Jazz – music of the soul
At the beginning of the twentieth century black Americans developed a new type of music called jazz. And it is still one of the most distinctly American art forms. In the early 1900s black Americans played the first jazz in the dance halls of New Orleans. Jazz remains a popular musical style not only in the United States but also in countries all over the world.
Jazz was not learned in schools. Many of its creators could not even read music. Jazz shows were outdoor events during which people marched and sometimes rode in horse-drawn wagons.
Jazz was experimental music that broke away from traditional musical forms. It was a highly personal music that focused on individual interpretation and rhythm. Musician had the freedom to compose and reshape the music according to his or her feelings. Improvisation is a main ingredient of jazz.
New Orleans had considerable influence on the development of jazz. It was a city full of music and good times influenced by several cultures – Spanish, French, Anglo-American, and African-American. But the inspiration for jazz came mainly from the history of blacks in America.
Black slaves expressed themselves in music while they denied the opportunity to an education and they were denied the chance to practise their African customs in America. Blues and ragtime were the forerunners of jazz.
Jazz means different things to different people.
King of Jazz
In the early 20th century a young African-American boy sang and danced in the streets of New Orleans. His family was very poor and he hoped to earn some money. That boy, Louis Daniel Armstrong, would become one of the most famous jazz musicians in the world.
At the age of 12 Armstrong was sent to school for boys where he learned to play the cornet. Soon he became the leader of the school band.
At the age of 14 Louis worked selling newspapers, unloading boats and selling coal from a cart. Armstrong played with jazz bands in Chicago and New York City. It was in Chicago where he recorded his first solo pieces.
By the time Armstrong was 28 years old, he had become very famous. He travelled all over the world as a trumpet soloist with big bands.
Armstrong was nicknamed Satchmo (short for Satchel Mouth) by his fellow musicians.