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The Evolution of Jazz - Essay Example

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The Evolution of Jazz

This practice ended before the slaves were emancipated, but remains a contributing factor to the music. African music, combined with European influences, resulted in jazz.
Creoles were not free from French and Spanish rule until the Louisiana Purchase was signed in 1803. They came from the Caribbean and were an educated, upper class group, some of whom played at the Opera House. Segregation laws were enforced in 1894 and the creoles were pushed to the poor side of the city. Their musical styles mixed and brought jazz to life.
Numerous Creoles, along with African-Americans who were recently freed from slavery, often made their way by performing. Racial segregation was rampant, but so "was the powerful and constant desire of the American Negro to make his mark, to belong, to participate effectively in a predominantly white culture. And music was one of the few avenues to fame and fortune" (Stearns, 55).
African-Americans commonly joined vaudeville and minstrel shows, employed as musicians, magicians, comedians, acrobats, actors, and dancers - sometimes burlesque. Others played music on the piano, which came to be called ragtime, in bars and brothels. Storyville of New Orleans became the epicenter of early jazz. Then brasses, drums, and reeds, played by marching bands at funerals, became traditional jazz instruments. Self-taught bands commonly performed in traveling vaudeville shows, which spread the music farther both North and West of Louisiana.
"By 1920, according to Frederic Ramsey, Jr., there were over forty outstanding jazzmen from New Orleans to Chicago. Looking back, it now seems almost like a family affair. And in a sense, it was; for the general public and even white jazzmen knew almost nothing about it" (Stearns, 164). That year, the Jazz Age was just beginning, and not everyone was happy about it. Prohibition began that year. An onslaught of speakeasies opened and jazz was a major part of the upbeat entertainment inside of them. Soon enough, jazz was viewed as a threat to old-fashioned values and considered immoral by many.
The music lasted through controversy; " the 'twenties were the crucial years during which jazz established itself for better or for worse. Certain patterns emerged during these years, patterns which help explain how jazz grew and spread, and hence the nature of the music. Of all the technological advances - the phonograph, radio, microphone, talking picture, juke-box, and television - which hastened and shaped the spread of jazz, the phonograph is by far the most important single factor" (Stearns, 190). Caucasians helped to popularize the genre when they adapted it themselves, but they couldn't take over it.
Though it took time for African-American musicians to take advantage of the phonograph, the opportunity finally arrived in 1922. Kid Ory's Original Creole Jazz Band became the first African-American group to record their music. Over twenty subgenres developed in the decades to follow. Swing, bebop, dixieland, gypsy, cool, and soul jazz are only a handful of them. Performers chose one and made their marks.
"Battles of music, once known as 'carving contests', have occurred frequently in the history of jazz... The first and archetypical legend in jazz is the life of Charles 'Buddy' Bolden, who never lost a carving contest. He was almost eight years old before the dances at Congo Square ...Show more

Summary

In the early twentieth century, "jazz" was not yet associated with music; it was simply a slang word used along the West Coast. That changed in 1915 when an article in The Chicago Tribune suggested that blues and jazz were interchangeable musical genres. The word was still considered improper at first; especially so when it became associated with intimacy…
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