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Jazz: Overview

Jazz: Overview

Despite complex origins, the status of jazz as a distinctively African-American music is beyond question. Nonetheless, in its development from folk and popular sources in turn-of-the-twentieth-century America, jazz has transcended boundaries of ethnicity and genre. Played in every country of the globe, it is perhaps twentieth-century America's most influential cultural creation, and its worldwide impact, on both popular and art music, has been enormous. Jazz has proved to be immensely protean and has existed in a number of diverse though related styles, from New Orleansand Chicago-style Dixieland jazz, big band or swing, bebop, funky cool jazz, hard bop, modal jazz, free jazz, and jazz rock. One reason for the variety in jazz is that it is basically a way of performing music rather than a particular repertory. It originated in blends of the folk music, popular music, and light classical music being created just prior to 1900, and now embraces a variety of popular musical styles from Latin America, the Caribbean, Asia, and Africa, as well as diverse modern, classical, and avantgarde performance traditions.

Jazz also has an inescapable political thrust. It originated during a time of enormous oppression and violence in the South against African Americans. The early African-American practitioners of jazz found racial discrimination in virtually every aspect of their lives, from segregated dance halls, cafés, and saloons to exploitative record companies. Like blackface minstrelsy, early jazz was popular with whites, in part because it reinforced "darkie" stereotypes of African Americans as happy-go-lucky and irrepressibly rhythmic. Nonetheless, many black jazz musicians used jazz as a vehicle for cultural, artistic, and economic advancement, and were able to shape their own destinies in an often hostile environment. African-American jazz was, from its earliest days, often performed for or by whites, and it was assimilated into the overall fabric of popular music, to the uneasiness of some on both sides of the racial divide. It has continued to mirror and exemplify the complexities and ironies of the changing status of African Americans within the broader culture and polity of the United States.

Early Jazz

Although its origins are obscure, early forms of jazz began to flourish around the turn of the century in cities such as New Orleans, Chicago, and Memphis. The long prehistory of jazz begins with the rhythmic music slaves brought to America in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries and developed on southern plantations. Since the traditional drums, flutes, and horns of West Africa were largely forbidden, call-and-response singing and chanting, field hollers, foot stomping, and handclapping were common, especially in the context of fieldwork and church worship. Under those restrictions, among the earliest African-American instruments adopted were European string instruments such as the violin and guitar. The Africanderived banjo was also a popular instrument. Eventually the publicly performed music that Reconstruction-era city-dwellers made an essential part of urban life demanded brass and woodwind instruments, not only for their volume but also to accompany the Spanish American Warera military marches, popular songs, and light classics that were so popular among all classes and races in the late nineteenth century.

While it is difficult to draw a precise line between jazz and its precursors, its immediate predecessors were two forms of African-American folk and popular music known as blues and ragtime. Ragtime is primarily piano music that integrates complex African-derived rhythmic practices with the harmonies of light classics, parlor music, show tunes, and popular songs. The virtuosic practice of "ragging"altering rhythms to, in effect, "tease" variety and humor out of formal, strict patternswas widespread by the 1880s, especially in towns along the Mississippi River like St. Louis and (eventually) New Orleans. Ragtime was also being played before the turn of the century in eastern cities such as New York and Baltimore. The greatest ragtime players, Scott Joplin, Eubie Blake, Tony Jackson, and Jelly Roll Morton, also composed, and sheet music became a central feature of home entertainments among families, black and white, who could afford pianos. Ragtime was also played by instrumental ensembles; the syncopated orchestras led in New York City by James Reese Europe and Will Marion Cook during the first two decades of the century owed much to the precise, contrapuntal style of piano rags. The ragtime-derived piano style proved influential on later jazz styles, especially since many of the best bandleaders of the swing era, including Duke Ellington, Earl "Fatha" Hines, and Count Basie, were heavily influenced by Harlem stride pianists such as James P. Johnson, Fats Waller, Willie "The Lion" Smith, and Luckey Roberts. Also deeply indebted to stride were later pianists such as Teddy Wilson, Art Tatum, and Thelonious Monk.

