Portal:Jazz

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Jazz is a music genre that originated in the African-American communities of New Orleans, Louisiana, United States, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, with its roots in blues and ragtime. Since the 1920s Jazz Age, it has been recognized as a major form of musical expression in traditional and popular music, linked by the common bonds of African-American and European-American musical parentage. Jazz is characterized by swing and blue notes, complex chords, call and response vocals, polyrhythms and improvisation. Jazz has roots in West African cultural and musical expression, and in African-American music traditions.

As jazz spread around the world, it drew on national, regional, and local musical cultures, which gave rise to different styles. New Orleans jazz began in the early 1910s, combining earlier brass-band marches, French quadrilles, biguine, ragtime and blues with collective polyphonic improvisation. In the 1930s, heavily arranged dance-oriented swing big bands, Kansas City jazz, a hard-swinging, bluesy, improvisational style and gypsy jazz (a style that emphasized musette waltzes) were the prominent styles. Bebop emerged in the 1940s, shifting jazz from danceable popular music toward a more challenging "musician's music" which was played at faster tempos and used more chord-based improvisation. Cool jazz developed near the end of the 1940s, introducing calmer, smoother sounds and long, linear melodic lines.

The mid-1950s saw the emergence of hard bop, which introduced influences from rhythm and blues, gospel, and blues, especially in the saxophone and piano playing. Modal jazz developed in the late 1950s, using the mode, or musical scale, as the basis of musical structure and improvisation, as did free jazz, which explored playing without regular meter, beat and formal structures. Jazz-rock fusion appeared in the late 1960s and early 1970s, combining jazz improvisation with rock music's rhythms, electric instruments, and highly amplified stage sound. In the early 1980s, a commercial form of jazz fusion called smooth jazz became successful, garnering significant radio airplay. Other styles and genres abound in the 2000s, such as Latin and Afro-Cuban jazz. (Full article...)

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Wayne Shorter

Speak No Evil is the sixth album by Wayne Shorter, recorded on 24 December 1964 and released on Blue Note in 1965. The music combines elements of hard bop and modal jazz.

Having employed a version of John Coltrane's "classic quartet" rhythm section on both of his previous albums for Blue Note, Shorter altered the configuration somewhat on Speak No Evil, suggesting the influence of his recent drafting into Miles Davis's "second quintet". Held over from the last session is Coltrane's drummer Elvin Jones; but newly arrived from Davis's band are, on piano and bass respectively, Herbie Hancock and Ron Carter. Rounding out the quintet on trumpet is Freddie Hubbard, an associate of Shorter's from his days as musical director of Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers. Hubbard was also, by 1964, a frequent collaborator of Hancock's.

Speak No Evil was one of several albums Shorter recorded for Blue Note in 1964. At the same time, he was also active in Miles Davis's band, and so it is unlikely that Speak No Evil received any special attention at the time of its release. But the passage of time has led to the album being generally regarded as Shorter's finest, and also a highlight of the Blue Note catalogue. The Penguin Guide to Jazz selected this album as part of its suggested "Core Collection" calling it "by far Shorter's most satisfying record." (Full article...)

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Bessie Smith (April 15, 1894 – September 26, 1937) was an American blues singer.

Nicknamed The Empress of the Blues, Smith was the most popular female blues singer of the 1920s and 1930s. She is often regarded as one of the greatest singers of her era and, along with Louis Armstrong, a major influence on other jazz vocalists.

Smith began forming her own act around 1913, at Atlanta's "81" Theater. By 1920, Smith had established a reputation in the South and along the Eastern Seaboard. In 1920, sales figures of over 100,000 copies for "Crazy Blues," an Okeh Records recording by singer Mamie Smith (no relation) pointed to a new market. The recording industry had not directed its product to blacks, but the success of the record led to a search for female blues singers. Bessie Smith was signed by Columbia Records in 1923 and her first session for Columbia was February 15, 1923. For most of 1923, her records were issued on Columbia's regular A- series; when the label decided to establish a "race records" series, Smith's "Cemetery Blues" (September 26, 1923) was the first issued. (Full article...)

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January - April 2010

Revelation Trio (Hugh Ragin - tp; Kent Kessler - b; Hamid Drake - dr) at Moers Festival, 2004
credit: Nomo

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Jazz writer Dan Morgenstern, left, with record producer George Avakian, right

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