Jazz was invented more than 100 years ago, before the turn of the 20th century. The first jazz recording was made in 1917, but the musical form had existed for years before. Jazz is a blend of classical, spiritual, ragtime, mach, blues, and popular music forms. Jazz originated in New Orleans and was likely performed first by marching bands.
These bands performed at parades, dances, parties, and even funerals. Most music historians agree jazz was likely not performed by skilled musicians capable of reading music. Instead, jazz probably grew out of jam style sessions in which musicians just did what felt right.
The first well known jazz musician was Buddy Bolden. His band started in 1895, which is unofficially considered the birthday of jazz. Bolden was committed to a mental hospital in 1906 and Freddie Keppard followed in his footsteps.
Jazz was primarily performed in areas around New Orleans, though a sprinkling of musicians traveled and performed outside of the area. Jazz remained a regional phenomenon until World War I.
The “Original” Dixieland Band
In 1917, the Original Dixieland Jazz Band recorded the songs “Indiana,” and “Darktown Strutters’ Ball.” The record was recorded on the Columbia
History of Jazz
record label. Unfortunately, these recordings were considered too radical and were never released. The Original Dixieland Jazz Band then recorded two other songs that were released and immediately became hits.
One thing fans of jazz did not understand at the time was that the Original Dixieland Jazz Band was essentially manufactured and not a reflection of true jazz music. It was not until several years later that black musicians recorded jazz music proving that the roots of the music crossed racial lines right from the start.
By the 1920s, Chicago was considered a hotbed of jazz. Some of the best known names in jazz came into their own during this time, including Louis Armstrong. Armstrong is responsible for changing jazz in subtle ways and ushering in the swing era.
The 1920s are commonly known as the Jazz Age, which encompassed more than just a love of the music. Other up and coming jazz musicians of the time included Bix Beiderbecke, Jelly Roll Morton, and Duke Ellington.
Jazz eventually evolved beyond popular music. Swing music was viewed by some jazz musicians as a cheapened formed of the genre. Musicians such as Dizzy Gillespie developed a new form of jazz called bebop or bop. The harmonies and rhythms of the music grew more complex and became less appealing for dance.
The 1950s gave rise to avant-garde jazz, which ushered in the experimentation of the 1960s. In the coming years, the music would grow less free form as a whole, but solos would flow however the soloist chose.
The 1970s was the fusion era for jazz and musicians incorporated other styles of music, such as R&B, rock, and pop. Miles Davis was considered an innovator in the world of fusion jazz.
The 1980s brought a return to roots of sorts for jazz. Wynton Marsalis, the most popular jazz musician of the decade used the influences of the early days of jazz, which brought a fresh, but classical approach to the music. Today, most jazz musicians incorporate Marsalis’ style of jazz, as well as the influences of the bop era.