The Age of Jazz
In the early decades of the 20th century jazz was the name that was given to music played by African Americans. It was a kind of folk music that black people played for entertainment. Today jazz is performed all over the world and it has also influenced other kinds of music.
The features of jazz are its sound and rhythms. Jazz is improvised music that shows strong emotions and feelings. Typical jazz instruments are the trumpet, trombone , saxophone and clarinet.
Beginnings of Jazz
The first jazz was played in the early 20th century. Jazz musicians were inspired by ragtime and blues which also evolved at the beginning of the century.
Ragtime was a musical style that came from St.Louis. It was played mostly on the piano and quickly became popular with orchestras. A blues was originally a sad song, a ballad that was sung slowly and accompanied by a piano or guitar. Some people say that blues were songs that the slaves sung.
New Orleans Jazz
The birthplace of jazz is New Orleans. In the early 1900s people of many cultures lived in the city: French, Spanish and African Americans. The music was a mixture of blues, black spirituals and rhythms from the Caribbean .
The typical jazz band was made up of one or two cornet players, a clarinet and a trombone player. Sometimes there were pianos, banjos, tubas and drums to accompany the horns.
New Orleans jazz became later known as Dixieland. As time went on jazz travelled up the Mississippi to Chicago and then to New York City.
Big band jazz emerged as the bands became larger and had more instruments. There were three parts of a big band: brass instruments with trumpets and trombones, reeds with saxophones and clarinets and rhythm instruments (piano, guitar, double bass and drums)
Famous bandleaders were Fletcher Henderson and Benny Goodman. Big band jazz was smoother with lighter rhythms. Most of the bands had famous soloists like Louis Armstrong, the most famous musician of that time.
The 1930s and the 1940s were called the swing era. Music was free and relaxed during this period. The start of radio made jazz well-known all over America. Some of the most popular bands of the country were led by Benny Goodman, Tommy Dorsey and Glenn Miller , who was probably the most successful of all.
Maybe the greatest big band of all times was led by pianist and composer Duke Ellington. He wrote over 1000 works. His best known songs are “Sophisticated Lady” and Mood Indigo”.