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Jazz: A Simple Definition

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Essay title: Jazz: A Simple Definition

Jazz is a type of music developed by black Americans about 1900 and possessing an identifiable history and describable stylistic evolution. It is rooted in the mingled musical traditions of American blacks. More black musicians saw jazz for the first time a profession. Since its beginnings jazz has branched out into so many styles that no single description fits all of them with total accuracy.

Performers of jazz improvise within the conventions of their chosen style. Improvisation gave jazz a personalized, individualized, and distinct feel. Most jazz is based on the principle that an infinite number of melodies can fit the cord progressively of any cord.

Revolutions, whether in arts or matter of state, create a new world only by sacrificing the old. By the late twenties, improvisation had expanded to the extent of improvisation we ordinarily expect from jazz today. The twenties were a crucial period in the history of music. It was the roaring twenties that a group of new tonalities entered the mainstream, fixing the sound and the forms of our popular music for the next thirty years. Louie Armstrong closed the book on the dynastic tradition in New Orleans jazz.

The first true soloist of jazz, Louie Armstrong was a dazzling improviser, technically, emotionally, and intellectually. Armstrong often called the "father of jazz," always spoke with deference, bordering on awe, of his musical roots. He changed the format of jazz by bringing the soloist to the forefront, and in his recording groups, the Hot Five and the Hot Seven, demonstrated that jazz improvisation could go far beyond simply ornamenting the melody. Armstrong was one of the first jazz musicians to refine a rhythmic conception that abandoned the stiffness of ragtime, employed swing light-note patterns, and he used a technique called "rhythmic displacement." Rhythmic displacement was sometimes staggering the placement of an entire phrase, as though he were playing behind the beat. He created new melodies based on the chords of the initial tune. He also set standards for all later jazz singers, not only by the way he altered the words and melodies of songs but also by improvising without words like an instrument. Armstrong was a great musical architect. He brought a superb sense of drama to jazz solo conception. During a period when most improvisers were satisfied simply to embellish or paraphrase a tune, Armstrong himself was a master at both. Armstrong’s command of the trumpet was arguable greater than that of any preceding jazz trumpeter who recorded.

In actuality, the revolution initiated by Armstrong took place in fits and starts and with little fanfare at the time. After Armstrong’s departure from the King Oliver Creole Band, over a year would transpire before he would record as a leader. And even when those famous recordings were the record company considered enlisting a better known leader to front the band. Fletcher Henderson, Armstrong’s first major employer after Oliver, made the trumpeter accept

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