Birth of Jazz: How an American Musical Form Came Into the World
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Welcome to THIS IS AMERICA in VOA Special English. I'm Faith Lapidus.
In two thousand one, public television aired a series that told the story of jazz. Filmmaker and writer Ken Burns and writer Geoffrey Ward told how this music developed over the years. They showed how African-Americans created new sounds from their memories of slavery in the South. The filmmakers told how black, Creole and white Americans created a new musical form.
Today on THIS IS AMERICA, Shirley Griffith and Steve Ember present the first of two reports about the history of jazz.
"Jazz" can mean different kinds of music: swing, bebop or fusion. Jazz can make the listener feel sad or joyful, quiet or full of energy. It can sound hot -- or very cool.
Performers of jazz create some of the music as they play. They add their own notes to music that is written down. Each time a jazz musician plays a piece, it can sound fresh and new. Jazz musicians surprise listeners by breaking up traditional rhythms. And, they give greater intensity to unexpected parts of the music.
Jazz probably had its roots in the nineteenth century. In the late eighteen-eighties, African-Americans began to develop new forms of music. They created blues music from the gospel music and sad songs of their years in slavery.
Ragtime also influenced the creation of jazz. This music first gained popularity in the eighteen-nineties in the South. African-American piano player Scott Joplin wrote many ragtime songs. Listen now as Joshua Rifkin plays Joplin's "Maple Leaf Rag."
African-American and Creole musicians in New Orleans, Louisiana probably developed the first true jazz music. This happened during the early nineteen-hundreds. Musicians performing in memorial and holiday parades added their own music to written music. This New Orleans music is often called classic, traditional or Dixieland jazz.
From New Orleans, musicians such as Jelly Roll Morton, Sidney Bechet and King Oliver helped spread jazz to other places. King Oliver's Creole Jazz Band plays "Chimes Blues."
Jazz continued to gain popularity as the years passed. During the nineteen-twenties, Louis Armstrong became famous for his performances on the trumpet and jazz cornet. Later his unusual voice became just as famous. Listen as Louis Armstrong and His Hot Five play "West End Blues."
Historians often call the nineteen-twenties the Jazz Age, or the Golden Age of American Jazz. Young people from the Middle West created a new musical form during this time. People called this Chicago-style jazz. These musicians included great performers like Gene Krupa and Benny Goodman.
During this Golden Age, Bix Beiderbecke played cornet solos with the Paul Whiteman Orchestra. He also played piano and wrote music. Here he plays "There Ain't No Sweet Man" with the Paul Whiteman Orchestra.
As time passed, a jazz form called "swing" became very popular in America. People danced to swing music until after World War Two. This musical form got its name from a song by Duke Ellington. Listen as Duke Ellington and his orchestra play "Sing, Sing, Sing (with a Swing").
Benny Goodman led one of America's most successful swing bands. People called Goodman "The King of Swing." Critics also praised his playing of the clarinet. He was the first jazz clarinetist to play with symphony orchestras. Goodman also presented black and white jazz musicians playing together for the first time. He introduced great African-American jazz artists like Lionel Hampton and Teddy Wilson.
Other big bands of the time were led by Jimmy Dorsey and Tommy Dorsey, Earl Hines, Artie Shaw, Stan Kenton and Glenn Miller. Fine jazz singers performed with these bands. They included Nat "King" Cole, Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughn and Billie Holiday. Listen now as Billie Holiday sings "Solitude."
After World War Two, a new kind of music replaced swing as the most popular jazz. Next week, we will tell you about this kind of music called bebop. Until then, we leave you with the Glenn Miller Orchestra playing "String of Pearls."
This program was written by Jerilyn Watson. It was produced by Cynthia Kirk. Our studio engineer was Holly Capehart. I'm Shirley Griffith. And I'm Steve Ember. Join us again next week for the second part of our report about the history of jazz on the VOA Special English program, THIS IS AMERICA.