Early Jazz History: How Did Jazz Music Evolve?

Jazz is a popular genre that represents the combination of different people and their heritage. In the 1800s, music played an important role in the day-to-day life of Africans who worked as plantation slaves. They used field hollers, songs and rituals to celebrate, entertain, mourn and help them cope with stress at work. Their music was incorporated into European-American music, which in turn became the basis for ragtime, blues, and other musical forms prior to jazz.

Whether you love listening to jazz music or you just want to know how this ever-popular genre evolved, this brief history of jazz music will answer all your queries.

Late 1800s – The Role of the Blues in Jazz History

In the 1800s, the blues took its influences from African American music that reflects the pain of injustice, and leaves people with the hope of succeeding amid adversity and outlasting a broken heart. Evolving from work songs, field hollers and hymns, the blues played a great role in the history of jazz music. Aside from being the foundation of jazz, it also serves as the prime source of rock and country music.

 

Louis Armstrong, one of the key figures in jazz history, inspired musicians to play individual solos instead of playing all at once. Image courtesy of Flickr.

Louis Armstrong, one of the key figures in jazz history, inspired musicians to play individual solos instead of playing all at once. Image courtesy of Flickr.

 

 

Jazz Music in New Orleans

New Orleans, which is often referred to as the melting pot of music, featured a tradition of grand celebrations in the early 1900s. Ragtime, opera, marching bands, folk music, and all dance styles that went with jazz music can be witnessed throughout the city. Sources that offer a brief jazz history also mention how all these genres blended into one and gave birth to jazz music.

Louis Armstrong, the most influential artist in the history of music, was born in New Orleans on August 4, 1901. He started playing the cornet at the early age of 13, and he immediately set the standards for what a great improvised jazz solo should sound like. He is a key figure in the history of jazz music because of his idea of letting musicians play individual solos instead of playing all at once.

The Evolution of Bebop

In the 1940s, jazz musicians started to look for other means of exploring their talents. This resulted in the birth of a new style of jazz, which is, of course, an important milestone in early jazz history. Bebop, a sub-genre known for its complex melodies, intricate harmonies and fast tempos suddenly became a craze. Instead of forming big bands, musicians joined smaller groups that played for listening audiences rather than dancing audiences.

The Fusion Era and Today’s Jazz Music

The 1970s is best remembered as the era of fusion, when musicians tried to integrate aspects of rhythm and blues, pop and rock into their music. Back in the 1960s, the world of rock and jazz music remained distinct. The rise of electronic keyboards pushed musicians to experiment with other sounds, thus creating another important milestone in the history of jazz music.

As you can see, jazz history from the 1920s to the 1970s is best identified through the new styles that evolved in the past decades. Today, musicians relive the colorful history of jazz by experimenting with a range of sub-genres that continue evolving through time.

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