The blues similarly began along the Mississippi River in the 1880s and 1890s. Among the first published blues, "Memphis Blues" (1912), by W. C. Handy, was broadly derived from black rural folk music. The sexual frankness and suggestiveness, its recognition of suffering and hardship of all kinds, and the slow, insinuating melodies soon had an impact on popular music. The 1920s saw the rise of such blues singers as Ma Rainey, Bessie Smith, and Mamie Smith, but long before that the blues had a palpable influence on the music of early New Orleans jazz.

It was New Orleans that gave its name to the earliest and most enduring form of jazz and bred its first masters. That Buddy Bolden, Bunk Johnson, Kid Ory, Jelly Roll Morton, King Oliver, Sidney Bechet, and Freddy Keppard all came from New Orleans attests to the extraordinary fertility of musical life in what was then the largest southern city. In New Orleans, blacks, whites, and the culturally distinct light-skinned African Americans known as Creoles supported various kinds of musical ensembles by the mid-nineteenth century. Other influences included traveling cabaret and minstrel shows, funeral, carnival, and parade bands. A more or less direct African influence on New Orleans was also pervasive, no more so than in Congo Square, a onetime site of slave auctions that later became an important meeting place and open-air music hall for New Orleans blacks.

The various layers of French, Spanish, Haitian, Creole, Indian, and African-American culture in New Orleans created a mixed social environment, and not only in Storyville, the legendary red-light district whose role in the birth of jazz has probably been overemphasized. Nonetheless, it was in Storyville that legalized prostitution encouraged a proliferation of brothels, gambling houses, and saloons where many of the early New Orleans jazz musicians first performed. Though many of the early New Orleans jazz bands and performers, including Sidney Bechet and Jelly Roll Morton, were Creoles, very soon non-Creoles such as King Oliver and Louis Armstrong were integrated into Creole ensembles.

By the end of the first decade of the twentieth century, these diverse musical styles had evolved into the style of music that was almost exclusively associated with New Orleans. Although there are no recordings of jazz from this period, what the music sounded like can be inferred from photographs of the period, later reminiscences, and later recordings. A typical early New Orleans jazz ensemble might include one or more cornets, trombone, clarinet, and a rhythm section of string or brass bass, piano, and guitar or banjo. The cornets, which were eventually replaced by the trumpets, took the melodic lead, while an elaborate countermelody was contributed by the clarinet, and the trombone provided a melodic bass line. The rhythm section filled in the harmonies and provided the beat. The typical repertory of these ensembles consisted largely of blues-based songs.

The two main types of improvisation in early jazz were solo and collective improvisation. Solo improvisation takes place when one musician at a time performs solo. In collective improvisation, which was the key feature of the New Orleans early jazz sound and later Chicago-related Dixieland style, more than one musician improvises simultaneously. This style can be heard in the early recordings of Kid Ory, King Oliver, and Jelly Roll Morton, as well as music made by whites such as the Original Dixieland Jazz Band, the New Orleans Rhythm Kings, the Wolverines, and Chicago's Austin High School Gang.

Jazz no doubt existed in some recognizable form from about 1905the heyday of the legendary and never-recorded New Orleans cornetist Buddy Boldenbut the first recording by a group calling itself a "jazz" band was made in 1917, in New York, by the white, New Orleansbased ensemble the Original Dixieland Jazz Band. Though as early as 1913 James Reese Europe had recorded with his black syncopated orchestra, and by the early 1920s Johnny Dunn and Kid Ory had recorded, it was not until 1923 that the first representative and widely influential New Orleansstyle jazz recordings by African Americans were made in the Midwest, by King Oliver and Jelly Roll Morton.

The movement of the best New Orleans musicians to Chicago is often linked to the closing of Storyville in 1917. Much more important was the Great Migration of southern blacks to northern cities during the World War I years. In Chicago, jazz found a receptive audience, and jazz musicians were able to develop profitable solo careers while enjoying a more hospitable racial climate than in the South.

