musical form, often improvisational, developed by African Americans and influenced by both European harmonic structure and African rhythms. It was developed partially from ragtime and blues and is often characterized by syncopated rhythms, polyphonic ensemble playing, varying degrees of improvisation, often deliberate deviations of pitch, and the use of original timbres.
Any attempt to arrive at a precise, all-encompassing definition of jazz is probably futile. Jazz has been, from its very beginnings at the turn of the 20th century, a constantly evolving, expanding, changing music, passing through several distinctive phases of development; a definition that might apply to one phasefor instance, to New Orleans style or swingbecomes inappropriate when applied to another segment of its history, say, to free jazz. Early attempts to define jazz as a music whose chief characteristic was improvisation, for example, turned out to be too restrictive and largely untrue, since composition, arrangement, and ensemble have also been essential components of jazz for most of its history. Similarly, syncopation and swing, often considered essential and unique to jazz, are in fact lacking in much authentic jazz, whether of the 1920s or of later decades. Again, the long-held notion that swing could not occur without syncopation was roundly disproved when trumpeters Louis Armstrong and Bunny Berigan (among others) frequently generated enormous swing while playing repeated, unsyncopated quarter notes.
Jazz, in fact, is notand never has beenan entirely composed, predetermined music, nor is it an entirely extemporized one. For almost all of its history it has employed both creative approaches in varying degrees and endless permutations. And yet, despite these diverse terminological confusions, jazz seems to be instantly recognized and distinguished as something separate from all other forms of musical expression. To repeat Armstrong's famous reply when asked what swing meant: If you have to ask, you'll never know. To add to the confusion, there often have been seemingly unbridgeable perceptual differences between the producers of jazz (performers, composers, and arrangers) and its audiences. For example, with the arrival of free jazz and other latter-day, avant-garde manifestations, many senior musicians maintained that music that didn't swing was not jazz.
Most early classical composers (such as Aaron Copland, John Alden Carpenterand even Igor Stravinsky, who became smitten with jazz) were drawn to its instrumental sounds and timbres, the unusual effects and inflections of jazz playing (brass mutes, glissandos, scoops, bends, and stringless ensembles), and its syncopations, completely ignoring, or at least underappreciating, the extemporized aspects of jazz. Indeed, the sounds that jazz musicians make on their instrumentsthe way they attack, inflect, release, embellish, and colour notescharacterize jazz playing to such an extent that if a classical piece were played by jazz musicians in their idiomatic phrasings, it would in all likelihood be called jazz.
Nonetheless, one important aspect of jazz clearly does distinguish it from other traditional musical areas, especially from classical music: the jazz performer is primarily or wholly a creative, improvising composerhis own composer, as it werewhereas in classical music the performer typically expresses and interprets someone else's composition.
The elements that make jazz distinctive derive primarily from West African musical sources as taken to the North American continent by slaves, who partially preserved them against all odds in the plantation culture of the American South. These elements are not precisely identifiable because they were not documentedat least not until the mid- to late 19th century, and then only sparsely. Furthermore, black slaves came from diverse West African tribal cultures with distinct musical traditions. Thus, a great variety of black musical sensibilities were assembled on American soil. These in turn rather quickly encountered European musical elementsfor example, simple dance and entertainment musics and shape-note hymn tunes, such as were prevalent in early 19th-century North America.
The music that eventually became jazz evolved out of a wide-ranging, gradually assimilated mixture of black and white folk musics and popular styles, with roots in both West Africa and Europe. It is only a slight oversimplification to assert that the rhythmic and structural elements of jazz, as well as some aspects of its customary instrumentation (e.g., banjo or guitar and percussion), derive primarily from West African traditions, whereas the European influences can be heard not only in the harmonic language of jazz but in its use of such conventional instruments as trumpet, trombone, saxophone, string bass, and piano.
The syncopations of jazz were not entirely newthey had been the central attraction of one of its forerunners, ragtime, and could be heard even earlier in minstrel music and in the work of Creole composer Louis Moreau Gottschalk (Bamboula, subtitled Danse des Nègres, 184445, and Ojos Criollos, 1859, among others). Nevertheless, jazz syncopation struck nonblack listeners as fascinating and novel, because that particular type of syncopation was not present in European classical music. The syncopations in ragtime and jazz were, in fact, the result of reducing and simplifying (over a period of at least a century) the complex, multilayered, polyrhythmic, and polymetric designs indigenous to all kinds of West African ritual dance and ensemble music. In other words, the former accentuations of multiple vertically competing metres were drastically simplified to syncopated accents.
The provenance of melody (tune, theme, motive, riff) in jazz is more obscure. In all likelihood, jazz melody evolved out of a simplified residue and mixture of African and European vocal materials intuitively developed by slaves in the United States in the 1700s and 1800sfor example, unaccompanied field hollers and work songs associated with the changed social conditions of blacks. The widely prevalent emphasis on pentatonic formations came primarily from West Africa, whereas the diatonic (and later more chromatic) melodic lines of jazz grew from late 19th- and early 20th-century European antecedents.
Harmony was probably the last aspect of European music to be absorbed by blacks. But once acquired, harmony was applied as an additional musical resource to religious texts; one result was the gradual development of spirituals, borrowing from the white religious revival meetings that African Americans in many parts of the South were urged to attend. One crucial outcome of these musical acculturations was the development by blacks of the so-called blues scale, with its blue notesthe flatted third and seventh degrees. This scale is neither particularly African nor particularly European but acquired its peculiar modality from pitch inflections common to any number of West African languages and musical forms. In effect these highly expressiveand in African terms very meaningfulpitch deviations were superimposed on the diatonic scale common to almost all European classical and vernacular music.
That jazz developed uniquely in the United States, not in the Caribbean or in South America (or any other realm to which thousands of African blacks were also transported) is historically fascinating. Many blacks in those other regions were very often emancipated by the early 1800s and thus were free individuals who actively participated in the cultural development of their own countries. In the case of Brazil, blacks were so geographically and socially isolated from the white establishment that they simply were able to retain their own African musical traditions in a virtually pure form. It is thus ironic that jazz would probably never have evolved had it not been for the slave trade as it was practiced specifically in the United States.
Jazz grew from the African American slaves who were prevented from maintaining their native musical traditions and felt the need to substitute some homegrown form of musical expression. Such composers as the Brazilian mulatto José Maurício Nunes Garcia were fully in touch with the musical advances of their time that were developing in Europe and wrote music in those styles and traditions. American slaves, by contrast, were restricted not only in their work conditions and religious observances but in leisure activities, including music making. Although slaves who played such instruments as the violin, horn, and oboe were exploited for their musical talents in such cities as Charleston, South Carolina, these were exceptional situations. By and large the slaves were relegated to picking up whatever little scraps of music were allowed them.
