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The Development of Jazz and Blues

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  • Pages: 6
  • Word count: 1305
  • Category: Jazz Music

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            Blues is an instrumental and vocal kind of music which originated from the black Americans. Basically it uses the blue notes and patterns that portray African influence. It has revolutionized both Western and American popular music like blue glass, jazz and rhythm and blues. Jazz also originated from the Southern American states and is a combination of both European and African music traditions. Blues is a music genre in its own but an integral part of jazz.  The two types of music are interrelated and we cannot talk of jazz without talking about blues. “All real jazz is to some extent bluesy, but a great deal of blues is not jazz.” (Van der, 461) How did blues and jazz music originated and developed? This is what will be the key focus of this essay.

            Just like in blues, jazz music in its development has borrowed some things from the popular music and has given birth to some subgenres such as rag time, European jazz and swings in 1920s, cool jazz, free jazz and hard bop in the 1940s-50s, the 1960s-1970’s jazz rock fusion, soul jazz and Latin jazz. There is a slight difference between jazz and blues for example; jazz music is rhythmic, instrumental, sophisticated, fast and innovative whereas blues is melodic, slow, vocal, and traditional.

            According to van der, (461) Newman refers to jazz music as just a combination of tags and tricks that have no implications to any serious composer of music and that it has no form but on the other hand blues has a well defined form. Blues is a kind of music that is ever growing and is day by day becoming more complex and sophisticated. For instance, it started as a simple music from African American’s oral traditions during the slavery period but has now grown and given birth to subgenres and styles that are not just confined to South America where slavery was the main source of labor but to other parts such as North America, Africa and Europe. (Weinstock, The origin of Jazz)

            There are historians who argue that blues simply acted as a development vehicle of jazz music but this is erroneous, the truth is that the two kind of music had separate beginnings and that blues continued to grow as a unique and separate entity sometimes after jazz was born. The two have crossed their paths in their course of development and have greatly influenced one another. According to Vulliamy, (63) jazz music begun when Buddy Bolden started incorporating blues sound in his brass instrument. Another person who is worth noting and who also played a vital role in the development is Jelly Roll Morton. Due to his frequent visits and meetings with blues musicians, he contributed to the growth of jazz music because his latter recordings portrayed strong influence of blues. At this time, the two types of music went into separate ways; jazz music found a fertile ground at New Orleans while blues established itself in the Southern States where an artist like Charley Patton emerged.

            Before the 1920s, the jazz and blues had little influence of the white Americans due to the segregation policy that was in practice. For this reason, the blacks were not allowed to mix with the whites and so there was no chance of cultural exchange but after 1920s period, American entered in another age known as the golden age. During this period, blues and jazz music ceased to be a preserve of the blacks and started being played by the whites and Europeans. The wave swept even the classical performers and composers such as Milhaud and Stravinsky who started to use jazz techniques in their music. The reason that led to the spread of music to other parts was the constant movement of artists not only from one city to another but also from the South to North (Vullimy, 39)

            In the early 20th century, the role of blues and jazz was to express the feelings, emotions and to give stories of the African Americans. Blues and jazz music were not just a form of music characteristic of blacks but was a way of expressing their state of mind and their way of life. According to Salzman,(931) they both originated during the segregation period but later turned to be an important tool for shaping the altitudes and opinions of the blacks.

            The 1960s performers like Muddy Waters and John Hooker mixed blues with some elements of rock music. These were the songs that were sung during free speech movements and during the civil rights movements. It is for this reason that an interest in the former African American music was rekindled.  It is during this period that traditional blues were resurrected and the songs proved to very useful when it came to fighting racism and in making comment on wars and specifically, the Vietnam War. The act of playing these songs revived the pre-war blues’ spirit and made the memories of singers like Mississippi John Hurt and Skip James green. (Van der, 502)

            The development and advancement in jazz and blues led to the birth of more sophisticated music with different subgenres. It inspired several American performers and especially the blues-rock performers such as Johnny Winter and Janis Joplin. In 1980s, the spirit of the 1960s continued to grow and this epoch was marked by the rise of soul blues or what was known as the Southern soul. Generally speaking, blues in its course of development mixed with other kinds of music and greatly influenced them. These are music such as rock and roll, popular music, jazz and prominent music. Unfortunately the music has been accused of inciting violence and spreading behaviors that are considered as inappropriate. The reason for it to be accused according to Weinstock, The origin of Jazz is that many of them addressed issues that affected the African Americans. They expressed their opinions and the way forward to these problems. These songs were played in funeral ceremonies where many African Americans attended and hence the message was widely spread. They were also played in open concerts and in meetings for example during the civil rights movements.

            Blues and jazz music are deemed to be important because they develop and promote one’s well being. They also fulfill the emotional part of life and that is why they are regarded as soul searching songs. Most of these songs are informative, this is because they tell us the experiences of the blacks for example the slavery period and the civil rights movement but the trend has changed and they are no longer confined to the blacks alone. (Van der, 501)

            To be precise, jazz and blues have come from along way to become what they are today. You cannot talk about the origin of jazz music without talking something about the blues because the two have influenced one another in a way and therefore they are interrelated or in other words, blues has played a key role in the development of jazz music. Originally, the music was only played and listened by the blacks but after 1920s, the trend changed and moved even to the North. The music has influenced other types of music and so there are many music subgenres that have traits of blues and jazz music.

Works Cited.

Vulliamy Graham. Jazz & Blues: Jazz and Blues: Routledge. Available at            http://books.google.co.ke/books?id=b7E9AAAAIAAJ&dq=development+of+jazz   +and+blues&client=firefox-a

Salzmann Jack. American Studies: An Annotated Bibliography, 1984-1988. Cambridge

            University Press. 1990.

Weinstock L. The origin of Jazz. Accessible online at         http://www.redhotjazz.com/originsarticle.html

Van der P. Roots of the Classical: the Popular Origins of Western Music. Oxford           University Press. 2004.

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