Sample Essay on Jazz as the Influences from New Orleans and Chicago

 

Jazz as the Influences from New Orleans and Chicago

Introduction

The need for modern man to entertain himself led to the inception of music, and this can be traced back to several years. Apparently, the twentieth century’s significance cannot be brushed aside, and this was because during the time, there was a global synthesis that designated one of the most stable tendencies- a complex of styles and genres. At the time, there was an aggressive combination of continents, races, and cultures, and this saw the embodiment of jazz (Suhor 19). There is an argument that jazz music traces its roots and origin in New Orleans and later spread to other parts of the US such as the Mississippi and Memphis. It is believed that jazz later spread to St. Louis and finally to Chicago, and through this, antagonism in the US was eradicated as it became the real uniting power and a great contributor to the process of unification. Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Bessie Smith, and other jazz giants made an invaluable contribution to the development of jazz worldwide and some of the great influences of the genre, as will be seen in this paper, started from New Orleans and Chicago (Suhor 19).

Bessie Smith was one of the very first stars of blues and jazz, and she played an integral role in making jazz popular. Smith’s unique voice charmed everybody who heard it, and this underlines the fact that jazz was hastily and easily accepted. She is considered one of the strongest and most passionate singers of jazz music in the twentieth century, and similar contributions to the spread of jazz music were made by Luis Armstrong. Apart from popularizing the genre, Armstrong played an integral in its formation and development, and this was in the twentieth century towards the end of the First World War On the other hand, Duke Ellington’s contribution is evident in his interest in the transformation of well-known melodies, and he always concentrated on experimenting something beyond the well-known jazz stereotypes.

Jazz was of great value to the people of New Orleans and Chicago in the twentieth century, and at the time, racism, discrimination, and segregation of the blacks were rampant. However, with the inception of jazz, the blacks in New Orleans and Chicago became more comfortable, and were accepted by other races. A large part of the population in the two cities also found a sense of peace in jazz music and the influence of jazz in New Orleans and Chicago remains evident today. Through jazz, people are capable of transforming their anger, desire, grief, and compassion into positive energy for every individual. Nevertheless, its negative influences are still felt today, and this underlined the fact that most blacks who are the initiators and proprietors of jazz music are exploited (Hardie 3).

Jazz in New Orleans

There is a strong argument that New Orleans was the birthplace of jazz music in the entire United States and worldwide. In 1917, there was a mixture of Caribbean, African, and European experience in New Orleans, and these led to the creation of jazz music, which started as a local musical practice in the city (Malone and David 54). In the succeeding years, jazz spread from New Orleans to other parts of America such as Chicago and St Louis, and this involved the transformation of dance music and marching band into music that was improvised, cyclic, polyphonic, and playful-voiced. The genre of music incorporated steady dance beats, which were greatly entertaining both to the singers and the audiences. It is argued that the emergence and creation of jazz music in New Orleans are owed to the demographics. As mentioned earlier, the city’s population consisted of blacks, Europeans, and the Caribbean people who mingled thus coming up with jazz. It should be remembered that New Orleans was one of the few cities that provided a receptive environment for the growth and development of jazz.

During the initiation of jazz in New Orleans, the there was no similarity in the sound of bands. Besides, there were various styles of playing jazz, and these were dependent on the purpose of the music, whether it was music to be played at funerals, parades, and for dancing purposes. The initiators of jazz at the time fixed the melody accompanying jazz though everything else was improvised during a performance (Hersch 22). Owing to the segregation and discrimination practices in New Orleans, there was jazz meant for the white and blacks. The contrast between the two is that the jazz for the blacks was considered rough while that for the whites was considered sweet and soft.

The development of jazz in New Orleans can be traced to a section known as Storyville, which was closed in 1917. Storyville will forever be remembered for its significant contributions to jazz that include the inception of a rhythmic complexity, collective improvisation, instrumental independence, and creative interactions. The mentioned contributions resulted into a structure of jazz that consisted of ensemble chorus, solo choruses, as well as a return to the ensemble chorus. One of the major roles of jazz at the time was that it united Africans, Europeans, and Caribbean people. In fact, towards the 1920s when jazz was spreading to other parts of America, segregation and discrimination on the basis of race was gradually eliminated. Several jazz musicians were blacks, and they found comfort and sense of peace in jazz, and this improved their interactions and relationships with other races in New Orleans particularly the Europeans.

Ragtime played an important role in the popularization of jazz in the streets of New Orleans. It was a genre of music that preceded jazz enjoying its peak from 1895 to 1918. Ragtime was known for its ‘ragged’ rhythm, and it is believed to have originated from the red light districts of African Americans who were a dominant population in St. Louis (Kennedy and Ted 84). Before falling out of favor and paving the way for jazz music in 1917, ragtime made several contributions to the development of jazz as well as its popularization. After the inception of ragtime, Harlem musicians concentrated on its evolution into a louder and faster-syncopated style. Ragtime’s evolution relied greatly on individual improvisation, and the fact that its roots were rooted in blues music means that to some extent it led to the development and growth of jazz music.

