Everyone has heard jazz music at some point in their lives and, whether you love it or hate it, it never fails to invoke strong emotions within the listener. The main characteristics of Jazz are the offbeat accents, the swing notes, the polyrhythms and, of course, the use of improvisation.
The History of Jazz
The jazz genre has really stood the test of time; it has adapted and reinvented itself throughout the decades to become the sound we know today. It all began in the late 19th century when music from Africa was combined with the music of the settlers to produce styles such as Ragtime and blues. From there, New Orleans jazz began in 1910 and used an instrument playing the main melody while a range of instruments, such as a bass, a clarinet and drums, improvise around the soloist. It combined the brass band marches that New Orleans has become famous for, blues, ragtime and multiple simultaneous improvisations.
From its southern roots, jazz made its way to Chicago and Chicago-style, or Hot jazz, was born, with Louis Armstrong and his band being at the forefront of this style. This type of jazz inspired Bix Beiderbecke who became one of the most influential jazz musicians that the music world has ever known, along with Louis Armstrong and Muggsy Spanier. In 1927, two of Bix’s recordings, including “I’m Coming, Virginia”, shows how Bix’s unique style and improvisation skills gave birth to the jazz ballad style, a style that later became cool jazz in the 1950’s which, in turn, produced legendary jazz musicians such as Miles Davis. Throughout the latter half of the 20th century, jazz became a fusion of funk, blues and rock and the 80’s and the 90’s saw jazz go through an experimental and improvisational stages. Today, jazz ranges from the traditional to the “anything goes” style which incorporates all different musical styles, such as classical, hip hop, rhythm and blues, and mixes them altogether to create a unique sound.
Places in the World to find All that Jazz
As one of the most famous cities in the world, London has a plethora of jazz clubs and many live music scenes to choose from that showcase some of the best contemporary artists from around the world. Situated minutes away from the cheap hotels in Oxford Street, The Spice of Life Soho has been a popular venue since the 1960’s, where great folk musicians, such as Bob Dylan and Cat Stevens, graced the stage. In the punk era of the 1970’s, The Sex Pistols and their followers were regulars at The Spice of Life and in recent years, Jamie Cullum has played at The Spice of Life’s Jazz Club which has become a very popular haunt for jazz lovers.
Leave the cheap hotels in Oxford Street behind and head to The Spice on a Wednesday and Thursday night to sample the delights of Open Mic nights; a wonderful evening of drinks and music from rising Jazz stars all in a cosy setting. The Spice also hosts a Jazz Lunch where David Burr showcases a host of different jazz styles performed by the best jazz bands and vocalists from all over the world, so book yourself a table and enjoy a sumptuous meal while feeling the jazz vibes.
The 1930’s saw the rise of Jazz in France, especially in the French quarter of Montmatre in Paris. French musicians put their own spin on jazz and introduced instruments such as violins and guitars to create a distinctly French sound called gypsy jazz. Today, jazz music can be found almost anywhere in Paris so there are so many places to choose from; Duc des Lombards is one of the most famous jazz clubs in Paris that caters for jazz lovers who like to just sit back and feel the music, while Autour du Midi in Montmatre has a fantastic intimate atmosphere and an eclectic mix of jazz styles are played in the “cave au jazz”. If you find it too hard to choose, take a walk around Paris and you will find an array of music venues just waiting to be discovered.
If you want to be a part of a cosmopolitan jazz scene, then good old New York New York is the place to go. The jazz craze travelled up from the South and settled in NYC taking many legends of jazz with it, such as Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald who moved to the Big Apple to make launch their careers. In today’s New York jazz scene, places like Iridium offer a wonderful musical history and an impressive list of artists who have graced the stage, such as Kenny Garrett, The Jazz Messengers and Les Paul, who played at Iridium every week and continued to do so until the age of 94. The Smoke Jazz & Supper Club can be found on Broadway and offers an intimate setting and different styles of jazz 7 days a week. In a decadent setting, patrons can sit and enjoy a fine dining experience while enjoying the amazing acoustics.
It may come as a surprise that Japan has one of the biggest jazz following in the world. In the early 20th century, Japanese musicians travelled on liners to the USA and when they would stop off at San Francisco or New Orleans and they would buy sheet music, thus taking jazz back to Japan with them. During the wars, jazz became a comfort to American soldiers who would go to clubs to enjoy the music; soon jazz clubs started to pop up all around Japan with the first one being opened in Osaka in 1933.
In Tokyo you can find The Cotton Club, famous in New York for shooting stars such as Duke Ellington into the limelight. Not only will you be able to enjoy the smooth jazz tones from visiting global performers, but you can also indulge in the delicious local cuisine, making The Cotton Club a perfect choice for any jazz enthusiast.