Ragtime as an Influential Part of Jazz

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In order to understand the history of jazz, one must know where the movement derived from. The introduction of African American music started when West African slaves were brought over to America more than 400 years back. Alongside them came their solid melodic conventions. Their rhythms didn't mirror those of the familiar with the European ear. Music assumed a fundamental job in the slaves’ lives. In the field, the slaves would sing 'work melodies' to help get them as the day progressed; they would likewise utilize tunes to caution each other of peril. The African slaves would also perform rituals that used African based dances with drums. Slaves eventually learned about hymns through church and created what African Americans know today as “Spirituals”.

The abolishment of slavery motivated African Americans to find new jobs and seek better lives. Be that as it may, isolation laws and significant levels of bigotry inhibited their chances. Regardless of the barriers, numerous African Americans had the option to secure positions and amusement, and artists had the option to perform in minstrel shows, bars, clubs, and in vaudeville. 

Before Jazz, a genre of music that was popular was Ragtime. ragtime was popular towards the end of the 19th century and into the first two decades of the 20th century, between 1893 to 1917. Ragtime was a very influential part of the development of jazz. Ragtime became very popular in the late 1800’s. Its distinct style set it apart from the other genres. Syncopation is when the loud accents fall in between the beats. Syncopation is what defines Ragtime. One of the most important ragtime composers was Scott Joplin. Joplin did not restrict himself to this favored art form. Both before the introduction of ragtime and even after, Joplin composed marches and waltzes, including the syncopated waltzes.

The prohibition and Jazz Age coincided during the 1920s to the 1930s, underground bars and clubs became popular venues for jazz shows. The cultural movement of jazz had an influence on the clothing, language, and attitude of the young people of that era. The older generation and members of the upper-class found Jazz to be immoral; they saw jazz as a threat to the old values of American life. Jazz was also attacked by the media that would criticize musician and make up lies about the effects of jazz music.

The Jazz Age began when jazz was already the pop music of its time, especially among members of the younger generation in the 1920s. Women, given the right to vote by the 19th Amendment, were welcomed in the new underground lounges. Many young women rebelled against the restrictions on “ladylike” behavior and dress of the Victorian age, becoming liberated “flappers” or what Fitzgerald would call “good-time girls.” The combination of jazz and liquor-infused partying by men and women characterized this period known as the “Roaring Twenties,” inspiring dance crazes such as the “Charleston,” “Fox Trot,” “Shimmy,” “Toddle” and “Lindy Hop.”

The roots of Jazz are quite often referenced to Harlem during the 1920’s Great Depression era, but Jazz originally came from New Orleans, Louisiana. New Orleans is known for many things. Food, the French culture, Mardi Gras but it is especially known for the creation of Jazz music. From the rhythm of the drums to the jingle of maracas or even a timed snap of the fingers Jazz has revolutionized the way people make and listen to music. People like Scott Joplin, Duke Ellington, Billie Holiday and others have helped shape Jazz although they weren’t from New Orleans.

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The way of life in New Orleans assumed a significant job in why it is the origination of Jazz. New Orleans was viewed as the blend of the south. There was a blend of Spanish, French and African culture. A considerable lot of the creoles and the slaves ran into each other which drove into cross-culturalization. Jazz exemplifies the core of New Orleans with blending of European instruments and African music and culture. This carried life to New Orleans and joined them to share their opportunity of articulation.

Prior to the early 1920s music in New Orleans wasn’t always as accessible, people needed it. Dancing was the main entertainment for the people and the artist of this era of misfortune was Buddy Bolden. Although disputed, Buddy Bolden has been named the creator of Jazz. Buddy Bolden played the cornet, an instrument like the trumpet. Buddy Bolden created a unique improvising style with his horn. Basically, he paved the way for jazz by assembling rural blues, spirituals and ragtime music for brass instruments.

Buddy’s music was composed based off life’s circumstance. When he was 4 years old, his 5-year-old sister passed to encephalitis. When he was 6, his father died of pneumonia. Those experiences not only helped shape Buddy Bolden Blues, but made his content relatable due to the conditions of New Orleans during this period. Artist like Lois Armstrong have downplayed Buddy’s skills by saying “I don’t think he was playing his horn right”.

Another influential composer was Jelly Roll Morton. Born in New Orleans, Jelly Roll Morton was an early innovator of jazz style. Morton left his house in his teens and strolled through the country making money with musicians, jugglers, gamblers and pimps. Buddy Bolden was probably the first musician to perform improvisation for jazz, but Jelly Roll Morton was considered the first true jazz composer. He was the first person to write down his jazz arrangement and have it recognized.

After a while, Jazz had migrated from New Orleans to more parts of the United States. Not only did jazz spread to new cities, but it also spread to new groups of people. Males weren’t the only great jazz artists of the era; women made a very huge impact on jazz music as well. When drummer /bandleader Chick Webb was hospitalized in 1938, his female singer scatted her way around the nursery rhyme 'A-tisket, a-tasket' and crafted a musical sensation. By the time Webb got out of the hospital, Ella Fitzgerald was the biggest name in that band, with Webb gladly yielding the spotlight to her. (Chicago Tribune). Women such as Billie Holliday, Ella Fitzgerald, and Eartha Kitt have left their marks on the genre named jazz.

Ella Fitzgerald started singing professionally at 17 years of age. Ella is the lady who was referred to as the” First lady of song” and the “Queen of jazz”. Ella Fitzgerald was known for playing in Chick Webb’s band. “A-Tisket, A-Tasket” was one of her most notable songs throughout her career. From 1943 to 1950, Fitzgerald recorded seven songs with The Ink Spots featuring Bill Kenny. Out of all seven recordings, four reached the top of the pop charts including 'I'm Making Believe' and 'Into Each Life Some Rain Must Fall' which both reached #1.

Billie Holiday was one of the most revered singers. She had hits like “Strange Fruit” and “God Bless The child”. Although Billie faced turmoil growing up, she found a way to utilize her talents. Billie’s rendition of “Strange Fruit” was based off a high school teacher’s poem on racism; Billie’ “Strange Fruit” topped charts like billboard sometimes for more than two weeks. “God Bless the Child” was based off an argument that Billie had with her mother over money; that song also topped the charts. Eartha Kitt had a good career as a jazz singer even though she was involved in many different ventures. Eartha was known for “C’est Si Bon” and “Let’s Do It”. Eartha was good when she sang in English but, after learning French she became amazing.

Jazz being the predecessor of the African American music as shown is very simple, yet complex. It found a way to accumulate the struggles of slaves, articulate it through the sounds of instruments, and have people rejoice. The Jazz or Blue sounds was a mask; People sang their tunes in order to get by. These composers used their real-life experiences to free their spirits while entertaining others. Jazz started to fade away after consumerism boomed. People had more than one way to obtain this music, there was no reason to go clubbing when you could grab a cassette while on the way home. One could even say without the Prohibition Jazz wouldn’t have survived so long, but in reality; Jazz never left. It is in the music we listen to during this era; Hip Hop, R&B, Rock they all have an element of Jazz.

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