Portal:Jazz

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Jazz is a genre of music that originated in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. Jazz emerged in many parts of the United States of independent popular musical styles; linked by the common bonds of European American and African American musical parentage with a performance orientation. Jazz makes heavy use of improvisation, polyrhythms, syncopation, and the swung note, as well as aspects of European harmony, American popular music, the brass band tradition, and African musical elements such as blue notes and ragtime. A musical group that plays jazz is called a jazz band.

As jazz spread around the world, it drew on different national, regional, and local musical cultures, giving rise to many distinctive styles: New Orleans jazz dating from the early 1910s, big band swing, Kansas City jazz and Gypsy jazz from the 1930s and 1940s, bebop from the mid-1940s, Afro-Cuban jazz, West Coast jazz, ska jazz, cool jazz, Indo jazz, avant-garde jazz, soul jazz, modal jazz, chamber jazz, free jazz, Latin jazz, smooth jazz, jazz fusion and jazz rock, jazz funk, loft jazz, punk jazz, acid jazz, ethno jazz, jazz rap, M-Base and nu jazz.

Louis Armstrong, one of the most famous musicians in jazz, said to Bing Crosby on the latter's radio show, "Ah, swing, well, we used to call it syncopation, then they called it ragtime, then blues, then jazz. Now, it's swing."

In a 1988 interview, jazz musician J. J. Johnson said, "Jazz is restless. It won't stay put and it never will". (Full article...)

Selected article

Song of Innocence made critics turn their heads in its day, regarding it as a visionary curiosity piece; today it's simply a great, timeless work of pop art that continues to inspire over three decades after its initial release.
 — Thom Jurek, AllMusic

Song of Innocence is the debut album of American composer and producer David Axelrod, released in October 1968 by Capitol Records. Axelrod sought to capitalize on the experimental climate of popular music at the time and composed the album as a suite-like tone poem based on Songs of Innocence, a 1789 illustrated collection of poems by William Blake. It was recorded at Capitol Studios in Los Angeles with an orchestra and studio musicians, including keyboardist and conductor Don Randi, guitarist Al Casey, bassist Carol Kaye, and drummer Earl Palmer.

Song of Innocence is an instrumental jazz fusion album that incorporates elements of classical, rock, funk, pop, and theatre music. It is arranged for bass, drums, and string instruments, and is written in the rock idiom, with tempos centered around rock-based patterns by Palmer. Axelrod used contrast in his orchestral compositions and interspersed the album's euphoric psychedelic R&B form with dramatic, harrowing arrangements to reflect the supernatural themes found in Blake's poems. The music's reverent, psychedelic overtones evoke their themes of innocence and spirituality.

Although it was innovative for its application of rock and jazz techniques, Song of Innocence was not commercially successful and confounded contemporary music critics, who viewed it as an ambitious curiosity piece. In the 1990s, critics reassessed the album and regarded it as a classic, while leading disc jockeys in hip hop and electronica rediscovered and sampled the album's music. "Holy Thursday", the album's best-known song, was frequently sampled by hip hop producers. The renewed interest in Axelrod's work prompted Stateside Records to reissue Song of Innocence in 2000. (Full article...)

Selected biography

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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Weinold Reiss - Drawing in two colors.jpg
Drawing in Two Colors, aka Interpretation of Harlem Jazz I, Winold Reiss
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July - December 2005


"All Of No Man's Land Is Ours", A song written by James Europe and Noble Sissle, with vocals by Noble Sissle. Recorded around March 14, 1919.

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