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Emotion of Jazz, Essay Example

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Essay

Jazz is an improvisational form of music developed in Southern United States, specifically New Orleans, Louisiana, by African-Americans in the first part of the 20th century. It is also stated that Jazz music was born and developed with influences from a mix of African rhythms and European harmonic structures. This collaboration is heard in Ragtime and Blues music, and the presence of “blue notes, improvisation, polyrhythms, syncopation and the swung note” (Shipton, 2007, p. 4), is evidence of the African influence in Jazz music.

Merriam-Webster dictionary online defines Jazz as “American music developed especially from ragtime and blues and characterized by propulsive syncopated rhythms, polyphonic ensemble playing, varying degrees of improvisation, and often deliberate distortions of pitch and timbre” (Merriam-Webster.com, 2012). However, because Jazz music has its influence in all types of music spanning over 100 years, from Ragtime to the music of today, it is difficult to really pinpoint its exact definition (Berendt, 1981).

Jazz Music Through the Years

Scholastic, Inc. (2012) highlights the source and development of Jazz music from the late 1800s to the 1950s and reports that the foundation of Jazz music is Blue music dating from the late 1800s.

It is noted that Blues music is also a Southern-born style of African-American music with lyrics, rhythms and melodies characterized pain, injustice, adversity, and broken hearts. This type of music “evolved from hymns, work songs, and field hollers…used to accompany spiritual, work and social functions” (Scholastic, Inc., 2012).

Following are analyses of Blues and Jazz audio clip samples I’ve listened to, from the 1900s to the 1950s (Scholastic, Inc., 2012).

Audio Clip Sample #1

Listened To:  “Second Line”

Recording Year:  1900s

Jazz Artist/Composer:  Unknown

Venue:  Online

Song Type:  Instrumental Band

This piece from the 1900s has a swing style to it with marching band undertones. The lead instrument in the piece is the trumpet with the banjo playing in the background. The piece also has sort of ragtime/circus sound to it. The tune is very catchy. However, I don’t necessarily feel any emotion with this piece except for an urge to snap my fingers.

According to Scholastic, Inc. (2012), this piece is part a traditional New Orleans sound that went right along with the traditional New Orleans celebrations. It is a mix of “opera, military marching bands, folk music, the blues, different types of church music, ragtime, echoes of traditional African drumming”, and all of the dance styles that went with this music could be heard and seen throughout the city. When all of these kinds of music blended into one, jazz was born”.

Louis Armstrong

As it states on Biography.com, Louis Armstrong was born August 4, 1901 in the Jazz town of New Orleans, Louisiana and rose to fame in the 1920s. He was a virtuoso at the cornet and the trumpet and had his own unique style and knack for improvisation.

Louis Armstrong’s biography also states his music was filled with emotion and defined the Swing era of Jazz. He is the composer of the popular hits “Hello Dolly” and “What a Wonderful World.” Louis Armstrong passed away in 1971 of a heart attack.

Audio Clip Sample #2

Listened To:  “Potato Head Blues”

Recording Year:  1901

Jazz/Blues Artist/Composer:  Louis Armstrong

Venue:  Online

Song Type:  Instrumental Band

This piece has a fast tempo and is very uplifting and light. There are at least three horn instruments working in concert with each other, with the trumpet taking the lead and the other horns playing accompaniment. The beat is kept in time by the banjo and a light and quick drum beat.

This piece reminds me of watching old TV shows like The Andy Griffith Show. It makes me feel like I’m sitting on a park bench on a spring day in a small town, watching people hustle and bustle by, like on those old shows on TV. This music also gives me a happy feeling. I don’t think of anything sad when listening to this music.

Duke Ellington

According to Scholastic, Inc. (2012), Jazz great, Duke Ellington, was a master composer who was born in Washington, D.C. on April 29, 1899. He started playing the piano at age seven and Jazz as a teenager. Duke Ellington was a pioneer in the creation of Big Band music in the Swing era. The Swing era produced music that lifted people’s spirits because the music had an optimistic spirit to it. Duke Ellington was one of the great band leaders of this era. A few years prior to his death, Duke Ellington recorded an album with Frank Sinatra. Ellington passed away in 1974 of lung cancer and pneumonia.

