One of the greatest contributions of American culture to the world is Jazz music. It captures a variety of emotions and takes on the various European and African influences to create a form of music that is both an art form and an expression of the soul.
The world of music has been forever changed by this American-born musical genre. It changed the way we listen, dance to and appreciate music, thanks to the contribution of artists such as bebop drummers Art Blakey and Max Roach, trumpeter and bandleader Dizzy Gillespie, singer Billie Holiday, “King of Swing” Benny Goodman and one of the creators of modern Jazz, Louis Armstrong.
Feeling the Blues
Jazz music traces its roots to Blues music, a musical genre popularized by African Americans in the 19th century. As its name implies, Blues music is about pain, heartache, as well as struggle and success against injustice. Field workers in the South would sing hymns and holler music, and this would eventually influence the development of not only Jazz music, but also country music and even rock and roll.
As a melting pot of cultures, it’s no wonder that America became the birthplace of Jazz music.
The Birth of Jazz Music
Jazz music developed in the streets of New Orleans, Louisiana by the early 20th century. Improvization is a key element to the music. This flexibility and room for creativity and expression is one reason why it is widely popular among musicians.
Giants of Jazz Music
Louis Armstrong is one of the key artists that popularized Jazz through his riveting improvised Jazz solos.
Benny Goodman and Duke Ellington are some of the popular Jazz bandleaders in the 20th century. Today, we have Jazz artists in saxophonist John Coltrane, Chick Corea and singers Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald and Nina Simone.
Together, these artists have influenced other great performers such as Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby. Jazz dance, as popularized by Bob Fossee, has even influenced some of the moves of Michael Jackson and Beyonce.
Trombonist J.J. Johnson has said, “Jazz is restless. It won’t stay put and it never will.” Jazz Music so resonated with the rest of the world that various cultures took to it and put their own twist to the musical genre.
The lively beat of Swing music emerged in during the Great Depression, while Gypsy jazz, Kansas City jazz and bebop emerged by the 1940s. Various forms emerged later on, such as West Coast jazz, cool jazz, Afro-Cuban jazz, Latin Jazz in the 1950s and even Jazz rap in modern times.
Influence of Jazz
The world of Jazz music not only gave us such compelling music, but it also gave birth to the drum set. It also influenced the vernacular, giving rise to words such as “cool” and “hip”.
International Jazz Day
The UNESCO General Conference has declared April 30 as “International Jazz Day”, for raising awareness of Jazz as an instrument of “peace, unity, dialogue and enhanced cooperation”.