Jazz is a kind of music, and also a way of playing music. The first jazz music came from the United States, and was created by blacks who lived in the southern states. Throughout the world, jazz is known as American music. Jazz is seldom considered “serious” music, though some fine composers have used features of jazz in their compositions. For more information, visit http://www.scaruffi.com/history/jazz8.html.
There are different kinds of music called jazz, but all are alike in one way. Jazz music is different in rhythm and “beat” from other music. Rhythm is a pattern that sounds make when they are loud and soft or long and short, at the same times over and over again. The beat is the time when the loud or long sound comes so regularly that the listener soon learns to expect it and wait for it. Jazz uses syncopation, which means making a loud sound even longer than it is supposed to be so that the beat will be felt more strongly.
The first jazz was called ragtime. When a shoeshine boy in the South polishes your shoes with a rag, he snaps the rag in a rhythm like the beating of a drum. Syncopated music played in New Orleans and Memphis, more than fifty years ago, was called ragtime because it had the strong rhythm of the shoeshine boy’s rag.
Then it was noticed that this kind of music makes people shake or move their bodies, to the rhythm of the music. In the private language spoken by the Negroes of New Orleans and some other southern cities, a language called jive; this moving of the body would be described by the word jazz, so the music came to be called jazz music.
In the 1890’s, there were ragtime bands. These were small groups of the kind that later came to be called jazz bands or dance bands. In the early 1900s, their music came to be called jazz and a pioneer of the times, W. C. Handy, added another kind of music, called the blues. People who had been waltzing to the music of small orchestras in which the melody was played by violins soon found greater pleasure in dancing new steps—the one-step, the foxtrot—to music in which a saxophone or trumpet or clarinet played the melody, imitating wailing sounds or cries of joy that the human voice makes.
The capital city of jazz music moved from New Orleans, where it began , to Memphis, where W. C. Handy introduced the blues, to Chicago, where some of the all-time greats of jazz music played during and after the Word War I period (1915 to 1925). Among these great jazz musicians were King Oliver, Bix Beiderbecke, Sidney Bechet, Louis Armstrong, and Jack Teagarden, but there were many others.
During the 1920s, jazz began to be noticed by audiences who liked serious music. Paul Whiteman built the small dance band into a large orchestra that could play in New York City’s Carnegie Hall, where only symphony orchestras and classical musicians had played before. Duke Ellington made the small all-virtuoso band (in which every musician is good enough to give a solo performance) popular with large audiences.
In the 1930s, swing music was most popular. This manner of playing jazz music permitted any member of the band to break into a solo performance in which he might improvise (play whatever notes he wished, departing if he pleased from the written music). Benny Goodman, the best jazz clarinet player of his time, was the most popular swing musician. Woody Herman was another. During the same period, certain bands preferred to play “sweet” music, in which everyone played so as to emphasize the melody. Among the bands that played sweet music, Guy Lombardo’s was the most famous. The 1940s brought the widespread popularity of swing music to an end, but there was a short period in which bop (or bebop) was popular. This was an even more extreme manner of playing swing music, and a bandleader named Dizzy Gillespie was the outstanding leader.
There are many thousands who collect phonograph records of the best performances of great jazz bands of the past and present times. Artie Shaw, Bob Crosby, Raymond Scott, Stan Kenton, Tommy Dorsey and many others have led bands that made records of value to collectors. Glenn Miller led one of the most successful dance bands of all time. Ray Anthony, Harry James, Ralph Flanagan and others have assembled bands that are much admired.