New Orleans at the turn of the 20th century, was a proper cosmopolitan city, and a major port, which resulted in musicians from all over landing up and getting exposed to barrage of musical influences and ideas.
The entire inception of Jazz took place in back house of New Orleans, Louisiana, with a bunch of folks locked in together with no language to communicate with. A reflection of individualism, self reflection and cultural diversity.
American Blues, European Classical, and South American Songs and rhythms came together to form what we know as Jazz.
One individual, Jelly Roll Morton claimed to have invented Jazz in 1902, and did all in his capacity to spread the New Orleans Sound through the recording technologies available at the time.
To understand Jazz in the slightest capacity we need to be looking at Louis Armstrong. The greatest of the greats, the first soloist of Jazz, a trumpet player.
I would strongly suggest you listen to the Hot Fives and Seven’s recorded back in the 1920’s to get a flavour going of where we’re getting at.
A massive component to Jazz is improvisation. Creating or performing spontaneously and picking up from where the fellow player drops.
Armstrong was responsible for the gradual transition from the texture where multiple musicians play melody lines simultaneously to what we now see as the individualistic, soloist plus ensemble format.
Between 1936 to 1945 this movement, the Swing Era, saw small bands give way to big bands consisting of 18 musicians.
Also, Miles Davis. Another huge figure for Jazz, who came to the forefront in the second half of the 20th century.
Davis went under his idol, Charlie Parker’s wing in 1944. Soon enough he started fronting his own projects. His experimentation and improvisation is lauded as one of the most influential to date.
Thanks to his records of the 1920’s and 30’s, jazz reached a broad radio audience. The music’s popularity soared through the roof as did its sophistication. New York, Chicago and Kansas City had the most thriving Jazz scenes in the 40s.
Jazz transitioned back to art music when the ‘ Bebop ‘ movement took birth as a motion suppress the white bands.
‘ Bebop ‘ was faster and more complex than anything that had come before it.
Just as the whole movement was taking shape the Musicians Union in the US put a ban on commercial recordings over a dispute on royalties. For more than a year in 1942, no new recordings took place.
This gave birth to the idea of recoding completely vocal versions of popular songs ( ‘a cappella’ ) .
And this was the point that was a defining split between Jazz as an art music and the other being popular music with a vocal focus.
Ages well. The beauty is such that Jazz has evolved decade upon decade.
So the sound you hear today has a distinct quality to it than its predecessors.
It’s broad, it’s rich, it’s diverse.
And it’s definitely worth your time.