American jazz  

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Josephine Baker dancing the charleston at the Folies Bergère in Paris for La Revue nègre in 1926. Notice the art deco background. (Photo by Walery)
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Josephine Baker dancing the charleston at the Folies Bergère in Paris for La Revue nègre in 1926. Notice the art deco background.
(Photo by Walery)

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

The term American jazz is a tautology and only makes sense when compared to subsequent jazz scenes that arose in the rest of the world, such as French jazz and German jazz.

Jazz

Jazz's roots come from the city of New Orleans, Louisiana, populated by Cajuns and black Creoles, who combined the French-Canadian culture of the Cajuns with their own styles of music in the 19th century. Large Creole bands that played for funerals and parades became a major basis for early jazz, which spread from New Orleans to Chicago and other northern urban centers.

Though jazz had long since achieved some limited popularity, it was Louis Armstrong who became one of the first popular stars and a major force in the development of jazz, along with his friend pianist Earl Hines. Armstrong, Hines and their colleagues were improvisers, capable of creating numerous variations on a single melody. Armstrong also popularized scat singing, an improvisational vocal technique in which nonsensical syllables (vocables) are sung. Armstrong and Hines were influential in the rise of a kind of pop big band jazz called swing. Swing is characterized by a strong rhythm section, usually consisting of double bass and drums, medium to fast tempo, and rhythmic devices like the swung note, which is common to most jazz. Swing is primarily a fusion of 1930s jazz fused with elements of the blues and Tin Pan Alley. Swing used bigger bands than other kinds of jazz, leading to bandleaders tightly arranging the material which discouraged improvisation, previously an integral part of jazz. Swing became a major part of African American dance, and came to be accompanied by a popular dance called the swing dance.

Jazz influenced many performers of all the major styles of later popular music, though jazz itself never again became such a major part of American popular music as during the swing era. The later 20th-century American jazz scene did, however, produce some popular crossover stars, such as Miles Davis. In the middle of the 20th century, jazz evolved into a variety of subgenres, beginning with bebop. Bebop is a form of jazz characterized by fast tempos, improvisation based on harmonic structure rather than melody, and use of the flatted fifth. Bebop was developed in the early and mid-1940s, later evolving into styles like hard bop and free jazz. Innovators of the style included Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie, who arose from small jazz clubs in New York City.

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Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "American jazz" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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