Jazz, as it finally evolved as a distinct musical style and language, comprised what Max Harrison calls, in the New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, a composite matrix made up of a host of diverse vernacular elements that happened to come together at different times and in different regions. This matrix included the field hollers of the cotton plantations; the work songs on the railroads, rivers, and levees; hymns and spirituals; music for brass bands, funeral processions, and parades; popular dance music; the long-standing banjo performing tradition (starting in the 1840s), which culminated half a century later in the banjo's enormous popularity; wisps of European opera, theatre, and concert music; and, of course, the blues and ragtime. These last two forms began to flourish in the late 19th centuryblues more as an informal music purveyed mostly by itinerant singers, guitarists, and pianists and ragtime becoming (by 1900) America's popular entertainment and dance music.
Ragtime differs substantially from jazz in that it was (1) a through-composed, fully notated music intended to be played in more or less the same manner each time, much like classical music, and (2) a music written initially and essentially for the piano. Jazz, by contrast, became a primarily instrumental music, often not notated, and partially or wholly improvised. Ragtime had its own march-derived, four-part form, divided into successive 16-bar sections, whereas jazz, once weaned away from ragtime form, turned to either the 12-bar (or occasionally 8-bar) blues or the 32-bar song forms. What the two music genres had in common was their syncopated (thus irregular) melodies and themes, placed over a constant regular 2/4 or 4/4 accompaniment.
The years from 1905 to 1915 were a time of tremendous upheaval for black musicians. Even the many musicians who had been trained in classical music but had foundas blacksno employment in that field were now forced to turn to ragtime, which they could at least play in honky-tonks, bordellos, and clubs; many of these musicians eventually drifted into jazz. Hundreds of other musicians, unable to read and write music, nonetheless had great ability to learn it by ear, as well as superior musical talent. Picking up ragtime and dance music by ear (perhaps not precisely), they began almost out of necessity to embellish these syncopated tunesloosening them up, as it wereuntil ornamentation spilled over quite naturally into simple improvisation. This process took on a significantly increased momentum once the piano rags of such master composers as Scott Joplin, Joseph Lamb, and James Scott appeared in arrangements performed regularly by bands and orchestras.
That the pianist-composer Jelly Roll Morton was a braggart who claimed to be the inventor of jazz should not obscure his major role in the development of that music. As early as 1902 Morton played ragtime piano in the vaunted bordellos of Storyville, New Orleans's famous red-light district. Later he began working as an itinerant musician, crisscrossing the South several times and eventually working his way to Los Angeles, where he was based for several years. As the first major composer of jazz, Morton seems to have assimilated (like a master chef making a great New Orleans bouillabaisse) most of the above-mentioned matrix, particularly blues and ragtime, into a single new, distinct, coherent musical style. Others, such as soprano saxophonist Sidney Bechet, trombonist Kid Ory, and cornetists Bunk Johnson and Freddie Keppardfour of the most gifted early jazz musiciansarrived at similar conclusions before 1920.
Johnson and others regarded themselves as ragtime musicians. In truth, in the cases of many musicians of that generationboth black and whitewho grew up with ragtime, the listener would be hard put to determine when their playing turned from embellished rags to improvisatory jazz. Musicians confirmed the tenuousness and variety of these early developments in statements such as that of reedman Buster Bailey (speaking of the years before 1920): I
was embellishing around the melody. At that time  I wouldn't have known what they meant by improvisation. But embellishment was a phrase I understood. And reedman Garvin Bushell said, We didn't call the music jazz when I was growing up [in Springfield, Ohio].
Ragtime piano was the major influence in that section of the country.
The change to jazz began around 1912 to 1915.
In spite of the wide dissemination and geographic distribution of these diverse musical traditions, New Orleans was where a distinctive, coherent jazz style evolved. Between 1910 and 1915 a systematization of instrumental functions within an essentially collective ensemble took shape, as did a regularization of the repertory. Despite the fact that a limited set of instruments was available to black musicians (at that time, typically, cornet, clarinet, trombone, tuba or bass, piano, banjo, and drumsthe saxophone did not become common in jazz for about another decade), they arrived at a brilliant solution emphasizing independent but harmonically linked and simultaneous lines. Each of the seven instruments was assigned a clearly defined individual role in the established polyphonic collective ensemble. Thus, the cornet was responsible for stating and occasionally embellishing the thematic materialthe tunein the middle range, the clarinet performed obbligato or descant functions in a high register, the trombone offered contrapuntal asides in the tenor or baritone range, and the four rhythm instruments provided a unified harmonic foundation.
That this formation, which emphasized independent but harmonically linked simultaneous lines, was not only a brilliant solution but a necessity is confirmed by the inability in those early years of most players to read music. It was not long before musicians began to expand upon these materials and to improvise fresh new melodies and obbligatos of their own making. However, these explorations remained within the collective ensemble concept of New Orleans jazz. Few musicians before 1925 could have created independent, extended, improvised solos. And when the solo as an integral element of a jazz performance arrived, the New Orleans format of a tightly integrated ensemble improvisation went out of fashion.
By approximately 1915 New Orleans had produced a host of remarkable musicians, mostly cornet and clarinet players, such as the legendary Buddy Bolden (legendary in part because he never recorded), Buddy Petit, Keppard, Johnson, and Bechet. Most New Orleans musicians, including scores of pianists, found steady employment in the entertainment palaces of Storyville, where, incidentally, the term jazz, initially spelled jass, was the commonly used slang word for sexual intercourse. It is ironic that the first jazz recordings were made in New York City on January 30, 1917, by a second-rate group of white musicians from New Orleans called the Original Dixieland Jazz Band. Those recordings, with their entertaining but substanceless barnyard sound effects, present a misleading picture of true New Orleans jazz.
New Orleans was not the only place where jazz was being developed. Depending on how narrowly jazz is defined, some early form of it was practiced in places as far-flung as Los Angeles, Kansas City, Missouri, Denver, Colorado, and the Colorado mining townsnot to mention Baltimore, Maryland, and New York City. The two last-mentioned cities were major centres of ragtime, early pre-stride piano, vaudeville entertainment, large-sized dance orchestras, and musical theatre, including theatre created exclusively by black performers. Several other at least embryonic jazz groups and musicians were active in New York during 191319, such as James Reese Europe and his various orchestras, Earl Fuller's Jass Band, Ford Dabney's band, and the pianists James P. Johnson, Abba Labba, and Willie The Lion Smith.
