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1910-1920 and 1930-1940 in the Development of Jazz Music

There is no doubt that the development of Jazz music began in America’s southern city of New Orleans. As the home of many African Americans and native citizens, there was a fusion of the African and European styles these two groups had acquired. Prominent features of European music, such as its primary chord harmony and fairly rigid structures, merged with African traditions such as vocal call and response patterns, polyrhythm, and blue notes. Early African forms of music in the U.S.A included gospels, spirituals and work songs, which collectively influenced and helped form the blues. Thus, blues was an essential style in the creation of Jazz, and it also originated in southern America, flourishing among oppressed, restricted African Americans.

W.C Handy was one of the first musicians to notate a 12 bar blues structure; St. Louis Blues’ is a good example of this, which became a Jazz standard. Hardy’s style captured many aspects of blues which would become regular elements, for example, the 12 bar structure, which uses an AAB lyrical structure, flattened inflections of the major scale in tune, especially the 3rd, 5th and 7th degrees, and harmonic pattern across the 12 bar which often consists of a common chord progression, featuring chords 1,4 and 5. Another important style to emerge from New Orleans was Ragtime, also later to fill a significant role in creating Jazz. Ragtime was based on dances such as the mazurka, and it follows that form. There is the main tune of four-bar phrases, which is played several times with episodes between. These episodes adopt the same style but have contrasting melodies and keys, creating an ABACDA pattern. The music has a striding left-hand part and a syncopated right-hand melody.

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Rags grew out of ballroom dances, marches and songs by composers such as Scott Joplin. His Maple leaf rag was extremely popular and the regular phrasing, leaping left-hand and right-hand syncopations characteristic of the style. MUSICAL EXAMPLE DETAIL. Jelly Roll Morton was another ragtime piano player at the time. However, he began using more complex jazz rhythms in the left hand and fusing the style with blues, becoming an important innovator in the creation of Jazz. Many musicians from New Orleans were especially skilled at ‘elaboration’ or improvisation and managed to incorporate elements of the blues tradition in their ragtime-based compositions. This kind of Jazz played in New Orleans became known as ‘Dixieland jazz’ and consisted of typical Dixieland instrumentation, cornet, clarinet, trombone, piano, banjo and drums. Some other typical features of the music were the improvised ensemble sections, a driving 4/4 meter and simple rhythm section parts.

Marching bands and their music were also influential in creating the Jazz genre, as the bands developed a tradition of syncopating their marches and improvising. Instrumental roles were also significant in defining roles within a typical early jazz band. Numerous ensembles featured three horns and three rhythm players, as well as a chordal instrument. The tuba was useful for outdoor work, but much jazz was performed indoors, to which the string bass was better suited, supplanting the tuba in the 20s. Changes from ragtime to jazz began to appear on recording from around 1914. Many ensemble ragtime performances were played with violin and seemed well planned out, for example, some recordings by James Reese Europe’s Society Orchestra. By 1919, bands were improvising breaks within multiple strain compositions, exemplifying the growing influence of the New Orleans style. In 1917, the Original Dixieland Jazz Band made the first-ever jazz recordings; Livery Stable Blues and Dixie Jass Band One-Step.

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MUSICAL EXAMPLE. They were a white band from New Orleans and played at Schiller’s caf� in Chicago and Reisenweber’s Restaurant in New York. The group brought the New Orleans style to national prominence and was probably the first U.S. band to generate mass popularity and make its members stars. Jelly Roll Morton travelled around America from 1907 to 1923, playing both in bands and solo, reaching Chicago by 1914 and settled there in 1922. He mostly recorded his own compositions in this city, including many ensemble recordings with the Red Hot Peppers. He showed a deft awareness of the balance between improvisation and arrangement. This gift ensured that he remains today one of the best composer-arrangers in early jazz. Morton played many different styles, such as rags, blues, and selections from light opera, popular songs, and dances. He claimed to have invented Jazz in 1902, being one of the first pianists to transform ragtime into a more linear jazz style.

The artist’s solo work demonstrates his brilliant ability to separate the rhythms of his hands, sometimes beginning to fuse Latin music with jazz. Morton’s Grandpa’s Spells with the Red Hot Peppers is one of the finest early jazz recordings, using breaks throughout and ingeniously mixing various combinations of his players to give the arrangement a wide range of textures. The piece consists of nine 16 bar strains, with a short introduction and coda. There are two solo strains featuring clarinet solos and other strains which vary the featuring of some other instruments. The piece is a prime example of Morton’s development of solo ragtime playing, using a ragtime structure with a C strain modulating to the subdominant, to more complex band arrangements with improvisation, a feature to gain greater popularity in the expansion of Jazz. Stride pianists also maintained a close connection to the ragtime form and performance practice.

