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Kuz Viktoriia
Jazz music is a broad style of music characterized by complex harmony,
syncopated rhythms, and a heavy emphasis on improvisation. Black
musicians in New Orleans, Louisiana developed the jazz style in the early
twentieth century. Long considered one of the musical capitals of the
United States, New Orleans fostered a robust ragtime and blues tradition.
Early jazz musicians like Jelly Roll Morton and Louis Armstrong built on
these blues and ragtime forms and improvised over them, which led to a
brand new genre of American music.
Jazz rapidly spread throughout America, and
before long, New York City became the jazz
capital of both America and the entire world.
The musical form evolved to embrace
popular music standards, modal music, pop,
rock, funk, and even true avant-garde
Early 1900s: Music historians trace jazz music to early twentieth century
New Orleans, where musicians like Jelly Roll Morton, King Oliver, and
Louis Armstrong borrowed heavily from ragtime, blues, and second-line
horn sections from parades. Even New Orleans funeral music inspired
early jazz musicians. Southern jazz from New Orleans eventually became
known as Dixieland jazz.
1920s and ’30s: Other early jazz capitals
included Chicago and Kansas City (where Count
Basie based his orchestra for a long period of
time), but it was New York City that established
jazz as a touchstone of American culture. Big
bands led by bandleaders like Duke Ellington and
Fletcher Henderson performed for nightclub
audiences. Ellington in particular was famous for
his original compositions, which drew from
classical music and highlighted soloists within
the Ellington Big Band.
1940s and ’50s: In the 1940s, New York musicians like Charlie Parker,
Dizzy Gillespie, Bud Powell, and Art Blakey developed a jazz subgenre
called bebop. This style of music involved lightning fast playing, prolific
soloing over chord changes, and routine syncopation. Musicians like
Ornette Coleman and the Modern Jazz Quartet challenged the harmonic
rules of traditional jazz. Coleman, in particular, is credited with creating a
genre called free jazz that largely disposed of the song form that guides
most jazz standards.
1960s: Post-bebop (or post-bop) slowed down the tempo
and added harmonic sophistication. Musicians like
Thelonious Monk, Charles Mingus, and Miles Davis cut
their teeth in bebop but became better known for their
post-bop compositions. Davis developed a genre called
cool jazz, which emphasized slower tempos, more
minimal textures, and modal playing. Virtuoso
saxophonists John Coltrane and Sonny Rollins were
equally skilled in bebop, cool jazz, and even post-tonal
improvisations like Coltrane's Ascension album.
Meanwhile, musicians like Herbie Hancock and Joe
Zawinul merged jazz with funk and rock to create a new
genre known as fusion. Others, like Pat Metheny and Bill
Frisell, found inspiration in folk music and added that
genre to their jazz performances.
From the traditional to the spiritual and the really out-there, acclaimed performer Jamie Cullum picks his
favourite jazz inspirations.
Charles Mingus 1922-7199
Most people know Mingus as a pioneering bass player, but
to me he's the most raucous and inventive composer of his
era. His music has the energy of a revolution and, indeed,
soundtracked many revolutions during the 50s and 60s. I
was 15, aware of what was in the charts and flitting between
dance music, indie rock and pop, and his particular style of
free-form spoke to me as a rejection of the mainstream.
There's nothing polite about it, but I responded to his style of
dirty jazz tinged with violence in a positive way. It seemed to
be the epitome of rebellion, yet educational.
John Coltrane 1926-67
By 19, I was learning the mathematics of jazz,
which is hard for someone with no grasp of
maths. Coltrane is the master of well-formulated,
perfectly composed music. He also played a very
spiritual style of jazz. It was almost religious. You
could even say he channelled the divine through
his sax. It was A Love Supreme from 1965 which
I connected with. It took a while, for some reason
getting into Coltrane felt like a slow process, but
he taught me the basics, so it's no surprise I got
into him when I was taking a year out after
school to decide what to do with my life. He was
my epiphany.
Mary Lou Williams 1910-81
Mary Lou spanned the entire history of jazz. She started out playing in a
swing band and moved every decade into a new arena of music, doing
modal stuff in the 70s, and later playing avant garde. I discovered her on
a jazz compilation I found in Oxfam. The song was "Zodiac Suite" and I
was staggered that she managed to straddle both jazz and classical
music. She was one of the few jazz musicians to be accepted by the
classical world, and even played in Carnegie Hall with an orchestra. She
was a fantastic composer, pianist and mentor and the most important
woman in jazz.
