An Idiot’s Guide to Jazz


Sometimes a spark comes out of the darkness and lights a fire that sets those who suffer free. In those words lie the story of Jazz; the art that revolutionized Western music and changed the music industry forever.

Jazz is a popular music genre that originated in New Orleans, USA. Arising mainly as a fusion between African-American blues and swing and European-American military and classical music, jazz is a hybrid combination that is expressive of both its parents.

Image from documentary tube

The word Jazz was first spelled J-A-S-S, and it is believed to have come from ‘jasm,’ which is a slang word meaning energy or pep. However, due to its relation to African Americans, jazz was frowned upon when it first appeared and was seen as inferior by Caucasians. Years later, it became popular among the entire nation, regardless of race.

Jazz became so influential to the extent that it deeply impacted American literature. This is shown especially in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s works like the Tales of the Jazz Age and The Great Gatsby.

Image from Alma Books

According to musicians, jazz is difficult to define due to its variety and diversity; it boasts many forms, such as classical jazz and cool jazz, which both appeared after World War II, as well as traditional jazz, free jazz, Latin jazz, oriental jazz, and many more. However, what makes it special is that unlike other types of music, jazz music is characterized by swing notes and blues with a great deal of improvisation, as well as the ability to be influenced by music from different countries.

Some of the musicians you already know are renowned jazz figures, including Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, and Lil Hardin Armstrong.

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More than 100 years later, the spark never faded and jazz remains one of the most widely celebrated art forms in the world.

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