Close to the turn of the century, ragtime, blues and marching band music were the dominating musics in USA. Jazz, or Jass, the first word where it came from, appeared sometimes around 1890’s in the city called New Orleans. Jass combined the elements of ragtime, blues and marching band music. What made it different was the improvisation. Before Jass, musicians tried their best to played what the composer wrote, exactly like it was. In jass, it was all about improvisation. What the composer wrote was just a reference, a point, or guideline for the musicians to improvise around. Some musicians didn’t even know how to read the notes, but the way they play always thrilled the audience with such a spontanious style of music.
If one ask where the word Jazz comes from, there will be many contradicting theories and histories appear. One of the theory has documents showing a factual perspective. Those documents stated that jass, the original word for Jazz, came from the “slang” that had been used at that time by the african-american community, means sex. Why using that slang to a newborn music? it’s because when they were playing, they felt all the joy and enjoyment, satisfaction, just like having sex. Some other documents stated that jass is a word that can be compared to the use of “cool” word, meaning something to do with vigor and energy. Many other versions of course to define where the word came from.
Back to the history of jazz, there are also many stories about who created it. Many believe that it was african american bands just close before the turn of the century. But the use of a term jass as a band name came from white band, the Original Dixieland Jass Band, which also was the first band to record this kind of music on Feb 26th 1917. Their first record named “Livery Stable Blues”, sold easily around 1 million copies at that time. This “New Orleans” style of jazz then used primarily as entertainment for the african-american working class, acting as functional music for dances, parades and funerals, and could also be heard in other places like gambling parlour and so on all around the city.
In 1920s, Chicago had become the new center for jazz due to the migration of a large Black population from the South looking for new job opportunities and a better lifestyle in the North. Along with this migration came the music and musicians that created the New Orleans style of jazz. Now in Chicago, these innovators including pianist/composer Jelly Roll Morton, trombonist Kid Ory, cornetist Joe “King” Oliver, young Louis Armstrong, saxophonist and clarinetist Sidney Bechet, Jimmy Noone, pianist Earl Hines, and began to gain national recognition through their recordings and popularity in clubs. This jazz music, the New Orleans style, and the early recordings of the ODJB, began attracting many young white players who would eventually form their own bands. These musicians included cornetist Bix Beiderbecke, saxophonist Frank Trumbauer, clarinetist Pee Wee Russell and a group of Chicago musicians known as the Austin High Gang, including saxophonist Bud Freeman, cornetist Jimmy McPartland, and drummer Dave Tough. As the popularity of jazz had expanded in Chicago, it would also find its way to Kansas City and finally New York.
In New York, this kind of music grew and popularized so fast. All of a sudden there was jazz-craze in New York, but in New York, jazz became more “sophisticated” and appeared in hotels for higher class segmentation of listeners. Names such as Fats Waller, Count Basie and Duke Ellington began to appear in the musical scene. The expansion of jazz from the traditional New Orleans style of five musicians to larger jazz groups of usually ten musicians became the style in the development of jazz, then later went even bigger and called Big Band.
From those first forms and early developments, in this modern days, there are more than 40 sub genres of jazz in the music scene. It’s fascinating and amazing to see how this music still growing and developing each and every day, and entertaining millions of people. Let’s wait and see where jazz goes in the future.