April is Jazz Appreciation Month. Who is your favorite artist and what is your favorite type of jazz? Although there is considerably more information about the genre than can be discussed in one blog entry, we are highlighting some of the major styles and some of the artists whose work falls into each category. All of the musicians mentioned here have music on the Freegal site.
New Orleans & Dixieland
New Orleans is often considered the birthplace of jazz. Early and pivotal jazz artists started their career in that city. Jelly Roll Morton for example was an experimental artist who was quite influential in the early 1900’s. He blended styles and made his own sound. Some of the best known songs by him and his band are “Black-Bottom Stomp” and “Smoke House Blues”. The city’s best known artist is probably Louis Armstrong. He was born in New Orleans and started his career there. His travel to New York and other cities helped spread the popularity of the genre.
The 1930’s was all about swing. Key leaders in developing the big band sound included Glenn Miller, Cab Colloway and Benny Goodman. According to www.jazzinamerica.com swing music was very popular to dance to and music within this category was broadcast on the radio nightly on stations across America. The careers of music giants Frank Sinatra and Billie Holiday began during this period.
Later in the 1940’s there was a movement to make jazz less of a mainstream dance sound to more of an art form. It was intended more for listening than dancing . Charlie Parker, Thelonious Monk, Dizzy Gillespie and Clifford Brown were just some of the standouts during this time. The career of “the first lady of song” Ella Fitzgerald also started to take off during this period. Ms. Fitzgerald’s style included many types of jazz, not just bebop. She produced music with a wide variety of artists from Louis Armstrong to Frank Sinatra.
Emerging in the late 1940’s, Cool Jazz was seen as more relaxed than Bebop and was an effort to bring Jazz a bit more back towards the mainstream. It incorporated varied sounds which did include bepop but also had influences of swing and even classical. Miles Davis is probably the most widely known of all the musicians at this time, but other top artists involved in this movement include Dave Brubeck, Bill Evans, and Chet Baker.
Allowing performers much more latitude than any of the previous styles , free jazz used less compositional material. It was a controversial move for the time. Ornette Coleman, Charles Mingus and John Coltrane are associated with this type of music. It was also during this period in the 50’s that Miles Davis released his groundbreaking “Kind of Blue” LP which is considered by many to be one of the greatest jazz albums of all time. That LP is labeled as modal jazz which Mr. Davis developed himself.
During the late 1960’s and 70’s a hybrid of rock and jazz developed. Electric instruments are often used such as electric guitar, electric bass, and electric piano. Herbie Hancock, The Weather Report, and Chick Corea were highly influential in his period. Miles Davis also worked in this as well. His album “Bitches Brew” is considered to have been a significant influence on the rock genre.
Jazz keeps changing as time moves on. There are still many variations within the genre. Some of the top musicians in jazz who have released music more recently that the previously mentioned artists include: Wynton and Branford Marsalis, Julian Lage, The Bad Plus, Aaron Diehl, Tony Bennett, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Stacey Kent, and many more.