Man, if you have to ask what it (jazz) is, you’ll never know.
Jazz is a music gender approximately born in the first years of 20th century and is fundamentally based on folk music.
We can consider “Blues” as its most ancient form, but what’s the story behind all this?
The African Slaves employed in the large cotton plantations (the famous “Cotton Belt” of Southern America) used to sing during their work. These men started to create the first music known as “Work Songs” or “Field Hollers”, a music characterized by a “sad trend”, probably related to a sort of “melancholy expression” for the slaves’ terrible life conditions in the plantations.
Since the blue colour is usually associated with sorrow and sadness, this style was named Blues. In the middle of 19th century a community of ex-slaves started to export their music outside these lands, throughout America.
“To have the blue devils” is an expression that matches perfectly with the musical emotions involved in this style.
But Jazz also embraces a lot of other musical forms apart from Blues, such as Ragtime, Swing, Bebop… Throughout the years it has started “mixing up” with a lot of other “modern styles”, creating a range of sub-types that spaces from Latin and Funk music to Jazz-Fusion or the most popular Pop.
One of the “fathers of Jazz”, the great Duke Ellington, in order to describe this music used the famous sentence “Jazz has always been like the kind of a man you wouldn’t want your daughter to associate with”. (Pretty curious huh? 😉 )
The most famous sub-genders developed from Jazz were in fact Swing, characterized by a “waving” rhythm (that is “swinging”), and Bebop, of which the saxophonist Charlie Parker is considered the true “father”. In particular Bebop started to evolve during the 1940s, with a style that was considered alternative to the main “fixed” features of Jazz in those years. In fact Jazz’s quick and “scrambled” tempos or elaborated compositions easily spread among the “rebel” generation of that period. This music was incorporated into the life style of the so-called “Beat Generation” (a poetic and artistic movement generated by ideas of spirituality, frenzy and freedom which exploded after the second postwar period), leading to an unconventional way of life, linked to strong emotions, drugs and dissolute sexuality.
For what concerns “contemporary Jazz” I’d suggest to admire the incredible art of one of the greatest pianists of this gender: “Michel Petrucciani”.
Though he was born affected by “osteogenesis imperfecta” (a not complete growth of the bone structure) his hands and his mind received an amazing gift. He should be listened (and watched) at least one time. There are no words to describe…