April is Jazz Appreciation Month! Jazz was born in the United States and is known as one of America’s greatest cultural achievements and original art forms. Its roots can be traced back to the times of slavery, when work songs and soulful songs called “spirituals” were sung by slaves- both of which are fundamental to the foundation of jazz.
Jazz, a music genre that combined the rhythmic and melodic music of the African American community with European American musical traditions, originated during the late 19th and 20th centuries in New Orleans, which played a huge role in the evolution of jazz music. At the time, New Orleans held people from many different cultures, and as new settlers arrived, musical traditions from all over the world began to unify, creating the new style of music that we are celebrating this month.
In the 1920s, African Americans began migrating north to cities like Chicago and New York- the two other major cities that played a vital role in the evolution of jazz. The sounds of jazz and blues soon spread across America, becoming very popular and serving as a staple in American homes, dance halls, bars and clubs. As jazz continued to spread across America and later the world, it drew on people across different race, religion, nationality, and local musical cultures, giving rise to many distinctive styles, such as Ragtime, Bebop, Afro-Cuban jazz, Cool jazz, Modal jazz, and Smooth jazz.
To celebrate jazz this month, we created a map showing where some of the early pioneers of jazz were born. Below is a table displaying the birthplaces, life-spans, and occupations of eleven of the most influential jazz artists throughout the history of jazz music.
Written by Kathleen Emerson (4/5/2016).