The History of Jazz

Jazz is a genre in music that was made by the African Americans of New Orleans. The genre, originating in the late 19th century, became a form of expression for the African Americans of their time.

The word Jazz was first coined in 1912 when an article was written in the Los Angeles Times. The word was used to describe the pitch of the music which the writer put into words as a” wobble which you can do nothing about”.

In the early days of jazz music, the common public did not know what to make of it as jazz contained many subgenres. But one thing that everyone agreed upon was the improvisational tone of the music.

Jazz was mainly influenced by blues, a type of music that stemmed from plantation workers. Blues’ improvisational tone is the main inspiration for jazz music. Many elements of jazz music can be attributed to blues as well, the likes of repetitive call-and-response patterns, chord progression and blue notes.

There are accounts dating back all the way to the 1880s which suggest that music was made by makeshift instruments such as jugs, washboards and washtubs.

Before jazz, African-American music incorporated Afro-Cuban rhythmic motifs. After the abolishment of slavery, unable to find work, African Americans turned to music for their employment such as playing the piano in bars.

It was then that their music was written and published as sheet music. Classically trained pianists such as Scott Joplin found international success with pieces such as “Maple Leaf Rag”, a ragtime classic that was released in 1899.

That state of New Orleans was vital in giving the African-American culture a chance since they were allowed play the drums. Other areas in American did not allow African Americans to play the drums because of the “Black Codes”, which made it difficult to preserve their musical culture.


Aside from working in clubs and bars, jazz performers began forming bands with instruments used in marching bands. They found work when African American funerals were held as well.

Papa Jack Laine, known in history as the father of white jazz, an American white, began including both whites and blacks in his marching band. Having an excellent eye for talent, he had many jazz greats who would work with his band such as members of the Original Dixieland Jass Band.

The prohibition of alcohol from the 1920s to the 1930s saw the emergence of the golden age of Jazz. But sadly, it was also during this time that jazz began getting the reputation of being impure, seeing it as a threat to their old values.

Jazz eventually turned into bebop, and people then began liking the music more. It isn’t called America’s most significant original art forms for nothing since jazz laid the foundation for many African-American artists in the future.