Describe The Main Characteristics Of A Specific Style Or Period In Jazz Since World War Ii

1718 words - 7 pages

Illustrate your answer with reference to recordings by a key artist. Discuss briefly how this style relates to previous developments in jazz and/or other contemporaneous movements in jazz, and show, as appropriate, how the discussed style relates to the broader social and/or cultural environment.Jazz is a form of music originated around the beginning of the twentieth century in the Southern United States within the African American communities, combining African and European music traditions. It was in 1880, when the Atlantic slave trade brought Africans to the United States and we began to see music starting to cross boundaries. It is from this movement in history that jazz began to develop. With the African community came their music; composed of a single line melody and a call and response pattern, but without the Western concept of harmony. Their rhythms reflected African speech patterns and used the pentatonic scale which then led to blue notes found in blues and jazz.In the early nineteenth century numerous black musicians learned to play Western instruments and in turn European American minstrel show performers combined syncopation with European harmonic accompaniment, it was this movement that lead to internationally popularising the music, merging syncopation with European harmonic accompaniment. 'The present stylistic study focuses upon the dance-orientated piano ragtime published between 1897 and 1920. Some consideration is given to earlier pieces exhibiting ragtime characteristics and to post 1919 rags and "novelty Piano," but the detailed examination is concerned with music that can most reasonably be viewed as ragtime: music that is labelled "rag" or "ragtime".' (Berlin, 2002. Pg72). In 1897 the first written ragtime piece occurred, composed for the piano by William Krell entitled "Mississippi Rag". Following in Krell's footsteps Scott Joplin, a classical pianist went on to compose many rags including an international hit Maple Leaf Rag. Joplin composed rags combining syncopation, call and response, and using banjo figurations. 'Classic ragtime can be defined very simply as the piano rags of Scott Joplin, James Scott, Joseph Lamb, and their immediate collaborators, students, and followers... These three composers collected the materials of early folk ragtime, codified the style of a generation of folk players and defined the structure of classic rag.' (Berlin, 2002. Pg191). By 1901 many of the conventions of piano ragtime were established and the ragtime style was beginning to be used by classical composers such as Stravinsky and Debussy. But it was by W.C.Handy that blues became popularised with his composition of Memphis Blues in 1912 and St. Louis Blues in 1914 which both became jazz standards. 'Although his fame as "father of blues" is an overstatement, Handy's impact as a popularizer of this new musical genre should not be ignored.' (Gioia, 1997. Pg19.)It was the music of New Orleans that had an effect on the development of jazz having taken on various forms that have either branched out from original Dixieland or taken entirely different paths altogether. New Orleans musicians began to incorporate the music with an up-tempo beat, whilst the instruments used in marching bands, brass and reeds, became those used in jazz. Jelly Roll Morton began his career in the early twentieth century and composed a piece "Jelly Roll Blues" around 1905, which went on to be published in 1915 as the first jazz arrangement in print, introducing even more musicians to Jazz.From 1920 to 1933 prohibition in the United States banned the sale of alcoholic drinks leading to speakeasies (underground clubs) becoming lively venues of the jazz age. It was this era that introduced us to Hot Jazz where King Oliver joined Bill Johnson, and 1924 Louis Armstrong joined the Fletcher Henderson dance band as a featured soloist for a year, then forming his virtuosic Hot Five band. It would be fair to say that Armstrong furthered the language of jazz out of the dark ages. His style had evolved from people who proceeded him, he innovated a solo sense that had never been heard before. Armstrong gave his music cheerfulness, his rhythmic buoyancy was an inspiration to fellow musicians and his contributions can still be heard today in all of jazz and popular music. Cole Hawkins was the next jazz figure to change the progression of jazz 'incorporating elements drawn from Louis Armstrong, Art Tatum, and others, Hawkins constructed a robust, harmonically adept style' (Gioia, 1997. Pg169). It was Hawkins and Lester Young whose innovations were absorbed into the mainstream. 