What are the Roots of Jazz?

The African Roots of Jazz Music (1800’s)

The slaves who came from West Africa carried the first seeds of jazz music despite the horrid living conditions in the American South. European influences helped nurture those seeds into becoming the earlier known for of jazz music. It’s an infusion that took decades to reach fruition.

At that point, jazz was no longer African nor European but a purely American art form. Therefore, without the slave trade, jazz wouldn’t have evolved. In other countries, where African slaves were separated in close communities, they retained their pure African music.

Jazz Reaches Maturation (Early 20th Century)

Jazz took its distinctive musical style with the coming together of many elements over time. It manifested in work songs, religious hymns, and funeral processions. Furthermore, it became a popular dance music.

Due to racism, black people who performed as jazz musicians found themselves out of work. Therefore, they picked up ragtime and that’s when jazz started to enter a new evolution phase. It was the time of New Orleans Jazz.

Modern Jazz As We Know It

Jazz evolved in New Orleans between 1910 and 1915. It was the time of jazz giants who played the cornet and clarinet including Buddy Bolden, Buddy Petit, and Keppard. Strangely enough, a mediocre group of white musicians called the Original Dixieland Jazz Band created the first jazz records in New York City. Although they were from New Orleans, they weren’t representative of New Orleans jazz.

Depending on how you define “jazz music,” it wasn’t confined to New Orleans. Musicians played jazz all over the United States including Los Angeles, Missouri, and Colorado.



History of American jazz

The history of American jazz music is fascinating. First of all, African American developed jazz through a blend of European harmonic configuration and African tribal rhythms. Jazz influenced ragtime and blues and was influenced by them. Throughout its history, jazz was an improvised, instrumental music. How to define jazz? From New Orleans style, smooth jazz, to 1950s jazz songs, the immortal words of Louis Armstrong ring true: “If you have to ask, you’ll never know.”

However, creativity is the driving force of jazz. A jazz musician performs his own interpretation of the composition. Unlike classical music where the performers play the music the same way every time.