The closing of Storyville in 1917 was a disaster for New Orleans musicians, many of whom went on to play in Mississippi riverboat orchestras; Fate Marable's orchestra was the best and most famous of these and included, at times, the young Louis Armstrong. Others headed directly north to Chicago, which rapidly became the jazz capital of the United States.King Oliver, the much-heralded cornet champion of New Orleans, migrated to Chicago in 1918, and in 1922 he sent for his most talented disciple, Armstrong, to join his Creole Jazz Band as second cornetist. The two made history and astounded audiences with their slyly worked out duet breaks, and Armstrong had a chance to cut his musical teeth by freely improvising melodic counterpoint to Oliver's lead cornet. More important still, Oliver's band was able to forge a remarkably unified and disciplined style, integrating at a very high level the players' collective and individual instrumental skills, all couched in an irresistible, wonderfully stately, rolling momentum.
In late 1924 Armstrong was wooed away by Fletcher Henderson in New York City. In his year there Armstrong matured into a major soloist and at the same time developedindeed, single-handedly inventeda compelling, propulsive, rhythmic inflection in his playing that came to be called swing. Early examples of this feeling can be heard in Henderson band recordings and even more clearly on Armstrong's Hot Five and Hot Seven recordings of 192627e.g., Potato Head Blues, Big Butter and Egg Man, S.O.L. Blues, Hotter than That, and Muggles. In effect, Armstrong taught the whole Henderson band, including the redoubtable tenor saxophonist Coleman Hawkins, how to swing.
More than that, Armstrong taught the whole world about swing and had a profound effect on the development of jazz that continues to be felt and heard. In that sense alone he can be considered the most influential jazz musician of all time. And beyond his artistic and technical prowess, Armstrong should be remembered as the first superstar of jazz. By the late 1920s, famous on recordings and in theatres, he more than anyone else carried the message of jazz to America; eventually, as entertainer supreme and jazz ambassador at large, he introduced jazz to the whole world. In this crusade Armstrong's unique singing style, in essence a vocalization of his improvisatory trumpet playing, played a crucial role. By often singing without words or texts, he popularized what came to be called scat, a universally comprehensible art form that needed no translation.
After Armstrong's spectacular breakthrough recordings, such as West End Blues (1928), he embarked on a solo career for 10 years, fronting bands whose general mediocrity made him sound by comparison even more brilliant. In the 1940s he formed the Armstrong All-Stars, a group of older New Orleans-style musicians that included trombonist Jack Teagarden. Although by then well past his prime, Armstrong, through his physical vitality and uncompromisingly high musical standards, was able to preserve his art almost to the end of his life in 1971.
That Armstrong's playing, both technically and conceptually, was many levels above that of most of his contemporaries can be heard on virtually every recording he made between 1925 and 1940, whether he was paired with other soloists or with orchestras. He exerted a wide-ranging influence on all manner of playersnot only trumpeters but trombonists, saxophonists, singers (such as Billie Holiday), and even pianists (such as Earl Hines and Teddy Wilson). Armstrong's influence was also absorbed by white musicians, including some of the better ensembles of the time, such as the New Orleans Rhythm Kings, Red Nichols and his Five Pennies, and, above all, the outstandingly gifted Bix Beiderbecke. Inheriting a lyrical, romantic bent from his German background, Beiderbecke presented another view of the Armstrong revolution, not only in his superb recorded improvisations of I'm Coming Virginia and Singin' the Blues (both 1927) but also in such pieces as the simply stated, virtually unimprovised Ol' Man River (1928).
It was in the 1920s that the first forms of true orchestral jazz were developed, most significantly by Fletcher Henderson and Duke Ellington. Although large aggregations had begun to appear in the late teens, these were dance orchestras playing the popular songs and novelty pieces of the day, with nary a smattering of jazz. The credit for being the first to perform and record orchestral jazz must go to Henderson, who, starting in about 1923, gathered together from the small beginnings of quintets and sextets a growing number of notable New York-based players and formed a full orchestra. By the mid- to late 1920s, Henderson could boast a 13- or 14-piece band and had the arranging services of the outstanding alto saxophonist and multi-instrumentalist Don Redman. It was Redman who developed antiphonal call-and-response procedures in orchestral jazz, juxtaposing the two main choirs of brass and reeds in ever more sophisticated and challenging arrangements.
Although he was very much aware of Redman's and Henderson's work, Duke Ellington took a somewhat different approach. From the start more truly a composer than an arranger, Ellington blended thematic material suggested to him by some of his playersin particular trumpeter Bubber Miley and clarinetist Barney Bigardwith his own compositional frameworks and backgrounds (e.g., East St. Louis Toodle-oo,  and Black and Tan Fantasy ). Once ensconced in Harlem's famous Cotton Club as the resident house band (a tenure that lasted three years, until early 1931), Ellington had the opportunity to explore, in some 160 recordings, several categories of compositions: (1) music for the club's jungle-style production numbers and pantomime tableaus, (2) dance numbers for the 16-girl chorus line, (3) dance pieces for the club's patrons (all whiteblacks were allowed only as entertainers), (4) arrangements of the pop tunes or ballads of the day, and (5) most important, independent nonfunctional instrumental compositionsin effect, miniature tone poems for presentation during the shows. The most celebrated of these was Mood Indigo (1930), the first of many pieces with a blueslike character, usually set in slow tempos. (Click here for a video clip of Duke Ellington and his band playing Mood Indigo.) In these and in such other song and dance numbers as Sophisticated Lady (1932) and Solitude (1934), Ellington was able not only to exploit the individual talents of his musicians but to extend and vary the forms of jazz. In addition, he expanded upon his already highly developed feeling for instrumental timbres and colours and his extraordinary forward-looking harmonic sense. In early works such as Mystery Song (1931), Delta Serenade (1934), and In a Sentimental Mood (1935), Ellington experimented with never-before-heard brass sonorities (using mutes peculiar to jazz, including the lowly bathroom plunger) and unusual blendings of brass and reeds, as in his grouping of saxophones and Juan Tizol's light valve trombone sound. Ellington's instinctive genius for harmonic invention, using the outer extensions of basic triadic and dominant seventh chords, led him to use bitonality (two keys at once) or polytonality (several keys) at least a decade before anyone else. Striking examples of this aspect of his work are, to name only a few, Eerie Moan (1933), Reminiscing in Tempo (1935), Alabamy Home (1937), and Azure (1937), the last verging on atonality at several points.
All these Ellington innovations, nuanced and fulfilled as they were by the extraordinary cast of characters and individual soloists in his orchestra, served to create a more personal expression and emotional depth than had previously been achieved in jazz. The heterogeneity of personalities and talents in Ellington's orchestra virtually guaranteed that even the least of their efforts would be superior to the best of most other orchestras of the time. Motored by a remarkably cohesive rhythm section, each instrumental choir boasted dramatically different, individualistic personalities (e.g., Arthur Whetsol and Cootie Williams on trumpet; Rex Stewart on cornet; Lawrence Brown, Joe Tricky Sam Nanton, and Juan Tizol on trombone; and Johnny Hodges, Barney Bigard, Otto Hardwick, and Harry Carney on reeds) who nevertheless whenever needed would blend instantly into perfect ensembles.
