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A Short History of Jazz Music

Jazz is a musical tradition and style of music that originated at the beginning of the 20th century in African American communities in the Southern United States from a confluence of African and European music traditions.

The word "jazz" (in early years also spelled "jass") began as a West Coast slang term in 1912 and was first used to refer to music in Chicago at about 1915.

The origins of Jazz are attributed to turn of the 20th century New Orleans, although this unique, artistic medium occurred almost simultaneously in other North American areas like Kansas City, Saint Louis and Chicago. Traits carried from West African black folk music developed in the Americas, joined with European popular and light classical music of the late 18th and early 19th centuries, became the syncopated rhythms of Ragtime and minor chord voicings characteristic of the Blues.

Most early Jazz was played in small marching bands or by solo banjo or piano. The dynamic of Jazz improvisation arose quickly but as an ornament of melody and was not to come into its own soloing styles until circa 1925.

During the years from the First to the Second World War (1914-1940), Europe embraced Jazz music as its own. American musicians spread the globe as ambassadors of Jazz often in self-imposed exile from racial and social tensions at home, others in search of cultural and creative freedoms thought to exist abroad. Jazz music transformed from primarily an African-American genre into an international phenomenon.

Post-war depression and the break-up of the 'Big Bands' brought a focus on the smaller ensemble sound and the emancipation of Jazz styles. Perhaps the most innovative, forward discoveries in style took place at this time.

The 1950s Jazz scene faced new competition from other forms of entertainment. The growing popularity of television helped to introduce new popular music trends but shrinking Jazz audiences. Then Jazz music suffered an almost fatal trend upheaval first from the record industry's frenzy over Rock & Roll in the mid 1960s and followed by the Disco dance fad in the early 1970s. Many Jazz artists crossed over to more popular venues or joined the new Fusion school of Jazz.

During the 1980's, the Jazz timeline continued to evolve on a somewhat lateral direction with a multitude of influences, the most significant of which was the retro surfacing of it's own roots and styles. With an emergence of innovative young players revitalizing the creative spirits and a consistent increase of Jazz "purists" from the USA, Europe and abroad, the necessary energy and passion for creativity has continued to grow.

Post Bop, now interpreted with a modern preciseness and proficiency, ushered in the school of Classicism, circa 1990. This 'retro-renaissance' has become the passion of listeners and followers of every age group, of every culture and has brought a new awareness to the early sounds of legendary players.

An unexpected fad of the 1990s was the emergence of Retro Swing, a joyous, easy listening celebration of Jump Blues, Hot Dance and Swing hybrid (sans soloing) played by young musicians from Indie Rock.

Except for possibly Smooth Jazz and the European House dance music, significant change in the timeline of Jazz style has not occurred since. [source : Jazz Music Timeline]

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