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The History of Modern Jazz

By Christian Cail

Jazz Roots
When African slaves were brought to America they brought their rhythm. Some masters allowed slaves to meet up and play for them for money, for extra food, etc. This tradition was continued after slavery in new Orleans. Black African music developed as slavery was abolished and as time went by. European classical music is another style of music that has left a huge imprint on jazz, especially as far as harmony is concerned.

Ragtime and New Orleans

Ragtime was a music that developed in the late 1800s and was played at minstrel shows and vaudeville shows. Its was music for the lower classes. New Orleans also had a huge impact on jazz. Brass and string bands became popular especially for lower classes.

Blues music grew before jazz, but developed alongside jazz and changed just as much as jazz did and still does. Jazz and Blues have continued to influence each other. Ornette Coleman, Albert Ayler, and Horace Silver are just a few jazzers who used the blues to express themselves.

Charles Mingus Hog Callin' Blues

Heres an example of a jazz song that employs the blues feel alongside scat singing. This song came off the album Oh Yeah in 1962.

Heres Louis Armstrong alongside blues singer Bessie Smith Louis and Bessie

Jelly Roll Morton

Pianist Jelly Roll Morton was a defining figure in jazz music. He started off playing his music in the brothels of Storyville. In the early 1900s he toured around America and even played in North Carolina. He played in many of the large cities across the U.S. and wrote many compositions. He died on July 10th, 1941 from complications from asthma.

Jelly Roll Morton This song was to later be covered by rock band Hot Tuna.

20s ad 30s
The jazz age had begun; Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Fletcher Henderson, and many more left a huge impact on the shape of jazz music and defined it for many. Many jazz musicians backed blues singers like Bessie Smith and Ma Rainey. Swing music also appeared in the 30s. Swing consisted of big bands like that of Duke Ellington or Count Basie. Some musicians like Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Christian, and Lester Young began to look further than just swing.

Duke Ellington
Pianist Duke Ellington is one of the greatest composers of all time. He influenced all of jazz that came after him from Charles Mingus to John Coltrane. He worked at the Cotton Club in the late 20s. From 1932 to 1942 his was thriving. He was also very connected with classical music which bled over into his jazz compositions. Caravan-Duke Ellington

The Next Step; Bebop

In the 1940s some musicians were looking for more harmonically and rhythmically advanced music. This music would end up being called Be-Bop. The leaders were altoist Charlie Parker and trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie. Many musicians like pianist Thelonious Monk, guitarist Charlie Christian, saxophonist Lester Young, and trumpeter Clifford Brown also played the music and were expanding the boundaries of jazz.

Thelonious Monk
Monk was under all circumstances an oddball. He took heroin, sang off key along with his piano improvisations, and danced in trace-like circles leaving his bassist at the time to have all the harmonic burdens. Monk was a genius though and his unclassical throbbing piano style was unmatched and unable to copy. He was a mastermind and his music although much of it was written in the 40s wasnt excepted until the 60s. He was one of the founders of Be-Bop.

Bemsha Swing
Bemsha Swing is a great example of Monks odd compositions. This is a live recording. Woah!! Remember when live music was actually good!?!?! The great Charlie Rouse on Tenor Sax.
Dancing Monk Anthropology Charlie Parker

Hard Bop
Hard Bop music grew from a classic rebound to the softer and whiter Cool Jazz on the West Coast. Hard Bop, which developed in the 50s, was a bit harder hitting and although played by Be-Boppers it had many elements of what was to become funk, soul, while taking a lot of inspiration form blues. Art Blakeys jazz Messengers were group carrying the torch for the music. Art had played with Charlie Parker as well. Sonny Rollins, Miles Davis, Lee Morgan, and Horace Silver are just a few jazzers known to play this style of jazz. They all had direct connections with Be-Bop.

This was a composition by Bobby Timmons. The night this song was written was the very night they played it live.
Lee Morgan This next track was written by none other than Dizzy Gillespie.

Modal Jazz
Modal jazz, originating in the late 50s, was inspired by visionarys like George Russell whose approach was to use less chords and have more time to explore the extensions of the chord itself. Pianist Bill Evans, Alto Saxophone player Jackie McLean, Miles Davis and John Coltrane adapted to this new style. But, lets not forget Miles Davis played with Charlie Parker as well. John Coltrane also played with Dizzy Gillespie. My point is that jazz music is always developing from jazz musicians with direct ties to the past.

So What Miles Davis

So what was a modal tune that only changed key signatures twice. This was influenced by Bill Evans new modal approach to piano. The album was Kind Of Blue(1959), a groundbreaking jazz album.

Free Jazz/ Avant-Garde

Free Jazz, developing in the early 60s, abandoned chord progressions, it abandoned some time signatures, and even key signatures. This style of music was harsh and very heavy. One pioneer in particular was Ornette Coleman. He stood his ground for the music he loved to play and did not let up. John Coltrane, Jackie McLean, Miles Davis, Cecil Taylor, Albert Ayler, and Sonny Rollins are just a few musicians who excepted the music and applied it to what they were doing.

Lonely Woman
This tune came on Shape Of Jazz to Come in 1959. John Coltrane, Jackie Mclean and others praised his work, while Charles Mingus and Miles Davis though of it as noise.

Got to have Freedom

Pharoah Sanders joined John Coltranes band in 1965. He continued the sound after Trane's death in 1967. His name was given to him by fellow Free Jazzer Sun Ra.

You guys though Lady Gaga and Nicki Minaj were weird. Marshall Allen and Sun Ra

I could not possibly find a place for Charles Mingus. His music fits in no sub genre. He played jazz before Charlie Parker and even played along him in the album Bird And Diz: Live At Massey Hall. He had elements of Be-Bop, Swing, Blues, Folk Music, and Free Jazz in his overall career. He was a pioneer, political activist, fighter, and a womanizer. He also collaborated with Eric Dolphy who died in 1964. Dolphy was another innovator in free jazz.

Haitian Fight Song

This tune appeared on the album Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus in 1963.

Jazz/Rock Fusion
Jazz fusion was a creation in the later 1960s that combined rock and jazz elements together. Miles Davis, Return To Forever, Mahavishnu Orchestra, Tony Williams Lifetime, Cream, Allman Brothers Band, Santana, Grateful Dead, and Soft Machine are just a few jazz fusion bands that arrived in the 60s and 70s.

The Mahavishnu Orchestra were made up of jazz players. For instance John Mclaughlin played with Miles Davis. As did Billy Cobham. Rick Laird played with Stan Getz and alongside Sonny Rollins.

Mahavishnu Orchestra

Soft Machine formed as a pop group with major psychedelic tendencies. They backed Jimi Hendrix for a short while before adopted an avant-garde sound. Soft Machine

Above and Beyond

Jazz had fused with rap, electronic music, Punk, Metal, and Hip-Hop. Jazz has stayed current but unfortunately not in the mainstream. Jazz will also be an underground music for underdogs. Its heavier than metal but as soft as a morning sunrise. So many people and walks of life can experience the music and learn to love it and at least respect it. Dave Fiuczynski and John Medeski