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  • Chris Anderson

Music Revision - World Music - Jazz Music

The previous blog was about the origins of jazz music. In this one I go into a bit of detail about what jazz music is.


Jazz is a diverse and influential genre of music that originated in the United States in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It has since evolved and branched into various styles and sub-genres, making it a complex and dynamic form of musical expression.


  • Improvisation: Jazz is renowned for its emphasis on improvisation. Musicians often create spontaneous and original melodies and harmonies during performances. This improvisational aspect is a hallmark of the genre, allowing for creative and expressive freedom.

  • Syncopation: Jazz features syncopated rhythms, which means that beats are accented in unexpected or offbeat patterns. This rhythmic complexity is a defining element of the music.

  • Swing Feel: Jazz often incorporates a "swing" feel, characterised by a relaxed and slightly off-centre rhythmic groove. This distinctive swing rhythm is a fundamental part of many jazz sub-genres.

  • Blues Influence: The blues has had a significant influence on jazz, particularly in terms of harmonies, scales, and emotional expression. Many jazz standards and compositions are built on the 12-bar blues structure.

  • Instrumentation: Jazz can be performed with a wide range of instruments, including trumpets, saxophones, trombones, clarinets, pianos, double basses, drums, and more. Jazz combos and big bands are common ensembles in this genre.

  • Sub-genres: Jazz has evolved over the years, giving rise to numerous sub-genres, including:

    • Traditional Jazz or Dixieland: Characterised by its New Orleans origins and early jazz styles.

    • Swing Jazz: Known for its big bands and danceable rhythms.

    • Bebop: A complex and fast-paced style with virtuosic improvisation.

    • Cool Jazz: Emphasises a more relaxed and subtle approach to improvisation.

    • Free Jazz: Highly experimental and avant-garde, often pushing the boundaries of traditional jazz.

    • Fusion: Blends jazz with other genres, such as rock, funk, or electronic music.

  • Prominent Jazz Musicians: Jazz has produced many legendary musicians, including Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Charlie Parker, Ella Fitzgerald, and Billie Holiday, among others.

  • Global Influence: Jazz has a global presence, with musicians and enthusiasts worldwide. It has also influenced and been influenced by various other musical traditions and cultures.

  • Social and Cultural Impact: Jazz has played a significant role in social and cultural movements, particularly in the United States. It has been associated with the civil rights movement and has served as a platform for promoting cultural diversity and equality.

  • Recording and Composition: Jazz features a rich repertoire of compositions and standards that musicians often reinterpret and adapt. Many iconic jazz recordings have become classics.

Jazz remains a vibrant and evolving genre, characterised by its spirit of innovation and improvisation. It continues to inspire musicians and audiences across the world and holds a unique place in the history of music.

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