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  • Chris Anderson

Music Revision - World Music - Jazz Origins

Jazz is a distinctly American musical genre with a rich and complex history that spans over a century. Its origins can be traced back to the late 19th and early 20th centuries.


  • Early Roots (Late 19th Century): The roots of jazz can be found in the African and African-American musical traditions, including work songs, spirituals, and the blues. These early forms of music laid the foundation for the syncopated rhythms, improvisation, and emotional expression that would become integral to jazz.

  • New Orleans and the Birth of Jazz (Early 20th Century): Jazz is often associated with New Orleans, where a unique musical melting pot was brewing. Musicians of various backgrounds, including African, European, and Caribbean, came together to create a new sound. Jazz started to take shape in the city's brothels, dance halls, and funeral processions.

  • Development of Jazz Styles:

    • Ragtime (1890s-1910s): Ragtime, with its syncopated melodies and written-out compositions, was an early precursor to jazz. Pioneering ragtime composers like Scott Joplin had a significant influence on jazz's rhythmic and melodic elements.

    • Dixieland and Early Jazz (1910s-1920s): In New Orleans, jazz evolved into the Dixieland style. Bands like the Original Dixieland Jazz Band introduced this music to a broader audience, leading to jazz's popularity in the United States.

    • Swing Era (1930s-1940s): The swing era brought big band jazz to the forefront, with orchestras led by bandleaders like Duke Ellington, Count Basie, and Benny Goodman. This period was characterised by danceable rhythms and memorable melodies.

    • Bebop (1940s-1950s): Bebop, a complex and highly improvisational style, emerged in response to the commercialisation of swing. Musicians like Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie pushed the boundaries of jazz with their virtuosic playing and intricate compositions.

  • Migration and Spread: The Great Migration, during which millions of African Americans moved from the Southern United States to urban areas in the North, played a crucial role in spreading jazz to cities like Chicago, New York, and beyond.

  • Influence on Other Genres: Jazz has had a profound impact on other musical genres, including rock, R&B, and hip-hop. It has also incorporated elements from diverse musical traditions, such as Latin, African, and European music.

  • Modern Jazz: Jazz continues to evolve with sub-genres like cool jazz, free jazz, fusion, and contemporary jazz, each offering its own unique style and approach to improvisation.

  • Global Influence: Jazz has become a global phenomenon, influencing musicians and cultures worldwide. It has also played a significant role in promoting cross-cultural understanding and cooperation.


Jazz's origins are deeply rooted in the African-American experience and the cultural diversity of New Orleans. It has evolved over time, reflecting the changing social and musical landscapes of the 20th and 21st centuries while retaining its core elements of improvisation, syncopation, and emotional expression. Today, jazz remains a vibrant and influential genre in the world of music.


In the next blog I’ll give some detail about what Jazz is.

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