Rhythm and Blues
Jazz is a genre that describes diverse American musical forms whose common characteristics include a strong, prominent meter; improvisation; and dotted and syncopated patterns. Often described as “America’s classical music”, jazz began at the turn of the 20th century in African-American communities in southern U.S., borrowing heavily from African and European musical traditions. Jazz artists, singers, and musicians who are considered to have pioneered and popularized the genre are Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Dizzy Gillespie, among many others.
What is the Sound of Jazz?Jazz is one of the first indigenous musical traditions to form in America which finds its stylistic origins in the blues, folk, march, and ragtime. With elements of European and Afro-American culture, jazz music typically includes such qualities as swinging, a strong and sometimes syncopated rhythmic understructure, improvisation on these structures, the use of blue notes, and the presence of countermelodies. Jazz music can also be evident in its use of instruments, typical of which are the saxophone, trumpet, trombone, piano, guitar, double bass, drums, and vocals. While the genre has evolved and expanded to include fusions with other genres and styles, jazz remains unique for its dependence on improvisation and spontaneity.
A Brief History of Jazz MusicMany say that jazz was born around the turn of the 20th century in New Orleans, Louisiana, where self-taught African-American musicians were travelling through the communities to play in vaudeville shows. They usually used brass and reeds tuned in the European 12-tone scale; these then became the basic instruments of jazz, which at its outset was dance music with the key element of improvisation. Key early jazz musicians in this period include Jelly Roll Morton, Paul Whiteman, and Louis Armstrong, a trumpet player who is considered the father of modern jazz improvisation.
In the 1930s, jazz expanded and found its way to the music and radio scenes in Chicago, Kansas City, and New York, where jazz soloists such as Duke Ellington, Glenn Miller, Count Basie, and Fletcher Henderson became leaders of swing big bands. This period is known as jazz’s Swing Era, and America’s dance halls were filled with audiences that came to listen to big jazz ensembles. It was at this time that legendary jazz vocalist Ella Fitzgerald began to take off.
In the 1940s and 50s, jazz evolved further to be split into many different styles, from the speedy rhythms and dissonant structures of bebop to the calm, smooth sound of cool jazz, to the loose harmony and avant-garde tonality of free jazz. Key proponents of bebop include Charlie Parker, Lester Young, and Dizzy Gillespie; cool jazz was popularized by Chet Baker, Stan Getz, Bill Evans, and Miles Davis; while free jazz musicians were led by John Coltrane, Charles Mingus, and Archie Shepp.
Jazz TodayToday, jazz continues to be appreciated by newer generations – but this time, with jazz artists and jazz bands incorporating their own modern styles into the early jazz traditions. From the 1960s onwards, jazz has grown to include subgenres such as Latin jazz, jazz-rock fusion, pop fusion, acid jazz, jazz funk, and soul jazz, among many others. Jazz artists and jazz bands who have followed the footsteps of the genre’s forefathers and popularized the genre in mainstream format include: Kenny G, Grover Washington Jr, Diana Krall, Herbie Hancock, David Benoit, Wayne Shorter, and Michael Buble.
Jazz Record LabelsRecord labels that are commonly associated with jazz include Blue Note, which carry works by Duke Ellington, Wynton Marsalis, and Herbie Hancock; Verve, which features jazz records and jazz albums by Ella Fitzgerald, Nina Simone, and Louis Armstrong; and GRP Records, which boasts of works by jazz musicians and artists such as Diana Krall, David Benoit, and Glenn Miller.
Jazz Records and Jazz CDsSpontaneous, improvised, and free: listen to the best jazz sounds only at MusicStack. Louis Armstrong CDs, Duke Ellington CDs, Ella Fitzgerald CDs, Charlie Parker CDs, Miles Davis CDs, John Coltrane CDs, Dizzy Gillespie CDs, Glenn Miller CDs, Diana Krall CDs, Herbie Hancock CDs, Kenny G CDs, and Stan Getz CDs, among other jazz records and jazz CDs featuring jazz artists and bands from the 20th and 21st centuries, are all available, as are jazz vinyl LPs.
Popular Jazz Artists