History of Jazz

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Jazz is a music of improvisation and expression of true feelings. It's style has two very different origins: African and European. Once brought to America, jazz has been every changing reflecting what was happening in society at the time. Jazz is something that has been in America for many years and effected society in a way no other music of African and European roots ever has.

African music concentrated a lot on rhythm while Western European liked to hear harmonic sounds. The dissonant sounds and polyrhythms of African music was not understood by the Europeans, but jazz musicians took a great liking to it. The reason for this was because Europeans used music for listening enjoyment. In Africa, music was very functional. It was the only form of communication between tribes and a universal language of percussive instruments. The music was used to announce special events such as birth, death, marriage, and the reaching of puberty. Everybody got musically trained very young and when Africans were brought to America as slaves, they brought the music. Some of the most noticeable influences of this African music is seen in work songs, spirituals and field hollers of slaves. When slaves became free, and chose to leave their plantation, there was no work for them. Many became street musicians and sang what is known today as the Blues. European musicians were playing a march style of music known as Rag. The rise in jazz happened when the two styles of music started combining.

New Orleans is the acknowledged birthplace of popular jazz. Despite being in the south, it had a liberal attitude towards pleasure and self indulgence. Being a major navy port, many sailors would need some relaxation when they came in from sea. They liked to go to dance halls, listen to music, and dance with women. Some sailors weren't as conservative and went to one of the hundreds or bars and brothels in a district of New Orleans, nicknamed Storyville. The city was also very racially tolerant. African American musicians were given jobs because they were good. Times are always changing. When World War I began, alert, healthy, and focused sailors were needed. Storyville was closed down.

Many musicians moved to Chicago and jazz was no longer a music of the carefree and lighthearted spirit. Chicago-style jazz reflected the lucrative yet dangerous air of the city. This was during the time period of prohibition.

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