Our History of Jazz

A walk through a century of history


Jazz origins

  Jazz was born at the end of the 19th  - beginning of the 20th century in the Southern States of the United States (mainly in  New Orleans), by the Black African-American community.


During these centuries of servitude, the slaves, dragged out of their native Africa, will look for ways of surviving in these inhumane conditions of living. God and music will be their only comfort. To summon all their courage while they were working hard, the slaves sang accompanying themselves by the rhythm of their tools. That's what we call the Worksongs.


Alan Lomax Collection,  It makes along time Man feel bad


The White owners will then teach their slaves their religious songs, and they will sing them to suit their style, that is what will give the negro spiritual (of which the texts are inspired of Bible or testament episodes), and then later the  gospel (of which the text is more free).


Negro Spiritual : Go Down Moses              Gospel : Oh Happy Days




During the Civil War (from 1861 to 1865) the African-American will get back the brass bands' instruments on the battlefields (brass, percussion as well as snare drum).


After the abolition of slavery in 1865, the African-American people began to learn to play old continent instruments, especially violin and piano. Employment opportunities are offered to African-American musicians,  but the life stayed particularly tough, the segregation taking  the reins of slavery. Therefore, the emancipated slaves find recruitment only in popular entertainment industry, even low-class: the minstrels shows (racist shows which presents Black people as fools), the cabarets, bars, clubs and brothels.





The Black musicians began to join forces and form brass bands who played for weddings, parades, birthday, funerals and diverse celebrations.


It's in this context of New Orleans red-light districts that was born the ragtime, first a syncopate music which will give rhythm to Louisiana dancers nights, and then to spread in all the United States and give birth to Jazz.


    Maple Leaf Rag of Scott Joplin



New Orleans in the 1890's: the Jazz cradle

The Jazz place of birth is the red-light district of Storyville. Brass instruments and percussion for brass bands, double bass, pianos and drums for clubs groups, will become New Orleans (black) and Dixieland (white) style basic instruments, the first style of Jazz. In this New Orleans Jazz, the trumpet plays the melody or variations of it, whereas the others brass instruments improvise around this melodic line, while stringed instruments pass in the rhythmic section.






This brass passage at the forefront is attributed to the Jazz Buddy Bolden legend, a genius cornetist who learned his art  from the earliest age in the New Orleans Black orchestras.


Original Dixieland Jass Band - Livery Stable Blues (1917)


In 1917 the Dixieland Jass Band original group recorded the first jazz disc: it was "white jazz".


In 1914, while the carefreeness reigned on Storyville and its frenzied music, the World War I raged. New Orleans became a war port where numerous soldiers are in garrison or stationed, waiting for boarding. In 1917, the Navy closed Storyville and numerous musicians was looking for work in other cities: in Chicago of course, but also in New York and Kansas City.



The 1920's and Jazz spreading














By necessity, or by expedience, the musicians from New Orleans disperse themselves through the Unites-States, Chicago and New York become new capital cities of Jazz.


At the end of the World War I, United States was economically booming. Chicago being the more accessible city and having jobs to be offered, it is the one that will welcome most New Orleans Jazz musicians. From their strong presence was born the Chicago Dixieland at the instigation of, among others, from Louis Armstrong with his Hot Five, or even Jelly Roll Morton and his Red Hot Chili Peppers.


Heebie Jeedies Louis Armstrong et le Hot Five


Black bottom stomp, Jelly Roll Morton et ses Red hot chili peppers




The 1920's began with their bundle of eccentricities and America, of which Puritanism is weakened, is well launched into an era of light madness. Prohibition is now established, it was a pointless attempt to plug the gaps. It will be abandoned in 1933. In fact, lots of American people are ready to break the law and drink alcohol, and the mafia took delight in supplying the provisions. In this way, prohibition stimulated Jazz spreading. The speakeasy, some clandestine bars a little bit stylish, flourish here and there. Under an appearance of restaurant or Jazz concert, the clients came to satisfy their passion for alcoholic drinks. Police raids are frequent, but often announced beforehand, because of corruption. This phenomenon contributed to the scandalous Jazz reputation, which is considered by a certain conforming elite as immoral.



The 1930’s between crisis and recognition.

