History >> US History 1900 to Present
What is jazz?
Jazz is an original style of American Music. It is a unique blend of many styles of music including gospel music, brass bands, African music, blues, and Spanish music. Jazz incorporates musical notes that are "bent" to create emotion in the music. Jazz bands can be unique in that they create rhythm from a wide variety of instruments. The rhythms can shift and change throughout the song.
One of the most unique aspects of jazz is improvisation. This is when the music is made up during the song. There is an overriding melody and structure to the song, but the musicians play it differently each time. Usually, each musician gets the opportunity to solo during the song. They improvise during their solo trying out new tricks and ideas to see what works.
Where did it first start?
Jazz was invented by African-American musicians in New Orleans, Louisiana in the late 1800s. The music became more popular in the 1900s and took the country by storm in the 1920s. In the 1920s, the center for jazz moved from New Orleans to Chicago and New York City.
The Jazz Age
Jazz was so popular in the 1920s that the time period is often called the "Jazz Age" by historians. This was also a time of prohibition when selling alcohol was illegal. During the Jazz Age, illegal clubs called "speakeasies" were opened all over the United States. These clubs featured jazz music, dancing, and sold alcohol.
The Jazz Age was a time when many jazz musicians and bands became famous. They included bands such as Kid Ory's Original Creole Jazz Band and the New Orleans Rhythm Kings as well as musicians such as Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington.
Jazz continued to change and evolve over time. Many new forms of music came from jazz. In the 1930s, swing music was popular. It was played by large big bands and people liked to dance to it. In the 1940s, a more complex instrumental based version of jazz called "bebop" developed. Later, jazz influenced new styles such as funk, rock and roll, and hip hop.
Jazz musicians have their own words they use to describe their music. Here are some of the terms they use. Many of these are common terms today, but were unique to jazz in the early years.
Axe - A term for a musical instrument.
Blow - The term for playing an instrument.
Bread - money.
Cat - A jazz musician.
Chops - A way to describe someone who can play an instrument well.
Crib - Where the musician lives or sleeps.
Dig - To know or understand something.
Finger Zinger - Someone who can play very fast.
Gig - A paying music job.
Hep - A term used to describe someone who is cool.
Hot plate - A really good recording of a song.
Jake - A term meaning "okay."
Lid - A hat.
Rusty gate - A jazz musician who isn't very good.
Scatting - Improvising words to a song that are nonsense syllables.
Sideman - A member of the band, but not the leader.
Skins player - The drummer.
Tag - The end part of a song.
Interesting Facts About Jazz
- Jazz bands often played on steamboats traveling on the Mississippi River to entertain travelers.
- Typical jazz instruments include drums, guitar, piano, saxophone, trumpet, clarinet, trombone, and the double bass.
- Jazz dances included the Charleston, Black Bottom, the Shimmy, and the Trot.
- The United Nations named April 30th as the official International Jazz Day.
- Famous jazz singers include Ella Fitzgerald, Lena Horne, Nat "King" Cole, Billie Holiday, and Louis Armstrong.
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