Blues and jazz are two of the most influential music genres in modern music history. With roots dating back to the days of slavery, the genres have been used to expression conditions of the human psyche. With blues being the depressed expression of loss and hardship, and jazz was associated with the energy and liveliness of the human spirit. Let’s take a closer look at these two genres and explore how they came to be.
Apart from Western European music, blues music is one of the most influential genres in music today. With roots stretching as far back as the 1800s, it was a style that developed from the mouths of working men. Originating from the lips of African slaves, blues music sprang from a combination of work chants and spirituals detailing the hardships of living a laborious life. The sound itself is characterized by a call and response form with the use of chord progressions like the twelve bar blues. The genre began to blossom as slavery came to an end. It’s first steps were taken in juke joints where hard working laborers would gather at the end of a long work day to hear music, drink, and gamble.
The first published blues composition was written by Antonio Maggio. His song “I Got the Blues” was released in 1908 and set the stage for the genre to grow and flourish. It should be noted that while compositions and performances by African American artists didn’t begin until the 1900s, genre itself existed long before. The absence of documentation in the early days of blues is largely attributed to racial discrimination throughout the United States. Popular blues artists include Muddy Waters, B.B. King, Howliln’ Wolf, and Rober Johnson.
With its roots in blues and ragtime music, Jazz first developed in the 19th and 20th centuries. Characterized by complex chords and improvisation, jazz gained a large following throughout the 1920s, otherwise known as the Jazz Age. In the United States jazz was particularly popular in New Orleans as big bands were in high demand. In addition to New Orleans jazz, other styles include Kansas City jazz, bebop, gypsy jazz, and cool jazz. Although the genre originated primarily in the U.S. it’s reach extended as far as Europe. European jazz artists attributed their influences to the likes of Paul Whiteman and Lonnie Johnson.
As the genre continued to develop so did the number of subgenres grow. Jazz music today enjoys a wide variety of styles ranging from jazz rock fusion to smooth jazz. Legendary jazz artists include Miles Davis, Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington and John Coltrane. The genre is also notable for its contributions to female advancement by introducing the dynamic voices of lead female vocals by Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, and Anita O’Day.
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