As remarkable as Ellington's innovations were, they had relatively little impact on the field in general. In the racially still-very-divided world of the 1930s, not only were white bands such as the Casa Loma and Benny Goodman orchestras much more popular than the great black orchestras of Ellington, Jimmie Lunceford, Chick Webb, and Bennie Moten, but Ellington's music in particular was considered formally and harmonically too challenging and at the same time too subtle for the tastes of the average 1930s swing fan. Ellington's big, worldwide success with the public did not come until the 1960s, when he and his orchestra made lengthy annual tours all over the world, had some hugely popular successes with Satin Doll (1953) and other compositions, and began to consistently receive accoladesincluding a Presidential Medal of Freedom and the French Legion of Honourfrom the broader musical, artistic, and intellectual community.
Three other musical groups met with outstanding success in the 1920s: Jelly Roll Morton's Red Hot Peppers, Paul Whiteman's Orchestra, and William McKinney's Cotton Pickers. The 17 sides Morton and his Red Hot Peppers recorded for RCA Victor in 192627 are among the finest classics of early jazz. Blending late ragtime with the rapidly burgeoning improvisational advances of the time, Morton gathered a group of veterans of New Orleans-style jazz, then in their prime. By avoiding a random succession of solosindeed, by careful structural planning that astutely distributed the seven players' efforts over the three-minute limit allowed by a 10-inch 78-rpm discand by painstakingly rehearsing the group before the recording sessions, Morton achieved an almost perfect balance of ensemble and solo. Miraculously, the improvisations and compositions enhanced each other; thus, solos were integrated into arrangements in a way that remained uncommon in jazz for decades thereafter. Morton recorded both multithematic ragtime pieces (including Black Bottom Stomp and Grandpa's Spells), each piece with several strains in different chord progressions, and monothematic 12- and 32-bar pieces featuring a single passacaglia-like repetitive harmonic sequence (such as Smokehouse Blues, Jungle Blues, and Dead Man Blues). These recordings had nothing to do with the typical dance music of the period. Moreover, by balancing compositional unity with a maximum of textural and timbral varietyto an extent that was remarkable in a three-minute miniature form, with only a small bandand by reconciling composition and improvisation as well as polyphonic and homophonic ensembles in one fell swoop, Morton pointed a way toward the future of jazz. Alas, in the quasi-commercial and career-driven world of the late 1920s and 1930s, his comprehensive lesson was learned by only a handful of musicians. But Morton's example may have influenced Ellington, who for reasons never made clear considered Morton his musical archenemy.
The case of Whiteman, though completely different, is almost equally important, and certainly Whiteman was of enormous influence. Although he is ignored or maligned by most jazz historians, Whiteman made considerable contributions to jazz, not only because of his orchestra's enormous popularity. More important, Whiteman explored hitherto uninvestigated avenues of expression.
By the mid-1920s Whiteman had expanded his band beyond the size of the standard jazz orchestrafive or six brass, five saxophones, a four- or five-piece rhythm sectionto include a small violin section and had incorporated into his dance repertory a number of pieces associated with serious and semiclassical music. The accusations hurled at Whitemanthat he was contaminating jazz with classical affectations and trying to make a lady out of jazzwere patently unfair. He not only brought into his orchestra such bona fide jazz musicians as Beiderbecke, violinist Joe Venuti, saxophonist Frankie Trumbauer, and guitarist Eddie Lang but also hired such outstandingly gifted orchestrators and arrangers as Ferde Grofé, Bill Challis, William Grant Still, and Lennie Hayton. Furthermore, by adding multiple wind instrumentseven oboe, bassoon, heckelphone, and bass clarinetWhiteman expanded the registral range of his orchestra from the highest piccolo to the lowest tuba and thereby enriched the orchestra's timbral palette. In this way Whiteman's conception of a jazz orchestra was as original and unique as Ellington's, although entirely different. That the orchestra's arrangements and compositions sometimes suffered from severe instrumental and homophonic overweight cannot be denied. But at their best, when conceived by the likes of Challis and Grofé and imbued by Whiteman's improvisers with a true jazz spirit, his musical contributions are surely not to be sneered at.
Both Ellington and Henderson considered McKinney's Cotton Pickers, a Detroit-based band, their only serious rival. The distinctiveness of the Cotton Pickers' work during the band's heyday is attributable primarily to the remarkable leadership and the composing and arranging talents of John Nesbitt, whose work was mistakenly credited to Redman for many decades. Nesbitt was obviously aware and respectful of Ellington's fast-tempo stomp pieces. And like Morton, Nesbitt was intent on utilizing his 10- or 11-piece jazz orchestra to produce the most varied yet balanced integration of solo improvisation and arranged ensemble, as well as a maximum of textural and structural variety. In such recordings as Put It There, Crying and Sighing, and Stop Kidding, Nesbitt and the band demonstrated their virtuosic command of what were for their time rather complex scores, replete with implied metre permutations, challenging rhythmic overlays, hard-driving solos, daring modulations, andas Morton often urgedplenty of solo breaks.
In these ways the orchestras of Morton, Whiteman, and McKinney (as well as that of Ellington) went considerably beyond Henderson's and Redman's method of setting solos off against arranged ensembles, showing that composition, and not mere arrangement, was completely compatible with jazz.
In the early 1930s two bands made important contributions to jazz: Bennie Moten's, with the recordings of Toby, Lafayette, and Prince of Wails, and the Casa Loma Orchestra, with Casa Loma Stomp and San Sue Strut. The black Moten band had little immediate effect on the greater jazz scene, instead influencing an inner circle of black contemporaries, rivals, and jazz insiders. The driving, explosive, rhythmic energy of the Moten pieces, combined with an unprecedented instrumental virtuosity as well as a splendid balance of solosby saxophonists Ben Webster and Eddie Barefield, trumpeter Hot Lips Page, and otherswith riff-based ensembles, forged a breakthrough in orchestral jazz that can be seen as a precursor of modern jazz.
The white Casa Loma band exerted a tremendous influence on a host of dance bands (including, temporarily, some black orchestras, notably those of Jimmie Lunceford, Fletcher Henderson, and Earl Hines). The Casa Lomans' role in the history of jazz remains controversial, but it is clear that they were, at the very least, the first white orchestra to try to swing, though their rhythms were more often peppy than swinging. The Casa Loma Orchestra was also the first white band to feature jazz instrumentals consistently, rather than playing politely arranged dance tunes with an occasional hot solo. In these respects they influenced newly formed swing orchestras, including those led by Benny Goodman, Charlie Barnet, Artie Shaw, and Larry Clinton.
