Brief History of Jazz

Updated May 29, 2021

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Brief History of Jazz essay

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From as early as 1895, jazz has possibly been affected in many ways. It can be affected racially, culturally, and it has created many different forms of jazz so anyone can find their own taste. I personally believe that jazz was changed drastically racially. There are many factors into it because the style of jazz between white people and black people were almost complete opposites.

Whites also stole blacks’ style of jazz at times to take credit since blacks did not really have many rights considering that they were still slaves during this time period. As time moves on, many people like Armstrong, Bix, and Bolden come into play later in the jazz era and create history and have their music still playing to this and enjoyed across the globe.

First, the different types of jazz were distinct. There was hot and sweet jazz. Hot was more up-beat style of dancing. On the other hand, sweet was calm, more of a slow dance type of jazz. The kind of jazz where you would take your significant other out to the dance floor with and have the night of your life with him/her. Sweet jazz was also very catchy and had a written melody and a paper form (Head arrangement) (Sweet Hot Jazz).

Hot jazz was mainly popular in the south. It started in New Orleans in the early 1900s (Sweet Hot Jazz). while up north, sweet jazz was more common (fdmusic). Big bands that played sweet jazz have been carried on to this day (Sweet Hot Jazz). I personally prefer sweet jazz over hot jazz because I enjoy melody more than anything within a song.

Next, to tie in with the racial aspect is blackface jazz. Blackface jazz was staged with actors that would pretend to be African Americans and they would paint their face black and have their hair and other features look like as if they were black as well. It was for comedy and they used hot jazz to fully represent the black community in the south with their style of music. This plays a big role because it can create major controversy with racism.

This would and could have unsatisfied the community in the south. Also, this would cause controversy because popular, white artists were taking music from them and did not give any credit whatsoever to the artist of the songs they would perform. This all happened in 1843, in New York by a group called the minstrels (Notes). All in all, whites would steal music to make fun of the blacks by performing as black people considering they were hated at the time.

People such as Louis Armstrong played a big part in the jazz age and created history with his time on earth. He was born in 1907 and died in 1971. Throughout all those years he transformed a social music into art and a place where a musician, regardless of race or geography, could find a voice. Although he did have a bright time in the jazz age, he was also arrested in 1913, for shooting banks and was sent to the New Orleans colored waifs’ home for 18 months, where he received musical instruction.

Even though jazz wasn’t a popular thing at his time, he was still making very popular music that most of the United States would listen to. He would also make music at a certain time of day and it would be aired over to the west coast from the east coast to give him more exposure. This would give him more exposure because people on the west coast would be coming home from work and they would either play it on the radio in the car or when they got home, they would air it in their house while eating dinner or sitting in the living room.

Along with Louis Armstrong, he innovated five major areas of jazz. The first area is the blues. He established it as jazz’s harmonic foundation when it known for being degenerate. He also innovated improvisation. He showed that music could have the weight a durability of written music with the use of improvisation (Notes). He also innovated singing within jazz by introducing a vocal style using scat (Notes). He would also have loose phrases with lyrics. This major area of jazz also influenced big singers such as Bing Crosby and Billie Holiday. He also played a big part in Repertory (Notes).

This was where he would create masterpieces from Tin Pan Alley songs. This would show that jazz could be expanded musically and commercially. Lastly, Rhythm had a big role in his big five areas. This would introduce swing dance into mainstream jazz (Notes). Swing is very let loose and was good for dancers back in that era. All in all, knowing Louis Armstrong was an African American, he had one of the biggest, if not the biggest impact on jazz. He had these big five areas set out and without that, jazz would not be the same.

He then later started to work on the Mississippi Riverboat in 1918 (Notes). He spent three years on the Streckfuss steamboat under the leader Fate Marable (Notes). He played calliope at this time, but Armstrong learned how to become a better music reader (Notes). He learned to adapt to the written arrangements they had in New Orleans (Notes). Not only did he learn that, he also learned songs passed the New Orleans repertory (Notes). Armstrong was black, but he mainly played for white audiences. This led to him to become more of a traveling musician (Notes).

After all this, he was invited to New York by Fletcher Henderson. He left other big musicians that he worked with and went there by 1924 (Notes). This was a big sign that Armstrong had a big reputation because Henderson only hired the best black musicians of the day (Notes). Even though he was considered the best at his time, he was known as an old-fashioned, country rube by many New York musicians of the Henderson band. They only believed this until they heard how unique his music was, the blues feeling, and the rhythm in his songs (Notes).

