Monday, January 02, 2006

A Brief History of Jazz....

Written sometime in March 2005.
In the late 19th century, blacks were given the right to play in the traffic squares of new orleans.. they watched the whites playing the western classical pieces with sax, trumpets, etc.. they wanted to imitate it.. with no technical knowledge and by just hearing, they began to play something totally different. the others were dancing to these tunes..

Scott Chopin began to realise this.. he started out "ragtime" and began playin in a style similar to the black music.

King Oliver had his band and Louis Armstrong was a trumpet player in that band.. more than the band, the crowd used to go gaga over Armstrong.. they loved his on the spot improvisations and Armstrong became a craze. Armstrong in the 1930's loved to sing too.. and believed that u can improvise with ur voice.. came the concept of Scats.. that seems to lack any lyric... and now a part of melody in jazz... how the voice is used to improvise the song.. believed to be the Father of jazz.. for what it is supposed to be.. improvisation.

the Swing Era
this was the era when jazz was the mainstream form of music.. . whites began to recognise the beauty.. used for dancing.. in brothels, bars, pubs, lead to various styles in dance.. merged with latin forms.. jazz at its peak.. Duke Ellington's orchestra band.. vocals was emphasised.. Billie Holiday used to move the audience with her soul-stirring depressing lyrics.. she was a drug addict.. too much emphasis on jazz for dance..

the beBop era
the era of Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie.. they believed that jazz was losing focus.. more into mainstream and dancing.. so they innovated.. be-bop-be-boppa-be... fast melodies.. and really fast chord changes.. taxing on the one who was improvising.. he had to literally wait for the chord changes... too much stress.. needed to be on the alert.. started getting complicated.. people began to lose interest.. the end of jazz as an era.. and the birth of a lighter form - rock and roll.. and its siblings.. rock and roll was a lighter version heavily inspired by jazz...

the cold jazz era
Miles Davis and John Coltrane.. they were against the concept of bebop.. they felt that the chords should be played for a long time.. even 5 min.. so that the improviser can freely improvise.. very very difficult. usually chord changes lead to improvisations.. and harmony.. but here.. too much demand on the improviser.. became highly highly complicated.. people began to move farther from jazz.. believed in the mode/moods concept.. complex ways to harmonize.. John Coltrane was cacophonous at times.. with the influence of drugs, his music was crazy for the common people like me.. only purists love Coltrane for his technical contributions to music.. very very difficult to understand..

the hardbop era
was a swing to the bebop times.. people felt enough was enough.. cold jazz wasnt working.. Wes Montgomery -- a poor boy without any technical knowledge began to play the guitar, in a real terrible fashion for the purists.. since he had no formal training, he was clearly out of the bounds...never played with the fingers.. just the thumb... . lead to a new style called the octaves.. towards the end of his career, his pieces became boring.. and mostly octaves.. his influence was profound on guitarists to come..

the transition
George Benson could be considered the father of this era.. he was responsible for the transition from hardbop to smooth jazz... he made it lighter, softer, more pleasant, romantic,, more commercial.,.. trying to make it mainstream.. his earliest compositions were of bop influence.. bop - difficult to play.. fast chord changes

the smooth jazz
the focus was on jazz as a relaxant.. confluence of R&B, soul and jazz.. appealed to the masses.. Bob James (Piano), George Benson (guitar, vocals), Earl Klugh (acoustic guitar), Dave Sanders (sax), Chick Corea, Norman Brown, Dave Koz, Brian Culbertson, Rick Braun, Fourplay, etc.. still had improvisations.. but less aggressive and daring.. not many risks.. still retained the form of jazz.. purists however look at it in a denigrating way.. but, smooth jazz has its own dedicated crazy cult following.. the beginning of a new era in jazz...

[Personal Communication, David Hernandez, an aspiring and talented Guitarist passionate about Jazz, Texas A& M University, College Station]

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