Jazz is a form of music, which evolved into existence from about 1895 – 1917 and has continued through modern times. Jazz has never been an easy term to define. Not only is it a type of music that encompasses many different styles, i.e. blues, swing, bebop, etc., but also for many a way of life. It does not seem fair to say that jazz is simply music. As seen in the Jazz Age, jazz was not only about the sounds, but also about the people. When the Jazz Age is mentioned, the “Roaring ’20s”, people do not only think of the music; some think of the flappers, some the speakeasies, and some women being allowed to vote. Shortly, The Jazz Age expressed the exuberant spirit of Paris and London in the 1920’s two cities finally released from the high tensions of World War I. Spurred on by America’s jazz craze and “anything new and modern” attitude, the age of rebellion and progress was born.
Mainly, it borrows from many genres of music including black folk music, Latin American music, and barrelhouse piano styles of Midwest, marches and hymns played by black brass bands during the late 19th century. Jazz is a blend of blues, ragtime, spirituals, and folklores. It originated in the early 1900’s in Mississippi. Jazz is best known to be originated by African-Americans. This form of “African-American music began in the time of slaves when there was fieldwork hollers known as call and response, singing in church and storytelling. All these activities lead to the music known as “Jazz.” Ragtime, blues, and folklore led to the development of the music we know as jazz today.
The musical and cultural revolution that brought about Jazz was a direct result of African-Americans pursuing careers in the arts following the United States civil war. As slaves African-Americans has learned few European cultural traditions. With increased freedom to pursue careers in the arts and bringing African artistic traditions to their work, African-Americans changed music and dance, not only in the U.S., but also all over the world. For after the war, African American dancers and musicians were able to create work that was not hidebound by hundreds of years of musical and dance traditions brought from the courts and peasant villages of Europe. The New Orleans bands of the late 19th century fromwhich Big Bands evolved were varied. Some were social bands that played popular songs and music for dancing; some played marches andrags for weekend picnics and parties. Others specialized in their own variations on work and blues songs.
Often called “the jazz age,” the 1920s saw the emergence of a distinct style of music, separate from its roots in ragtime and blues. In the hands of its major composer-performers, Louis Armstrong, Jelly Roll Morton, and Duke Ellington, jazz remained popular through the 1940s. The ’20s “roared” with popular song as well, and a number of composers produced small masterpieces within the limits of the 32-bar song form. Among the finest were Jerome Kern, Cole Porter, and Irving Berlin. George Gershwin’s style encompassed both popular and classical forms, in such works as the piano concerto Rhapsody in Blue (1924), the Concerto in F (1925), and the opera Porgy and Bess (1935).
What differentiated Jazz from other music styles was the widespread use of improvisation, often by more than one player at a time. Jazz represented a break from Western musical traditions, where the composer wrote a piece of music on paper and the musicians then tried their best to play exactly what was in the score. In a Jazz piece, the song is often just a starting point or frame of reference for the musicians to improvise around. The song might have been a popular ditty or blues that they didn’t compose, but by the time they were finished with it they had composed a new piece that often bore little resemblance to the original song. Many of these virtuoso musicians were not good sight-readers and some could not read music at all, nevertheless their playing thrilled audiences and the spontaneous music they created captured a joy and sense of adventure that was an exciting and radical departure from the music of that time.
Big Band Jazz, according to one historian, had its start in New Orleans in 1898 at the end of the Spanish-American war. Military bands returned to the port to decommission, flooding the city with used band instruments. and African-Americans interested in music quickly bought up hundreds of these instruments and quickly began to form bands. As a decade of rebellion the Roaring 20’s was made for Jazz. The young people interested in anything that was new and exciting. The exciting new rhythms and harmonies were ultimately the irresistible force behind society’s acceptance of Jazz.