In spite of the terrible crisis of 1929 the United States took so many time to find a way out, is the decade which have totally sanctionned Jazz as a music in its own right.This recognition is done through the swing (or "hot Jazz", the BBC invented the term "swing"), a style of Jazz which is caracterised by a rhtyhmic section that is composed of percussion and double bass on which brass instrument express. As the performances took place in more and more large sites (the end of the prohibition, in 1933, made Jazz going out from clandestinity), the only solution, at that time, involved playing with more and more musicians that is how were born the first big bands. We attribute the first swing group to Fletcher Henderson.


My pretty girl, Fletcher Henderson and his orchestra




That is how the number of musicians exploded, the swing Jazz orchestras counted regularly more than 20 members. However, the big band allowed each instrumentalist to express solo. It was also the period when Black and White people started to play together in the orchestras. Duke Ellington and Benny Goodman are part of the great swing figures.









Sing Sing Sing, Benny Goodman and his orchestra


Ella Fitzergald and the Big Band de Duke Ellington



After the WWII, the Bebop birthday






Dizzy Gillespie   Dizzie Gillespie, Bebop




The Jazz groups were composed of a great number of musicians. It became very difficult for these groups to make their tour in this context of war, especially because their members didn’t avoid the mobilization. The World War II transformed swing Jazz: a festival music, dedicated to dance, which gave the opportunity to the jazzmen to spread their virtuosity, to try out, to give free rein to their creativity and imagination: Bebop was born.

Improvisation, already existing in swing, took a dominant role in Bebop, the musicians could give free rein to their imagination, which was difficult to make with a great Jazz orchestra of which the purpose was to make the crowd dance. Rhythms sped up, music became nervous, syncopated.



Bebop marked a return to its roots concerning the type of formation: it was done with the great Jazz groups of ten musicians, even more: the Quintet became the norm.

The Bebop emblematic figures were Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker. Like this, these two jazzmen initiated, through their style and different personalities, the two main evolutions that followed the Bebop Jazz period.


Charlie Parker: Ornithology








The cool Jazz : the calming Bebop


 The cool Jazz manifesto was the Miles Davis album “Birth of the Cool”, recorded in 1949, to which Jerry Mullingan, Gil Evans, and many other big names of Jazz collaborated.

The Cool Jazz was born in New York, however it was in the Western coast of the United states and in California that it was more matched to. In fact, it was the result of the Californian musicians’ arrival in New York, largely White people, who were coming to mix with New Yorker Bebop musicians, mainly Black people. Whereas Jazz was originally an African-American music, White people dominated the wave, what imparted to Cool Jazz some European music characteristics.

To Jazz quintet instruments were added instruments from classic orchestra like transverse flute, horn, etc. The rhythmic section moved to the background; it had to be felt, rather than heard, a specific approach to classic music. Thus, drums disappeared from “Cool Jazz West coast” groups.



Chet Baker, "My Buddy"

Miles Davis, "Godchild "  




The hard bop


West coast musicians didn’t all see in West Coast Jazz, or Cool Jazz, worthy successor to Bebop.

The jazzmen, the Black ones in particular, were not content with this “bowdlerized” and sociable avatar, and wanted to give life to original Jazz, alive and energetic.

Hence the appearance of Hard-bop, also called “neo-bop”. This new successor to bebop borrowed the harmonies of Blues and crossed the “churchy” accents from gospel music, especially in the piano and saxophone playing (Sonny Rollins for saxophone).

The Hard Bop also distinguished itself  from Bop by the importance of the rhythmic, particularly thanks to the drummers Art Blakey and Max Roach, who gave drums its letters of nobility in the Jazz formations.



Art Blakey et les Jazz Messengers : Moanin’ 


Sonny Rollins : Alfie Theme 




The Free Jazz



Jazz never stops progressing, transforming. Free Jazz, makes the established rules of Jazz break. If Hard Bop allowed long improvisations, they always were made on a rhythmic line with a predictable and known structure, respecting a harmonic grid. The rule of Free Jazz is that there are no rules, especially at the level of the tempo.





However, the roots of Free Jazz are older: in 1949, Lennie Tristano and Lee Konitz produced two improvisations (Intuition and Disgression) without having constraints for the tuning, without indication for the time and without precision for the tempo.