Although he provided great music, Henderson would not allow him to since, so he left the band in 1926 and went all the way back to Chicago (Notes). He joined a pit orchestra that would play for silent movies and intermission music (Notes). This gave him more recognition and by the end of 1926, Okeh Records requested that he make music and record as a leader (Notes). He accepted this offer and chose Lil Harden, and three musicians that he worked with often back in New Orleans (Notes).

Those people were Johnny Dodds, Johnny St. Cyr, and Kid Ory (Notes). With this he made sixty-five recordings (Notes). These recordings were very important because they marked multiple things such as: The change from polyphony to showcasing soloists (Notes), The move to use improvisation in songs (Notes), the move from breaks to full chorus’ (Notes) and changed multiple ragtime-like strains to single-theme choruses of popular songs and the blues (Notes). Understanding this, I believe this shows that anyone, regardless of race, can make it big. This shows that as long as you have a good music taste and provide quality, you can receive just as much recognition as the next person.

Bix Beiderbecke was also a major contributor to jazz history itself. He was a famous white cornet player. He was born in 1903 and died in 1931. So, it is very safe to say that he lived an unexpectedly short life. He was born in davenport and growing up he had a great musical ear. He was a part of the generation that learned jazz from recordings. There were three influences that came along with that.

The first one was that young people could hear jazz no matter where they lived (Notes). Solos could be learned and remembered through repetition of a record (Notes). Lastly, the recordings helped young players break away from tradition (Notes). This means that they would be able to explore their own world and step out of their boundaries from mainstream jazz.

Bix was so into jazz that he taught himself the New Orlean’s style of cornet playing through recordings. This only happened because of the distress that he was receiving from his parents pushing him to learn (Notes). In 1921, his parents sent him off to boarding school. Knowing that the distance was not too far for him from home he would regularly visit clubs like Lincoln Gardens, where he got to listen to Joe Oliver (Notes). The two then later created Chicago style jazz. This did start off as an imitation of New Orleans Jazz, but it did later become more rhythmic and combined soloing with polyphonic themes (Notes).

For being a young, white musician, jazz involvement was an act of rebellion. Although he had a major impact with the Chicago style, he was pretty much unknown when he was alive. From 1924 up until 1930, his career as a musician was at his peak in the recordings made in 1927 with Eddie Lang. After Knowing all of this, I believe race at this standpoint would affect jazz because there is a white man and a black man coming together creating a style of music. This would show that both races together can divide and conquer the jazz era and both races can be dominant.

Buddy Bolden was also a major figure in jazz. He was the first important jazz musician at the time (Notes). He had a large black and creole following (Notes). Knowing his following, this represented the triumph of the African culture (Notes). He was a cornetist (Notes) and he was known for loud and great blues (Notes). Many people had big reputations depending on their musician ship, but for Bolden he was widely known for his style of music (Notes).

He was the break starter for new ways of playing music. He did not only play his way of music though. Bolden was successful as well with popular music. It can also be known as “legitimate” music (Notes). Altogether, Bolden had a major following for his music. He was also the undesired race at the time, but still managed to have an audience and provide great jazz music in his time.

This could tie into the real world today because I listen to a lot of rap music and I have noticed that many of the black rappers are desirable in the community compared to white rappers. You can argue that there are famous white rappers such as Logic and Eminem, but the dominant force of it is African American. Although it is not jazz, it is still racially affected. Many stereotypes are built into rap songs. Such as artists like Tee Grizzly. In many of his songs, he declares he came from the “hood”, he sold drugs to make money, and has killed plenty of people in his life because he has a gang affiliation.

Jazz has had its ups and downs. There have been many factors that could say race played a part in the history of jazz. I agree with that because they did have things such as blackface back when racism was big. This made African Americans feel attacked. This also made them feel as if they were not good musicians and did not provide good music since they used it as a comedy factor. I can also agree that jazz was not racially affected because there are plenty of very famous jazz musicians that were black.

Louis Armstong can arguably be the best jazz musician to ever live. He had some of the biggest contributions and changes in jazz. Without him in history, jazz would be totally different, and people would not discover such changes in music that made it so much better. At the start before Armstrong’s time, there could have been difficulties being black and making it as a musician. The style of music for black jazz musicians were undesirable and many of the famous jazz musicians that were located up north composed more of a simpler, calmer style of music.

In the south, they made more up-beat, fast paced style of music. Even though these difficulties were in existence, time passes by and the easier it became for black musicians to become popular and desired by the community and listened to across the country. All in all, I have a split opinion on the racial effects of jazz because there are points that show it does, but at the end of the day it shows that anyone can do anything in jazz and become big.

Brief History of Jazz essay

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Brief History of Jazz. (2021, May 29). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/brief-history-of-jazz/


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