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Jazz Essay Research Paper JazzJazz is a

Jazz Essay, Research Paper


Jazz is a type of music developed by black Americans about 1900

and possessing an identifiable history and describable

stylistic evolution. It is rooted in the mingled musical traditions of

American blacks. More black musicians saw jazz for the first time a

profession. Since its beginnings jazz has branched out into so many

styles that no single description fits all of them with total accuracy.

Performers of jazz improvise within the conventions of their chosen

style. Improvisation gave jazz a personalized, individualized, and

distinct feel. Most jazz is based on the principle that an infinite

number of melodies can fit the cord progressively of any cord.

The twenties were a crucial period in the history of music.

Revolutions, whether in arts or matter of state, create a new

world only by sacrificing the old. By the late twenties, improvisation

had expanded to the extent of improvisation we ordinarily expect from

jazz today. It was the roaring twenties that a group of new tonalities

entered the mainstream, fixing the sound and the forms of our popular

music for the next thirty years. Louie Armstrong closed the book on the

dynastic tradition in New Orleans jazz.

The first true virtuoso soloist of jazz, Louie Armstrong was a dazzling

improviser, technically, emotionally, and intellectually. Armstrong,

often called the “father of jazz,” always spoke with deference,

bordering on awe, of his musical roots, and with especial devotion of

his mentor Joe Oliver. He changed the format of jazz by bringing the

soloist to the forefront, and in his recording groups, the Hot Five and

the Hot seven, demonstrated that jazz improvisation could go far beyond

simply ornamenting the melody. Armstrong was one of the first jazz

musicians to refine a rhythmic conception that abandoned the stiffness

of ragtime, employed swing light-note patterns, and he used a technique

called “rhythmic displacement.” Rhythmic displacement was sometimes

staggering the placement of an entire phrase, as though he were playing

behind the beat. He created new melodies based on the chords of the

initial tune. He also set standards for all later jazz singers, not

only by the way he altered the words and melodies of songs but also by

improvising without words like an instrument (scat singing)

(Arnold12). Armstrong was a great musical architect. He brought a

superb sense of drama to jazz solo conception. During a period when

most improvisers were satisfied simply to embellish or paraphrase a

tune, Armstrong himself was a master at both. Armstrong^s command of

the trumpet was arguable greater than that of any preceding jazz

trumpeter who recorded.

In actuality, the revolution initiated by Armstrong took place

in fits and starts, and with little fanfare at the time. After

Armstrong^s departure from the King Oliver Creole Band, over a year

would transpire before he would record as a leader. And even when

those famous recordings were planned -the classic “Hot Fives”- the

record company considered enlisting a better known leader to front the

band. Most accounts stress that Armstrong^s talents may have been

neglected by the general public, but were amply recognized by the

musical community – ” his playing was revered by countless jazz

musicians,” runs a typical commentary – but even this claim is

suspect. Fletcher Henderson, Armstrong^s first major employer after

Oliver, made the trumpeter accept a cut in pay to join his band. Many

accounts suggest that Henderson, in fact , preferred the playing of

cornetist Joe Smith, And that Armstrong was hired only because Smith

was unavailable. Smith lacked Armstrong^s rhythmic drive, yet his warm

sound and ease of execution could hardly be faulted and may have been

better receive by the average dancehall patron. Henderson was not even

enthusiastic about Armstrong^s singing, an attitude that deeply

frustrated the new band member. Years later Armstrong would later

exclaim: ” Fletcher didn^t dig me like Joe Oliver. He had a million

dollar talent in his band and he never thought to let me sing.”

During the 1930s a new style of jazz emerged. It became the

most popular kind of jazz in the twentieth century. This style

began during the late 1920s and continued to the 1940s. Most jazz from

the 1930s and early 1940s is called “swing music,” and this time in

history is now known as “the swing era.” Big bands in the swing era

were made up of ten or more musicians whose instruments were grouped

into three categories called “sections:” rhythm, brass, and drums. The

brass section included trumpets and trombones. The saxophone section

was separated from the brass section because they originated from

instruments made of wood. In a big band the sax section contained from

three to five musicians. The size of the trumpet section varied from

two to five musicians, two or three being the standard.

Unlike the early jazz era, in the swing era hits that were

jazz-oriented contained only a few solo improvisations, often

only one. Swing music contained less collective improvisation and more

solo improvisation, and the amount of improvisation in most swing era

hits was small. The construction of improvised solos in most hits were

melodically conservative.

The onset of the Great Depression had a chilling effect on the jazz

world, as it did the whole entertainment industry. The ambiance of

jazz culture were demystified in the process. During this period, the

growing popularity of talking movies led many theaters to halt the

elaborate live shows that had previously been a staple of popular

entertainment in most cities, further reducing paying jobs for

musicians. Although the development of the 1930s affected most

musicians adversely, a handful of performers benefited considerably

from the more stratified structure of the entertainment world. The

creation of a truly nationwide mass medium in the form of radio

catapulted a few jazz players to a level of celebrity that would have

been unheard of only a few years before.

Benny Goodman sent this apparatus into motion with a

vengeance. In the process, he ignited not only his own amazing

career, but sent off a craze for “swing music” that would last over a

decade. As a soloist Goodman defined the essence of the jazz clarinet

as no other performer, before or since; as a bandleader, he established

standards of technical perfection that were the envy of his peers,

while his influence in gaining widespread popularity for swing music

was unsurpassed. A decade later he reformed his ensemble to tackle the

nascent sounds of bop music (Gioia 135).

The new styles , which emerged after 1940 were classified as

modern jazz. Bebop is classified as modern jazz. Modern jazz

did not burst upon the jazz scene suddenly. It developed gradually

through the work of swing era musicians. Rather than being a reaction

against swing styles, modern jazz developed smoothly from swing

styles. Bop differed from swing in a number of performance aspects and

stylistic aspects. Melodies and harmonies were more complex in bop.

Bop tunes and cord progressions projected a more unresolved quality.

Drummers played their time keeping rhythms primarily on suspected

cymbal, rather than snare drum, high-hat, or bass drum.

Chick Corea grew and matured as an artist. He joined the ranks

of Herbie Hancock, Bill Evans, and McCoy Tyner as the Most

prominent and most imitated pianist in jazz. His style originated

with aspects from the approaches of bud Powell, Horace Silver, Bill

Evans and McCoy Tyner and the classical pieces of twentieth-century

composers Paul Hindemith and Bela Bartok. Latin-American music also

inspired Corea^s style. Early in his career, Corea had played in

several bands that featured Latin-American music. Corea^s crisp,

percussive touch enhances the Latin feeling. It is also consistent

with his bright, very spirited style of comping. Like Tyner, Corea

voiced chords in fourths. Voicing in fourths means that chords are

made up of notes four steps away from each other. Chick Corea joined

Miles Davis^ band in 1968, and played electric piano on the landmark In

a silent way, album and the influential “Bitches Brew” session. His

own trio recording with Miroslav Vitous and Roy Haynes, “Now He sings,

Now He sobs,” became a staple in the record collection of modern jazz

lovers during the late sixties. Corea was a prominent composer during

the 1960s and 1970s. Corea wrote pieces that made good use of preset

bass lines in accompaniment, particularly those with a Latin-American

flavor. In 1985, Chick Corea formed the Elektric Band, which became

known for its use of synthesizers. The band^s debut was with Chick

Corea Eleckric Band, on GRP Records.