As far as the average jazz fan was concerned, the next big breakthrough occurred with Goodman's band, particularly on August 21, 1935, in the Palomar Ballroom in Los Angeles. On that night, after a weeks-long, dismally unsuccessful westward trek across the country, Goodman's band suddenly became a huge hit. That August night at the Palomar became the event that officially ushered in the swing era, with Goodman soon being hailed as the King of Swing. That must have been interesting news to the bands of such black bandleaders as Ellington, Moten, Lunceford, Webb, Cab Calloway, and especially Henderson, who had been swinging for some five to seven years. Scores that Henderson had introduced in the late 1920s and early 1930sKing Porter Stomp, Wrappin' It Up, and Down South Camp Meetingsuddenly became big hits for Goodman, who had acquired both Henderson's arrangements of these numbers and the services of Henderson himself when Henderson's orchestra was forced to disband in 1934. As reinterpreted and energized by the Goodman forces, including the stellar trumpeter Bunny Berigan and the flashy drummer Gene Krupa, these pieces suddenly took on a new life. The Henderson-Redman formula of pitting soloists against ensembles and constantly juxtaposing the different choirs of the orchestra in call-and-response patterns became the widely emulated norm. When the Count Basie band from Kansas City, the successor to Moten's orchestra, reintroduced the riff as another extremely useful structural element, the scene was set for the hundreds of orchestras that had sprung up in the wake of Goodman's success to feed the enormous appetite for swing music of a generation of dance-crazy college-age jazz fans. By the late 1930s the country was awash with dance bands, all adhering to generic swing tenets: antiphonal section work, juxtaposition of solos and ensembles, and increasingly riff-based tunes. Though this led to a great quantity of dross, many talented young arrangers now rushed into the field and produced an impressive amount of astonishingly good music. This excellence is all the more remarkable since the music was created primarily to be danced to, with no pretensions (except in the case of bandleader Artie Shaw) to anything one might call art.
Among the innumerable orchestras that populated the jazz scene, Count Basie's achieved enormous importance. Perhaps the most magnificent swing machine that ever was, the Basie band strongly emphasized improvised solos and a refreshing looseness in ensemble playing that was usually realized through head arrangements rather than written-out charts. Its incomparable rhythm sectionWalter Page (bass), Freddie Green (guitar), Jo Jones (drums), and Basie (piano)supported an outstanding cast of soloists, ranging from the great innovative tenor saxophonist Lester Young and his section mate Herschel Evans to trumpeters Buck Clayton and Harry Sweets Edison, trombonists Dicky Wells and Vic Dickenson, and blues singer Jimmy Rushing. The Basie band's steadfast popularity can be measured by the fact that, except for a brief period in the early 1950s, it performed and toured successfully right up to Basie's death in 1984. Even after the height of the swing era, Basie continued to introduce swing masterpieces (including Shiny Stockings, The Kid from Red Bank, Li'l Darling, and April in Paris), often featuring extraordinary solos by trumpeter-arranger Thad Jones and vocals by Joe Williams.
It was perhaps inevitable that in the excitement of the burgeoning swing era, jazz fans became obsessed with the reigning bandleaders, the new superstars of music. Little did swing fans realize that the music to which they kicked up their heels was the creation not of orchestra leaders but of arrangers who, behind the scenes, forged each band's distinctive style. The history of jazz has too often been described as the story of the improvising soloists, virtually ignoring the important contributions of the composer-arrangers who provided the soloists' framework. These included Sy Oliver (with the Jimmie Lunceford and Tommy Dorsey bands), Mary Lou Williams (with Andy Kirk's band), Walter Thomas (with Cab Calloway), Eddie Durham, Fletcher Henderson, Jimmy Mundy, Edgar Sampson, Eddie Sauter, Jerry Gray, and Benny Carter.
Major swing soloists also emerged in the 1930smost notably tenor saxophonists Coleman Hawkins, Lester Young, and Ben Webster; pianists Art Tatum and Teddy Wilson; and singer Billie Holiday. Hawkins had left the Henderson band in 1933 for what turned out to be a six-year stay in Europe, during which he not only taught most Europeans about jazz and swing but honed and perfected his personal style, which culminatedupon his return to the United States in 1939in his recorded masterpiece, Body and Soul. During that period Hawkins's slightly younger contemporaries Young and Webster developed quite divergent and highly distinctive improvisational styles. Webster exerted a powerful influence on Ellington during his 193942 tenure with the Ellington orchestra, while Young spawned an important new school of saxophone playing (epitomized by Stan Getz, Zoot Sims, and Al Cohn). In contrast to Hawkins's hyperenergetic, primarily chord-based approach, Young featured a more relaxed, sleek, linear, Southwestern blues-oriented style. Unlike Hawkins's pre-1940s improvisations, which were solidly anchored to their underlying harmonies, Young's lines glided over the harmonies and thereby freed those lines rhythmically.
Tatum and Wilson were both initially inspired by Hines but soon moved in directions different from Hines and from each other. Tatum, the supreme virtuoso technician, developed an astonishingly rich and advanced harmonic vocabulary, which he lavished on his solo improvisations on popular songs. Wilson, more of an ensemble player, led a memorable series of recordings between 1935 and 1937, featuring not only an elite of swing soloists in spontaneously created performances but also the incomparable Holiday.
Holiday's singing style was crafted out of an original amalgam of the vocal stylings of Armstrong and Bessie Smith as well as her own vocal-technical limitationsher range was barely more than an octave. With her unique timbre and diction, she reconstructed dozens of popular songs, streamlining and contracting the original melodies and embellishing them with highly personal ornamentations, many of which she absorbed from some of the great instrumentalists of her time. In this sense she was a true jazz singer, constantly re-creating, improvising, and inventing. Moreover, Holiday brought to her art a level of expression and philosophical depth unprecedented in jazz, ranging from abject melancholia and tragedy to the most joyous evocations.
In the first decade of jazz, roughly 191525, almost all jazz worth considering had been played by small groups, but these were driven away in the 1930s by the arrival of the big bands. Later in the decade there was a return to smaller groups, ranging in size from trios to septets. Foremost among these new small groups were the various Goodman-led combos, starting in 1935. These were the first racially mixed jazz groups to tour the United States: Goodman and Krupa were white, Wilson and vibraphonist Lionel Hampton black. By 193940 permutations of Goodman's small groups included guitarist Charlie Christian and trumpeter Cootie Williams. Among the several dozen recordings produced by these groups, the superb Body and Soul, Avalon, Breakfast Feud, and Seven Come Eleven must be singled out.
