If there’s one thing that I can tell you about Jazz, it would be that it is one of the most beautiful genres to jam to when you are in one of those moods where you just want to sit by the window and have a glass of wine (or a milkshake if you’re underage).
It has been a tough process to pin down as to where the word Jazz has originated from. ‘Jazz’ began as a West-Coast slang term in 1912. There a lot of variations for that. Some say that it was rooted from Africa and Arabia, while some say it was actually originated from a French verb Jaser which means “to chatter”. So, at the end of the day, it all depends on your choice.
It is also believed that Jazz might be an abbreviation stemmed from a name such as ‘Charles’ (Chas) or ‘James’ (Jas). Apart from this, it is also believed that a Chicago based musician named Jasbo Brown was the genesis of the term. Some of the early Jazz musicians remembered hearing “Jazz” used erotically in New Orleans and San Francisco.
Yet another story of the origin of Jazz was that the French had carried the perfume industry in New Orleans. The oil of jasmine was a popular ingredient locally. And adding this oil to the perfume was called ‘jassing it up’. The word Jass was used obscurely, dropped and picked up by people here and there, and used whenever they felt like it.
In 1915, Tom Brown’s Band from Dixieland was playing music that might not have pleased the union musicians. They started calling it nothing but cheap, shameless Jass music. But my favourite thing about this is the fact that they changed the name to Tom Brown’s Jass Band from Dixieland. (can I just say burn!?) It was the first time someone had used that phrase in public.
Jazz was felt to have a sexual connotation. To top that off, the rhythm and ‘wild’ dancing were seen as a form of leading young people towards sexual abandonment. But in the end, the very same fear led the audience towards music thereby gradually making it heard in a social setting.
But now, in the 21st century, the sexual connotation is almost completely washed away. Now people see Jazz as a genre that is much more sophisticated than it is sexual.
It is somewhat difficult to place the origin of Jazz. It was originated in the African-American communities of New Orleans. It began in the early 1910s. During this time Jazz was a little haywire and not much into strategic formation. It wasn’t considered a genre of music. During the 1920s, jazz spread to the US and Europe. It was during the 1930s that this genre was heavily arranged and dance bands started to emphasize on improvising the style. By 1940, the musicians started adding faster tempos and introduced calmer and smoother sounds. Earlier, jazz incorporated church hymns, slave songs (yes, slave songs!), and field chants.
The biggest break jazz got was in the 1890s, when a jazz artist started to catch the ears of the Americans. The most famous artist at that time was Scott Joplin. He had composed 44 original ragtime pieces right before his death in 1917.
Although Jazz has been through so much (literally), it is considered as one of the most important genres in the 21st century and hopefully, continue to be in the future.
Although the dominance of Jazz ended with the Great Depression, it is still scattered in subgroups and genres. It is also seen here and there making a cameo appearance in pop music. You not only see the glimpses of jazz in pop music but also in hip-hop. In 2015, Kendrick Lamar, a huge hip-hop artist, released his third studio album called ‘To pimp a butterfly’. The album heavily spotlighted on contemporary jazz artists, such as Thundercat. This really shows that people still truly care about this genre of music. Even though Jazz has lost its dominance, the taste and preferences for a lot of people regarding Jazz has not changed as they still enjoy and accept this genre. Going through all these variations, Jazz has still been able to make a mark in people’s life some way or other. Not only is Jazz played in restaurants and other such places, but people are freely listening, enjoying and dancing to this genre without feeling any sort of shame like people did before in the days bygone.
The Jazz legend, Louis Armstrong once commented saying, “if you have to ask what jazz is, then you will never know.”
And it is rightly said too. One has to really feel Jazz rather than listen to it to know what the genre is all about. Being lost in the world of Jazz is beautiful but getting out of it is just as impossible. It is like opening a pandora’s box!