Did you know
that jazz was born in the United States? Did you know that the drum
set was invented by jazz musicians? Did you know that the word
"cool" and "hip" were originally jazz terms?
Join us in learning
more about the history of jazz from its birth in New Orleans, Louisiana,
to the music we hear on the radio today. Grammy-Award winning trumpeter
and Artistic Director of Jazz at Lincoln Center Wynton
Marsalis invites you to take a tour of jazz see
the people, read about the events, and listen to the
music. The following history is adapted from the Jazz for Young
People Curriculum by Jazz at Lincoln Center.
The Blues: Back to the Source
the South, the blues is an African American-derived music form that recognized
the pain of lost love and injustice and gave expression to the victory
of outlasting a broken heart and facing down adversity. The
blues evolved from hymns, work songs, and field hollers
music used to accompany spiritual, work and social functions.
Blues is the foundation of jazz as well as the prime source of rhythm
and blues, rock 'n' roll, and country music. The blues is still
evolving and is still widely played today.
You shouldn't have to feel sad when listening to the blues. Wynton Marsalis explains
1900s New Orleans: The Melting Pot of Sound
Mardi Gras in New Orleans at the turn of the century Photo: Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.
"New Orleans had a great tradition of celebration. Opera, military
marching bands, folk music, the blues, different types of church
music, ragtime, echoes of traditional African drumming, and all
of the dance styles that went with this music could be heard and
seen throughout the city. When all of these kinds of music blended
into one, jazz was born." Wynton Marsalis
Listen to this
traditional New Orleans standard called "Second Line."
The melody is repetitive and very singable. Notice the banjo
rhythms in the background, and listen to the musicians break away
from the melody into collective improvisations.
1901 Louis Armstrong is born: The Jazz Original
Louis Armstrong Photo: William P. Gottlieb/Ira and Leonore S. Gershwin Fund Collection, Music Division, Library of Congress.
"Through his clear, warm sound, unbelievable sense of
swing, perfect grasp of harmony, and supremely intelligent and melodic
improvisations, he taught us all to play jazz." Wynton
was one of the most influential artists in the history of music.
Born in New Orleans, Louisiana, on August 4, 1901, he began playing
the cornet at the age of 13. Armstrong perfected the improvised
jazz solo as we know it.
Before Armstrong, Dixieland was the style of jazz that everyone
was playing. This was a style that featured collective improvisation where everyone soloed at once. Armstrong developed the idea of musicians playing during breaks that expanded into musicians playing individual solos. This became the norm. Affectionately known as "Pops"
and "Satchmo," Louis was loved and admired throughout
the world. He died in New York City on July 6, 1971.
Listen to the
drama expressed by the trumpet and clarinet solos in "Potato
The Expression of Freedom
Improvisation is the most defining feature of jazz. Improvisation
is creating, or making up, music as you go along. Jazz musicians play from printed music and they improvise solos. From the collective improvisation
of early jazz to the solo improvisation of Louis Armstrong to the
free jazz of Albert Ayler, Ornette Coleman, and John Coltrane, improvisation
is central to jazz.
Listen to Mr. Marsalis's explanation of improvisation.
Mid1930s Swing: Sound in Motion Swing is the basic rhythm of jazz. Swinging means being in sync
with other people and loving it. Swing as a jazz style first appeared
during the Great Depression. The optimistic feeling of swing lifted
the spirits of everyone in America. By the mid-1930s, a period known
as the "swing" era, swing dancing had become our national
dance and big bands were playing this style of music. Orchestra leaders
such as Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Fletcher Henderson, Paul Whiteman,
and Benny Goodman led some of the greatest bands of the era.
Learn about the swing rhythm and listen to how the vocalists accent
the second and fourth beats to create that rhythm. These accents give
the music a sense of motion and make you want to dance.
Duke Ellington: Master Composer
Duke Ellington Photo: Library of Congress
One of the most significant figures in music history, Edward Kennedy
"Duke" Ellington was born on April 29, 1899, in Washington,
D.C. He began studying the piano at the age of seven. He started playing
jazz as a teenager, and moved to New York City to become a bandleader.
As a pianist, composer, and bandleader, Ellington was one of the creators
of the big band sound, which fueled the "swing" era. He continued leading and composing for his jazz orchestra until his death in 1974. "Ellington
plays the piano, but his real instrument is his band. Each member
of his band is to him a distinctive tone color and set of emotions,
which he mixes with others equally distinctive to produce a third
thing, which I like to call the 'Ellington Effect.'" Billy
Strayhorn, composer and arranger
Listen to Wynton Marsalis explain the "Ellington Effect."
1940s Bebop: The Summit of Sound "If you really understand the meaning of bebop, you understand
the meaning of freedom." Thelonious Monk, pianist and composer
In the early 1940s, jazz musicians were looking for new directions
to explore. A new style of jazz was born, called bebop, had fast
tempos, intricate melodies, and complex harmonies. Bebop was considered
jazz for intellectuals. No longer were there huge big bands, but smaller
groups that did not play for dancing audiences but for listening audiences.
Listen to a short history of the beginning of bebop, and learn how
Dizzy Gillespie: A Jazz Visionary
Dizzy Gillespie Photo: William P. Gottlieb/Ira and Leonore S. Gershwin Fund Collection, Music Division, Library of Congress.
"The first time you hear Dizzy Gillespie play the trumpet, you
may think that the tape was recorded at the wrong speed. He played
so high, so fast, so correctly." Wynton Marsalis
Trumpeter, bandleader, and composer John Birks "Dizzy" Gillespie
was born on October 21, 1917, in Cheraw, South Carolina. He got his
first music lesson from his father and took off from there. He moved
to New York City in 1937 and met musicians such as Thelonious Monk
and Charlie Parker. Together they experimented with jazz and came
up with the bebop sound. Dizzy also helped to introduce Latin American rhythms to modern jazz through his collaborations with artists such as Machito and Chano Pozo. His bold trumpet playing, unique style of
improvisation, and inspired teachings had a major influence, not only
on other trumpet players, but on all jazz musicians in the years to
come. He died in Englewood, New Jersey, on January 6, 1993.
How did Dizzy get his name? Wynton Marsalis explains his famous nickname
and what made Dizzy so unique as a musician.
1950s Latin and Afro-Cuban Jazz: Beyond the Borders "Afro-Cuban jazz celebrates a collective musical history.
Through its percussive beat, it unites ragtime, blues, swing, and
the various grooves of Cuban music. It proclaims our shared musical
heritage." Wynton Marsalis
The combination of African, Spanish, and native cultures in Latin
America created a unique body of music and dance. Jazz musicians from
Jelly Roll Morton to Duke Ellington to Dizzy Gillespie combined their
music with this Latin sound to create a powerful blend. In the 1940s
and 50s, when musicians from Cuba began to play with jazz musicians
in New York, the circle was complete. By combining the musical traditions
of North, South, and Central America, Latin jazz celebrates our musical
differences and helps us to find a common ground.
Gillespie and Chano Pozo, a Cuban musician, created a new form of
Latin jazz called CuBop. Listen to the difference between swing
and Latin grooves.