Big Band Jazz

Jazz underwent significant changes on being transplanted to the North. By the early 1920s, when the New Yorkbased band of Fletcher Henderson made its first recordings, jazz was being presented in a manner akin to the refined dance band orchestras of the time, with larger ensembles of ten pieces or more, working within carefully written arrangements. Whereas the early jazz repertory consisted largely of original blues, in the 1920s jazz musicians began performing waltzes and popular songs. The style of playing changed as well. In place of the thrilling but often unwieldy polyphony of New Orleans jazz came the antiphonal big-band style, in which whole sections traded off unison or close-harmony riffs, often in a call-and-response format with a single soloist. In contrast to the instrumentation of the typical New Orleans early jazz ensemble of three horns and a rhythm section, big bands generally had a brass section consisting of three trumpets and one trombone, and three or four reeds (a variety of saxophones and clarinets). In the 1930s the size of big bands often grew to fifteen or more musicians. Providing the pulse for the swing big bands was a rhythm section, usually containing a piano, string bass and drums, and often an acoustic guitar.

If the big bands regimented and reined in the sounds of New Orleans jazz, it also permitted the emergence of the soloist, particularly on the saxophone and trumpet, probably the most important development of the era. Though featured soloists were not unknown in the New Orleans jazz style, big band jazz arrangements often used themes as mere preludes to extended solo improvisations, with both the rhythm section and the orchestra as a whole often serving as accompanists to whoever was soloing. No figure exemplified this change better than Louis Armstrong. Although bred in New Orleans, his stay in Chicago taught him much about the theatrical possibilities of a

well-constructed solo. During 1924 and 1925 he performed with the Henderson band in New York, where his majestic tone and unfailingly fresh phrasing almost singlehandedly turned that ensemble from a straitlaced dance band toward a New Orleansinfluenced style that would eventually become known as swing. Armstrong's recordings with his own ensembles in the 1920s feature not only his brilliant trumpet but also his voice. By singing the same way that he played the trumpet, Armstrong became the model for superb jazz phrasing and popularized scat singingusing nonsense syllables instead of words. In the 1930s his recordings of such emerging standards as "Body and Soul" and "Stardust" proved that jazz could redefine pop tunes.

In 1929 Armstrong fronted a big band in New York, a move that signaled the decline of both Chicago and Chicago-style jazz in favor of Harlem as the new capital and swing big bands as the dominant sound. By the mid-1930s Harlem was the undisputed center of the jazz world, and the swing era coincided with the rise of Harlem as the focal point for African-American culture. The largest black community in the world made its home along 125th Street in Manhattan, attending elegant and inexpensive dance palaces and buying recordings also made in New York. However, it would be a mistake to focus exclusively on New York or Chicago. Many of the greatest swing big bands, known as territory bands, came from elsewhere. The Southwest, in particular Kansas City, an important railroad switching station as well as host to an extensive collection of mob-owned after-hours nightclubs, was the most important center for territory bands. In the early 1920s Bennie Moten's group had already inaugurated a Kansas City style, in its mature phase marked by looser, four-to-the-bar rhythms and freer styles of soloing. The pianist in the band, a student of Harlem stride named Count Basie, brought the core of that band to New York in 1936, and brought to prominence a whole new generation of hard-swinging soloists such as Lester Young, Herschel Evans, and Buck Clayton, as well as vocalist Jimmy Rushing.

The big band era was the only time jazz was truly America's popular music. Starting in the late 1920s, the dance bands of Ellington, Henderson, Basie, Jimmie Lunceford, Andy Kirk, Teddy Hill, Earl "Fatha" Hines, as well as those of Chick Webb, Cab Calloway, and Lionel Hampton, competed with white bands led by Benny Goodman, Paul Whiteman, Tommy Dorsey, and Artie Shaw. The prominence of the soloist during the swing era marks the emergence of celebrity jazz musicians like Louis Armstrong, who became "stars" almost on a par with the most popular white entertainers of the day, such as Bing Crosby, in both white and black communities, in Europe as well as in America. The big band era also marks the emergence of tenor saxophonist stars such as Coleman Hawkins and Ben Webster, as well as vocalists such as Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald.

