Jazz is not just music, it’s a way of life, it’s a way of being, a way of thinking”, Nina Simone. Jazz, a music genre whose form is often improvisational is traced to African American communities, notably in New Orleans where oppressed slaves improvised some homegrown form of musical expression.
Back in the early 20th Century, black slaves on American plantations were restricted not only in their work conditions and religious observances but in leisure activities, including music-making. The slaves were prevented from maintaining their native musical traditions. In some cases, slaves who played instruments like the violin, horn, and oboe were exploited for their talents in such cities as Charleston, South Carolina. Nonetheless, the West African slaves partially preserved their musical culture, against all odds, by picking up whatever scraps of music were allowed them. They invented jazz to entertain themselves and for the rest of the world to enjoy.
Jazz is influenced by both African rhythms and European harmonic structure. It is characterised by syncopated rhythms, varying degrees of improvisation, and the use of original timbres.
Its repetition indicates the call-and-response tradition of black Baptist churches. The clarinet, cornet, and trombone in its arrangement reflect the influence of march music. Its piano is influenced by the tradition of ragtime, the musical form that directly proceeded jazz.
Origin Of The Name “Jazz”
The Original Dixieland “Jass” Band which arguably is credited with the first jazz recording is also noted for the etymological mystery of the word ‘jazz’. According to history, the word was spelled 'J-A-S-S, like. At some point in time, bandleaders were simply tired of pranksters scratching off the ‘j’ from their posters. This left the word “ass” with a sexual connotation, as a reference to a woman’s backside. For this reason, the band changed its name to the Original Dixieland ‘Jazz’ Band for good.
The First Jazz Recording
The Original Dixieland Jazz Band is credited with the First jazz recording: the Livery Stable Blues in 1917. The band was led by Nick- LaRocca (cornetist) and included trombonist Eddie Edwards, clarinettist Larry Shields, pianist Henry Ragas, and drummer Tony Sbarbaro.
Listeners of the Livery Stable Blues recording today would find it somehow different. This is because it was made before the advent of electrical microphones. The recording offers poor fidelity judging by the current standards of jazz. The band, rather than improvising solos, employed variation and well-rehearsed breaks. Furthermore, the music is repetitive and does not seem to build a climax. Livery Stable Blues is estimated to have sold more than one million copies.
Jazz, more than any music was purposed to express the spirit, pain, pride, and resilience of the African experience in America. Up to date, the syncopated, swingling sound of jazz stands as an ultimate expression of African-American culture.
Information form https://www.britannica.com/art/jazz https://www.bbc.com/culture/article/20170224-the-mysetrious-origins-of-jazz, www.smithsonianmag.com/smithsonian-institution/was-first-jazz-recording-made-group-white-guys was used in his story