Jazz music faces a big problem in the United States and that is a, dare we say it, closed mindedness on the part of many music lovers. The orchestral musicians and lovers don’t like it because it’s not as structured as their style of music and those who like pop music don’t like it because it’s just a bit too academic.
Jazz has the unfortunate problem of being stuck in between the two musical extremes which is why today it has more of a cult following than a mainstream appeal. This is truly a shame because jazz is far more than what we think.
Jazz is what really put American music on the map. In the early part of the 20th Century in a town called New Orleans, Jazz music was accidentally invented by the African American population. With an emphasis on syncopation, improvisation, and complex rhythmic patterns, the African heritage of the music is easy to hear but those musicians weren’t out to invent anything new. The “jam session” was where the music was born and as time went on, American musicians began molding the style in to what we call Jazz.
You already know the first real jazz style. Dixieland jazz produced such songs as “When the Saints Go Marching In”. This was seen between 1918 and 1928 and incorporated rhythm instruments like banjos, drums, and guitars. At the same time, there was a northern style emerging in Chicago which was very similar but faster in style.
What many people don’t understand is that Jazz spent many decades as the popular music of its day. What Madonna, Katy Perry, or Aerosmith were in their day, jazz greats like Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie were to theirs.
In the 1930s through World War II, another type of Jazz called swing music was the popular music of its day. Songs like “Swing, Swing, Swing” or “Take the A Train” were popular in that era as well as many others. The swing era also was the start of what we call the big band. Today’s version of the big band may be Harry Connick Jr. or Michael Buble but in those days people like Benny Goodman, Glen Miller, and Duke Ellington were the Buble’s.
In the 1940s through the 1960s Bop was the jazz style of choice. People like Thelonious Monk, and Dizzy Gillespie were from this era that later gave way to cool jazz in the 50s and 60s. People like Miles Davis gave us cool jazz along with soulful and Latin jazz with many of this era’s standards still well known today.
Jazz Fusion came about in the 70s with what we now know as rock mixing with jazz at its peak. Well known artists like Frank Zappa gave us this fusion or mixed sound and as the 20th century went on through the 80s and 90s we would see the modern jazz sound develop. Some people consider modern jazz as something you would hear during a romantic night out but punk jazz, jazzcore, and M-base jazz developed all over the world.
All popular music we know today got its start hundreds of years ago through classical music but the idea of hearing music played by bands instead of orchestras came from jazz music. It’s not stuck in the middle of two styles as many listeners believe. It is, in fact, what we listen to everyday just in a slightly different form.