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The Evolution of Jazz Through Composers

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The Evolution of Jazz through Composers

Jazz music consists of many different genres and has influenced some of today's music. Dating back from the 1900's up until now, jazz music has evolved through its many composers. Every composer of the jazz era had their own unique style and impact on jazz. Whether it was taking a style from a past composer and putting their twist on it, or coming up with a whole new style all together. But all in all, jazz music has evolved over history by inspiring composers and graced the legacy of today's music.

Dating back during the jazz era in the 1900's jazz came about through multiple cultures. Jazz mainly came from the most important factor, African American slaves. When slaves were imported over they did not want to lose traditions of their cultures, so they blended their music with the Europeans. Thus in return, comes this new vibrant style of music called jazz; mixtures of spirituals, blues, and ragtime music of African Americans.

Jazz popularized much in New Orleans; it was like the birthplace of jazz music. Many great jazz composers and performers produced in New Orleans. But, jazz didn't stay in New Orleans, it traveled to Chicago and New York to find many great's of its time. Jazz was making a way for other talented jazz artist to catch a big break in the spotlight. Whether it was scat, blues, big band music, or ragtime; each performer caught a break in the jazz industry.

Jazz music inspired many major performers and composers during their time of era such as; Scott Joplin, Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, Fletcher Henderson, and Count Basie. Scott Joplin was very popular during the ragtime era; he popularized the jazz form of ragtime through piano. Ragtime is a musical composition for the piano, generally in duple meter containing a highly syncopated treble lead over a rhythmically steady bass. Ragtime was first exposed at the Chicago World's Fair in 1893. In 1896 "rag time" was used to describe "coon songs," complete with the outrageous parodies of the black culture and speeches. By the time Joplin was a teenager, he became a professional pianist. He published a piece called "Maple Leaf Rag", as well as several dozen rags, an opera and a ballet. Joplin had a certain stylistic feature of his that he would use; he would take rhythmic contrast into separate strains. Scott Joplin really didn't play much into the jazz era his genre of music consisted of the ragtime era. Even today Scott Joplin's legacy lives on, his piece "The Entertainer," is heard quiet often through neighborhoods when the ice cream truck comes around.

Now traveling on down the path, jazz was becoming more than local music. The first style of jazz was known as New Orleans jazz; because it was like the birthplace of jazz, the foundation of jazz music. Much of the jazz music that originated from New Orleans derived from marching band music and dance music. It attracted the attention of the rest of the country because, it was distinctive enough. Jazz music was up and coming in New Orleans, shining light on a few greats such as Manuel Perez and Buddy Bolden. But, jazz didn't stay around in New Orleans too long until the Great Migration. During this time jazz music began to travel to newer ghettos of Chicago and New York.

In the early 1900's in Chicago, jazz music was inspiring many great artists. For example, the Original Dixieland Jazz Band; they made the first jazz recording in 1917. To Chicago's music industry this jazz thing was something new to them, and they wanted some of the action. For example, Jelly Roll Morton; noted as "one of the most colorful characters in American music;" and first great composer; was a pianist, singer, composer, and arranger. He wasn't the originator of jazz, but Morton did help define it. In or about the 1920's jazz slowly matured throughout the boroughs of New York.

During this era, New York was producing different forms of jazz throughout the years. From about the 1920's through the 1960's New York produced styles of stride piano, bebop, and free jazz. New York's greatest contribution to the jazz era was the big bands; influencing the Swing Era of swing jazz. Jazz became a commercial entity in New York and the media spoke for the nation. Fletcher Henderson and Duke Ellington rose to the top in this era of Swing Jazz. Fletcher Henderson; an arranger, pioneered the concept of big-band during the swing era. Henderson organized the first great black orchestra in New York. He produced many compositions including his major work "Down South Camp Meeting" using stylistic features of call and response riffs. Henderson's legacy still lives on today; a museum in Atlanta, Ga. is being established in his memory.

Duke Ellington was also very popular during this swing era of jazz music. He was known as "the most important composer of big band jazz." He had many roles in the jazz field consisting of producer, pianist, songwriter, composer, and arranger. Ellington had many different genres of music he acquired like, pop songs, the blues, operas, and swing. He had a different style about him though, a stylistic feature, he would combine his instruments to create odd voicings. Some of Duke Ellington's major works include, "East St. Louis Toodle-O" and "It Don't Mean A Thing If It Ain't Got That Swing." Duke Ellington's legacy still lives on. His music is more widely performed than any other jazz composer to this day. There is a Duke Ellington Center for the Arts. And the Sophisticated Ladies; a musical revival based on Ellington's music are still doing shows throughout Washington, D.C.

Around the same time Henderson and Ellington was making their claim to fame; Louis Armstrong was making a name for himself. Louis Armstrong was seen as the "first



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