Better Essays

John F. Szwed resides in Connecticut, and he is currently a professor of anthropology, African-American studies, music, and American studies at Yale University. He has written seven books on music and African-American culture and numerous articles and reviews on similar subjects. Szwed has received honors including a Guggenheim Fellowship and a Rockefeller Foundation Humanities Fellowship.

Knowledge of jazz has fallen far behind its development. Most people do not know the facts on jazz, only some generalities and stereotypes. Often being called America’s only original art form, jazz began as an ethnic music, but there is much more to jazz than music. It is difficult to think of jazz without thinking of African-American people, but it was probably the first art to challenge European culture and the idea of the classes as time-honored and serious. Jazz was not only musical, but physical, visual, social, and emotional. The popularity of jazz all of a sudden diminished, but it continues to define and give shape to American culture. Many people do not realize its significance.

Jazz has developed from the mix of African and European music. The rhythm patterns, articulation, staggered entry, and percussion enrichment are some of the contributions that African music made to jazz. This is why African-Americans have been called the pioneers of jazz. Jazz has been relatively free of constraints. It is usually improvised, but many times it is not. It is usually considered as music characterized by a rhythmic feel or influenced by the blues. Throughout the history of jazz, there have been people of other races and ethnicities involved in its creation. Jazz might be the best documented art in the history of the world.

There are not one or two specific instruments that characterize jazz. Almost all instruments have been used by jazz musicians at some time. The saxophone, trumpet, trombone, bass, drums, piano, and guitar are the most popular instruments still being used. Jazz is polymeric, which means that there is more than one rhythm playing at a time. Double-time is a main concept with jazz. This means the tempo is doubled in the melody while the other instruments continue at the same speed. The opposite of this, half-time, is another key part of playing jazz. The most fundamental forms of jazz are pop songs and blues. Anot...

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... was one of the main musicians of the next period, free jazz. Larry Coryell was popular for fusion and jazz rock. Wynton Marsalis is a key figure of the present period, which is neo-traditionalism. These styles did not just end during their period. They persist and change throughout time. The media and fans of jazz are the ones that single out the styles, but they have blended together throughout the periods. Certain aspects of jazz gained popularity while others became less popular, thus causing the change in periods.

After reviewing this book I have a new understanding of jazz. This book explained the historical significance of jazz in our culture. Many people today do not truly understand the importance of jazz. The author explained the complexities, the styles, and the musicians of jazz, which were much larger than I knew about. I agree with the author on attending live performances over listening to recordings. Recordings are often short, premeditated events. When attending live performances you get the true feel of the musician and their music. Jazz has much more to it than other music styles, and now I appreciate it and have a greater understanding of jazz.
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