What is Jazz?
Jazz has been referred to as ‘America’s Classical Music‘. It is one of the oldest and renowned musical genres in North America. It was mainly formed by Afro-Americans around the turn of the century. Its history has strong roots in the cities of New Orleans, Chicago and New York City.
Academically, jazz is being defined as a genre of American music characterized by distinctive tone colors and performance techniques, strong improvisation, prominent meter, and syncopated or dotted rhythmic patterns.
In view of the fact that jazz is a style of music, it consists of the basic elements of music but in a distinctive way. Jazz interpretation is one element. This is the way the jazz player treats a melody by laying a feeling of triplets following the basic beat. By doing so, jazz players are said to be ‘swinging’ the melody. This capacity to play in a swing style is vital because it is the basic building block for a jazz musician.
Another important element that’s extremely difficult to master is improvisation. Basically, this is the jazz player’s ability to instantly create, alter, modify and perform. It is a complicated procedure that embodies every element of music and not only jazz. It is through this element that a jazz player expresses himself/herself freely.
Rhythm is another type of element. This is executed through syncopation or the giving of emphasis or accent where one least expects, or the opposite wherein one expects it but nothing happens. This provides life and variety in the rhythm of a certain piece.
And lastly, there is tempo. This is the element that refers to the speed of a piece of music. Steady tempo from beginning to end usually characterizes jazz.
Billie Holiday, Louis Armstrong, and Miles Davis are just some of America’s famous jazz musicians who not only inspired modern musicians, but taught music lovers to appreciate musical history.