Jazz in the swing era gave numerous African-American performers a largely unprecedented degree of acceptance, fame, and financial success. Still, these achievements occurred within a society that was uncomfortable at best with both public and private racial interaction in any but the most controlled settings. Although some dance halls and nightclubs were integrated, many others, including the most famous ones, such as the Cotton Club, were not. Musicians often appeared there in less than flattering contexts, and audiences clamored for Duke Ellington's "exotic" side, known as jungle music, and for the comic, minstrel side of performers such as Louis Armstrong and Fats Waller. Through the end of the 1930s almost all jazz bands were segregated, with white bands such as those led by the Dorsey brothers, Paul Whiteman, Benny Goodman, Glenn Miller, Woody Herman, and Artie Shaw making considerably more money than their African-American counterparts.

Goodman's ensemble was the first integrated jazz band. He hired Fletcher Henderson as an arranger and in 1936 hired Teddy Wilson as pianist and Lionel Hampton on vibes for his quartet. Goodman, the most popular bandleader of the late 1930s, played in a style quite similar to the best of the black bands, and was unfairly crowned the "King of Swing" by critics. This raised the ire of many black musicians. Although Armstrong, Ellington, Basie, and Waller became genuine celebrities, the white musicians who played in a "black" style often captured a market unavailable to blacks. This would be a persistent grievance among black jazz musicians.

Bebop

In the early 1940s one of the last major bands from the Southwest to reach prominence in New York was led by Jay McShann, whose band contained the seeds of the next development in jazz (primarily through the innovations of its own saxophonist, Charlie Parker). Although the emergence of the frenetic and rarified style of jazz that became known as "bebop"so named because of the final, two-note phrase that often ended bebop solosis frequently seen as a revolt against big band swing, all of the early bebop giants drew upon their experiences playing with swing musicians, often in big bands. Earl Hines, Billy Eckstine, Coleman Hawkins, and Cootie Williams nurtured many beboppers, and one of the first great bebop groups was a big band led by Dizzy Gillespie in 1945 and 1946. After Parker left Jay McShann, he worked with Gillespie in bands led by Hines and Eckstine. Thelonious Monk worked with Cootie Williams, as did Bud Powell.

The very first stirrings of bebop had come in the late 1930s, when drummer Kenny Clarke, who had worked in big bands led by Teddy Hill and Roy Eldridge, began keeping time on the high-hat cymbal rather than on the bass drum, which was reserved for rhythmic accents, a style adopted by young drummers such as Max Roach and Art Blakey. Just as timekeepers were experimenting with the rhythmical palate of the drum kit, so too were soloists extending the limits of the harmonies of standard popular songs and blues, and aspiring to a new and recondite tonal vocabulary. Inspired by the virtuosic playing and harmonic sophistication of pianist Art Tatum and tenor saxophonist Lester Young, in the early 1940s Gillespie and Parker were creating a music for musicians, noted for its complexity, with a whole new, difficult repertory. Trumpeter Fats Navarro, bassist Charles Mingus, and pianists Thelonious Monk and Bud Powell were also prime architects of bebop, as were such white musicians as pianists Lennie Tristano and Al Haig, and alto saxophonist Lee Konitz.

Disgruntled swing musicians complained that bebop was an elitist style that robbed jazz of its place as America's popular music. Certainly, the refusal of bebop musicians to adhere to a four-to-the-bar bass drum rhythm meant that the music was no longer suitable for dancing. As bebop lost its function as dance music, tempos quickened even more, and solos became more rhythmically adventurous. Bebop's quirky, sophisticated compositions and fleet, witty improvisations demanded the serious and more or less undivided attention that concert music requires. Bebop came of age and reached its height of popularity not in "high-toned" Harlem dance halls but in the nightclubs and after-hours clubs of Harlem and 52nd Street, and often the audience consisted of a small coterie of white and black jazz fans and sympathetic jazz musicians. In retrospect, however, it was not bebop that dealt the deathblow to jazz as a popular music. The big bands were struggling to survive long before the bebop era began, and by the 1950s, not even Count Basie and Duke Ellington's bands could keep up with the dance rhythms of rhythm and blues and early rock and roll.

