Jazz In America Essay

1305 words - 5 pages

To African Americans in the late nineteenth century, one literal sound of freedom was that of the military marching bands of the American Civil War. This music, combined with the Ragtime and blues styles that developed some time later, evolved to form one of the truly indigenous art forms of the United States. The "jas," or the Creole brothel, is thought to have been the birthplace as well as the namesake of the new sound of Jazz. Early traditional Jazz combined the complexity of Ragtime, the tight arrangement of marching band music, and the inventive, free spirit of the blues. It incorporated structured improvisations at its center while the band maintained a swing. The sound evolved dramatically throughout the twentieth century in various forms: from the New York City Bebop of Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker to the Free Jazz of the Art Ensemble of Chicago; from the Fusion of Miles Davis and Herbie Hancock to the Hard Bop of Art Blakey. But throughout Jazz's great explorations, it has kept improvisation at its center, and as such it has always remained a music of freedom.
This genre was born sometime around 1895 in New Orleans. It combined elements of Ragtime, marching band music and Blues. What made Jazz such a different perspective of traditional music was its act of improvising. There was a widespread use of improvisation often by more than one player at a time. Songwriters would write the music down on a piece of paper, and then the Jazz musicians would try their best to play the music. Usually in a Jazz piece, musicians would use the song as a starting point to improvise around. Jazz musicians would play a familiar song to the audience, and by the time they were done with the piece they would stir up a totally different feeling away from the original song.
It was born out of a mix of African and European music traditions. Its African pedigree is evident in its use of blue notes, improvisation, polyrhythms, syncopation, and the swung note. From its early development until the present day, jazz has also incorporated elements from American popular music.
Jazz in itself contains many different genres. Swing developed in the early 1930s and became a distinctive style by 1940. Swing uses a strong rhythm section of double bass and drums as the anchor for a lead section of brass instruments such as trumpets and trombones, woodwinds including saxophones and clarinets, and sometimes stringed instruments such as violin and guitar, medium to fast tempos, and a "lilting" swing time rhythm. The name swing came from the phrase 'swing feel' where the emphasis is on the off-beat or weaker pulse in the music (unlike classical 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.

Blues is the name given to the music genre that...

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