Audio Clip Sample #3

Listened To:  “C Jam Blues”

Recording Year:  1930s

Jazz/Blues Artist/Composer:  Duke Ellington

Venue:  Online

Song Type:  Instrumental Band

In this piece, the piano first takes the lead and then the alto saxophone. It is an upbeat tempo tune with very little “noise”, by that I mean there are parts of the song in the beginning that uses just a few instruments, but then it finishes big with the big band sound.

With this piece, I feel like I’m sitting in a club with a drink and a bunch of ladies with cigarettes in those fancy cigarette holders the ladies of this era used. I think this piece feels like a conversational piece. The music reminds me of music that was played while people were eating and mingling, rather than dancing.

Dizzy Gillespie

Scholastic, Inc. (2012), reports that Dizzy Gillespie was born in Cheraw, South Carolina on October 21, 1917. He was a Jazz trumpeter, bandleader and composer. He was instrumental in creating the bebop and modern jazz sound of music and collaborated to mix modern Jazz and Latin American rhythms to create Afro-Cuban music. Dizzy Gillespie played music with the likes of Ella Fitzgerald and Milt Jackson and influenced and taught other great Jazz artists such as Miles Davis. Gillespie died in 1993 of pancreatic cancer.

Audio Clip Sample #4

Listened To:  “Salt Peanuts”

Recording Year:  1947

Jazz Artist/Composer:  Dizzy Gillespie

Venue:  Online

Song Type:  Instrumental Band

This piece is a very fast tempo song. It highlights solos from Dizzy Gillespie’s trumpet first and then the guitar, with the base guitar keeping fast background rhythms and the drums playing lots of cymbals.  The drummer solo is highlighted toward the end, again lots of cymbals. This has a very big band sound. It sounded kind of busy to me. This piece made me feel kind of jittery because it just seemed like there was so much going on at once.

John Coltrane

Composer, John Coltrane is quoted as saying, “My music is the spiritual expression of what I am – my faith, my knowledge, my being” (JohnColtrane.com, 2012). His biography, on his official website, states he was born in Hamlet, North Carolina on September 23, 1926 and started out playing the E-flat horn and clarinet and later switched to the alto saxophone, after the likes of his musical influences. He later learned to play the tenor saxophone which he said caused a wider area of listening to open up for him. Coltrane felt emotions when listening to music which contributed to his passion for musical experimentation. He worked with popular Jazz artists and bands including the Dizzy Gillespie band, Jimmy Heath and Miles Davis. John Coltrane consciously created music to evoke positive thought patterns in people’s minds. He passed away from liver disease in 1967 at the age of 41. His music has been used in many television and movie productions since then.

Audio Clip Sample #5

Listened To:  “The Sleeper”

Recording Year:  1959

Jazz/Blues Artist/Composer:  John Coltrane

Venue:  Online

Song Type:  Instrumental Band

When listening to this musical piece I mainly heard the rhythm being kept by the bass guitar with a horn instrument keeping the lead. This song has a steady, moderate tempo with a jovial type of feel to it. This is interesting because this song is a Blues song, but it doesn’t evoke feelings of sadness or feeling down. It’s a happy piece. I felt a happy urge to tap my feet to it.

Miles Davis

From MilesDavis.com: Miles Davis was one of the most legendary Jazz artists and composers of our time. He was born on May 26, 1926 in Alton, Illinois. He started playing the trumpet at age 13 and mastered it with the teachings and influence of already accomplished Jazz artists such as Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie. Miles Davis’ sound was a mix of Funk and R&B grooves with Jazz, including Bebop and Hard Bop, Cool Jazz and Jazz Fusion. Some of his most memorable songs include “Summertime,” “Porgy and Bess,” “Ain’t Misbehavin,” and “Love Me Or Leave Me.” He died in 1991, after suffering from a stroke. Contributing factors of his death also include pneumonia and respiratory failure.

