Main Street 


Gospel music is a genre of jazz music. The creation, performance, significance, and even the definition of gospel music varies according to culture and social context. Gospel music is composed and performed for many purposes, including aesthetic pleasure, religious or ceremonial purposes, and as an entertainment product for the marketplace. Gospel music usually has dominant vocals (often with strong use of harmony) with Christian lyrics. 

Hymns and sacred songs were often repeated in a call and response fashion. Most of the churches relied on hand clapping and foot stomping as rhythmic accompaniment. Most of the singing was done a cappella. The first published use of the term "gospel song" probably appeared in 1874. The advent of radio in the 1920s greatly increased the audience for gospel music. Following World War II, gospel music moved into major auditoriums, and gospel music concerts became quite elaborate.

Instruments can be used in this style, to complement lyrics and voices: piano, organ, drum set... Any instrument is welcome to play along. Mahalia Jackson, or the Golden Gate Quartet were artists in this style.

Bishop David E. Ellis - Stand by me


Joshua fit the battle of Jericoh - Mahalia Jackson

Joyful joyful - London Community Gospel Choir

Amazing Grace - Soweto Gospel Choir

New Orleans Style (Dixie)

Dixieland, sometimes referred to as New Orleans style is a style of jazz based on the music that developed in New Orleans at the start of the 20th century.

One of the first uses of the term "Dixieland" with reference to music was in the name of the Original Dixieland Jass Band (which shortly thereafter changed the spelling of its name to "Original Dixieland Jazz Band"). Their 1917 recordings fostered popular awareness of this new style of music.


At that time, there was no issue of subgenres of jazz, so "Dixieland" referred to the band and not the music. The essential elements that were accepted as within the style were the traditional front lines consisting of trumpets, trombones, and clarinets, and ensemble improvisation over a 2-beat rhythm.

Usually, Dixie music plays a well-known melody, at a middle tempo, but at the end, musicians play it faster. Jerry Roll Morton was an artist of this style.


Swing music, or simply swing, is a form of popular music developed in the United States that dominated in the 1930s and 1940s. The name swing came from the 'swing feel' where the emphasis is on the off–beat or weaker pulse in the music. Swing bands usually featured soloists who would improvise on the melody over the arrangement. The danceable swing style of big bands and bandleaders such as Benny Goodman was the dominant form of American popular music from 1935 to 1946, a period known as the swing era. The verb "to swing" is also used as a term of praise for playing that has a strong groove or drive. Notable musicians of the swing era include Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Benny Goodman and Glenn Miller.


Swing has roots in the 1920s as larger dance music ensembles began using new styles of written arrangements incorporating rhythmic innovations pioneered by Louis Armstrong. A typical song played in swing style would feature a strong, anchoring rhythm section in support of more loosely tied wind and brass. The most common style consisted of theme choruses and choruses with improvised solos within the framework of his bandmates playing support. Swing music began to decline in popularity during World War II. Swing influenced the later styles of traditional pop music.


The dance style attached to swing music is called Lindy hop.

Anchor 4


It was originated in the Afro-American communities of the Deep South of America. Its roots are deep in the American culture. It started during the 19th Century as spiritual, work songs field hollers, shouts, and chants.


They sang through rhymed narrative ballads. It was developed during the 1930's. Blues always uses the same chord progression. Blues has its own scale, known as "Blue scale", and It's very common the use of the "Blue note": that's a note bent from minor to major.


Normally, lyrics are sad and depressed. That's why they called blues. It was the first jazz style to use the electric guitar. Instruments they usually used in blues style were: Piano,  Drum set, Double bass, and Electric guitar.


There are two concepts used in the blues style: Groove and Riff. Groove: it's a rhythmical pattern, formed by very repetitive shuffles. Riff: It's a progression of grooves.

Some blues artist were: B.B. King, Bessie Smith, Hollin' Wolf, Muddy Waters or John Lee Hooker

                                                                                                                                                                                            Muddy Waters - Hoochie Coochie Man


Dust my broom - Elmore James                                                          It hurts me too - Elmore James                                   The thrill is gone - B.B.King  

Rolling Stone - Muddy Waters                                                             St.Louis Blues - Bessie Smith                                      Strange Fruit - Billie Holiday                                 


Jazz performers shifted music from danceable music to more formal music. The new style had some of the most successful performers in jazz's history, like Charlie Parker (saxophone), Bud Powell (Piano), Thelonious Monk (Piano), Dizzy Gillespie (Trumpet) and Max Roach (Drum set).


Bebop was considered more like an art form, taking apart from dance music. The style didn't look for commercial success, like the swing style. Normally, bebop used very fast tempos. One of the most important instruments was the drum set, using an explosive style. Other instruments in this style were the piano, the trumpet or the saxophone. The rhythm was highly syncopated and with a great complexity.


Bebop music used more complex chords, and a more sophisticated improvisation: Better musicians, better performance. They used the traditional scales, with some added notes, normally chromatic notes. It is called the "blue scale". This style only used a few instruments, especially piano, saxophone, trumpet and drum set. It was very common the jazz trio in this style.