Herbie Hancock 1940Herbie Hancock is one of the few jazz
pianists who progressed with the times.
From fusion funk through to electronic
music using synthesizers and toys, he's
always been way ahead. It was Head
Hunters, the record that fused funk and
soul with pop, that I fell in love with. I
grew up in the west country with little
exposure to jazz and although I wasn't
rejecting pop, I knew there was more to
music. Through Herbie, electro and
drum'n'bass, I developed an
understanding of improvisation. I aim to
operate somewhere between Herbie
and Ben Folds at all times.
Nat King Cole 1919-65
By my late teens I was really getting into the singers. Nat
King Cole was a household name and I adored his voice
but wasn't into the big orchestral pieces. At a record shop
this guy handed me a record of him doing Gershwin, Cole
Porter, that style, with strings and a piano, and I realised
this was the Cole I wanted to emulate. He was an
immense talent in his own right as a jazz performer, not
just with the big band stuff. I guess I was, by then, a music
snob and geek and consciously rejecting obvious,
accessible jazz. Listening to Cole's alternative side made
me think I was right to be a snob.
Miles Davis 1926-91
The Miles I know is Miles Davis in the late 60s,
the Bitches Brew era. I'd heard of Miles via Herbie
Hancock. I was 18, reading Jack Kerouac and beat
writers who bang on about jazz all the time, and felt I
needed to be challenged musically. That psychedelic
inaccessible jazz works at an age when you are
working stuff out for yourself. It was like a culture
shock in my bedroom. I didn't understand the music,
I didn't even like it that much , and yes, I knew there
was heroin involved but I didn't know in what way. I
just knew I should be listening. It mattered that I'd
heard it. And that combined experience of sound and
literature felt very exotic.
Keith Jarrett 1945-
I was about 18 when I saw Jarrett play in the
Barbican. I was fond of what he had done
with Miles Davis in the 1970s so the fact that
he was still alive, well, I had to see him play.
He has the most phenomenal technique. I'd
never heard that level of free form improv
piano playing – he looked like a mischievous
magician. It honestly felt like he could set fire
to the piano if he wanted. Keith struck a
chord for me as a performer in the way he
commanded the whole audience. It was
almost as if we weren't there, yet he knew we
were his. It was through Jarrett that I started
to understand what it must be like to play jazz
at that level to a crowd.
Kurt Elling 1967It was during a documentary about Ella Fitzgerald that I first heard Kurt's voice. I
was in the kitchen and I could hear the sound of a man almost chanting over music.
He was performing vocalese, the art of performing words over jazz solos, and he
was just singing about Ella. Kurt just had this swooning, Sinatra sound combined
with an intellect for the words, it was very moving. He makes vocalese look so easy
and sound so gentle, like a saxophone. He's relatively unknown outside of the jazz
world, but revered as a singer among musicians. They view him as an academic and
intellectual authority on jazz as well as a performer.
Thelonious Monk 1917-82
The best way to describe Thelonious Monk would
be to say that if Picasso's work was musical, it
would sound like Monk. The first time I heard it was
in a record shop in Bristol while hunting for new
sounds. I found his to be so angular, like tiny piano
mazes, in which you lose yourself without realising.
I was freaked out. It's minimalist and child-like, but
deceptively so, because underneath is a raw
complexity which you only get after several listens.
Since my peers were listening to pop, Monk was a
private pleasure. Black culture in the middle of
Wiltshire: that's what I experienced behind closed
Wynton Marsalis 1961-
Wynton is more about the poetry of jazz
and the building blocks of music. He
made me want to go to New York, which I
did, and I watched him play four nights in
a row. I didn't always agree with his style
but having saturated myself with the
masters, it was good to return to
something traditional. After seeing him, I
decided actually to do the music,
properly. He's an excellent ambassador of
jazz, a mentor for kids and a 21st-century
Duke Ellington – nothing more, nothing
What separates Jazz from the vast majority of classical pieces is
rhythm and use of rhythm. A key distinguishing feature is a rhythmic
device called ‘swing’. Swing rhythm calls for performers to change the
values of quaver or eight-notes from equal to a ratio closely
resembling two-thirds to one-third. What separates Jazz from the vast
majority of classical pieces is rhythm and use of rhythm. A key
distinguishing feature is a rhythmic device called ‘swing’. Swing
rhythm calls for performers to change the values of quaver or eightnotes from equal to a ratio closely resembling two-thirds to one-third.