Most of the jazz musicians borrowed heavily from blues and ragtime, and in fact, their responses to ragtime and blues constituted their jazz music. It is seen that jazz relied on instruments that were used both in ragtime music and blues. After acquiring the trumpet, trombone, clarinets as well as the drum set from brass bands, jazz musicians acquired the piano later from ragtime musicians, and through this, the fact that ragtime played an important role in popularizing jazz music is underscored. Many argue that the improvisation of ragtime and blues led to the development and growth of jazz music after ragtime fell out of favor in 1917. In fact, during the first recording of New Orleans jazz, also known as Dixieland, it had acquired its distinctive style although it was a collage of improvisation, with each of the instruments used having their musical rhythm and space.

The second wave of jazz music in New Orleans saw several jazz giants make important and invaluable contributions to the development and growth of jazz. One of the giants at the time was Duke Ellington, and his contributions to the growth and development of jazz in New Orleans cannot be forgotten.  He labeled his music ‘Negro music’, and through this, he expressed and highlighted the African American culture. At the time, most of the blacks such as Duke Ellington were being cheated out of their invention of jazz. That is to say, instead of the blacks gaining commercial benefits from jazz only the whites were commercially successful, and this is despite the latter lacking improvisational skills and originality that was evident in the music sang by blacks. Ellington expressed this among other cultures of the black through his music, and thus ended up contributing significantly to the development and growth of jazz in New Orleans.

As one of the pioneers of jazz in the second wave of New Orleans, Duke Ellington’s campaign against the fact that only the whites were benefitting from jazz music resulted in him together with Louis Armstrong making a lot of money from jazz. Duke Ellington’s efforts in the development and growth of jazz can also be attested to the fact that he together with other great jazz musician integrated vital international ideas and opinions into their music (Pfeifer and Niki 183). For example, he had an album named ‘Far East Suite’ that highlighted the ideas and opinions of people from the Far East region in Asia. Thus, he is considered one of the great jazz musicians whose primary focus was to enhance the relationships and interactions among people from different races and origins. He also played a crucial role in making jazz music accepted in New Orleans before its spread to other parts of the United States and the world.

Jazz in Chicago

In 1916 towards 1917, there was a mass exodus of slaves into major cities in the US such as New Orleans and Chicago. It was during the migration that jazz spread from New Orleans to Chicago before it spread to other cities such as New York. The black slaves’ movements across cities in the US were motivated by the fact that they were being mistreated, segregated, and lynched yet nobody was victimized for the crimes committed. It was at the same time that there was World War I, and there were pioneers of the jazz music of the second wave of New Orleans that shifted to Chicago. The city was dominated by straw hats, arm bands, raccoon coats, and new dances practiced by a group of white musicians who copied most of the ideas from black bands who had migrated to Chicago (Demlinger and John 33).

Chicago’s prosperity was enjoyed at this time although gangsters took total control of Chicago city. Gangsters were also in control of speakeasies that provided employment opportunities to most jazz musicians in the town. Through the speakeasies, Chicago jazz underwent development and growth differentiating itself from that of New Orleans. Chicago jazz’s distinction is underscored by the fact that it borrowed a saxophone, the banjo was replaced by guitar, there were elaborate introductions and endings to the music, the playing style shifted from ease and relaxation to tension and drive, and collective improvisations were replaced by individual solos.  The Chicago style of jazz music also saw the time signature and rhythm change from 4/4 to 2/4.

The improvements and developments of jazz in Chicago are attributed to the invaluable efforts and contributions made by jazz giants such as Louis Armstrong (Demlinger and John 42). Born in 1901, Louis Armstrong was considered one of the greatest jazz musicians of all time. His contributions and revolutionary changes to jazz cannot be brushed aside. As a jazz musician, he exhibited or displayed technical abilities that were not common with other performers. He introduced the trumpet to jazz, and this was when he took up the trumpet in reform school joining the school band and chorus later on. It is argued that Louis Armstrong is the greatest trumpet player ever, an aspect that he introduced to jazz, thus underlining his dedication to making revolutionary changes to jazz. He was also considered a genius of improvisation and played an integral role in his commitment to revolutionize jazz music in Chicago.

Armstrong also displayed great skills through his great musical tone, range, stamina, creativity, and technique. He went ahead to integrate these skills into jazz music making him one of the greatest singers of jazz music. He also had a unique playing style that pleased his audiences. Armstrong also influenced and lured other artists into jazz. For example, he influenced Earl Hines, who later became a significant artist in Chicago. Earl Hines learned the piano from Armstrong and later developed the ‘trumpet style’ also known as the ‘melodic style’ of playing the piano. The ‘trumpet style’ was later integrated into jazz, and this underscore some of the revolutionary changes made to jazz by Louis Armstrong and friends (Demlinger and John 43).

