Jazz & Its Evolution

 Music has its own language and it is the mood which sets the tone of the music. We just listen whatever pleases to our ears and never think of categorizing them into any genres.

But there exists a separate entity for each type of music. The evolution of music is surely from nature but how a specific genre named ‘Jazz’ appeared is what we will try to explore.

Jazz has been a result of the rebellion on part of the African- American communities which break free from the garb of slavery. There are off beat patterns in this particular style and this attempt of moving away from any baggage of principles gave rise to a category and style of music which despite being incoherent is coherent in nature.

‘The music called jazz had the razzamatazz’ and so it has seen evolution within its own discursive domain from its beginning in 20th century till present.

Since jazz is a result of the culmination of the two very different cultures of Africa and America resonances of both these places is well reflected in this style of music. There are influences of the Afro Cuban rhythmic ‘Spanish tinge’ which is a combination of the tango, Congo and back beat and African rhythmic retention.


The 1920’s and 1930’s is the zenith of jazz and this period has been coined as ‘The Jazz Age’. Also known as the ‘Roaring 20’s’, the period saw the coming of ‘Hot Jazz’ and first recorded album of the blues singer Bessie Smith. The performances happened in New Orleans, Chicago, San Francisco and Los Angeles. Louis Armstrong is the key musician and it was his improvisation and experimentation which made jazz a language in the 1920’s.

The 1930’s saw the coming of swing music and jazz bands. We also see the beginning of European jazz in this decade which brought to light the instruments such as steel stringed guitar, violin and double bass.

The influence of Ellington brought to fore the ‘American music’ in the 1940’s and 1950’s. This was jazz but Ellington refused to call it ‘jazz’ and instead coined the term American music and gave some of the finest compositions such as ‘Jeep’s Blues’, ‘Concerto for Cootie’ etc. The earlier jazz music had a rhythm of dancing in it which now saw a turn by becoming a musician’s music. Bebop music now had an increase in its tempo and drumming as this was meant to be listened and not danced at.

Bebop musicians also applied new harmonistic techniques which were different from earlier styles of jazz. The coming of chords is the new intervention along with Chromaticism and dissonance. The end of 1940’s saw the calmness and soothness of jazz returning and giving us a new sub-genre ‘cool jazz’. These favored long, linear melodic lines.

The 1950’s brought with it ‘Modal Jazz’ where the soloist created a melody using one or smaller number of modes. “So what” by Miles Daves is the music of the decade.


Since jazz is primarily a type of music free of any rules and regulations there actually came a term called ‘free jazz’ which gave absolute freedom to any of sort of composition creation. This was an amazing amalgamation of world music and gave an elevated ecstatic feeling to the listener.

‘Latin Jazz’ and ‘Afro Cuban Jazz’ had dominated the two decades from 1960’s till end of 1970’s. It was more of an African and Brazilian mixture of the base root music which was brought in meter with the jazz.

The ‘Soul Jazz’ as a genre has been incorporated from the blues, rhythms and gospels which emphasized repetitive grooves and melodic hooks. ‘Jazz fusion’ also brought in rock rhythms, electric music and highly amplified stage. Inspired by rock and funk came into existence ‘psychedelic Jazz’ which brought in new creations. Jazz rock, Jazz funk etc. continued to prevail till 1980’s.

Then with the turn of the century ‘smooth jazz’ with it’s down tempo and slow melody and rhythm ruled the hearts of the people.  ‘Acid jazz’, ‘Jazz Punk’, ‘Jazz core’, ‘Jazz rap’ were other alternate genres which continued to dazzle the audience.

Jazz has continued to rule ever since it came as a genre of music in prominence. With various experimentation in music and instruments, it exists as the king of music genres which not only attracts audiences but has a separate world for itself. It has been soothing, calming and jovial and has continued to entertain.  There are jazz festivals conducted over the globe and a lot of people listen and practice.

It is all about music and all the ‘jazz’.