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Jul 12

Music Notes: Jazz Appreciation Month

Posted on July 12, 2017 at 4:56 PM by Elizabeth Land

Notes from the Music Staff logoStaff Note: Notes from the Music Staff is a series of posts discussing what the library offers music fans. From our widely varied collection of music CDs to our nonfiction and fiction books covering all aspects of music, we've got something for everyone and we want to share our love of music with you!

The National Museum of History celebrates Jazz Appreciation Month during April. That makes it a great time for you to discover this essential genre of music.

Jazz music is America’s indigenous art form; improvisation is a very important part. Players make up solos on the spot (improvise), which requires considerable skill. There is tremendous variety in jazz, but it is very rhythmic (syncopation), has forward momentum called "swing," and uses "bent" or "blue" notes. Dixieland, swing, bebop, acid jazz, hard bop, fusion — these are only a few types of jazz. You often hear "call-and-response" patterns in jazz, in which one instrument, voice, or part of the band answers another. Jazz can express many different emotions, from pain to sheer joy. In jazz, you may hear the sounds of freedom — for it has been a powerful voice for people suffering unfair treatment.

Historians and musicians trace the origins of jazz to 19th-century New Orleans. Most significant were people from Africa and the West Indies, taken as slaves for Colonial America, along with refugees who fled Hispaniola to escape the Haitian Revolution. Two types of African-American songs were important to the development of jazz: spirituals (religious) and work (rhythm of labor) songs. Spirituals were folk songs marked by multiple harmonies and improvised lyrics. Also contributing to the melting pot of jazz were Europeans: Scottish, English, Irish, French, Spanish and Italians. They used work songs as well, and some unique instruments. In general, African music was more rhythmic, European music focused more on melody and harmony. Each took parts from the other and jazz was born. Ragtime music, mostly piano, is an early offshoot of jazz, mainly popular between 1895 and 1918. It features a rhythmic left hand and syncopated (ragged) melody in the right hand. Listen for Ragtime’s influence in early 20th century classical music, especially in France.

Buddy Bolden (b. 1877) is considered the first jazz musician; the first jazz bands are reported around 1885. Sadly, music from this early period was never recorded. But you can still get a fine introduction to jazz music through the York County Public Library's music collection. Here are some new titles we have recently added to the collection: