Notes: Jazz; America's Music
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Jazz: America’s Music


Jazz was created predominantly by African-American musicians and is considered Americas music

Beginning in New Orleans, jazz was played in the streets, bars, clubs, and dance halls.

Later the geographical center moved to Chicago, then Kansas City then to New York

Jazz was the first to blend European and African American culture

Jazz is primarily based on improvisation and syncopation, which is accenting usually weak beats

Jazz improvisation is basically a “theme and variations” technique

Another common practice was “call and response”

Jazz groups started out using many instruments from the marching band, but soon evolved into using saxophones, trombones, trumpets, and a rhythm section consisting of drums, bass, piano and sometimes guitar

The first jazz recording was done in 1917 by the Original Dixieland Jazz Band

Scott Joplin was known as the “King of Ragtime”; ragtime was piano music played in saloons and dance halls

W.C. Handy was known as the “Father of the Blues”; he was the first to write down and categorized what was known as “12 Bar Blues

Blues was based on what was the called the blues scale, basically a major scale with selected notes lowered.  These lowered notes were called ‘blue’ notes.

Many vocalists were known for scat singing – nonsense syllables sung like an instrumental improv solo

Helping to cross racial barriers, Glenn Miller formed the first inter-racial trio in 1936

Jazz, much like classical music, evolved from dancing music into music that was meant to be listened to


Types of Jazz:



Began in New Orleans

Usually a small ensemble

Usually based on a march or church hymn

Popular artists include Jelly Roll Morton and Louis Armstrong

“Oh When the Saints go Marching In”



Developed in the 1920s, became popular in the 30s and 40s

Usually for dancing

4 sections – saxes, trombones, trumpets, rhythm

Began to see vocalists in front of bands

Popular band leaders – Count Basie, Benny Goodman, Duke Ellington



Usually for one or two horns and rhythm section

Tunes are complex and fast

Songs are usually shorter

Most songs start and end with main theme, various solos in the middle

Popular Bebop artists – Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker


Cool School

Became popular in the late 40s and 50s

Songs were calm, smooth, and laid back

Usually longer than bebop songs

Relied more on “arrangements”

Popular artists – Lester Young, Miles Davis



Combination of Jazz and Rock

Combined traditional rock rhythms with jazz instrumentation

Became popular in late 60s and early 70s

Popular artists – Miles Davis and Buddy Rich




"Afro-Cuban jazz through its percussive beat, it unites ragtime, blues, swing, and the various grooves of Cuban music. It proclaims our shared musical heritage."

—Wynton Marsalis


The combination of African, Spanish, and native cultures in Latin America created a unique body of music and dance. Jazz musicians from Jelly Roll Morton to Duke Ellington to Dizzy Gillespie combined their music with this Latin sound to create a powerful blend.

In the 1940s and 50s, when musicians from Cuba began to play with jazz musicians in New York, the circle was complete. By combining the musical traditions of North, South, and Central America.