Jazz is as American as apple pie. It is original music, created in America. Jazz is the most influential of all music styles in the 20th century. No other music can make that claim. What jazz is, is a mainly improvisational style of playing with syncopated rhythms laid down under the melody. It was created in the Mississippi River Delta country, growing out of ragtime and the blues, in the early 1900’s.
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And because it is an improvisational style of playing, there are many different periods of jazz and many different styles of playing jazz. In other words, there is always somebody, somewhere, doing something a little differently than the next guy around the corner. Looking at it historically, jazz followed the Black migration out of the south to the north,by way of Kansas City, Chicago and New York. Each city developed its own sound, from say the jazz that came to be in the French Quarter and lowlands of New Orleans.
Jazz can rightly be called the people’s music because it is heavily influenced by the surrounding social situation where it is played. It takes the day’s social issues and weaves a tune around them. Rock, R&B, Rap, hiphop and country take this cue from Jazz. The best of the other genres are the ones that do this with ease and remain the songs remembered by the people. The 20’s and 30’s are commonly referred to as the Jazz Age in America, and was style was at the height of its popularity. Not that it has ever gone out of style or favor. All things ebb and flow, but Jazz is eternal. The big names live on. Names like Armstrong, Ellington, Basie, Bird Brubeck and Miles are carved in history. Singers like Billie, Ella and Sarah need no last names and remain almost without peer.
The names of the artists who were influenced by jazz are equally memorable, starting with Jimi Hendrix, Chicago, the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Cream. Tower of Power, Earth Wind and Fire, James Brown with his magnificent brass horn section. This list goes on ad infinitum and continues to present day.
Rap and hiphop naturally evolved from jazz. Many songs sample jazz greats and the beats created by the older music. The hiphop delivery reflects that created by jazz greats like Joe Williams. Many musicians have combined rap hiphop with jazz including the late great Miles Davis whose final album contained hiphop elements while he wove his magic around them. Quincy Jones, the master musician and band leader regularly weaves the three form together. Nowhere is this more apparent then his album Secret Garden, or The Dude, or Killer Joe.
The changing nature of jazz makes it immediately identifiable and easily adaptable to whatever is going on around it. Jazz is one of the greatest imports ever out of the United States and into Europe and beyond. Those who hear it take and make it their own and then send it back again to the America the country of its birth. Upon its return, the creators of the master plan take the new form, rework it into something else new and original and then send it back out in the world to begin the cycle again for whomever wants to pick it up, be it rock, alternative soul, or Japanese hiphop. It’s still all jazz.