What Is Jazz? Amazing Rhythm
What is jazz? When people think of jazz, they might think of a group of men playing the saxophone in a smoky Parisian nightclub, or perhaps of a man with a trumpet in the streets of New York. However, what is jazz and where did it come from? What makes jazz unique from other genres of music?
What Is Jazz
Jazz music is special when it comes to other forms of music because of how heavily it relies on improvision. While other forms of music follow precise sheet music and rhythm, jazz can be made up anywhere, anyplace, anytime, as long as it sounds good. Jazz is also known for its complicated harmonies.
Jazz has a rich history even though it is not that old. It originated in New Orleans with black musicians at the beginning of the 20th century. New Orleans is also the birthplace of ragtime which is the catchy piano music you might hear in Western-themed movies. Ragtime was actually so popular that musicians who would be one day known as jazz musicians based a lot of their tunes off of ragtime.
Jazz did not stay in New Orleans for long and soon spread like a wildfire across America. Its new home base was the bustling city of New York. There, jazz mixed with other kinds of music and also spread to other countries around the world.
Jazz grew especially popular in the 1920s and 1930s. Names like Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington started to become popular, along with many others. Jazz continued to evolve as it entered the 1940s and 1950s. During this time, a subgenre of jazz known as bebop came around which involved super-fast playing and plenty of chord changes. It was during this period that people really started experimenting and exploring what jazz was.
In the 1960s, cool jazz became more popular over the noisier big band jazz of the previous eras. Bebop continued but at a slower rhythm as well.
What Is It Supposed to Sound Like?
Jazz has taken a little piece of almost every music genre, so it is very diverse. There is also a swarm of jazz subgenres that all have a unique twist. However, certain elements bring together all forms of jazz, no matter what genre they are.
For example, “swinging eighth notes” are popular in jazz. This is what gives jazz its unique rhythm. And, as mentioned before, improvision is indispensable when it comes to jazz.
When it comes to instruments, jazz has a whole menagerie. Drums are very important as they help root the rhythm of the tune. However, not all jazz subgenres use drums such as cool or smooth jazz.
The bass is popular in jazz music for its rich, deep tones. Jazz can simply not be without the keyboard. The keyboard was around when jazz was first formulated and it remains an integral part of the genre even today. The same goes for the trumpet. From Louis Armstrong to Miles Davis, you’ll be quick to find a trumpet in jazz music.
Finally, vocals and the saxophone both play a large part in jazz. Vocals may not have always been popular or necessary for jazz, but the jazz singers of the past such as Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald remain popular even today.