Jazz History: The Mysterious Swing from New Orleans

Jazz is a musical style that was born in the USA in the New Orleans region in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

With its roots in African-American culture, jazz has a non-linear rhythm, and its main characteristic is improvisation. As the years went by, many sub-genres emerged from this same root.

It is also important to highlight the great relationship between jazz and blues music styles.

Origin of Jazz

The emergence of jazz has its main matrix in African culture. People who were captured in Africa and taken to American soil to be enslaved had in music and song a kind of “refuge” in which they could express themselves.

Thus, while working on the rice, cotton, sugar, and tobacco plantations, the workers would sing collective songs.

After the abolition of slavery in the country in 1863, blacks approached western instruments and a mix of cultures, melodies and rhythms took place.

Later, around 1890, with the growth of the cities, this effervescent sound takes shape in New Orleans, Louisiana, more precisely in the Storyville neighborhood, in bars called Honky Tonks.

In this region, there was room for the development of folk music allied to American influences, which in turn were inspired by European references. From there, several rhythms such as Ragtime, Blues, and Spirituals emerged.

From the combination of these rhythms and experimentations comes jazz, which, like blues, uses the “blue note”, a specific musical note that gives the music a melancholic characteristic.

The instrumentalist Louis Armstrong is a great name in music, considered the “king of jazz”.

It was around the 1920s that this musical style gained ground in other places and became part of the cultural life of the elite.

Furthermore, in this period new technologies and ways of communication appear, such as the radio, making it possible for jazz to spread to several parts of the planet.

Jazz Styles and Artists

The trajectory of jazz has been marked by much experimentation, sound mixing, and improvisation. This fact generated sub-genres that appeared more or less in this chronological order:

Swing and Big bands

These are the first prominent jazz styles, which appeared in the 1930s. Swing begins to be played on radios and encourages the strengthening of big bands, which were orchestras with various musicians and instruments.

Important names of this era are: Bix Beiderbecke, Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong, who at that time, was already quite recognized and earned the title “king of jazz”.

Bebop and Hard bop

Bebop and hard bop are more “radical” jazz styles, with more complex and faster sounds. It is at this time that jazz gains a “modernization”, in the 1950s. Important artists: Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, and Bill Evans.

Cool jazz and Soul jazz

These strands emerge as opposition to the previous styles. They feature greater smoothness and longer melody lines. Soul music is very influenced by the blues. A great artist of this era is Miles Davis.

Free jazz

Free jazz appeared in the late 1950s with a more experimental style, free and uncompromising with the symmetry of sound. John Coltrane is an outstanding musician of this genre.

Fusion jazz

From the 1960s on, jazz begins to blend with other rhythms, especially rock. Here we have, for example, names like Herbie Hancock and Frank Zappa.

Jazz Latino

Latin jazz is a Latin American rhythm that mixes jazz with other instruments and rhythms from salsa, merengue, mambo, and samba.

Jazz Features

There are several jazz styles, so their characteristics also change from one to another; however, we can say that, in general, these particularities are maintained:

  • freedom;
  • improvisation;
  • individual interpretation;
  • creativity;
  • non-linear rhythms;
  • dancing sonority.

10 songs that marked the history of Jazz

Finally, it’s time for the “jam” that makes our hearts beat so much faster. So get ready to hear 10 more hits that have made Jazz history!

1. So What

Not by chance, the revolutionary trumpeter Miles Davis is the first name on the BBC’s list. Because he was so creative and skilled, he is said to have “cooled off” Bebop and set the trend with a more serene style.

2. Feeling Good

The intriguing trajectory of singer and pianist Nina Simone became a movie. So hurry up and see “What Happened, Miss Simone?”, which tells about the revolutionary mind of this racial activist. And the jazz legend herself says: “how can you be an artist and not reflect the times?

3. What a Wonderful World

Certainly, the singer and trumpeter Louis Armstrong is one of the most famous names in music. With a smooth style and, at the same time, a remarkable voice, he recorded such hits as “What a Wonderful World.

4. Dream a Little Dream on Me

Ella Fitzgerald, on the other hand, is one of the divas of jazz and also of bossa nova. For example, she recorded a medley of Desafinado with Stardust. In addition, another great success was the album “Ella Abraça Jobim”, with songs in Portuguese, such as “A Felicidade”.

5. My Favorite Things

For critics, Coltrane is “the greatest tenor sax player in jazz” and “one of the greatest composers of all time”. And his influence goes far beyond, involving both rock and classical music.

6. Shadow of your Smile

Did you know that the legendary Sarah Vaughan recorded a duet with the Brazilian Wilson Simonal, at the time of TV Tupi? And the best part: this iconic concert got a DVD version (many years later, of course).

7. Time After Time

Here’s another curiosity: the trumpet player Chet Baker played in Brazil in 1985, at the Free Jazz Festival. And, if you want to know more about this music legend, check out the movie “Born to be Blue” and the documentary “Let’s Get Lost”.

8. Blue Moon

Besides being one of the great voices of Jazz, the singer was an activist who fought for civil rights. For this, she was persecuted by the US government. And this story is portrayed in the film biography “The United States vs.

9. It Don’t Mean a Thing If It Ain’t Got That Swing

In mid-1921, Duke Ellington was already working on the composition of this hit that would mark the history of Jazz. After all, the “Swing” took over the United States with the big bands and their orchestras, especially after the Great Depression.

10. My Baby Just Cares for Me

Finally we come to the famous saxophonist Charlie Parker, whose bohemian life inspired the movie “Bird”. In Clint Eastwood’s feature film, the great jazzman was played by actor Forest Whitaker.