Swing Rhythm
The notation for swing rhythm is an approximation but as close as it can be
without requiring immensely complex and cumbersome sub-divisions of note
values. The result of the swing is a sense of forwarding motion and rhythmic drive
that propels jazz music forward in a way that was unique in the early days of jazz.
Swing itself became a whole sub-genre of jazz in the 1920s and ’30s with
clarinetist Benny Goodman adopting the nickname ‘The King Of Swing’.
Swing In combination with ‘syncopation’ brings a compelling edge to
jazz. When music is described as syncopated, it means that the
emphasis in a given bar of music is placed on ‘weaker’ beats of the
bar as opposed to ‘strong’ beats of the bar. The stong beats are
considered to be (in a 4/4 bar for example), 1 & 3. In jazz, you often
find that the emphasis is placed on the second half of the second or
fourth beat. This compliments the swing feel perfect and is a main
characteristic of the genre.
When these two features of jazz are then fused with jazz harmony you
begin to enter a world of musical possibility that offers huge creative
possibilities. Jazz like classical music can be both tonal and atonal,
although the vast majority of jazz is tonally based even though at
times it can sound as if it is not. This is in part due to the type of
harmony that jazz composers use in their work.
Instead of chords that are common in the music of classical composers such as Beethoven,
Mozart or Handel jazz composers make prolific use of ‘extended’ or ‘altered chords’. What
is meant by extended chords is usually the addition of notes that are not present in a
standard major or minor chord? This could take the form of an additional 7th, 9th, 11th or
13th note to an existing chord. It can also mean creating chords from alternative intervals
such as fourths or tri-tones. In practice this would look something like G – Db – F – A. The
extended chords can also include ‘augmented’, diminished, half-diminished, chords all of
which can and frequently are combined with major or minor chords to bring a unique color
to jazz music.
Jazz harmony is further developed through the use of substituted chords.
These are chords that players spontaneously insert during a performance
to replace the ones suggested by the composer. Once again the effect is
to create a harmonic color that is not only specific to that performance
but often the choice of substitution particular to the performer too. A
common and much-exploited substitution is tri-tone. This would, for
example, mean if the existing chord was a G, the substitution would be a
Db. At first, this may seem like a remote harmonic relationship, but it
works astonishingly well.
There are harmonic progressions or chordal sequences
that are characteristic of jazz. They are too many to list
here but one of the most familiar to jazz exponents is
what is called the ii – V – I progression. This series of
chords often rounds off a phrase, ends a piece entirely
or forms part of the sequence of chords used during
the composition. If you were playing in the key of D
major this would give you the following progression: E
minor – A – D. This progression is often referred to as
a ‘turnaround’ in jazz.
A further and essential characteristic of all jazz music is that of
‘improvisation’. Alongside all the features of jazz I have mentioned above,
improvisation is at the very heart of jazz. It is not exclusive to jazz, as Baroque
musicians would have been expected, for example, to be competent
improvisers and interpreters of a ‘figured-bass’. In jazz, it is often the
improvisation that forms the centerpiece of any performance. It is an
opportunity for the player of the singer to demonstrate their skill in interpreting
and even developing the musical ideas they have been presented within the
piece. As the history of jazz evolved the kind of improvisation changed with it.
Early examples of Dixieland, New Orleans style jazz improvisations were a
world apart from those of the BeBop artists that followed forty years later.
There are many approaches to improvisation that
performers use. In the early days of jazz, the
improvisations tended to be based fairly closely on
the melody and chords the composer had written. An
arppeggiac approach was common in the music of
the 1910/20’s that soon gave way to a more
advanced style that began to create an almost
completely new piece from the one that the
performer had begun by playing.
Melodic development became more motivic
in focus, the substitution of harmonies ever
more complex and the technical demands
almost unreachable by many players. If you
listen to the music of musicians like Charlie
Parker, Art Tatum or Buddy De Franco you
quickly realize the astonishing skill involved
in their performances. These jazz artists
amongst many others, take the concept of
jazz improvisation into the musical
stratosphere extending the possibilities way
beyond what might be anticipated.
Musical form in jazz has undergone numerous changes throughout each
emerging genre. Duke Ellington is often cited as one of jazz’s greatest
innovators when structure comes under the spotlight. Whilst many
composers contented themselves with the highly successful song model
of AABA, Ellington strove to push the idea of what jazz could be much
further. His ‘Black and Tan Fantasy’ is a great example of this.