'The uncertain phrasing and slap-tonguing of his earliest recordings had by now been replaced by a smoother legato, a ponderous tone, and a melodic gift enlivened by Hawkins mastery passing chords' (Gioia, 1997. Pg170). In Hawkins time jazz had became even more popularised and was reaching out to the European communities, with Hawkins touring England and his 'efforts would shape the European taste for jazz and eventually be felt back in the United States' (Gioia, 1997. Pg170). Hakins virtuosic style began to stretch the harmonic spectrum through heavily arpeggiated and passionate playing. As for Lester Young, not only did he contribute to the language of jazz but also the English language, many of the slang heard today stemmed from Young's way of talking. Young was said to have adopted a Trumbauer style, with 'silky phrasing as the foundation for his own moving - and vastly influential - style of saxophone playing' (Gioia, 1997. Pg87), offering an 'alternative to harmonically orientated, arpeggio-based style characteristic of earlier jazz reed players.' (Gioia, 1997. Pg170).All of these developments led to the bebop concept of Charlie Parker, Bud Powell, Kenny Clarke, Thelonious Monk, Dizzy Gillespie, Clifford and Ray Bown and Max Roach. It could be said that this was not just the beginning of modern jazz era but the pinnacle moment. These performers helped shift jazz from popular 'danceable' music to something more challenging and 'the die was cast when Duke Ellington claimed the riff was overused and no longer useful as an expressive jazz element.' (Yurochko, 1993. Pg 75). Throughout all developments of jazz the swing element still underlines most elements, it could be said that the concept of swing was a unifying element in the history of music, however, 'the social and musical characteristics of bebop were not an evolution of swing music, in the way swing was n evolution of Dixieland, but rather in a complete revision in just about every way.' (Yurochko, 1993. Pg102). Bebop introduced longer and more sophisticated melodic lines and harmonies, with new forms of chromatic and dissonance melodies. 'How [the] instruments were played underwent a sea change in the context of modern jazz. Improvised lines grew faster, more complex. The syncopations and dotted eight-note phrasings that had characterized earlier jazz were now far less prominent.' (Gioia, 1997. Pg202). Along with all that came the change in chord based improvisation, using passing chords and altered chords, there was also a decided change in rhythmic emphasis from the 'four on the floor' bass drum style of the swing era where the drums led the rhythmic section, to a totally different style where the bass began to lead and the drums played a more contrapuntal, orchestral role, but the feeling of swing still stayed within the pulse. 'Never before had instrumental technique been so central to the music's sound' (Gioia, 1997. Pg 202).Bebop music stressed the idea of improvisation, with many players extending their solos. Where swing music was highly organised with written composition, bebop was using arrangements that were memorised and the solos were very much improvised or had a sense of improvisation. The soloist became a virtuoso, with furiously fast lines and acrobatic figures. 'The harmony became very complex, making great theoretical demands on the musicians who attempted play it' (Yurochko, 1993. Pg103). A prime example of virtuoso can be heard in a recording of "Shaw 'Nuff" - Dizzy Gillespie All-Star Quintet, recorded in 1945. Here we hear the introduction with a heavy rhythmic vamp, with the piano leading to the first chorus where you hear the use of extended melodic lines crossing the phrases. 'More often than not the harmonic complexity of modern jazz was implicit...most bop compositions simply followed, more or less, the conventional progression of prewar standards.' (Gioia, 1997. Pg203). Whilst Gillespie played a key role as a founder of bebop, Miles Davis and Fats Navarro were more direct influences on trumpeters after 1950. It was the arrival of Ornette Colman Quartet in 1959 that gave trumpeters a new alternative, avant-garde jazz. 'Slightly later players as Bobby Bradford, Bill Dixon, Lester Bowie, and Leo Smith engaged in sonic explorations, stretching the potential of the trumpet and creating new types of sound.' (Yanow, 2001. Pg3). It is said that one of the great influential figures of twentieth century music was Charlie Parker 'Parker was the prodigiously dissolute genius of the saxophone...throw[ing] off melodic ideas like a child's sparkler, dazzling his contemporaries' (Brown, 2004. Pg97). Parker built on Lester Young's use of uneven phrase lengths with unexpected placements of beginning and ends of phrases.Despite controversial discussions as to when bebop died (usually stated around the 1950's) veterans of the era who survived were still an integral part of the 1950's, 60's and 70's, and bebop became the foundation for all of the styles that followed, particularly cool jazz and hard bop.BibliographyBerlin, Edward: Ragtime: A Musical and Cultural History, (iUniverse 2002.)Brown, John: A Concise History of Jazz (Mel Bay Productions 2004)Gabbard, Krin: Jazz Among the Discourses (Duke 1995)Gioia, Ted: The History of Jazz (Oxford 1997)Kernfield, Barry: What to Listen For In Jazz (New Haven 1995)Royal Stokes, W: The Jazz Scene: An Informal History from New Orleans to 1990 (Oxford 1991)Shipton, Alyn: A New History of Jazz (London 2001)Yanow, Scott, 2001: Trumpet Kings: The Players Who Shaped the Sound Of Jazz Trumpet (Backbeat Books)Yanow, Scott, 2005: Jazz: A Regional Exploration (Greenwood)Yurochko, Bob: A Short History of Jazz (Rowman & Littlefield 1993)


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