Just as New Orleansstyle jazz established the basic language for what is generally considered "classic jazz," so too did the beboppers define what is still considered modern jazz. Bebop was inherently music for small ensembles, which usually included a rhythm section of piano, bass, and drums, and two or three horns, playing a new repertory of jazz standards often derived from the chord changes of Ray Noble's "Cherokee" or George Gershwin's "I Got Rhythm." In the standard bebop ensemble, after the initial statement of the theme in unison, each soloist was given several choruses to improvise on that theme. The beboppers, ever restless innovators, also experimented with Latin music, string accompaniments, and the sonorities of twentieth-century European concert music.

The latter influenced pianist John Lewis and trumpeter Miles Davis, bebop pioneers who forged a new style known as "cool jazz." In the late 1940s Davis began listening to and playing with white musicians, especially arranger Gil Evans, associated with Claude Thornhill's band. Davis formed an unusual nine-piece band, including "non-jazz" instruments such as tuba and French horn for club and record sessions later known as Cool Jazz. The ensemble's elegant, relaxed rhythms, complex and progressive harmonies, and intimate solo styles proved enormously influential to white musicians such as Gerry Mulligan, Chet Baker, Lennie Tristano, Dave Brubeck, George Shearing, and Stan Getz, as well as to Lewis's Modern Jazz Quartet.

Davis, a prodigious creator of jazz styles, helped launch the other major trend of the 1950s, "hard bop." Inaugurated by "Walkin'" (1954), hard bop was marked by longer, more emotional solos reminiscent of 1930s cutting contests and reaffirmation of the gospel and blues. Charles Mingus, Sonny Rollins, Clifford Brown, Horace Silver, Art Blakey, and Thelonious Monk were all major exponents of hard bop, as were Cannonball Adderley, Eric Dolphy, Mal Waldron, Jackie McLean, and Wes Montgomery later. During the late 1950s Davis led an ensemble that included some of the finest and most influential of all hard bop players, including John Coltrane, Cannonball Adderley, and white pianist Bill Evans. Davis's landmark Kind of Blue (1959) introduced a popular and influential style of playing known as modal, in which modes or scales, rather than chord changes, generate improvisation. Davis also never gave up his interest in large-ensemble, arranged music, and he experimented in the late 1950s, collaborating with Gil Evans, with orchestrations derived from modern European concert music. This music, which white composer Gunther Schuller dubbed as "Third Stream," was never popular among jazz audiences, although black jazz composers such as John Lewis and George Russell embraced its concepts.

Bebop, cool jazz, hard bop, Third Stream music, and "soul" or "funk" jazz, pioneered by Horace Silver, dominated jazz in the late 1950s. However, the giants of the previous decades, playing what was to be called "mainstream" jazz, had some of their greatest popular, if not musical, successes. During that decade Louis Armstrong toured regularly in small and large ensembles and had several enormously popular records. Basie organized a new orchestra, and also had several hit records. Ellington, who had triumphantly introduced new extended works annually in the 1940s, continued to compose for his orchestra and also had several hits.