Inevitably the roles of different instruments within a band changed over time due to the changing and development of the players’ talents. The cornet usually carried the melody; however, it was eclipsed by the trumpet in the 1920s. In the traditional collective improvisational style of New Orleans, the trombone would play countermelodies, bass pitches and harmony, often sliding between notes. Many early New Orleans clarinettists were readers of music rather than improvisers; however, they developed a more blues-based style of playing, which was to become part of the New Orleans tradition. Most of the musicians played the normal B flat clarinet, although some preferred the E flat soprano, favoured by some older clarinettists. A bass instrument was regularly used in ragtime groups from the 1890s, with players often doubling on tuba for marching bands and string bass for ‘sit-down’ groups. The bass was originally bowed, as this was typical of New Orleans string bands.

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Generally, the bass provided the basic harmonic accompaniment of roots and fifths of chords. The New Orleans bassists usually played on the first and fourth beats of the 4/4 meter but occasionally marked all four beats or used stop time. The bass was not always used in early bands; for example, the piano and banjo supply the bass notes in several King Oliver and Original Dixieland Jazz Band recordings. Like the bass, the guitar and banjo were primarily accompanying instruments. The player normally strummed every four beats or syncopated the meter by playing beats 2 and 4 of the bar. One of the best-known New Orleans banjo-guitarists was Johnny St. Cyr, who recorded with Louis Armstrong and Jelly Roll Morton. The drum kit evolved when players organized marching band instruments to be played by an individual percussionist. Some early players used a foot pedal with a drum twice the size of bass drums used today.

The bass drum marked the first and third beats of a 4/4 meter, sometimes all four to coincide with the brass instrument. Wood blocks and cowbells were often attached to the bass drum for additional sound effects. Military patterns often heavily influenced ragtime drumming, and early jazz drummers took over these patterns. Lastly, the piano supplied another accompaniment in a jazz band, often consisting of bass notes and chords, which together provided a backup rhythm. The closing of the red light district of New Orleans, Storyville, in 1917 reduced employment opportunities for the musicians there, causing them to leave. However, many musicians also left earlier, such as the Original Creole Band and Sidney Bechet, leaving in New Orleans in 1914 to play in cities such as Chicago, New York, and Paris. Chicago was the most appealing of all the American cities, as it offered the most employment opportunities and was easy to reach at the end of the railway line. The legacy of New Orleans jazz is long-lasting, with the style of music still being played today.

There are entire periodicals devoted to Dixieland, and various players specializing in the style continue to find work. The departure of New Orleans jazz musicians as part of a widespread trend known as the Great Migration, in which many blacks left their rural life in the South for more urban life in the North. The most compelling reason behind the migration was the availability of fair-wage jobs cities had to offer. As a result, nearly half a million black citizens moved north between 1916 and 1919, the largest internal migration in America’s history. Between 1910 and 1920, more the 65 000 blacks emigrated from the southern states of Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas and Texas, to Chicago alone. Many northern cities developed black sections, as whites refused to live amongst them. The presence of black people changed the entertainment industry across the country; for example, in Chicago, the entertainment community responded earnestly to the demand for black music.

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Cabarets and nightclubs emerged along the South Side and created a new urban nightlife full of music for listening and dancing. Chicago’s ‘black and tan’ clubs allowed more interracial mingling than did the clubs in New York, allowing whites to take in the nightlife and white musicians to hear the black bands, an important factor in the development of Jazz. The performance opportunities Chicago had to offer attracted many New Orleans musicians, and they were able to transplant their music too much more sophisticated venues. They adapted to the urbane musical professionalism of Chicago. The higher level of musical competition led to distinct ensembles with their own stylistic arrangements and the development of individual improvisational skills. The competition in Chicago required a higher level of virtuosity from the players than ever before, and up-tempo compositions were expected for people to dance to. The beginning of the 1920s shows a general shift from melodic to harmonic improvisation.

At the beginning of the decade, ‘improvised solos’ sometimes adhered to the composition’s melody, occasionally embellishing it. By the end of the 20s, soloists were developing improvisational techniques that reflected the harmonic framework of the composition. Between t920 and 1930, great soloists began to emerge as leaders or members of different jazz ensembles. Some of the the4se players included Louis Armstrong, a trumpeter with an unwavering grasp of swing, and some of the best improvisational skills a jazz musician had ever had, with very high range and fine tone.

His improvisations were dramatic, and they broke away from the original melody, influencing many jazz ensembles to use more virtuosic individual solos in their arrangements. Other important soloists were clarinettist Sidney Bechet and cornetist Bix Beiderbecke, who specialized in middle range rather than Armstrong’s high notes. In addition, leaders were beginning to use bigger ensembles than previously, such as Louis Armstrong’s Hot Fives and Hot Sevens, with which he recorded the famous ‘West End Blues’ and the ‘Savoy Blues.’ This use of bigger ensembles and more complex arrangements lead and influenced certain trends in the next era of the development of Jazz.

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1910-1920 and 1930-1940 in the Development of Jazz Music. (2021, Aug 25). Retrieved August 15, 2022, from