In 1937 the 20-year-old Nat King Cole formed a trio, initially featuring himself as pianist; it was not until 1940 that Cole began singing and the trio began recording. Their big hits Straighten Up and Fly Right (1943) and Route 66 (1946) made the group one of the top attractions of the mid-1940s, a success that eventually led to Cole's equally brilliant solo singing career. Piano trios and quartetssuch as those of Page Cavanaugh, Clarence Profit, Barbara Carroll, Dorothy Donegan, Art Tatum, Lennie Tristano, and Joe Mooneywere among the many successful small groups of the 1940s.
The success of Goodman's small groups not only affirmed the artistic and commercial viability of a true chamber-jazz concept but inaugurated the notion of extracting a small combo from a larger orchestra. This band within a band idea spawned many successful groups, such as Shaw's Gramercy Five, Basie's Kansas City Seven, Tommy Dorsey's Clambake Seven, and, of course, Ellington's many small ensembles led alternately by Hodges, Williams, Stewart, and Bigard. Possibly the most perfect small group recordings are the four sides recorded in Paris in 1939 by three EllingtoniansStewart, Bigard, and Billy Taylor (bass)and the great Belgian Gypsy guitarist Django Reinhardt.
Also important in the 1930s were the territory bands, notably Walter Page's Blue Devils (out of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma), the Jeter-Pillars band (based in St. Louis, Missouri), and those of Nat Towles (Omaha, Nebraska), Alphonse Trent (Dallas, Texas), Don Albert (San Antonio, Texas), Jesse Stone and Jay McShann (Kansas City), Zack Whyte (Cincinnati, Ohio), and others. Although their music was only sporadically recorded, these nomadic orchestras had considerable influence, for by roaming the Midwestern and Southern hinterlands in trains and broken-down buses and cars, they brought superb jazz to the public, especially the black population. In addition, these bands functioned as traveling music conservatories in which young talent could grow, develop, and gain vital experience.
Several major innovative soloists emerged during this period, among them trumpeters Roy Eldridge and Dizzy Gillespie, singer Pearl Bailey, xylophonist Red Norvo, alto saxophonist Charlie Parker, and Ellington's bassist Jimmy Blanton. With this roster of solo talent and the era's orchestral, compositional, and arranging developmentsall inspired by a high sense of professionalism and an unprecedented artistic (but often also commercial) competitivenessit was inevitable that a new jazz idiom would soon evolve. Ellington's harmonic lessons were finally beginning to be appreciated as arrangers forged beyond simple triadic and dominant harmonies into the various types of 9th, 11th, and 13th chords, all manner of substitute harmonizations, and wide-ranging modulations. On the rhythmic side, 4/4 swing had by now completely taken over, providing the basis for a new fluency, freedom, and (as desired) complexity in rhythm sections; this in turn freed the soloists and ensembles to explore new structural territoriesand all of these developments were expressed with a radically new virtuosity.
The first signs of these fresh musical sounds could be heard as early as 1941, particularly in works by such composer-arrangers as Buster Harding, Neal Hefti, Gerry Valentine, and Budd Johnson. Especially explorative and prophetic are such pieces as The Moose (1943; by Ralph Burns for the Charlie Barnet band), Shady Lady (1942; by Andy Gibson for Barnet), and To a Broadway Rose and 'S Wonderful (1941 and 1944, respectively; both by Ray Conniff for Artie Shaw). Unfortunately, most of what was germinating at that time never got recorded because of a recording ban imposed by the American Federation of Musicians during much of 194243. This missing auditory link may have made the arrival of bebop seem more abrupt than it actually was.
While much of what happened between 1941 and 1945 may have appeared revolutionary to musicians and the public alike, the process was actually evolutionary and inevitable. The older guard held on as long as possible, dominating the airwaves well into the mid-1940s. But ultimately the experiments and forward thrusts of bebopmany of them initiated in such places as Minton's Playhouse in Harlem, in small lounges and obscure nightclubs, on tours, and in even more private situations such as homes and hotel roomshad to break through to an expanding public via record companies and the larger, more popular club venues.
The leading figure in jazz was now Charlie Parker, who, along with his colleagues Dizzy Gillespie (trumpet), Bud Powell and Thelonious Monk (piano), Kenny Clarke and Max Roach (drums), Oscar Pettiford and Ray Brown (bass), and later Lucky Thompson (tenor saxophone), Milt Jackson (vibraphone), J.J. Johnson (trombone), and Miles Davis (trumpet), reshaped jazz on all three important fronts: harmonically, melodically, and rhythmically. Perhaps the most radical advance was rhythmic, when Parker, with his dazzling technique and fluency, turned the former 4/4 metric substructures into 8/8; quavers now superseded the basic quarter-note beats, and in effect the audible speed of the music doubled. Parker was, for all his startling innovations, a great blues player, as can be heard not only in his constant reference to earlier blues traditions but also in the depth and beauty of his tone and its often anguished expression. His co-innovators Gillespie and Powell, equipped with both a prodigious technical mastery and a keen sense for harmonic exploration, set dramatically new standards of improvisation. Drummers, too, became more intrinsically involved in the total ensemble effect by introducing a certain contrapuntal independence, expressed polyrhythmically and even melodically.
The new, onomatopoetically named bebop, or bop, used more chromatically convoluted melodic lines. Played at high speed, it was no longer aurally related to the sedate song repertory of the 1930s, and it required a greater variety of chord substitutions and passing harmonies. It also built a whole new jazz repertory by superimposing brand new themes onto older, well-known chord progressions, particularly on such standards as I Got Rhythm and How High the Moon. This new repertoire was created mostly for small combos but also for larger ensembles such as Gillespie's, Billy Eckstine's, and Woody Herman's orchestras.
As bebop took hold after World War II, the entire jazz scene changed dramatically. Many big bands, even those that tried to make the transition to modern jazz, began to falter both financially and artistically. Touring costs and musicians' salaries skyrocketed. The best musicians preferred to stay in Los Angeles, New York, and Chicago, where they could do the suddenly lucrative studio work. In any case, bebop was played mostly by small combosquartets, quintets, and sextets. And bebop was made for listening, not dancing; it was not intended to be played to the accompaniment of clinking glasses and nightclub merrymaking.
Essentially, the audience for the more or less homogeneous jazz of the 1930s and early '40s (swing) was split three ways. A majority rejected bop and clung to swing, if and wherever they could still find it, or to even earlier styles, such as Dixieland and Chicago-style jazz. Another segment shifted its allegiance entirely to a new breed of singersFrank Sinatra, Nat King Cole, Sarah Vaughan, Ella Fitzgerald, Mel Tormé, and Billy Eckstinewho came out of the bands and embarked on full-time careers as highly paid single acts. The third and smallest faction stayed with the boppers, relishing the music's technical and conceptual challenges and returning jazz to a minority art.
