HOH Jazz Mix online radio, the station that provides your daily dose of jazz and blues at the click of a button. Jazz is a music genre that originated in the African-American communities of New Orleans, United States, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, with its roots in blues and ragtime. Since the 1920s Jazz Age, it has been recognized as a major form of musical expression in traditional and popular music, linked by the common bonds of African-American and European-American musical parentage. Jazz is characterized by swing and blue notes, complex chords, call and response vocals, polyrhythms and improvisation. Jazz has roots in West African cultural and musical expression, and in African-American music traditions.
Like us on Facebook.
As jazz spread around the world, it drew on national, regional, and local musical cultures, which gave rise to different styles. New Orleans jazz began in the early 1910s, combining earlier brass-band marches, French quadrilles, biguine, ragtime and blues with collective polyphonic improvisation. In the 1930s, heavily arranged dance-oriented swing big bands, Kansas City jazz, a hard-swinging, bluesy, improvisational style and Gypsy jazz (a style that emphasized musette waltzes) were the prominent styles. Bebop emerged in the 1940s, shifting jazz from danceable popular music toward a more challenging “musician’s music” which was played at faster tempos and used more chord-based improvisation. Cool jazz developed near the end of the 1940s, introducing calmer, smoother sounds and long, linear melodic lines.
The mid-1950s saw the emergence of hard bop, which introduced influences from rhythm and blues, gospel, and blues, especially in the saxophone and piano playing. Modal jazz developed in the late 1950s, using the mode, or musical scale, as the basis of musical structure and improvisation, as did free jazz, which explored playing without regular meter, beat and formal structures. Jazz-rock fusion appeared in the late 1960s and early 1970s, combining jazz improvisation with rock music’s rhythms, electric instruments, and highly amplified stage sound. In the early 1980s, a commercial form of jazz fusion called smooth jazz became successful, garnering significant radio airplay. Other styles and genres abound in the 2000s, such as Latin and Afro-Cuban jazz.
Although jazz is considered difficult to define, in part because it contains many subgenres, improvisation is one of its defining elements. The centrality of improvisation is attributed to the influence of earlier forms of music such as blues, a form of folk music which arose in part from the work songs and field hollers of African-American slaves on plantations. These work songs were commonly structured around a repetitive call-and-response pattern, but early blues was also improvisational. Classical music performance is evaluated more by its fidelity to the musical score, with less attention given to interpretation, ornamentation, and accompaniment. The classical performer’s goal is to play the composition as it was written. In contrast, jazz is often characterized by the product of interaction and collaboration, placing less value on the contribution of the composer, if there is one, and more on the performer. The jazz performer interprets a tune in individual ways, never playing the same composition twice. Depending on the performer’s mood, experience, and interaction with band members or audience members, the performer may change melodies, harmonies, and time signatures.
In early Dixieland, a.k.a. New Orleans jazz, performers took turns playing melodies and improvising countermelodies. In the swing era of the 1920s–’40s, big bands relied more on arrangements which were written or learned by ear and memorized. Soloists improvised within these arrangements. In the bebop era of the 1940s, big bands gave way to small groups and minimal arrangements in which the melody was stated briefly at the beginning and most of the piece was improvised. Modal jazz abandoned chord progressions to allow musicians to improvise even more. In many forms of jazz, a soloist is supported by a rhythm section of one or more chordal instruments (piano, guitar), double bass, and drums. The rhythm section plays chords and rhythms that outline the composition structure and complement the soloist. In avant-garde and free jazz, the separation of soloist and band is reduced, and there is license, or even a requirement, for the abandoning of chords, scales, and meters.