The first indisputable figure in the evolution of orchestral jazz was Fletcher Henderson an unremarkable pianist whose contribution to jazz lies in his pioneering of methods later universally adopted. Henderson, far better educated than most black musicians of his day, formed his own orchestra in 1923, and it became the first to gain wide fame by playing jazz. Originally his band was a dance band, playing waltzes and foxtrots. Over the course of a few years Jazz rhythms and blue notes became more and more prominent in the band’s music. By the time the band took over at Roseland Ballroom and featured Louis Armstrong on trumpet, the band had become a Jazz band. For several years after, his bandemployed the best black jazz talents, among them, at various times, Louis Armstrong (this was the last time in his life Armstrong was ever hired by a bandleader) and Coleman Hawkins. Despite an embarrassment of riches in the solo department, the Henderson band is unique for the way in which its leader experimented with orchestral effects. According to many purists, orchestral jazz is a contradiction in terms, for; if it is true that jazz is improvised music, and then it follows that a jazz orchestra cannot exist. Henderson was among the first to see that it is not necessarily improvisation that lends jazz its fierce vitality but the preservation of its spirit. If musicians could play written parts with the same sense of self-discovery as a solo, then the effects need not be anticlimactic, and their solo talents could shape an ensemble into the contours of a jazz performance.
Louis Armstrong completely revolutionized jazz. He did so in many ways: he made the first recordings of jazz which spread its influence overseas and across the nation, his incredible, virtuosic knowledge of his instrument led anything he played into unimaginable realms of musicianship and form, and he began to form single ideas out of his solos and songs instead of multiple pieces of an idea. Then, along comes Jelly Roll Morton who actually composes jazz for the first time and uses methods to focus on the forward momentum of his songs. During the 1920’s jazz moved out of New Orleans into Chicago, New York, and Kansas City and continued to increase the emphasis on solos. James Johnson, a pianist, introduced boogie-woogie piano and a hard-driven style called stride piano. Closing out the 20’s big bands became the most popular jazz medium as swing took the younger generation by storm in the 30’s.
During the years between the First and Second World Wars, Paris beat wildly as the heart of the international art scene. The atmosphere of postwar Paris attracted writers, painters, sculptors, photographers, composers, and musicians from around the world, many of whom were Americans, finally free from the restrictions of Victorian society. Thus during the Jazz Age, various shapes, colors, and imagery began to characterize the era. Neoclassical in its reach for symmetry, Art Deco’s characteristic shapes were rectilinear, angular, geometric, diagonal, spiral and zigzag. The movement’s colors were shockingly bright and contrasting. Art Deco borrowed its imagery from South American, African, Egyptian and Asian cultures. It was completely similar to Jazz’ s evolution and development like originated from other cultures or became popular after First World War. Art Deco, style popular in the 1920s and 1930s, used primarily in the design of buildings, furniture, jewelry, andinterior decor. Art deco is characterized by sleek, streamlined forms; geometric patterns; and experiments with industrial materials such asmetals, plastics, and glass. The term art deco is a shortening of the title of a major Paris design exhibition held in 1925, ExpositionInternationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes (International Exposition of Modern Industrial and Decorative Arts), where the stylefirst became evident. Art deco quickly gained hold in the United States, where it reached the height of its achievement in architecture, especially in New York City’s soaring skyscrapers of the late 1920s and early 1930s such as the Chrysler, Daily News, and Empire State buildings. Because many art deco buildings went up during a period of economic collapse known as the Great Depression, the style is sometimes known as depression moderne. Art deco was also a product of the fertile artistic exchange between Paris, France, and New York City that occurred after World War I (1914-1918). American artists, writers, and musicians went to Paris after the war and brought with them a fresh approach to creative work.
The 1920’s were definitely a time of revolution from tradition and expansion of the American culture. Jazz was no stranger to these concepts. Jazz incorporated the revolution in that old-style rhythms and melodies were being transformed and “jazzed-up.” It also expanded the American culture in that jazz was, in essence, purely American. Sure, it combined many nationalities’ ideas and concepts but that is the entire purpose of America – to form a melting pot of nations so that together, we can form our own, individual culture.