Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Jazz Appreciation Month


This April, Freegal Music is all about that jazz for “Jazz Appreciation Month”! As the incomparable Ella Fitzgerald would have turned 100 years old this April 25th, we will be featuring her music and that of many other distinguished artists who influenced the genre. All of the musicians and songs highlighted below are on the Freegal site. Just click on the name of the artist to be taken to their music:


When you think of great jazz musicians, Louis Armstrong may be one of the first artists that comes to mind. While he is inarguably one of the most important artists in the history of the genre, another New Orleans native, Jelly Roll Morton, actually started performing prior to Mr. Armstrong. Jelly Roll Morton played a blend of ragtime and dance rhythms that put him at the forefront of the jazz movement. In 1915, his song “Original Jelly Roll Blues” became the first published work in the genre of jazz according to Biography.com     



Louis Armstrong started to play in local New Orleans bands shortly after Mr. Morton. His made his first record in the early 1920’s. The amazingly talented trombonist collaborated with blues greats Bessie Smith among others. He started his own band in 1925. His wife, Lillian Hardin, was one of the members of his “Hot Five” band. Louis and his group helped bring jazz to different cities with his extensive touring.

It was around the time of Mr. Armtrong’s touring that Duke Ellington was starting to play in nightclubs. When the legendary piano player and his group became the house band at Harlem’s famous “Cotton Club”, they catapulted to fame. Mr. Ellington is often credited with bringing the genre of jazz more in the direction of swing.  “It Don’t Mean a Thing If It Ain’t Got ThatSwing” was one of his top hits.



Another important innovator in the swing era of jazz was Benny Goodman. One of his performances at California venue in 1935 is credited with the first major live debut of swing music according to Encyclopedia.com. Big bands or swing bands such as Benny Goodman’s often used singers. Some big band vocalists such as Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday and Bing Crosby became major stars in their own right.

Not too many women were written about in the evolution of jazz up to this point in music history, but singer EllaFitzgerald was one of them. In addition to performing with Mr. Goodman, the artist also collaborated with Duke Ellington and Louis Armstrong. When she finally decided to start performing solo, her career had been well established. According to PBS.org, Frank Sinatra was the only other performer at the time that even came close to rivaling her popularity. Ms. Fitzgerald performed throughout the United States and Europe. Nicknamed “The First Lady of Song”, Ella was awarded the National Medal of Arts by President Ronald Regan shortly before her death.



Ella Fitzgerald also performed with another woman jazz pioneer: Billie Holiday. After collaborating with Ella, Benny Goodman, Count Basie and others, Billie Holiday eventually struck out on her own. It was when she was performing solo that she created some of her most well known hits such as “Strange Fruit” and “God Bless The Child”. Ms. Holiday became known for her lyrics and distinctive vocals.

After World War II ended, artists such as Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie who had started out in the swing era began to explore a type of jazz known as bop. This style was characterized by a faster tempo and a more improvisation. Younger up-and-coming musicians at that time such as Miles Davis and Art Blakey helped evolve that style even more into a hard bop or cool jazz movement. Miles Davis started his career a member of the Charlie Parker Quintet. It was after he began to record on his own that Miles became more successful. Jazz legends such as John Coltrane, Herbie Hancock and Bill Evans started their careers in Mr. Davis’ bands. According to Biography.com, Miles Davis’ LP “Kind of Blue” remains the best-selling jazz album of all time.



As jazz continued to evolve through the years, other artists such as Horace Silver and Thelonious Monk contributed to it’s growth. In the 1960’s,  a form of the genre with  Brazilian influences called Bossa Nova started to become more popular. Joao Gilberto is one of the musicians credited with bringing that sound to the United States.

In the 1950’s and 1960’s DaveBrubeck played jazz for younger audiences. He often performed at college campuses. The artist also played in clubs and was consistently given top honors by critics. Mr. Brubeck toured all over the world with his quartet. His famous LP “ Time Out” became the first jazz album to sell over a million copies per the website of the artist.


In the later 20th century, the genre evolved into other styles such as free jazz and jazz-rock fusion. In the 1990’s, a classically trained trumpet player named Wynton Marsalis helped increase the popularity of the genre.
Encyclopedia.com writes that Mr. Marsalis “has certainly been responsible for the revival of jazz as an important musical form.” Mr. Marsalis continues to perform and is currently on tour. Other artists performing today include such greats as the PreservationHall Jazz Band who are releasing a new album this April. Minneapolis natives The Bad Plus explore avante-guard jazz and have gained quite a following. Some of the artists on jazz music charts this month include: “Je Dis Oui!” by PinkMartini, “Tony Bennett Celebrates 90” by Tony Bennett, “Music of Miles Davis & Original Compositions, Live” by SFJazz Collective, and “Code Noir” by Carmen Lundy.

Discover the music of all of the above artists, and more, by logging into Freegal Music with your library card.