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Origin Of Jazz Music

This article will explore the origin of jazz music and some of its more popular forms. If you want to learn how to play jazz piano immediately, then click How To Play Jazz Piano Now. 


The origin of jazz music is fraught with many views and theories. This is because the roots of jazz are difficult to ascertain due to the lack of documented records. However, it can be said that much of the origin of jazz lies in the folk songs and plantation music of black Americans and can be traced back to the late 19th century.

As such, many of the characteristics of jazz are a direct result of these origins. For example, much of the improvisation and emotional expression in jazz music can be traced to the field hollers, sorrow songs and spiritual music of the 19th century slaves. This has resulted in the colorful, spontaneous and emotion filled music that is a large part of what jazz is all about. 

In the beginning, jazz was influenced by the ragtime music with its energetic and syncopated rhythms and the soulful repetitive harmonies of blues phrases. The first examples of jazz probably originated from New Orleans in the beginning of the 20th century.



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Diana Krall Plays Jazz Piano

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New Orleans was the center of music and culture and played a significant role in jazz history. The "Original Dixieland Jazz Band", which was formed in New Orleans was one of the first band to record jazz in 1917.

It took some time for jazz to become recognized as a medium of wholesome entertainment because the genre was associated with loose morals and the predominantly black influences meant that it was not widely accepted by the white majority during the time of great racial prejudices.

It was the late Benny Goodman who led his racially mixed big band that played in concerts at the Carnegie Hall that eventually broke the discrimination taboo.

During 1920's, the "Chicago Style Jazz" pioneered by a group of students emerged and made music more technically advanced. These early musicians included jazz greats such as Muggsy Spanier, Bix Beiderbecke, Pee Wee Russell, Benny Goodman, Dave Tough and Eddie Condon to name a few.

Soon thereafter, jazz music evolved into a more complex and sophisticated art form with the emergence of technically accomplished jazz pianists such as Art Tatum and Thelonious Monk. Jazz singers like Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald and Frank Sinatra were also beginning to attract public appreciation.


Jazz Swing Era

Swing-jazz era began to take off in the 1920's with Benny Goodman's performance at the Palmoral Ballroom in 1935. The main difference between swing and jazz is that swing music is arranged for big bands instead of the traditional small ensembles and the music is identifiable by its strong characteristic rhythm.

Swing's rhythmical and lively nature lead to an explosion of expressive dance such as the Lindy Hop within the black community which was characterized by its energy and reliance on improvisation.

The liberal characteristics of swing music came into conflict with some of the more conservative, white, Anglo-American audiences. There was tremendous pressure on band leaders to make their music a little less rowdy so as to pander to the more conservative but powerful Americans.

It also came under condemnation in Germany for clashing with Nazi ideology and in the Soviet Union where the music was banned for being politically unacceptable.

Today, Swing music is still very much alive thanks to singers like Michael Buble and jazz pianist cum singers such as Harry Connick Junior and Diana Krall amongst others who have helped to ensure that Swing lives on. 



 Be-bop or bop style of jazz music emerged in the 1940s. This form of music emerged as the number of Americans drafted into the armed forces to fight in World War 2 resulted in the break up of many big bands which featured prominently during the Swing ear. The shortage of such musicians forced the closure of many dance halls in the country.

As such, a huge void was left opened to be filled by younger musicians such as Dizzie Gillespie, Charlie Parker and Thelonious Monk. These early Be Bop jazz musicians took a bold step away from the elaborate arrangements and popular music of the earlier big bands and some of them even learn how to play jazz piano by ear.

The jazz landscape was thus left open for individual exploration. The result was a form of jazz that involved more complex melodies and some very fast tempos, which were at that time criticized for being too fast for dancing.

Be Bop music is characterized by its reliance on chordal, rather than melodic improvisation which gave rise to a new jazz elite. At that time and even now, this form of music is less popular because of the emphasis on artistic expression rather than convention thus reducing its commercial viability even tough, it is now accepted as mainstream jazz.

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