WHAT IS JAZZ
Jazz is a uniquely American music that is deeply rooted in the southern part of the United States, specifically, New Orleans. The unique blend of people and cultures (each bringing their own music and traditions) along with the social climate of the day made the advent of jazz possible there, as opposed to elsewhere in the world.
MARCHING TO A NEW BEAT: THE JAZZ FUNERAL TRADITION
The jazz funeral is a tradition that you might be familiar with. It’s a scene that has been played out many times in movies and if you’ve ever been to New Orleans, you might have even seen one. Although the jazz funeral is not uncommon in New Orleans today, it was a fairly routine practice during the early 20th century. The tradition arises from African spiritual practices French and Spanish traditions and uniquely African-American cultural traditions.
JAZZ ON THE MOVE
Around the year 1900 (17 years after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation), 90% of America’s black population lived in southern, former slave-holding states. During the Great Migration, which is generally recognized as occurring between the years of 1910 and 1930, almost 2 million African Americans moved north in search of better jobs and schools and to escape growing racism and segregation. This increased the northern states’ black population by almost 40%. Because the majority of these increases were centered in major cities, racial tensions were high as many
FINDING THE GROOVE: CLAVE
Literally translated, clavé means “key,” and like a keystone holds an arch together, clavé is the rhythmic key that holds Cuban music together. When all of the various rhythmic components in Cuban music fit together perfectly to form a groove, it is said to be “in clavé.”
FINDING THE GROOVE: SWING FEEL
Most types of music are unified by a rhythmic pulse (steady beat). A strong pulse allows a group of many musicians (or one musician) to play together as a single unit with the same time feel and rhythmic concept. If musicians do not play together, music would sound like chaos (you probably would not want to listen to it either). In the same vein, music that emits a strong rhythmic pulse gives the listener something to gravitate towards. If you as the listener cannot find a strong rhythmic pulse, your body won’t want to move to the music. Even if it is not a type of music you normally listen to, if the groove is there, your body will want to move.
BUILDING THE BLUES
The sound of the blues is unmistakable. A type of early American folk song, the Blues first made its appearance in parts of the rural deep South during the late 1800s and was heavily influenced by the traditions of work songs, field hollers, spirituals, and gospel hymns. A musical response to the experiences of African Americans in the rural South during the time of slavery, blues music recognizes pain, suffering, injustice, or the loss of a loved one.
One of the most defining characteristics of jazz music is its use of improvisation. Would jazz still be jazz without this component? There are many examples of music written by jazz composers that contain little or no improvisation, yet this component of the music is part of what makes it unique.
MEET THE BIG BAND
As a genre, big band came to popularity during the Swing era of the 1930s and 40s. Much like earlier jazz ensembles, big bands played dance music and could be found playing dance halls throughout the country.
Here you will find all the musical examples from JCYB, organized by concept they were featured under. They are also all listed on their corresponding concept and/or activity pages..
Jazz St. Louis is a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) organization whose mission is to lead our community in advancing the uniquely American art of jazz through live performance, education and community engagement.