Portal:Jazz
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Portal:Jazz

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Jazz is a music genre that originated in the African-American communities of New Orleans, United States, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and developed from roots in blues and ragtime. Jazz is seen by many as "America's classical music". Since the 1920s Jazz Age, jazz has become recognized as a major form of musical expression. It then emerged in the form of independent traditional and popular musical styles, all linked by the common bonds of African-American and European-American musical parentage with a performance orientation. Jazz is characterized by swing and blue notes, call and response vocals, polyrhythms and improvisation. Jazz has roots in West African cultural and musical expression, and in African-American music traditions including blues and ragtime, as well as European military band music. Intellectuals around the world have hailed jazz as "one of America's original art forms".

As jazz spread around the world, it drew on different national, regional, and local musical cultures, which gave rise to many distinctive styles. New Orleans jazz began in the early 1910s, combining earlier brass-band marches, French quadrilles, biguine, ragtime and blues with collective polyphonic improvisation. In the 1930s, heavily arranged dance-oriented swing big bands, Kansas City jazz, a hard-swinging, bluesy, improvisational style and Gypsy jazz (a style that emphasized musette waltzes) were the prominent styles. Bebop emerged in the 1940s, shifting jazz from danceable popular music toward a more challenging "musician's music" which was played at faster tempos and used more chord-based improvisation. Cool jazz developed near the end of the 1940s, introducing calmer, smoother sounds and long, linear melodic lines. Read more...

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Second edition cover of "Maple Leaf Rag."
Ragtime (alternatively spelled rag-time or rag time) is a musical genre that enjoyed its peak popularity between 1895 and 1918. Its main characteristic trait is its syncopated, or "ragged," rhythm. It began as dance music in the red-light districts of African American communities in St. Louis and New Orleans years before being published as popular sheet music for piano. Ernest Hogan was an innovator and key pioneer who helped develop the musical genre, and is credited with coining the term ragtime. Ragtime was also a modification of the march made popular by John Philip Sousa, with additional polyrhythms coming from African music. The ragtime composer Scott Joplin became famous through the publication in 1899 of the "Maple Leaf Rag" and a string of ragtime hits such as "The Entertainer" that followed, although he was later forgotten by all but a small, dedicated community of ragtime aficionados until the major ragtime revival in the early 1970s. For at least 12 years after its publication, the "Maple Leaf Rag" heavily influenced subsequent ragtime composers with its melody lines, harmonic progressions or metric patterns. (Full article...)

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Bessie Smith (1936) by Carl Van Vechten.jpg

Bessie Smith (April 15, 1894 - September 26, 1937) was an American blues singer.

Nicknamed The Empress of the Blues, Smith was the most popular female blues singer of the 1920s and 1930s. She is often regarded as one of the greatest singers of her era and, along with Louis Armstrong, a major influence on other jazz vocalists.

Smith began forming her own act around 1913, at Atlanta's "81" Theater. By 1920, Smith had established a reputation in the South and along the Eastern Seaboard. In 1920, sales figures of over 100,000 copies for "Crazy Blues," an Okeh Records recording by singer Mamie Smith (no relation) pointed to a new market. The recording industry had not directed its product to blacks, but the success of the record led to a search for female blues singers. Bessie Smith was signed by Columbia Records in 1923 and her first session for Columbia was February 15, 1923. For most of 1923, her records were issued on Columbia's regular A- series; when the label decided to establish a "race records" series, Smith's "Cemetery Blues" (September 26, 1923) was the first issued. (Full article...)

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Ruby Keeler Al Jolson 1934.jpg
Ruby Keeler and Al Jolson (1934)
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 • ... that John McLaughlin's Grammy nominated album To the One was inspired by John Coltrane's album A Love Supreme?
 • ... that Stanley Clarke's album The Stanley Clarke Band won the 2011 Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Jazz Album?
 • ... that the Grammy-nominated album Now Is the Time features the Blood, Sweat & Tears horn section on two of its tracks?
 • ... that James Moody (pictured, left) received his first Grammy Award for Moody 4B after he died?
 • ... that Joey DeFrancesco tribute to Michael Jackson, Never Can Say Goodbye: The Music of Michael Jackson, was nominated for a Grammy Award?
 • ... that Lenny Kravitz was a guest musician on Backatown, the major label debut by his former apprentice Trombone Shorty (pictured, right)?
March 2011

The West Point Band performing "The Stakeout"

credit: Sgt. Maj. Scott Arcangel

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Jazz writer Dan Morgenstern, left, with record producer George Avakian, right

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