History of Jazz
Early & Swing Jazz in American Society
The roots of early jazz can be traced back to New Orleans and there are many reasons behind this. To begin with, the city was home to one of the most ethnically diverse communities in America, which provided for real cross-culturalization. Apart from French colonial culture, many Sicilian and Italians had also migrated to New Orleans (Gioia 21). Besides African-Americans whose ancestors were slaves, New Orleans was also home to a Creole population that originated from the original French population and freed African-Americans slaves (Gioia 25).
The institutions in New Orleans regularly contracted jazz musicians to provide entertainment in the town. Apart from local establishments, there were several business entities in the town that employed jazz musicians. Apart from jazz becoming popular in New Orleans, local business establishments allowed unlawful activities. This explains why many local entertainment businesses and bordellos were situated in the tenderloin districts.
Despite the growing popularity of jazz, a number of conservative blacks and whites did not embrace early jazz. There were a number of reasons why this category of people did not loved early jazz. To begin with, they did not love the manner in which black people danced jazz because they considered it too naughty and sexual. Secondly, blacks from New Orleans did not like being identified with blacks from other parts of the country because they were behaving immorally. The third reason why some conservatives did not embrace early jazz was because it was performed in bordello, bars and other venues associated with crime gambling. During that time, there was also discrimination between whites and blacks. This meant that whites were not ready to be associated with anything black, including jazz. According to Scaruffi, “the collective voice had triumphed over individual voice and in Chicago; more jazz musicians were allowed more room to improvise. This can be attributed to jazz musicians becoming increasingly self-assured or the influence of the freewheeling spirit of the big city”.
The great depression had both negative and positive effects on jazz. The main positive effect of the great depression was that jazz became increasingly popular. The main reason why jazz became popular was because it made people feel good despite the economic problems that they were facing. The negative impact of the great depression was that several music businesses were forced to close or relocate to other cities.
The technological developments of the swing era also influenced jazz music. For example, the microphone made the quality of sound better compared to recorded sound. Moreover, technological advancements of the time, especially the radio, made it possible to spread jazz to many people. The radio also made it possible for many people to listen to jazz music for free and also reach a wider audience.
Swing jazz was important to many Americans during the war and this period saw an increase in the performance of jazz. Since the Germans had banned American music, majority of American artists changed their title songs to Dutch’s language. Moreover, the number of jazz fans grew because jazz made them feel hopeful despite the ongoing war (Schuller 23).
There was a lot of segregation during the swing era and many bands were either filled with all white or all black band members. The segregation was caused by some audiences that did not like bands with a mixture of whites and blacks. Moreover, there were bar owners who did not want to see fights in their premises resulting from a mixture of black and whites. In documentary Jazz part 5, the road, there was widespread segregation and racism. In fact, the segregation was so serious such that only black musicians were left performing swing jazz (Schuller 54). Due to the fact that racism was widespread, whites could not buy or listen to black music, black artists had a difficult time economically. This was because white people were economically well-off compared to blacks and their boycott of black music had denied them a rich market.
Despite the fact that there are different types of jazz today, swing is most popular. Jazz music is characteristically swing jazz. In this type of jazz, there is a section in the song where the lead vocalist sings and in doing so, they use “jive talk” which is a type of slang. They create a dictionary of every word and name it “The Hepter’s Dictionary”. “Some six years ago I compiled the first glossary of words, expressions, and the general patois employed by musicians and entertainers in New York’s teeming Harlem. That the general public agreed with me is amply evidenced by the fact that the present issue is the sixth edition since 1938 and is the official jive language reference book of the New York Public Library”( Bjorn 23).
Bjorn, Lars. Before Motown: A History of Jazz in Detroit, 1920-60. University of Michigan Press, 2001.Print.
Davis, John S. Historical Dictionary of Jazz. Scarecrow Press, 2012. Print.
Gioia, Ted. The History of Jazz. Oxford University Press, 2011. Print.
Schuller, Gunther. The Swing Era: The Development of Jazz, 1930-1945. Oxford University Press, 1991. Print.