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    Jazz Music Essay Thesis (597 words)

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    What is Jazz? According to the dictionary, jazz is defined as, “A kind ofsyncopated, highly rhythmic music originated by Southern blacks in the late 19thcentury” (“Jazz” 232).

    But, everyone should at least agree that jazz isthe mother of all music, and is referred to as the only art form originating inthe United States (“History 101” 2). America was home to immigrants from allover Europe and beyond who wished to build a new life, or just needed to escapefrom the old. These people, often thought of as second-class, brought theirculture with them to America, expressed it musically, and changed the musicworld as we know it today. Most early jazz was played in small marching bands orby solo pianists. Besides ragtime and marches, the repertoire included hymns,spirituals, and blues. The bands played this music at picnics, weddings,parades, and funerals.

    Characteristically, the bands played hymns on the way tofunerals and lively marches on the way back. Although blues and ragtime hadarisen independently of jazz, and continued to exist alongside it, these genresinfluenced the style and forms of jazz and provided important vehicles for jazzimprovisation. Around the turn of the 20th century, the earliest fullydocumented jazz style emerged, centered in New Orleans, Louisiana. This city isoften called the “cradle of jazz” (“History 101” 3). In this style, thetrumpet carried the melody, the clarinet played showy countermelodies, and thetrombone played rhythmic slides and sounded the root notes of chords or simpleharmony. Below this basic trio, the tuba or string bass provided a bass line anddrums the rhythmic accompaniment.

    New Orleans jazz was just the beginning of anentire sweep across the county. The first true virtuoso soloist of jazz wasLouis Armstrong. He was a dazzling improviser, technically, emotionally, andintellectually. He changed the format of jazz by bringing the soloist to theforefront, and in his recording groups, the “Hot Five” and the “HotSeven” (Porter 2), demonstrated that jazz improvisation could go far beyondsimply ornamenting the melody. He became the first well known male jazz singer,and also set standards for all later jazz singers, by creating scat singing:singing meaningless syllables instead of words, not unlike instrumentalimprovisation. During the 1920s, large groups of jazz musicians began to playtogether, forming the big bands that became so popular in the 1930s and early1940s, (the swing era).

    The development of the big band can be majorly creditedto the achievement of Duke Ellington and his revolutionary song, “It Don’tMean a Thing If It Ain’t Got That Swing” (“Jazz Music” 54). This soonbecame the new word for music played with a happy, relaxed beat. A new stylealso started in the early 1940’s when a group of musicians startedexperimenting with more complicated chord patterns and melodic ideas. This groupincluded trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie, alto saxophonist Charlie Parker, andpianists Thelonious Monk and Bud Powell.

    This new approach became known asbebop, or bop. Most bop musicians had exceptional techniques that enabled themto play long, dazzling phrases with many notes. In the 1940’s and 1950’s,jazz began to lose its reputation as a “lowdown” music, and gainedacceptance among intellectuals and college students. Jazz concerts becamepopular. Duke Ellington and other big band leaders gave many concerts, and agroup of improvising musicians made a series of nationwide tours called “Jazzat the Philharmonic” (“Jazz Music” 56). Jazz music was revolutionary andis still changing and improving, even today.

    The music world today would not bethe same without the influence of these amazing and breathtaking musicians. Bibliography”History 101. ” Jazz Central: The true home of jazz. Jul.

    1998. 1-4. “Jazz. ” Webster’s New World Dictionary. Cleveland, OH: Simon and Schuster,Inc. , 1989.

    232. “Jazz Music. ” The World Book Encyclopedia. 1974 ed. Porter,Lewis.

    “Jazz. ” The 1998 Microsoft Encarta Encyclopedia. Aug. 1997.


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