International Jazz Day: The Origin of Jazz

30th April marks International Jazz Day. All of us at Majority wanted to honour the inspiring genre by dipping into it's history and where it's heading.

An interpretation of western classical music mixed with Slave and West African folk songs, Jazz music was formed in the late 19th-early 20th century. Originally named Jass, a reference to the jasmine scent popular in the Storyville red-light district in New Orleans, the genre’s style and composition is constantly changing, making it one of the most progressive genres in music.

Jazz Music Through the Years

The 1920s: Known as the Jazz Age, the music genre became popular during this time because it combined different musical elements such as brass band marching beats, ragtime, and blues. Instruments including the clarinet, trombone and trumpet feature solos based on the influence of jazz legend Louis Armstrong.

The 1930s: Known as the Era of Swing, jazz bands became so big that they often included 16 or more players. This allowed for more soloists to take turns improvising while the band performs melodies. During this era, Duke Ellington became a household name for his improvisation.

Duke Ellington (Image credit: Wikipedia)

The 1940s-1950s: The middle of the 20th century was known as the Era of Latin Jazz and Cool Jazz. While Latin Jazz combined African and Latin American rhythms, Cool Jazz featured a gentle touch without the fiery intensity.  

The 1960s: The decade of Hard Bop, Soul Jazz and Free Jazz, the 1960s was influenced by the Be-bop style of the 1940s. Hard Bop featured a slower tempo, with Soul Jazz developing as a subgenre. Influenced by gospel music, the improvisations in soul jazz were simpler with more repetitive melodies. Free Jazz epitomises society of the 1960s as it ignores the rules and constraints on harmony and structure.

The 1970s: The era of Jazz Fusion, the subgenre took inspiration from the thriving world of rock music. Jazz solos are played over rock rhythms, using both jazz and rock instruments including the piano and the electric guitar. 

The 1980s-1990s: Acid Jazz was formed in the early 1980s, combining parts of jazz music with other genres such as hip-hop and funk.  

Jazz Legends

There’s certain musicians that spring to mind when we think of jazz…

Duke Ellington

Best known as the leader of his long-running Duke Ellington Orchestra, Ellington is the most recorded jazz composer in history with songs including Satin Doll and Mood Indigo just some of the hundred tunes in his repertoire.

Louis Armstrong 

Stemming from extreme poverty in New Orleans, jazz trumpeter Louis Armstrong broke down racial barriers and went on to become one of the most famous jazz musicians in mainstream music. Considered the first major jazz celebrity for his rhythmically sophisticated operatic style, Armstrong is considered the greatest jazz musician of all time with hits including ‘What a Wonderful World’.

Louis Armstrong (Image credit: Wikipedia)

Miles Davis

One of the most influential jazz musicians of all time, Miles Davis was instrumental in the artistic developments in jazz. From fronting the nine-piece Birth of the Cool band to pioneering modal jazz on Milestones and Kind of Blue to ushing in the jazz-rock and fusion era in 1969, Davis’ 5-decade long career kept him at the forefront of jazz music. 

Billie Holiday

Nicknamed Lady Day, Billie Holiday still stands as one of the most influential jazz singers in history. Inspired by jazz instrumentalists, Holiday’s vocal style is remembered for manipulating phrasing and tempo, in addition to her reputable improvisational skills. After singing in the nightclubs of Harlem, Holiday collaborated with Teddy Wilson on the hit “What a Little Moonlight Can Do”, becoming a household jazz song. She sustained mainstream success throughout the 1930s and 1940s, performing a sold-out concert at Carnegie Hall. Holiday has been inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame and the National Rhythm & Blues Hall of Fame and has posthumously won four Grammy Awards. 