Two singular pianists emerged at this time: Thelonious Monk and Erroll Garner. After Morton and Ellington, Monk was the first major composer to enter the field, contributing in such pieces as Criss Cross, Misterioso, and Evidence (all 1948) a uniquely individual repertory. Partly because he had developed a totally unorthodox piano technique, Monk created an inimitable style and touch, as well as highly unusual voicings and chord formations, as can be heard on his Blue Note quartet and quintet recordings of 194751 and on his later solo piano recordings of 1957 and 1959.
Equally sui generis yet completely different in intent, technique, and feeling, Garner had developed from his earliest professional days a prodigious both-hands technique (rivaled or surpassed only by Tatum) that allowed him to play asymmetrical rhythmic and melodic configurations and contours with his right hand while maintaining an absolutely steady beat with his left. Not a composer at all in the Monk or Ellington sense and given at times to a certain pianistic pomposity, Garner nevertheless brilliantly recomposed the hundreds of Broadway songs he played during his long career into astonishingly fresh, extemporized pieces.
Although the emphasis of this period was primarily on improvisationa quintet or sextet did not require an arrangera number of big bands did try to translate the newfound musical gains into orchestral terms. The results were uneven, inconsistent, and mostly commercially short-lived. Although the best efforts of the Woody Herman, Stan Kenton, Boyd Raeburn, Charlie Barnet, and Harry James bands of the mid- to late 1940s were not without considerable merit, it fell to the Claude Thornhill Orchestra, especially with its many scores by Gil Evans, to produce the only fully original contribution to orchestral jazz apart from Ellington's ongoing work. By adding French horns and woodwinds (including piccolo, bass clarinet, and at times multiple clarinets) and reinstating the tuba in a more melodic and contrapuntal role, Thornhill's orchestra acquired a totally fresh and subtle sound, one considerably softer and more opaque than the bright, loud, brash sonorities of the late swing-era bands. Moreover, with his extraordinary penchant for warm, dark instrumental colours and rich, bitonal harmonizations set in sparkling bop rhythms, Evans went quite beyond mere arranging into recomposing. The best examples can be heard in such pieces as Robbins Nest, Lover Man, and the Parker themes Anthropology and Donna Lee.
Perhaps in reaction to the hot, more strident, more frenetic expressions of the postwar bands, or perhaps as a direct influence of the Thornhill-Evans approach, a cool strain entered the jazz scene in the late 1940s. Generated by Young and furthered by such reed players as Lee Konitz and Gerry Mulligan, cool jazz, along with its structural corollarycontrapuntal, harmonically slimmed-down (often pianoless) chamber jazzwas suddenly in. Understatement and a more relaxed expression replaced extroversion and high-tension virtuosity. Examples abound, beginning with the Miles Davis Nonet (194850)a direct offspring in instrumentation and musical intent of the Thornhill band. In such pieces as Boplicity, Israel, Move, and Moondreams, fine improvised solos by Davis, Konitz, and Mulligan were meaningfully integrated into the arrangers' scores. Various octets, nonets, and other small ensembles soon followed suit, as did such West Coast-based quartets and quintets as those led by Mulligan, Chet Baker, Shelly Manne, Shorty Rogers, Jimmy Giuffre, and Chico Hamilton.
On a slightly different tack, the Modern Jazz Quartet (made up of John Lewis, piano; Milt Jackson, vibraphone; Percy Heath, bass; and Kenny Clarke, soon replaced by Connie Kay, drums) was formed in 1953. After his years with Gillespie, Lewis had been inspired further by his study of classical music, especially the work of Johann Sebastian Bach. Thus, Lewis brought a new kind of compositional (often contrapuntal) integration to the group's repertory, particularly in fugal or quasi-fugal pieces, such as the early Vendome or the later Three Windows and the album-length work The Comedy. Above all, in these performances Lewis sought to bring collective improvisation back from earlier times; many striking examples can be heard on the recordings made by the Modern Jazz Quartet over a period of 20 years, especially in the frequent, remarkable same-register duets of Lewis and Jackson.
It was also in the 1950s that a greater rapprochement between jazz and classical music began to emerge. Like Lewis, many other jazz musicians were studying much of the great classical literature, from Bach to Béla Bartók, to expand their musical horizons. Classical musicians, too, were listening more seriously to jazz and taking a professional interest in it. The ideological and technical barriers between jazz and classical music were beginning to break down. In that climate an apparently new concept or style, termed third stream by Gunther Schuller [Ed. note: the author of this article], arose. But third stream music was only apparently new, since European and American composersincluding Claude Debussy, Igor Stravinsky, Charles Ives (using ragtime), Darius Milhaud, Maurice Ravel, Aaron Copland, John Alden Carpenter, Kurt Weill, and many othershad employed elements of jazz since early in the century. The difference in the 1950s and '60s was that (1) the third stream amalgams began to include improvisation and (2) the traffic was now no longer on a one-way street from classical music toward jazz but was flowing in both directions. Spearheaded by Lewis and Schuller, the movement produced a wide variety of works and varying approaches to the process of cross-fertilization. Third stream began, particularly in the cultivated hands of pianist Ran Blake, to mate classical concepts and techniques with all manner of ethnic and vernacular musics and traditions as well as with jazz.
Though the term is now seldom used, the concept of third stream remains alive and well; Charlie Haden and Carla Bley's Liberation Music Orchestra works and Randy Weston and Melba Liston's African-influenced compositions are cases in point. Third stream music is also called by other names: crossover, fusion, or world music. So lively and penetrating has the stylistic intercourse been that it is nowadays often impossible to identify a piece as jazz, classical, or ethnic, proof that the third stream ideal of a true and complete fusion (not always technically possible in the 1960s) has at least partially been achieved.
Among the myriad contributions to third stream music over the years, Robert Graettinger's works for various Kenton orchestras are crucial. Major atonal, polyphonically complex Graettinger compositions such as City of Glass (first performed in 1948) and his remarkable arrangements of standard popular songs reveal a talent of astonishing originalityshowing little influence of Stravinsky, Arnold Schoenberg, Bartók, or any major jazz figuresespecially unusual for a man so young (he died at the age of 34).
In the meantime, the jazz mainstream continually broadened and expanded through the contributions of a wide range of talents from saxophonists Sonny Rollins, John Coltrane, Eric Dolphy, bassist-composer Charles Mingus, and composer-theorist George Russell to pianists Cecil Taylor, Bill Evans, and Dave Brubeck. Miles Davis and Coltrane exerted the greatest influence, Coltrane especially; he inadvertently bred thousands of clones who copied his sound and turned his every move into a cliché. Much more difficult to imitate and to absorb was the music of Dolphy, who, along with his unequaled mastery of alto saxophone and flute, was the first to conquer the bass clarinet as a jazz instrument. Stormy Weather (1960), his nearly 14-minute-long duet improvisation on alto with Mingus, must be counted as one of the greatest creative efforts in all of jazz.