Avant-Garde Jazz

By the early 1960s jazz had reached a crucial turning point. Many of the jazz masters of the swing era, such as Lester Young and Billie Holiday, were dead. Many of the most important musicians, including Charlie Parker, Bud Powell, and Clifford Brown, had died tragically young or had been devastated by heroin addiction, mental illness, or accidents. Musicians had pushed the rhythmic and harmonic conventions that had been established during the swing era to their breaking point. During the 1960s Coltrane, Ornette Coleman, and Cecil Taylor led the way in beginning to abandon the swinging rhythms and melodies of traditional jazz in favor of implied tempos and harmonies, drawing on the largely unexplored reaches of their instruments, often in epic-length solos. By the mid-1960s a whole new generation of avant-garde or free jazz musicians, including Albert Ayler, Archie Shepp, Marion Brown, Bill Dixon, Sun Ra, and Don Cherry, began to abandon even the bedrock jazz convention of theme and improvisation in favor of dissonant collective improvisations related to the energetic polyphony of New Orleansstyle jazz. These musicians, inspired by the civil rights movement, also began to address politics, especially race problems and black nationalism, in their music. They were often joined by musicians from the previous generation, such as Max Roach and Charles Mingus. Also in the 1960s, many jazz musicians visited Africa, and some converted to Islam, although some musiciansfor example, Sadik Hakimhad converted as early as the 1940s. Many figures in the black arts movement, such as Amiri Baraka, hailed the extended solos of musicians such as John Coltrane as an authentic African-American art form. Ironically, at the same time, almost any connection to a large black audience in America was sundered.

The "further out" jazz became, the more harshly it was attacked by traditional musicians and listeners alike. In response, by the late 1960s many free jazz musicians were searching for ways to recapture a mass black audience. Once again, it was Miles Davis who led the way. Starting in the late 1960s, Davis began using electric instruments in his bands and incorporating funk, rhythm and blues, and rock rhythms into his albums. Members of Davis's electric ensembles, such as Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, and Chick Corea, later enjoyed tremendous popular success.

If the electric music Davis created, known as "fusion" or "jazz rock," inspired accusations that he was selling out, in the 1970s, the purist mantle would be carried by a group of musicians who had been playing in Chicago since the early 1960s. Striving toward the implicit racial pride and artistic and economic independence preached by Sun Ra, Mingus, and Taylor, the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM) was founded in 1965. The AACM, and its offshoot, the St. Louisbased Black Artists Group, have been responsible for many of the most important developments in jazz since the mid-1970s. The Art Ensemble of Chicago, pianist Muhal Richard Abrams, and saxophonist Anthony Braxton and Henry Threadgill have all been important exponents of what they term "creative music," which idiosyncratically and unpredictably draws upon everything from ragtime to free jazz.

Lifetime Achievement Grammy Awards

Ever since the first jazz Grammy was given to Ella Fitzger ald in 1958, numerous other black jazz musicians have collected Grammy Awards as well. A special category called the Lifetime Achievement Award is reserved for the most influential musicians who have maintained a high standard of quality over a long period of time.

Duke Ellington was the first jazz musician to be recognized with a Lifetime Achievement Award in 1966. Considered by many to be the most prolific composer of the twentieth century, Ellington was an obvious choice. He wrote nearly 2,000 compositions before his death in 1975.

Ella Fitzgerald received hers in 1967. The quintessential female lounge singer, she had an extremely wide vocal range to offset her small voice. This vocal range gave her a gift for mimicry enabling her to imitate jazz instru ments and other famous singers.

After his death, Louis Armstrong was honored with a lifetime achievement Grammy in 1972. Most famous for his ability on the cornet and gravelly voice, he is consid ered the most important improviser in jazz and, like Fitzgerald above, had a keen sense of swing. His sense of humor and positive disposition made him an extremely likable performer.

Billie Holiday was honored in 1987, also after her death, in 1959. Her influence on later female singers is matched only by Fitzgerald. Whereas Fitzgerald was more adept at handling light material, Holiday's signature was slow, melancholic songs of unrequited love. "Gloomy Sunday" (1941), a song about suicide, and "Lover Man" (1944) are her most highly regarded songs.

Charlie Parker received his lifetime achievement award in 1984, also posthumously. An influential improvising soloist on the saxophone, perhaps the most influential, and a central figure of bop in the 1940s, Parker was idolized by his peers. He and Dizzy Gillespie (another lifetime achievement winner in 1989) formed the nucleus of Billy Eckstine's band.

