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Essay/Term paper: Jazz

Essay, term paper, research paper:  College Papers

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Jazz is a type of music developed by black Americans about 1900
and possessing an identifiable history and describable
stylistic evolution. It is rooted in the mingled musical traditions of
American blacks. More black musicians saw jazz for the first time a
profession. Since its beginnings jazz has branched out into so many
styles that no single description fits all of them with total accuracy.
Performers of jazz improvise within the conventions of their chosen
style. Improvisation gave jazz a personalized, individualized, and
distinct feel. Most jazz is based on the principle that an infinite

number of melodies can fit the cord progressively of any cord.
The twenties were a crucial period in the history of music.
Revolutions, whether in arts or matter of state, create a new
world only by sacrificing the old. By the late twenties, improvisation
had expanded to the extent of improvisation we ordinarily expect from
jazz today. It was the roaring twenties that a group of new tonalities
entered the mainstream, fixing the sound and the forms of our popular
music for the next thirty years. Louie Armstrong closed the book on the
dynastic tradition in New Orleans jazz.

The first true virtuoso soloist of jazz, Louie Armstrong was a dazzling
improviser, technically, emotionally, and intellectually. Armstrong,
often called the "father of jazz," always spoke with deference,
bordering on awe, of his musical roots, and with especial devotion of
his mentor Joe Oliver. He changed the format of jazz by bringing the
soloist to the forefront, and in his recording groups, the Hot Five and
the Hot seven, demonstrated that jazz improvisation could go far beyond
simply ornamenting the melody. Armstrong was one of the first jazz
musicians to refine a rhythmic conception that abandoned the stiffness
of ragtime, employed swing light-note patterns, and he used a technique
called "rhythmic displacement." Rhythmic displacement was sometimes
staggering the placement of an entire phrase, as though he were playing
behind the beat. He created new melodies based on the chords of the
initial tune. He also set standards for all later jazz singers, not
only by the way he altered the words and melodies of songs but also by
improvising without words like an instrument (scat singing)
(Arnold12). Armstrong was a great musical architect. He brought a
superb sense of drama to jazz solo conception. During a period when
most improvisers were satisfied simply to embellish or paraphrase a
tune, Armstrong himself was a master at both. Armstrong^s command of
the trumpet was arguable greater than that of any preceding jazz
trumpeter who recorded.
In actuality, the revolution initiated by Armstrong took place
in fits and starts, and with little fanfare at the time. After
Armstrong^s departure from the King Oliver Creole Band, over a year
would transpire before he would record as a leader. And even when
those famous recordings were planned -the classic "Hot Fives"- the
record company considered enlisting a better known leader to front the
band. Most accounts stress that Armstrong^s talents may have been
neglected by the general public, but were amply recognized by the
musical community - " his playing was revered by countless jazz
musicians," runs a typical commentary - but even this claim is
suspect. Fletcher Henderson, Armstrong^s first major employer after
Oliver, made the trumpeter accept a cut in pay to join his band. Many
accounts suggest that Henderson, in fact , preferred the playing of
cornetist Joe Smith, And that Armstrong was hired only because Smith
was unavailable. Smith lacked Armstrong^s rhythmic drive, yet his warm
sound and ease of execution could hardly be faulted and may have been
better receive by the average dancehall patron. Henderson was not even
enthusiastic about Armstrong^s singing, an attitude that deeply
frustrated the new band member. Years later Armstrong would later
exclaim: " Fletcher didn^t dig me like Joe Oliver. He had a million
dollar talent in his band and he never thought to let me sing."
During the 1930s a new style of jazz emerged. It became the
most popular kind of jazz in the twentieth century. This style
began during the late 1920s and continued to the 1940s. Most jazz from
the 1930s and early 1940s is called "swing music," and this time in
history is now known as "the swing era." Big bands in the swing era
were made up of ten or more musicians whose instruments were grouped
into three categories called "sections:" rhythm, brass, and drums. The
brass section included trumpets and trombones. The saxophone section
was separated from the brass section because they originated from
instruments made of wood. In a big band the sax section contained from
three to five musicians. The size of the trumpet section varied from
two to five musicians, two or three being the standard.
Unlike the early jazz era, in the swing era hits that were
jazz-oriented contained only a few solo improvisations, often
only one. Swing music contained less collective improvisation and more
solo improvisation, and the amount of improvisation in most swing era
hits was small. The construction of improvised solos in most hits were
melodically conservative.
The onset of the Great Depression had a chilling effect on the jazz
world, as it did the whole entertainment industry. The ambiance of
jazz culture were demystified in the process. During this period, the
growing popularity of talking movies led many theaters to halt the
elaborate live shows that had previously been a staple of popular
entertainment in most cities, further reducing paying jobs for
musicians. Although the development of the 1930s affected most
musicians adversely, a handful of performers benefited considerably
from the more stratified structure of the entertainment world. The
creation of a truly nationwide mass medium in the form of radio
catapulted a few jazz players to a level of celebrity that would have
been unheard of only a few years before.
Benny Goodman sent this apparatus into motion with a
vengeance. In the process, he ignited not only his own amazing
career, but sent off a craze for "swing music" that would last over a
decade. As a soloist Goodman defined the essence of the jazz clarinet
as no other performer, before or since; as a bandleader, he established
standards of technical perfection that were the envy of his peers,
while his influence in gaining widespread popularity for swing music
was unsurpassed. A decade later he reformed his ensemble to tackle the
nascent sounds of bop music (Gioia 135).
The new styles , which emerged after 1940 were classified as
modern jazz. Bebop is classified as modern jazz. Modern jazz
did not burst upon the jazz scene suddenly. It developed gradually
through the work of swing era musicians. Rather than being a reaction
against swing styles, modern jazz developed smoothly from swing
styles. Bop differed from swing in a number of performance aspects and
stylistic aspects. Melodies and harmonies were more complex in bop.
Bop tunes and cord progressions projected a more unresolved quality.
Drummers played their time keeping rhythms primarily on suspected
cymbal, rather than snare drum, high-hat, or bass drum.
Chick Corea grew and matured as an artist. He joined the ranks
of Herbie Hancock, Bill Evans, and McCoy Tyner as the Most
prominent and most imitated pianist in jazz. His style originated
with aspects from the approaches of bud Powell, Horace Silver, Bill
Evans and McCoy Tyner and the classical pieces of twentieth-century
composers Paul Hindemith and Bela Bartok. Latin-American music also
inspired Corea^s style. Early in his career, Corea had played in
several bands that featured Latin-American music. Corea^s crisp,
percussive touch enhances the Latin feeling. It is also consistent
with his bright, very spirited style of comping. Like Tyner, Corea
voiced chords in fourths. Voicing in fourths means that chords are
made up of notes four steps away from each other. Chick Corea joined
Miles Davis^ band in 1968, and played electric piano on the landmark In
a silent way, album and the influential "Bitches Brew" session. His
own trio recording with Miroslav Vitous and Roy Haynes, "Now He sings,
Now He sobs," became a staple in the record collection of modern jazz
lovers during the late sixties. Corea was a prominent composer during
the 1960s and 1970s. Corea wrote pieces that made good use of preset
bass lines in accompaniment, particularly those with a Latin-American
flavor. In 1985, Chick Corea formed the Elektric Band, which became
known for its use of synthesizers. The band^s debut was with Chick
Corea Eleckric Band, on GRP Records.

 

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