Saturday, December 26, 2009

Popular Jazz Artists and Their Music

By Jim Oneil

Many people consider jazz as the one true original American music. However, just as the country is a hodge-podge of different cultures, its music a mixture of different beats and melodies. In fact, jazz is a combination of African beat and European melodic influences. The combination is so unique only to America, which is why it cannot be considered as something that came from somewhere else. Jazz was first heard in the suburban areas in the south during the late 1800's, in communities that were largely populated by Afro-Americans.

Because of its origins, the early popular jazz music artists were blacks. The genre was still at its inception stage with ragtime as its earliest form. The usual instruments used to create such music were banjo and piano. The popular artists then were Ernest Hogan and Tim Turpin, who published the Harlem Rag. By the end of the century, jazz developed further with the innovations created by Scott Joplin. Being a pianist trained in the classical music, he created a beautiful fusion of his specialty and ragtime. By the beginning of the 20th century, the blues came into being, with W.C. Handy as one of the most popular artists of such genre.

Big bands usually play jazz music during the early years. However, when swing music, another new jazz form, rose to prominence in the 1930's, soloists became more popular too. Swing music highlights the skills of the trumpeter. Because of this, the trumpet player usually ends up becoming more famous than the other musicians in the band. During this time, the genre's icons, such as Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington grew so popular that any jazz lover should know them and their music.

From the danceable swing music, jazz evolved further in the 1940's to 1960's with bebop. Bebop is known as the musician's music because it gave emphasis on the talents of the instrument players. Every musician in the band was provided with moments to shine, from the piano, the base, to the wind instruments in the band. Among the top trumpeters were Clifford and Dizzy Gillespie. The most popular among the pianists were Thelonius Monk and Bud Powell. Even drummers gained recognition, with Max Roach as one of the more famous ones.

The 70's saw the development of jazz fusion, a bold attempt to combine the elements of rock and roll with the classic jazz sound. These were the times when the jazz artists, such as Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea, and Tony Williams became very famous. Not only did they develop a new jazz sound. They also influenced even the rock and roll artists of the time, such Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, and the Grateful Dead.
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