The figureheads of this movement, the New Thing, that only had success in the small circles of amateurs of Jazz, are Ornette Coleman, John Coltrane and Cecil Taylor.



The Adventure : on free jazz and Ornette Coleman


John Coltrane : free jazz on "Giant steps"



The Latin Jazz

In the 1960’s, the decade when Latin music was in its turn influencing Jazz and giving birth to a new wave, Latin Jazz. Still called African-Cuban Jazz, Mambo or Cubop (contraction of Cuba and Bebop), it is a question of a combination of Cubain rhythms,  dominated by percussion, and Bebop spirit. The result is a dynamic and happy music, very inclined to dance, hence its success to a large public.


Tito Puente : Tito’especial 





Le Soul Jazz


Further to Hard Bop, Soul music appeared by the end of the 50's, in the south of the United States.

Closed to Rythm ‘n Blues, this music takes out of gospel its  instrumental caracter, its religious inspiration (only some of), et and the important place of vocals.

Its groove style takes over improvisation. You will find essentially trios, based on  Hammond organ, drums and tenor sax.

Recordings of Horace Silver, Sam Cooke, Ray Charles et James Brown marked the beginning of soul music.


In the 60's Soul music is the most popular, with artistssuch as Aretha Franklin, Etta James, Wilson Pickett, Curtis Mayfield, et James Brown ("The Godfather of Soul").

With them, the soul grew up to a more agressive and syncoped rhythm, and until giving birth to Funk Music.


Silver Horace :Sister Sadie

Ray Charles : What I’d say



Le Jazz-Funk


Funk music was at its best in the 60's and 70's, as crossing Soul music et afro américan styles.

Zone de Texte: James Jamerson"Funky" was first a popular word, meening a sweaty smell, or a male behaviour. Then the name was given to that style of jazz from the 50's showing the assertion of afro american identity.


This music assumes its difference in the powerful rhythm (which is now more important that the melody) and also an obvious syncopated bass. The result is a unique "groove" , stronger than in soul music. Funk gives jazz the opportunity to renew with the past : dancing is funk!

Bassists such as James Jamerson, Bootsy Collins, et Larry Graham bring their instrument to the key stone of funk : the bass guitar takes place of both melody and rhtythm.

In the 70's, funk is still popular thanks to artists such as Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock, The Ohio Players, Kool and the Gang, Stevie Wonder… 


James Jamerson : Fever in the funkhouse 

Herbie Hancock: Chameleon 



Le Jazz Fusion ou Jazz Rock


By the end of the 60's, Jazz-rock, or 'Fusion', combinates improvisation and powerful binary rhythms of Rock (and Pop music).  Electronic instruments appear.

Miles Davis is a pionnier in this style as in his records In A Silent Way (1969) et Bitches Brew (1969).



Joe Zawinul will create one year later, in 1970, the group Weather Report (avec Wayne Shorter).

Weather Report : Birdland


Jazz-rock is associated with artists such as Chick Corea (piano), Jean-Luc Ponty (violon) et Frank Zappa(guitare)





Chick Corea : Spain


Jean-LucPonty : Rythms of hope





Gipsy jazz


Launched by the guitarist Django Reinhardt and the violonist Stéphane Grappelli, gipsy jazz est an unexpected mix of american swing of the 30's, french "musette" and eastern Europe music.


Django and hot club de France (avec Grapelli) : Minor Swing
















Main instruments are guitars with steal cords (2 guitarists mainly), one double bass et sometimes a solist (violin most often).


The actual gipsy jazz has really taken wing in the 70's-80's.

 Today the main gipsy jazz players are Rosenberg Trio, Angelo Debarre et Bireli Lagrene.



     Angelo Debarre et Florin Niculescu : swing gitan


                           Bireli Lagrene : Les yeux noirs






« Octobre 2018 »
Lu Ma Me Je Ve Sa Di


Notre Association


La Presse en Parle




Petite Histoire du Jazz




min. 14 °

max. 21 °

Risque de pluie


min. 13 °

max. 21 °

Partiellement nuageux


min. 13 °

max. 22 °

Risque de pluie