Jazz and Black Experience History Essay Example

Jazz appeared as a result of assimilation and synthesis of many elements, including ethnic and folk traditions. The fundamentals of African-American music are buried deep on the African continent. The history and development of African-American music are rich and complex as well as the history of African Americans. Actually, the nature of African-American music is in its expression of the human experiences and feelings. Jazz is primarily an improvisation, life, words, evolution. Real jazz lives in the hands of the pianist in a bar Storyville, or in a group of musicians who play in a quiet location at the outskirts of Chicago. This paper seeks to describe the development of jazz and its most popular types.

In 18th-19th centuries, millions of black slaves were brought to the U.S. East Coast. These slaves were mainly from Africa and they brought the strong musical traditions to America. Black slaves created African folk music (work-songs, filed-hollers, round dance shouts) from the elements of African and European traditions (Witt et. al., 2004). African traditions used one line of melody and call-and-response model; however, they did not use the European concept of harmony. This rhythmic structure and the pentatonic scale later found their way into jazz and blues. By the middle of the 19th century, African musicians learned to play the European instruments. The “black minstrel shows” that combined syncopation along with European accompaniment appeared. At the same time, some white musicians started to use the African, South American, and many other slave melodies as a part of their fundamentals of music. Another influence is evident in the fact that African slaves began to use a harmonic style of Christian religious hymns and create their music based on the new spirituals and gospels. Later, spirituals and gospels became the foundations of blues. The history of jazz is one of the most original stories in music. Its characters and style, and strong personality traits are extremely attractive, although some trends require increased willingness from the listeners. Pondering about jazz, people say that one should listen to jazz by feet, not by head.

The “dry law, “introduced in the United States from 1919 to 1933, which presupposed a total ban on the alcohol has led to the emergence of clandestine bars. These bars have become the place of active promotion of jazz music and dancing. Jazz gained a reputation of immoral art, and the older generation considered it as a threat to the old traditions in their culture. However, it certainly attracted the youth. In 1924, the famous jazz musician, Louis Armstrong, joined the dance group created by Fletcher Henderson as the best soloist of the year, and then he organized a group Hot Five, which increased the popularity of jazz singing. Jelly Roll Morton worked with New Orleans Rhythm Kings as an example of early interracial cooperation of musicians. The first jazz musicians played music for dancing. However, since the 1940s, the public began to listen to jazz by the head instead of legs. The new forms of sound began to appear. Jazz became one of the forms of individual’s spontaneous expression that was created at the moment. It was improvisation, freedom, and protest. Jazz included not only a lively composition of melodies and rhythms; it was also a symbol of individuality and improvisation with obvious curiosity impulse, which was formed and stressed despite the hard times in America’s history. Although the main features have been preserved, jazz has undergone many changes due to the inconstancy of flavors, the development of technology, and boundless creativity of the jazz musicians.

The roots of jazz are in the cosmopolitan city of New Orleans. New Orleans of the 19th century was the birthplace of jazz is the nature of the city itself (Gioia, 2011). The colonial past of this city that combined different cultures and concepts, fostered a general sense of tolerance and cultural refinement that became the basis for jazz. In New Orleans, the former slaves finally acquired an ability to buy what they saw in the music stores. Prior to that, they made their instruments with pumpkins, dice, graters, or metal bowls. Now, in addition to their banjo and harmonica, they could buy trombones, trumpets, clarinets, and drums. The problem was that the former slaves had no idea about the scores, ear training, and notes; they knew nothing about the musical techniques. They just felt the music and could improvise. For many years, the authorities tried to ban jazz; they silenced and ignored it, even tried to fight it, but the power of music was stronger than all the dogmas. By the 21st century, jazz has achieved the highest point of its development, and nowadays it does not intend to slow down the pace. Early (2010) believes that this music is played with the intention of improving freedom within the society. The subsequent spread of jazz culture was due to the high migration to northern cities caused by the significant industrialization and notorious racial segregation in the South. In the World War I, soldiers and ordinary citizens entertained by listening to jazz. This fact also contributed to jazz development in Europe. According to Westphal (2013), jazz is among the music categories that has had the most visible influence on the American socio-historical aspects. With the beginning of the Swing Era in 1935, many bands have evolved into the larger groups, which created different and, at the same time, powerful sounds, forcing to dance even in large rooms without amplifiers which were not available before. The constantly increasing number of young people yearning to forget the unfavorable times of the Great Depression has led to the expansion of clubs and increase of the volume coming from the exquisite rhythm. These infectious beats of rhythm quickly raised the pulse of American young people.

When jazz firmly entrenched in people’s minds, its different directions began to appear. To date, there are more than 30 types of jazz. Blues is one of the most popular ones, which is a child of the secular music-making of the African Americans. Blues music is leisurely and unhurried, and the lyrics have always a sense of innuendo and ambiguity. Today, the blues is often used exclusively in such instrumental form as jazz improvisations. Blues became the basis for many outstanding performances of Duke Ellington and Louis Armstrong.

Ragtime is another direction of jazz music, which appeared in the late 19th century. The term “rag” means sound that appears between the shares of tact. Ragtime, as the rest of jazz, was another great European musical passion that has been taken by African Americans and performed in their way. According to Bowie (2011), the whole African-American music is a result of the coming into contact of the African and European cultures. Ragtime sounded in the U.S., but in the interpretation of Black artists, it acquired more complex dynamics, rhythm and intensity. St. Louis and Kansas City were the cities where ragtime achieved its greatest popularity. The most famous singer and composer of the ragtime genre, Scott Joplin, was born in Texas.

Another famous jazz style is “fusion,” though an early stage in the development of this style it properly called “jazz-rock.” The original definition of jazz-rock was a combination of jazz improvisation with the energy and rhythms of rock music. Until 1967, the worlds of these two styles existed separately from each other, but at one point the representatives of rock and jazz began to exchange their ideas and united. The first representatives of a new direction were a jazz-rock guitarist Larry Coryell, vibraphonist Gary Burton, drummer Billy Cobham with the group “Dreams.” The brightest performer of this style was Miles. The most interesting jazz-rock compositions are characterized by improvisation, harmonic principles of the use of rock music, the rhythms of the East, and electronic processing and synthesizing sound. The peak of popularity of jazz-rock took place in the 1970s.

Funk is another popular trend of jazz of the 1970s and 1980s. George Clinton and James Brown were the founders of the style. The diverse set of funk jazz idioms was displaced by simple musical phrases consisting of blues shouts and groans, taken from saxophone solo artists such as Junior Walker King Curtis, Paul Butterfield, and David Sanborn. Jazzmen very often used the word “funk,” asking the audience to dance and move actively to the accompaniment of music.

To summarize, jazz is an emotional style of improvisation. Folk is the most important kind of improvised music, but unlike jazz, it is closed and aims to preserve traditions. In jazz, creativity dominates, which in combination with improvisation enabled the development of many jazz styles. The songs of dark-skinned African-American slaves in Europe developed the styles of blues, ragtime, funk, jazz-rock, etc. Jazz has become a source of ideas and methods of almost all other kinds of music – from commercial and popular to academic music in the modern century. Also, it should be said that jazz for the U.S. is one of he most famous its symbols and all music historians agree with its most significant contribution into the world culture.

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