When and How Did Jazz Emerge?

When did jazz begin? It’s a question that will remain forever unanswered. There’s proof that the first jazz recording was made back in 1917, but as a musical genre, jazz existed at least in its initial state for 20 years prior. Influenced by classical music, marches, spirituals, work songs, ragtime, blues and popular music at the time, jazz was already a particular form of music when its documentation began.

There’s no specific starting date for jazz as definite and autonomous music. It’s usually placed between 1895 and 1917, when the term jazz was widespread and where the Original Dixieland Jazz Band made its first recordings. It also seems clear that early jazz emerged in many places in the United States, not just in New Orleans.

Music bands, street marches, and instrumental ragtime ruled in the ballrooms. And as for New York, Gavin Bushell says that in the early 20’s you only hear blues and real jazz in the disreputable cabarets where the lower classes went. The black middle-class home wasn’t allowed to play blues and boogie-woogie, as this kind of music was associated with low social status.

Blues didn’t change styles from the 1880s to the 1920s. George Morrison, a musician of the turn of the century, cited that between 1901 and 1911, he, his brother, his brother-in-law… couldn’t perform “original” music in its set of strings: the repertoire was plenty of waltzes, popular ballads, and mandatory interpreted “as they were written”, meaning they could not improvise.

The mobilization of black people from the southern United States, seeking better economic conditions, also contributed to jazz musicians leaving New Orleans to other cities in the north and west and, in the early 1920s, Chicago became in the center of jazz.

When Armstrong joined Fletcher Henderson’s band in New York in 1924, he discovered that New York musicians, although technically superior, often played staccato and without the emotion of the blues. Armstrong, with his dramatic and explosive solos, had immense influence and helped to create a swing.

The decade of the 70s is recognized as the era of the fusion in music, many jazz musicians were integrating aspects of rock, R&B (rhythm and blues), and pop music with their own. Until the late ’60s, jazz and rock remained separate, but with the emergence of the electronic keyboard, there was a lot of experimentation.

At the time no rude or vulgar music was tolerated, all was refined, sentimental music. Therefore, most of the musicians that soon after began to make jazz played “sweet” music. The trajectory of jazz from 1920 to 1975 was a constantly evolving with new styles that were out of date within five to ten years. In the ’80s it was suddenly considered acceptable to pay tribute to the past and go to periods before the b-bop for inspiration.

Almost all styles of jazz are still active, including Dixieland, classical jazz, swing, bop, avant-garde and other forms of fusion. Jazz has become a truly international music genre, although its evolution has slowed down. Some cynics think that music has reached the end of its development, but you can bet that while there are recordings, along with the need for self-expression, jazz will survive.