Ella Fitzgerald

Ella Fitzgerald, known as the First Lady of Song, Queen of Jazz and Lady Ella, is a popular figure in jazz music, noted for her impeccable diction and pure vocal tone. Fitzgerald began her career with the Chick Webb Orchestra, performing across the country with her first major hit “A-Tisket, A-Tasket” before she left to forge a solo career in 1942. She performed extensively until the late 1980s with her musical collaborations including Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington and The Ink Spots to create some of her best-known songs such as “Dream a Little Dream of Me”, “Cheek to Cheek” and “It Don’t Mean a Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing)”. Her career span nearly 60 years with her accolades including 14 Grammy Awards, the National Medal of Arts and the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Ella Fitzgerald (Image credit: Wikipedia)

New Kids on the Block 

The future of jazz is moving in an exciting new direction…

Makaya McCraven

The Paris-born US drummer and composer keeps his eye on the future of jazz playing free jazz with a hip-hop attitude.

Shabaka Hutchings

The London-born and Barbados raised musician is as multi-talented as they come. An award-winning multi-reed player, alternating between saxophone and clarinet, Hutchings is considered the leader of the UK’s contemporary jazz scene. Leading three bands, an octet called Shabaka & The Ancestors, a quartet called Sons of Kemet and The Comet is Coming, Hutchings is shaping the future of jazz. 

Shabaka Hutchings (Image credit: Wikipedia)

Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah

Hailing from the birthplace of Jazz, Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah is a trumpeter with a clear tone acknowledging the history of the genre, yet forging the future of jazz with alternative rock, African music and hip-hop.

Esperanza Spalding

A truly electric musician, Esperanza Spalding, a Portland-born singer, composer and bass player is fusing together rock, funk, Latin, Jazz Fusion and Free Jazz to forge a new era in jazz.

Nubya Garcia

The London-born saxophonist and composer released her critically acclaimed debut album, Nubya’s 5ive in 2017. A product of the Tomorrow’s Warriors talent agency, she’s also recorded with Sons of Kemet, Ezra Collective and Makaya McCraven.

“Jazz washes away the dust of everyday life” – Art Blakey

Jazz stands as one of the most influential musical genres in history and demands to be listened to on quality audio devices. Look at our top picks to relax to your favourite jazz tunes. 

Majority Fitzwilliam DAB & Internet Radio Hi-Fi Tuner

Whether you want to tune into your favourite jazz radio station or lose yourself in the world of Duke Ellington, the Fitzwilliam Music System is the perfect addition to your home to fill your room with classic jazz. Delivering DAB/DAB+ digital, internet and FM radio you’ll have thousands of radio stations at your disposal for non-stop jazz. Additionally, if you’ve collated the best of jazz, stream your own music using the built-in Bluetooth and Spotify Connect.

Majority Fitzwilliam DAB+ & Internet Radio Hi-Fi Tuner

Majority Atlas Bluetooth Soundbar 

Whether you want to bring Miles Davis to every room in your home or enjoy Moses Boyd’s modern-day jazz in the garden, the Atlas Soundbar will deliver up to 8 hours of battery time for your audio pleasure.  

Majority Atlas Portable Bluetooth PC Speaker Lifestlye
Majority Atlas Bluetooth Portable PC Speaker

Majority Oakington Digital Radio & Music System 

Bring the earth-shattering sounds of Lady Ella with you wherever you go with the Oakington Digital Radio & Music System. An all-in-one music system from CD player to digital Radio, the Oakington delivers quality sound across a variety of stations. Ready to plug and play, the Oakington includes a range of ports and features to enjoy your own music. Using Bluetooth connectivity, you can stream your favourite songs via Spotify or play your favourite playlists using the AUX or USB ports. 

Majority Oakington DAB+ Radio Music System

Whether you’re playing your listening to Louis Armstrong on Spotify while you cook and tuning into your favourite jazz radio stations on the commute to work, we want to know how you’re using your Majority device. Don’t forget to tag us on social media! @majorityaudio #majorityaudio #lovequalitysound #carbonneutralaudio #internationaljazzday