Among the other African-American jazz artists receiving the Lifetime Achievement Award were: Benny Carter (1987), Lena Horne (1989), Art Tatum (1989), Sarah Vaughan (1989), Miles Davis (1990), John Coltrane (1992), Thelonious Monk (1993), and Charles Mingus (1997).

Jazz in the 1990s

In the 1980s, the institutionalization of jazz accompanied the more general interest of universities, symphonies, and museums in many areas of African-American culture. Since the 1970s, many jazz musicians, including Mary Lou Williams, Archie Shepp, Jackie McLean, Bill Dixon, and Anthony Braxton, have held university positions. Although there is a long history of formally trained jazz musicians, from Will Marion Cook to Miles Davis, a large proportion of the best young jazz musicians now come from conservatories. Such training has resulted not only in avant-gardists like Anthony Davis and David Murray, who have a healthy appreciation for the roots of jazz, but bebop-derived traditionalists like Wynton Marsalis, who have brought mainstream jazz to the public prominence it has lacked for forty years. Further, although independent scholars compiled discographies and wrote biographies as early as the 1930s, since the 1980s there has been a burst of institutional scholarly activity, accompanied by the integration of jazz into traditional symphony repertories, as well as the creation of jazz orchestras dedicated to preserving the repertory, and developing new compositions, at the Smithsonian Institution and Lincoln Center. Jazz, as perhaps the greatest of all African-American cultural contributions, always captured the imagination of great African-American writers like Langston Hughes and Ralph Ellison, and it continues to suffuse the work of contemporary writers like Ishmael Reed, Toni Morrison, Albert Murray, and Stanley Crouch.

The Second Century

Jazz has been a pluralistic music since its inception. From the "Spanish tinge" of the New Orleans period to the world music explorations of John Coltrane, Don Cherry, and Collin Walcott, jazz has absorbed anything it needed to extend its boundaries. Latin music, for example, decisively influenced jazz innovators from Jelly Roll Morton to Dizzy Gillespie. Further, by the mid-1960s, Cuban and Brazilian rhythms, scales from India and the near east, along with musical instruments from many areas of the world, were enjoying a significant place in jazz performance. Before the 1970s, jazz history followed a straightforward narrativeconstantly gravitating toward the next new thing. Consequently, one was able to match each decade with a dominant style. Suddenly this all changed. Jazz became syncretistic, eclectic, and enormously diverse. In addition, groups like Shakti, the Codono trio, and Oregon emerged with the mission of building bridges between cultures and incorporating elements of ethnic music into their performances. By the end of the 1980s, a search was on for common roots and a universal musical energy.

Technological advances, the burgeoning recording reissue industry, and a plethora of new educational materials had prepared many artists to view the jazz tradition as a whole rather than through the lens of one particular style. Some looked backward to tradition while others looked forward to change. An ever-increasing diversity of styles and tendencies resultedeach marketing to its own specific audience. As jazz approached its second century, a new generation of musicians, including pianist Geri Allen and tenor saxophonist Joshua Redman, continued to improvise on the history of jazz to further address and define issues central to this particular African-American experience.

As the twenty-first century arrived, fusions of jazz with ethnic, popular, and other contemporary musical genres ranged from the jazz flavored offerings of smooth jazz to cutting edge free improvisations on funk and hip hop foundations. By the mid-1990s, for instance, established jazz players such as legendary drummer Max Roach and saxophonist Branford Marsalis, along with saxophonists Steve Coleman and Greg Osby of Brooklyn's M-BASE collective, had experimented with the sounds of funk and hip hop in ambitious but traditionally oriented ways. By the year 2000, trumpeter Dave Douglas, while continuing to be inspired by jazz's historical tradition, had also included Balkan and European folk elements in some of his work. Concurrently, versatile vocalist Cassandra Wilson established herself as an artist of great promise, singing everything from jazz standards and funk to unusual pop.

See also Jazz in African-American Culture; Jazz Singers; Music in the United States

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leonard goines (1996)
Updated by author 2005

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