 Thelonious Monk - Round about midnight



Charlie Parker, Jr.


He was born in 1920, and died in 1955.

He was an american saxophonist anc composer, also known as "Yardbird" or "bird".

He used his nickname in a lot of compositions.

He was a highly influential jazz soloist and a leading figure in the development of bebop.

He introduced revolutionary harmonic ideas.

He was able to change the sound of the instrument, from sweet to somber.

He was a great virtuoso performer, and even played other genres like classical music.

He was an icon for the hipster culture and the beat generation, because he was an uncompromising artist and intelectual, and not an entertainer.


He used to recycle his own music, using the same melodies or harmonic progression in several musical pieces.

He used a long and complex melodic line and a minimum of repetition.

With the figure of Parker, the modern jazz was born.


Some works:

Charlie Parker - Ornithology

Charlie Parker - Yardbird suite

Charlie Parker - Now's the time

Charlie Parker & Coleman Hawkins - Improvisation

Cool Jazz 

    After the nervous energy and tension of bebop, musicians tried to do a calmer and smoother music, called "Cool Jazz". This style used favored long, linear melodic lines. It was born in New York City during the 1950's. It was a mixture of the white jazz musician' style and the black bebop style. This style was born because a black musician, Miles Davis, created a nonet ensemble to perform a smoother music. The album was called "Birth of the Cool".


    Some musicians in this style were: Chet Baker, Dave Brubeck, Bill Evans, Gil Evans, Stan Getz and the Modern Jazz Quartet.


   They tried to avoid aggressive tempos and harmonic abstraction of bebop. 

As a reflection of the elegance of classical music, they used the piano as the main instrument. Normally, cool jazz used a few instruments. The style became strongly identified with the West Coast, but also it had a great success in Europe. One of the most important artists was Lennie Tristano, who set the theorical underpinning of the cool jazz.

  Modern Jazz Quartet - Lonely Woman                            Modern Jazz Quartet - Fugue in Am (Bach)                          Chet Baker - Bye bye blackbird

Billie Holiday & Lester Young - All of me                         Billie Holiday & Lester Young - Without your love

Miles Davis

He was born in 1926 and died in 1991.

He was an American jazz musician, trumpeter, bandleader and composer.

He is considered one of the most influential musicians of the 20th century.

He took part on the developement of the new jazz styles, including Bebop, Cool, hard jazz and fusion.

He was introduced into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2006.

His major success were two albums:

Birth of the Cool (1949) 

Kind of Blue (1959), with Bill Evans on piano

Autumn leaves

"So what" from Kind of Blue

Will O' the wisp from Sketches of Spain

Bill Evans

Make someone happy

Stella by starlight 

He was born in 1929, and died in 1980.

He was an American jazz pianist and composer.

Evans' style is characterized by:

Impressionist harmony.

Inventive interpretation.

Use of block chords.

Melodic lines over independent rhythm.

He was born in New Jersey, and studied classical piano.

During the 50's, he studied in New York and joined Miles Davis' band.

He was part of 'Kind of Blue' album.

In 1959, he founded a jazz trio with LaFaro and Motian.

In 1963, he recorded "Conversations with myself".

He used the overdubbing technique.

After this, he enjoyed a great success in jazz music.

During his last years, he suffered personal loss and struggled with drug abuse.



My foolish heart


Waltz for Debbie


Free Jazz 

It's also called avant-garde jazz. It was developed during the 60's. This style used free tonality, and free use of meter, beat and formal symmetry. It also used world music, especially for India and Africa.

It pretended to transform jazz music into a lively way of life.

It's the jazz style with more improvisation.

Some artist in this style were Charles Mingus, Ornette Coleman, Cecil Taylor, Archie Shepp or John Coltrane.

It was a success in Europe.

This style didn't use too many instruments: three or four.

Piano, drum set, and double bass are the most common instruments


Bobby McFerry & Chick Corea - Blues Connotation

Charles Mingus - Reincarnation of the blackbird

John Coltrane

He was also known as "Trane", and he was born in 1926, and died in 1967.

He was an american jazz saxophonist and composer.

At the beginning of his career, he worked on the bebop style.

He was one of the first jazz musicians to use modes on jazz music.

He worked in his youth with Miles Davis and Thelonious Monk.

His music took an spiritual dimension.

He is considered one of the best saxophonist in jazz history.

The performance of Coltrane became abstract during the 60's, with the use of devices like multiphonics and overtones.

He always looked for a complete freedom in his performance.

Some Coltrane's work:

Living Space 

New thing at Newport 


Stellar Regions


First meditations

Latin Jazz

Basically, it's jazz with afro-latin rhythms.

It wasn't jazz music made in Latin-America, but adding the latin rhythm to other jazz styles, specially bebop and cool jazz.

They employed tempos and rhythmical patterns from Latin America and even Africa.

It was a commercial develop of the free jazz.

It became main stream during the 70's

There's two main categories during the 70's: Afro-Cuban jazz and Brazilian jazz. At the end of the 80's it will appear the flamenco jazz.

From Cuba, musicians took the taste for the melody and the rhythm of the "son cubano".

From Brazil, they took the samba's and bossa nova's rhythm.