The great wonder of jazz is its open-endedness, allowing truly talented musicians to explore new stylistic and conceptual avenues. Such was the case with Rollins, whoinstead of merely releasing a string of unrelated musical ideaswas the first to develop thematic improvisation in such a way that themes or motifs were varied and revisited within a single performance. Equally important was the work of Lennie Tristano, who not only as early as 1945 was successfully exploring the possibilities of atonal improvisation but later through his students (saxophonists Lee Konitz and Warne Marsh and composer Bill Russo) created yet another school of jazz playing that emphasized contrapuntal and polyphonic linearity and lean and clear textures of, at times, almost classical austerity.
Although he was a remarkably gifted musician with a deep humility regarding jazz and his art, Coltrane (probably under the influence of Davis) abandoned his earlier fascination with the burgeoning harmonic language of bopespecially Monk's unique tonal explorationsand fell into the trap of modal and single chord confinement. This led to extended improvisations, often lasting as long as an hour, that some observers regarded as practicing in public.
Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers, the most renowned and respected of the traveling conservatories, held forth in the world's jazz clubs and concert halls for more than three decades, hatching a long line of talented players ranging from Horace Silver, Kenny Dorham, and Lee Morgan (in the 1950s) to Freddie Hubbard, Keith Jarrett, Woody Shaw, and (in the 1980s) Wynton Marsalis.
Initially a loyal disciple of Gillespie, Davis by the late 1950s knew that he had neither the embouchure nor the ear for Gillespie's pyrotechnics. Under the benign influence of Gil Evans, John Lewis, and others, he turned to an opulent, more lyrical style with which he and Evans were to make dramatic musical history in such recordings as Miles Ahead (1957) and Evans's inspired recomposing of George Gershwin's Porgy and Bess (1958). Davis abandoned conventional major and minor harmonies for modal and pentatonic patterns (first fully aired in 1959 on the album Kind of Blue), a plunge into a vagrant harmonic no-man's-land that unfortunately infected much of jazz. Modal playing, with its endless pedal points and one-chord bass ostinatos, allowed by definition no harmonic progression or forward movement and resulted in a structural stasis that only, maybe, the greatest improvisers could overcome.
Mingus, together with Parker and Gillespie, was among the most gifted of all the postwar giants. A major composer in the full creative sense as well as a brilliant bass virtuoso and formidable bandleader, Mingus experimented with extended forms as early as the late 1940s (Mingus Fingers with Lionel Hampton). His oeuvre ranges from early simple blues and atonal free-form pieces to such poetically named jazz instrumentals as Pithecanthropus Erectus (1956), Haitian Fight Song (1957), Fables of Faubus (1959), and Peggy's Blue Skylight (1961) to the monumental two-and-a-half-hour, posthumously premiered Epitaph. Accumulated between the early 1940s and 1962 and composed for 31 instruments, Epitaph is a gigantic summation of everything Mingus felt and heard in music, from the gentlest lyric ballads and earthy blues to the most complex and advanced Ivesian and Stravinskian orchestral excursions.
Whereas most of these postwar musicians worked out their individual styles through personal explorations within the central modern tradition, the arrival of saxophonist Ornette Coleman and trumpeter Donald Cherry constituted an even more radical break from the recent past. Eschewing conventional key and time signatures, Coleman also abandoned all the traditional jazz forms, arriving quickly at something that was to be called free jazz.
Although partially inspired by the Parker revolution, Coleman's music also harkened back in its linear fragmentation, wailing blues sonorities, and unconventional intonation to a much older, primitive, folklike blues and work song tradition, incidentally more or less cleansed of jazz's earlier European borrowings. Given Coleman's abandonment of traditional forms such as 12-bar blues and 32-bar song forms, it would be wrong to conclude that such works as Change of the Century (1959) or Free Jazz (1960) are therefore formless. Rather, they are simply subject to a new kind of organization wherein Free Jazz, for examplethe eight players are each assigned solo sections accompanied by all the other players, with the various sections partitioned from each other by predetermined, collectively played motivic materials and the overall formal subdivisions thus clearly delineated.
Though others who followed in Coleman's footstepsfor example, the saxophonists Albert Ayler, Archie Shepp, and George Adamssought to expand on his free-form innovations, they lacked his innate talent and inherent musical discipline. A creative stasis set in during the 1970s and '80s that eventually led, on the one hand, to a gigantic eclecticism where no style or conception took priority and, on the other hand, to a profound sea change that dramatically altered the face of jazz. This fundamental shift can be seen in the fact that, in contrast to past decades when jazz produced a succession of highly individual artists whose musical styles and personalities could be recognized instantly, by the end of the 20th century jazz had no such distinctive artists.
Whether the past was inherently better than the present is questionable. Something was gained and something was lost. The personal, instantly recognizable distinctiveness of the great jazz players of the past was replaced by an astonishing technical assurance and stylistic flexibility. Most younger players in the 1990s sounded very much alikewith the exception of a few standouts such as trumpeters Wynton Marsalis, Tom Harrell, Randy Brecker, and Dave Douglas, saxophonists Steve Lacy and Joe Lovano, trombonist Albert Mangelsdorff, pianist Gonzalo Rubalcaba, and bassist John Patitucci. Whereas later players functioned well in any stylistic contexteven beyond jazz in ethnic and classical realmsthe earlier players, great as they were, could not reach out into other stylistic regions. The players of yore did notcould not, in most casesgo to music schools and were in essence self-taught, having learned on the job and to a large extent from each other and from their seniors.
Whether the eclectic versatility of these later generations is good for the future of jazz is as yet hard to say. One fact, however, is clear: in the wake of these changes, composition moved much more into the front and centre of activitiesas in the works of Leo Smith, Henry Threadgill, and Dave Douglaswhich suggests that the long-standing conflict between improvisation and composition may have finally been resolved. A good part of the reason for this is that most later jazz musicians went to music schoolconservatories and university or college music departmentswhere they took theory, music history, and general music survey courses, and in most cases they also studied with teachers who were themselves major jazz figures. In addition, starting in the 1970s, the enormously expanding number of recordings made available an infinite variety of musical traditions encompassing all jazz styles as well as a rainbow of ethnic, popular, and vernacular musics of all persuasions and philosophies. The younger generations took advantage of this plethora of musical and stylistic resources.
Where this leaves jazz and where jazz goes in the futureindeed, whether jazz can endure as a distinct musical idiom or languagewere unanswerable questions at the end of the 20th century. The one truism about jazz is that it remains distinguishable not by what is played but by how it is played.
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