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 Jazz is a music genre that originated in the African American communities of the Southern States of America during the 19th & 20th centuries. It could be argued however that the African slave women brought their music – a heritage of improvisation, rhythm, call and response to America as early as the first slaves in 1600. They used their singing to send coded messages from plantation to plantation. Women have played a significant role in Jazz music ever since. New Orleans Jazz began in the early 1900’s and although Bessie Smith was not the first to record, she was the first to popularize the style.

New Orleans Jazz began in the early 1910’s with earlier Brass Band marches, such as “When the Saints go Marchin’ In.” In the 1930’s dance oriented swing bands emerged. One of the earliest was Fletcher Henderson & his Orchestra. Luminaries such as Trumpeter, Louis Armstrong and Saxophonist Benny Carter were a part of this Orchestra. Speaking of Armstrong, he would not have become the star he was and still is remembered, if it were not for his second wife Lil Hardin Armstrong. At one time Louis Armstrong was working for his wife as a part of her Band and  she continued to model his early career.

Whilst the early Bands were primarily Orchestral, with perhaps one vocalist, other vocal styles began to emerge. An early group, the forerunner of the Andrews Sisters, was the Boswell sisters. The Mills Brothers were an early male vocal group.

There were many successful swing Bands during the 30’s and 40’s such as Artie Shaw and Benny Goodman, who were clarinet led. Then of course the Trombone led Glenn Miller orchestra. Whilst Big Bands still play today, the emergence of bebop late in the 40’s took jazz from the dance style to a more musician’s music style with faster tempos and more chord based improvisations. Early exponents of Be-bop included Trumpeter, Dizzy Gillespie, Saxophonist Charlie Parker and Pianist Bud Powell.

We must not forget the emergence of Jazz singers from the 40’s when they were initially bit players in the big Dance Bands to be stars in their own right singing with full orchestras and also with single musical support. Jazz purists will argue many vocalists sing pop rather than Jazz.

Jazz continued to evolve in many directions. Latin Jazz is one example. Jazz musicians became famous as composers and players. The Pianist, Thelonius Monk is a prime example of player and composer. As is Trumpeter Miles Davis, Duke Ellington is one of the great composers, Pianist and Band leader.

Whilst Classical music and Jazz don’t usually blend, many musicians over the years have begun their careers as classical performers and changed to Jazz. Conversely, Clarinetist, Benny Goodman went from playing Jazz to playing classical music. Pianists Jacques Loussier and Eugene Cicero play jazz interpretations of classical music.

Whilst Jazz may have originated in America, it is very much a world form of music. After WW11 Japan embraced Jazz in a big way. A number of high profile American Jazz Musicians toured to Japan including Sonny Rollins, Dave Brubeck to name just two. Brubeck composed some pieces as Jazz impressions of Japan.

Japan has also many great Japanese Jazz Artists. Possibly the best known is Toshiko Akioshi, Pianist, composer, arranger and Bandleader.

Australia too has some great International Jazz Musicians. Three such are multi-instrumentalists, Don Burrows and James Morrison and Adelaide Pianist Kym Purling.

Jazz continues to evolve with younger musicians experimenting with both Jazz sounds and different instruments.

Many forms of Jazz can be heard regularly on radio 5mbs and we also stream live through our website The same website has podcasts with a variety of Jazz, Blues and Classical programs.

Denis Wall

December 2021

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