Jazz is a powerful musical style that is originally linked to African Americans and their culture. Many people from Africa came to the US as slaves, and they brought their own musical traditions with them. In the middle of the nineteenth century, there were large numbers of African Americans working in the country, and they started to gather to celebrate their culture. They would organize some events where they would be dancing and playing music. They also mixed many of the sounds with the music they heard in the United States. They also were strongly influenced by the church music which had specific rhythm and sounding. This way, with the combination of different musical styles, the African American slaves of that time created new musical genres (“Jazz Origins”). They formed blues and ragtime, and their experiments led to another musical style which later became known as jazz.

Black musicians started to perform at the various events involving marching bands. There, the musicians would end their own unique sounding. They would play differently than traditional musicians because their performance would include a lot of improvisations and original melodies. They would also bend the notes and use “syncopated rhythms” (“Jazz Origins”). Throughout the end of the nineteenth century and the early twentieth century, the new and original music style became popular and widely spread among the many musicians. It became the most popular in New Orleans, or, if to be more specific, it its district called Storyville. Jazz musicians had the biggest freedom there since they were invited to perform in various places and where quite popular with the audience. After some time, the name of the musical style got nationwide attention and became a widespread genre that was popular in various parts of the country. 

Modern Jazz Begins

Jazz as an independent musical genre became popular in the beginning of the twentieth century, getting much of its musicians and followers in twenties. Then, it became extremely popular to play jazz in speakeasies where the visitors could listen to the new style and drink some alcohol which was illegal at that time. The originality of the sound and its uniqueness made it something older generations did not like, and jazz had a feel of freedom and independence. Kid Ory’s Original Creole was the first black jazz band that made its own records and was selling jazz music; this band originated from New Orleans. “Hot Jazz” as another unique approach to jazz began evolving in Chicago at the same time. 

The twenties were a start for Louis Armstrong. This man is widely recognized and famous for his contribution to jazz music. His jazz life began after joining the band called Fletcher Henderson. It was a band he joined in 1924. There, he was the lead singer who impacted the music the other musicians performed and composed. He also focused on the originality of the sound, making it very unique which strengthened the development and popularization of jazz style. Later, he formed Hot Five and kept on experimenting and evolving the musical style there. For example, he worked in scat singing direction. Meanwhile, jazz musicians in New Orleans became more popular outside the city, and the musical style started gaining acclaim in other cities where the jazz bands would be invited, and the musical style became well known and popular with the entire nation. It even entered Europe where it was transformed and received its own original sound. By forties, jazz has established itself as one of the most popular and loved musical style for many Americans with various influences and changes transforming it on its way.


Cool Jazz and Hard Bop

Cool Jazz launched its successful start in the end of forties. It was liked by the audience because it sounded softly and was different from the previous subgenres. The musical style developed in New York. It quickly became famous enough to be played and experimented with in various cities throughout the country and gained popularity this way. For more than ten years, it was one of the most loved styles and directions. Miles Davis, who was a talented jazzman, contributed to its development. He presented his the Birth of the Cool in the end of forties. The records pushed cool jazz’s development further. Other famous musicians played cool jazz; the list includes Gil Evans ad Modern Jazz Quartet. Their music was gentle and soft which was very different from bebop and represented the transformation within society that was finally overcoming the effects of war. Later on, this musical direction influences the creation of West Coast jazz and also impacted many musicians in Europe as well as led to formation of new subgenres inside jazz.

Hard bop developed a little bit later. It combined some of the melodies from the music that was sang in churches and was popular with African American community. It also borrowed some ideas from blues. Piano was the most popular instrument with the musicians of this style. However, they also used traditional sax. Hard bop became well known in the middle of the fifties and was a logical response to previous popular genres.  Davis, who was mentioned early, played and developed this style. For example, he performed “Walkin” in 1954. This performance made the listeners separate the styles from other directions. Other bands started to play this musical style. It was known for its “funky” sounding. The sixties provided this music with the most of its followers due to its dancing beats and soft and smoothing sounds. However, it was not as famous in later years. 

Miles Davis and John Coltrane

These two musicians were one of the most famous performers and composers in jazz music who developed some its early subgenres and established themselves as famous musicians in forties and fifties. Miles Davis was trumpeter who formed various bands and composed jazz music. He is regarded as “one of the most influential musicians of the 20th century”. Throughout his career, he contributed to the formation and development of such musical genres as cool jazz, modal jazz, bebop, hard bop, and jazz fusion. For example, he recorded Birth of the Cool in 1948-1949 which enabled the creation of Cool Jazz. Davis was also known for cooperating and playing alongside white musicians. Although this action was often criticized by his fellow black colleagues and did not receive much support from his audience, he continued playing with white performers. 

John Coltrane was another jazz musician who played saxophone and composed music. He is well known for his work in hard bop and bebop subgenres and also popularized the modes being used in jazz. He was involved in various recordings and also worked with Miles Davis. This composer had a very short career since he died when he was only forty years old. 

Coltrane lived a relatively short life, but left a tremendous legacy after himself. Many musicians look up to his musical style and value highly his performances. 

As it was mentioned earlier, Miles and Coltrane worked together, and the result was the live album with a name Miles & Coltrane. It included music that had been recorded for three years between 1955 and 1958 and was released to the public in 1958. It features seven tracks both artists recorded together and received very positive reviews from the critics. 

Modern Jazz: The Early 1960s to Present

Jazz became much more open toward experiments after sixties. For example, it combined with a very original and different genre of Latin music. Thanks to this mix, jazz started evolving under the influence of Latin sounds. It was in sixties when Latin jazz was formed. At first, it was Afro-Cuban jazz that was the most popular with the listeners, and later in the decade, Brazilian jazz became more popular. 

Then, bossa nova was developed. This musical style is linked to Brazilian jazz because it is a mix of jazz and samba. Bossa nova was very popular with experimenting musicians because it enabled them to play with traditional sounds and combine different melodies. Post-bop, soul jazz, and African motives also became popular in between sixties and seventies. 

In seventies, Latin music continued having a big influence on jazz. It was also then when jazz fusion became very popular, and when jazz musicians started experimenting with rock. Carlos Santana became famous at that time; he blended Latin influence with jazz and rock. 

In 1980s, many jazz musicians returned to the classical ways and started playing the music that was the closest to its origins eliminating other influences and mixes. Also, smooth jazz formed during that period. It was influenced by the pop music and received its name due to its smooth, pleasant and peaceful sound with some modern additions like electro guitars. Other musical genres like rap and punk started mixing with jazz forming new and very original subgenres like punk jazz or jazz core. At the present moment, there are many different directions in jazz music, and musicians are open to experiment and try new approaches. Jazz performers vary because some tend to sound more classical while others mix different musical genres and create something very new and unexpected.


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