Audio Clip Sample #6

Listened To:  “Summertime”

Recording Year:  1958

Jazz Artist/Composer:  Miles Davis

Venue:  Online

Song Type:  Instrumental Band

This piece is one of my favorites. In the clip, Miles is playing a very smooth trumpet lead with a very relaxed background accompaniment by the bass and light drum taps and cymbals. I get a feeling of relaxation with this piece and it also makes me feel inspired. I guess because I know the lyrics of this one and also because the music, itself, has a progressive effect and moves along steadily and it sounds like it ends with a curtain fall. It’s a pretty cool tune.

Ella Fitzgerald

According to EllaFitzgerald.com, Ella Fitzgerald remained the most recognized female Jazz singer in this country for more than 50 years and she was called “The First Lady of Song.” She was a 13-time Grammy award winning artist. EllaFitzgerald.com states that “Her voice was flexible, wide-ranging, accurate and ageless. She could sing sultry ballads, sweet jazz and imitate every instrument in an orchestra. She worked with all the jazz greats, from Duke Ellington, Count Basie and Nat King Cole, to Frank Sinatra, Dizzy Gillespie and Benny Goodman.” Ella was also famous for her scat abilities. She died in 1996. She had previously had heart surgery, a double leg amputation, and worsening diabetes. The diabetes caused very bad circulatory problems in Ella’s legs, and this led to the amputations.

Some of Ella’s most memorable songs include “A-Tisket, A-Tasket,” “I Could Have Danced All Night,” “My Funny Valentine,” and “Night and Day.”

Audio Clip Sample #7

Listened To:  “Sentimental Mood”

Recording Year:  1957

Jazz Artist/Composer:  Ella Fitzgerald

Venue:  Online

Song Type: Vocal Performance and Instrumental Band

This piece is beautifully sung by Ella. Her voice was very sultry and rich with expertly controlled riffs and melodies. The lyrics are about how a lover makes her feel sentimental as she thinks about him. The only accompaniment in the song to her singing is a guitar, so the piece is simple but engaging. Her voice is enough to carry the listener to the end of the song without being bored.

I got a warm feeling from listening to this piece. I particularly enjoyed her melodic and rich sound and the dynamics she uses to give the song fluid movement. It’s not just a monotone. She makes me feel like getting a warm cup of cocoa, putting on some of her records and listening with my eyes closed. In this song, she really makes me feel how much sentiment she has for the person she is singing about. Great song!

My Appreciation of Jazz Music

Prior to doing this assignment, Jazz music was really not my favorite genre of music. But, now I see that was because I never really took the time to sit down and listen to it with a discerning ear and also break it down. I have had trouble with understanding how Jazz music constructs its melodies. Jazz music had always sounded like they were making it up as they went along, and now I see that was really the case in many instances, which is interesting. It seems I understood more than I thought about Jazz music. Basically, though, I did not like the sound of Jazz music too much because it lacked what I was familiar with in any other genre.

Now that I have had an opportunity to actually listen to some Jazz pieces and analyze them, I have a better appreciation for Jazz music, but it is still not my favorite genre of music. I guess I can’t really get into the sound of a lot of Jazz being so random and dispersed.

My favorite Jazz artists studied in this paper are Ella Fitzgerald and Miles Davis. These two artists, to me, have the most depth to their music. I like the deep undertones evident in their music.

Overall, I feel that Jazz music is definitely worth learning about and listening to, especially since it is basically the base for the creation of other forms of music genres.

References

Alyn Shipton, A New History of Jazz, 2nd ed., Continuum, 2007, pp. 4–5.

Berendt. J.E. (1981). The Jazz Book: From Ragtime to Fusion and Beyond. Lawrenc Hill Books.

Jazz. (n.d.). The Merriam-Webster dictionary online. Retrieved November 7, 2012 from http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/jazz.

Scholastic, Inc. (2012). History of Jazz. Culture & Change: Blank History in America. Retrieved November 7, 2012 from

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