The spread of jazz from New Orleans to Chicago saw it become one of the spots or places of entertainment. One of the city’s greatest entertainers was Joe Jordan. There were main clubs such as ‘Black Belt’ and ‘Pekin Theatre’ that were considered the main mentors of jazz music. In Chicago’s entertainment scene, several songs can be remembered. A big hit in Chicago in 1915 was Pretty Baby sang by Tony Jackson. Other mafias of Chicago that provided entertainment at the time were Dave Peyton and Erskine Tate. Their rivalry was witnessed during the World War One, and they focused on featuring young talents from other regions such as Joe Oliver and Sidney Bechet (Malone and David 54).

Peyton and Tate both had a hand in mentoring Louis Armstrong, who later became one of the greatest jazz musicians and entertainers in the entire city of Chicago. Chicago was also a center of entertainment as it was the base for the American Syncopated Orchestra. The dominance of the syncopated orchestra extended to the 1920s when its popularity overcame that of the ‘jazz orchestra’. Chicago’s entertainment was provided by both black and white musicians, and this was an attestation that jazz had become a unifying factor.

Another key jazz musician that made invaluable contributions to the development and growth of jazz in Chicago was Bessie Smith.  She is considered one of the first singers to make jazz popular in the United States. Through her exemplary and pleasant performances of jazz, she paved the way for other jazz musicians such as Sarah Vaughan, Dinah Washington, as well as Billie Holiday. Smith’s contribution to jazz hits was evident when she used instruments such as cornet, piano, banjo, and trombone and with elements of ragtime and Dixieland. Jazz later adopted the piano, the banjo, and the cornet, and thus, the fact that Bessie Smith made invaluable contributions to the field of jazz music cannot be refuted. Bessie Smith’s collaboration with key jazz musicians such as Louis Armstrong was also good news to jazz. Both were at the peak of their activity, and thus, made significant contributions to jazz music. Smith was a great singer whereas Armstrong was a great trumpet player and they ended up with something that sounded more like a duet, and this, attracted and pleased audiences.

These perspectives highlight the efforts made by Bessie Smith to the development and growth of jazz music not only in Chicago but throughout the US. It should also be noted that Smith gave jazz music its pathos. She also came up with jazz music that contained important themes, and this was one of the significant contributions made to the genre. Smith’s music that had important themes includes unrequited love, avenged unrequited love, abusive philanderer, and several others. Bessie Smith was also one of the few jazz musicians who could throw herself entirely into a song’s emotion (Weiner 59).

Conclusion

Briefly, jazz music’s development and growth in New Orleans, Chicago, and other cities is owed to the invariable contributions, efforts and influence of jazz giants such as Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, and Bessie Smith. First, Louis Armstrong’s big influence on jazz is evident in the fact that he introduced the trumpet to jazz (Harrison 102), and this was when he took up the trumpet in reform school joining the school band and chorus later on, he was a genius of improvisation and played an integral role in his commitment to revolutionize jazz music in Chicago, he displayed great skills through his great musical tone, range, stamina, creativity, and technique and integrated these skills to jazz music making him one of the greatest singers of jazz music. He also had a unique playing style that pleased his audiences. Armstrong also influenced and lured other artists into jazz.

On the other hand, Duke Ellington’s influence is evident in the fact that he together with other great jazz musicians integrated vital international ideas and opinions into jazz. Bessie Smith’s big influence on jazz is owed to the fact that she used instruments such as cornet, piano, banjo, and trombone and with elements of ragtime and Dixieland, and later integrated them into jazz music. New Orleans and Chicago were the places of birth of jazz, and by having jazz giants such as those mentioned; they played a big part in the development and growth of j

 

Works Cited

Demlinger, Sandor and John Steiner. Destination: Chicago Jazz. Stroud: Tempus Publ, 2003. Print.

Hardie, Daniel. The Ancestry of Jazz: A Musical Family History. New York: iUniverse, 2004. Print.

Harrison, Kathleen E. The Treatment of the Trumpet in Selected Jazz-Influenced Classical Chamber Works of the Twentieth Century. , 2009. Print.

Hersch, Charles. Subversive Sounds: Race and the Birth of Jazz in New Orleans. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2007. Internet resource.

Kennedy, Rick and Ted Gioia. Jelly Roll, Bix, and Hoagy: Gennett Records and the Rise of America’s Musical Grassroots. , 2013. Print.

Malone, Bill C. and David Stricklin. Southern Music/american Music. Lexington, Ky: University Press of Kentucky, 2003. Internet resource.

Pfeifer, Katrin and Niki Pfeifer. Forces of Nature and Cultural Responses. Dordrecht: Springer, 2013. Internet resource.

Suhor, Charles. Jazz in New Orleans: The Postwar Years Through 1970. Lanham, Md: Scarecrow Press, 2001. Internet resource.

Weiner, Howard T. Early Twentieth-Century Brass Idioms: Art, Jazz, and Other Popular Traditions : Proceedings of the International Conference Presented by the Institute of Jazz Studies of Rutgers University and the Historic Brass Society, November 4-5, 2005. Lanham, Md: Scarecrow Press, 2009. Print.