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Jazz Music

February 20, 2015 0 Comments

Jazz music is believed to have originated from America, and reflected individualism and cultural diversity of the country. In its history, it straddled the universe of pop music and other music, and has expanded to variety of styles which sounded unrelated. The jazz music was first performed in bars but today the music is being performed in the large festivals, universities, concerts and clubs all over the world. The New Orleans is frequently credited for being the birth place and the origin of jazz music, the city at the port in later 19th century had incredible diversity of cultures thus people coming along with their musical cultures and traditions. From the origin of this music African American musicians remained the prime and core innovators of jazz music, as they began to combine and fuse the blues music, popular marching of tunes, traditions and the spirit of collective creativity brought the early era of the famous jazz music to the limelight of music fanatics. Louis Armstrong emerged from the New Orleans style of jazz music, and became one of the most influential innovators in the modern jazz and therefore acquiring the name of ; the father of modern jazz (Cambridge University Press, 2002)

Biography on a Jazz Innovator

One of the jazz innovator was Wynton Marsalis, was described as the outstanding jazz artist of his generation, one of the world’s top classical trumpeter, a leader of a big band in tradition of Duke Ellington, a sparkling composer, and a devoted supporter of Arts and inspirer of the educators. Therefore his life portrayed dedication, sacrifice, discipline and creativity. Wynton was born to Dolores and Ellis Marsalis on October 18th, 1961 in New Orleans-Louisiana; he was second born son in a family of six sons. At early age he showed a lot of seriousness in his study, desired to contribute to American diverse culture and had high aptitude and attitude for jazz music.

Wynton performed the traditional New Orleans music in the Fairview Baptist Church band at the age of eight years, legendary banjoist; Mr. Danny Barker was the leader of the band at that time and at 14 years, Wynton got an invitation to perform together with New Orleans Philharmonic. In high school he became a member and part of the New Orleans Community Concert band, New Orleans Symphony, New Orleans Youth Orchestra and performed in popular local and jazz bands on weekends. Wynton became the youngest musician ever in the history of Tangle wood’s Berkshire Music center at the age of seventeen (17) years; he was awarded the Harvey Shapiro Award for his commendable and outstanding performance as a brass student. In 1979 he moved to New York City for the reason of attending Juilliard, in 1980 which was  a year later he was given an opportunity to join Jazz Messengers to study music  under the leadership and close supervision of drummer and bandleader; Art Blakey (Giddins, 1998).

In this Art Blakey band, Wynton learnt the relationship existing between democracy and jazz music, where Mr. Blakey used to say, ‘no America, no jazz music!’ It was then from Mr. Art Blakey that Wynton acquired and got the concept and information on band leading, thus intensifying his good musical performance. One year later he was invited to share stage with Sarah Vaughan, Sweets Edison, Clark Terry, Dizzy Gillespie and other jazz legends. With this core and solid foundation Wynton was able to assemble his personal band, and performed over 120 concerts every year for more that ten successive years. His objective and aim was to learn how to play and to understand how best he can deliver to his fans and the audience.

Due to his  effort in supporting the sustainability of jazz music, Wynton has won a whopping nine Grammy Awards, and remains the only artist to have won Grammy Awards in five successive years, that is ; between 1983 to 1987. He has been conferred with honorary degrees with over twenty nine American leading institutions of academics, such as; Yale, Brown, Columbia and Princeton Universities. Therefore, Wynton has made new steps towards achieving a mystical radiance in the performance and writing of jazz music, from his adventurous composition and skills to his undulating intelligence jazz music will never remain the same, the melodious and harmonious landscape will be fundamentally enriched (Gioa, 1997).

How jazz music and musician connected to the society

Over the time jazz has ceased from being pop music and instead became a symbolic link and connection to movements for civil rights. It appealed to blacks and white to be alike, and provided diversify culture from which individuals were inextricable, where one was to be judged by his ability and content of their character alone, and not by race or even other inappropriate factors. And Stanley Crouch said and predicted that movements for civil rights are more than any art in America. Jazz, as musicians were not only linked to the civil rights movements but also used music and their celebrity to promote and agitate for social justice and racial equality.

Few of the jazz musicians who spoke and ‘preached’ about include, Louis Armstrong, who had a way of dealing with the racial discrimination. For example in 1929 he produced a song with the title,’ (What Did I Do to Be So) Blacks and Blues?’ The title of the song for a black performer at this period of time in America showed the kind of courage Louis Armstrong had in agitating and demanding for equity in the American society regardless of the color of the individual’s skin. Later Armstrong became the ambassador of culture for United States at a time of cold war, where he performed jazz all over the world. He cancelled the touring of Soviet Union the present Republic of Russia when nine blacks in 1957 were prevented from entering a high school by the National Guard, by saying in public how his (black) people were being treated, putting pressure on the government to do more to overcome such acts of racial discrimination.

Jazz musician Duke Ellington fueled black pride in his music, and referred to his music as, African-American classical music, which strove to express the black experience in the United States. In 1943 he composed a song by the title, ‘Jump to the Joy’ which questioned and challenged the traditional black representation in the entertainment industry. Benny Goodman and Billie Holiday were amongst the jazz musicians who fought to end racism in the United States, as Goodman used his celebrity in spreading the appreciation of black music, on the other hand Billie Holiday contributions to end racism was by singing about the inhuman lynching of two blacks, Abram Smith and Thomas Shipp in 1930, with their body images hanging from trees. Billie delivered this song night after night, overwhelmed with emotions and sadness, later her song become civil rights movement anthem(Baraka,1989)


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