From Spain, they took the way of singing (flamenco).


They used every kind of instrument, specially latin percussion instruments like maracas, timpani, bongos... They also used piano, saxophone, and even acoustic guitar.

Sometimes latin jazz used large ensembles like swing music, and sometimes smaller ensembles, like bebop or cool jazz.


Tito Puente and El Canario - Oye como va


Joao Gilberto - Samba da miña terra

Sergio Mendes and Brazil 66 - Mas que nada


Ibrahim Ferrer & Omara Portuondo - Quizas

Bebo Valdes & El Cigala - Lagrimas negras


Antonio Carlos Jobim

He was born in 1927, and died in 1994.

He was a brazilian songwriter, composer, arranger, singer, pianist and guitarist.

It is supposed he invented the modern bossa nova.

His major hit was "garota of Ipanema"

latin jazz

Jazz Fusion

In the late 60's and 70's, jazz and rock were mixed up into a new genre: Jazz Rock.

This style had the jazz improvisation and rock rhythm.

Normally, this new style used instruments from popular music, like keyboards, electric guitars and synthesizers, along with traditional jazz instruments like piano, sax or drum set.

With a more wide absortion of different styles, jazz rock became jazz Fusion in the 80's.

Jazz fusion used mixed meters, odd time signatures, syncopation, complex chords and harmonies.

It took a great influence from soul and R'nB styles.

Some artist of jazz fusion were: Kenny G, Grover Washington, Jr., Al Jarreau, Anita Baker.

They used to play live concerts.


Grover Washington Jr. - Just the two of us

Al Jarreau -  We're in this love together

Kenny G - The Moment

Luther Vandross & Mariah Carey - Endless love


Spyro Gyra

It is an american jazz fusion band, formed in the mid 70's in New York.

They have over 30 albums released, and they are one of the most best-sellers jazz bands.

They became popular with two hits from the late 70's:  "Shaker Song" & "Morning Dance".

They took influence from funk rhythms and pop melodies.

Smooth Jazz

With the develope of the jazz fusion, in the 90's appeared a new concept of jazz, close to the new electronic rhythms, and a new aesthetic.

It's also called straigh-ahead jazz.

Frequently, this style is confused with popular music.

Most artist from jazz fusion continued their career in the smooth jazz.

Some new artists were: Alicia Keys, Diana Krall or Amy Winehouse.

It was a jazz style very popular during the late 90's, because of the music industry's crisis.

Smooth jazz is usually downtempo, and it's able to use any kind of instrument.

It uses to be a vocal music.

Improvisation is not so important.

There's a great variety of genre inside smooth jazz.

It's common in smooth jazz style to use characteristics from other jazz styles, specially gospel choir.


Amy Winehouse

Diana Krall - Walk on by

Hiromi the Trio Project - Alive

Back to Black

She was born in England in 1983.

She was an English singer-songwriter known for her deep contralto vocals.

Her eclectic mix of musical genres includes soul, rhythm and blues, jazz and reggae. 

Her first album, Frank, was published in 2003.

"Back to black" was her second album, from 2006, and it won five grammy Awards. 

After years of abusing drugs, then alcohol, Winehouse died of alcohol poisoning on 23 July 2011.

Alicia Keys

She was born in 1981.

She is an American R&B singer-songwriter, pianist, musician, record producer, and actress. 

Her album debut was "Songs in A minor", released in 2001. 

The album earned Keys five Grammy Awards in 2002.

Her second studio album, "The Diary of Alicia Keys", was released in 2003 and was also another success worldwide. 

Keys has made guest appearances on several television series, like "Charmed".



Nu Jazz

Nu jazz, also known as jazztronica, is a style of jazz and electronic music. The term was coined in the late 1990s to refer to music that blends jazz elements with other musical styles, such as funk, soul, electronic music, and free improvisation.

Nu jazz ranges from combining live instrumentation with beats of house, exemplified by St Germain, Jazzanova and Fila Brazillia, to more band-based improvised jazz with electronic elements, such as that of The Cinematic Orchestra or Kobol.

Nu jazz typically ventures farther into the electronic territory than does its close cousin, acid jazz, which is generally closer to earthier funk, soul, and rhythm and blues, although releases from noted groove & smooth jazz artists such as the Groove Collective and Pamela Williams blur the distinction between the styles. Nu jazz can be very experimental in nature and can vary widely in sound and concept. The sound, unlike acid jazz, departs from its blues roots and instead explores electronic sounds and ethereal jazz sensualities. Nu jazz “is the music itself and not the individual dexterity of the musicians.”


Jazzanova - Let it go

St Germain - So flute

Electro Swing

Electro swing is a music genre that combines the influence of vintage or modern swing and jazz mixed with house, hip hop, and EDM.


Successful examples of the genre create a modern and dance-floor focused sound that is more readily accessible to the modern ear, but that also retains the energetic excitement of live brass and early swing recordings. Electro swing groups typically include singers, musicians playing traditional jazz instruments (e.g. trumpet, trombone, clarinet, saxophone) and at least one DJ.


Wolfgang Lohr - Electro Swing Loop

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