The Jazz Age was a feature of the 1920s (ending with The Great Depression) when jazz music and dance became popular. This occurred particularly in the United States, but also in Britain, France and elsewhere. Jazz played a significant part in wider cultural changes during the period, and its influence on pop culture continued long afterwards. Jazz music originated mainly in New Orleans, and is/was a fusion of African and European music. The Jazz Age is often referred to in conjunction with the phenomenon referred to as the Roaring Twenties.
The birth of jazz music is generally credited to African Americans, but expanded and over time was modified to become socially acceptable to middle-class white Americans. White performers were used as a vehicle for the popularization of jazz music in America. Even though the jazz movement was taken over by the middle class white population, it facilitated the mesh of African American traditions and ideals with the white middle class society. Cities like New York and Chicago were cultural centers for jazz, and especially for African American artists. Some famous black artists of the time were Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, and Count Basie.
The spread of jazz was encouraged by the introduction of large-scale radio broadcasts in 1922, which meant Americans were able to experience different styles of music without physically visiting a jazz club. The radio provided Americans with a trendy new avenue for exploring the world through broadcasts and concerts from the comfort of their living room. The most popular type of radio show was a "potter palm": amateur concerts and big-band jazz performances broadcast from cities like New York and Chicago. Jazz artists like Louis Armstrong originally received very little airtime because most stations preferred to play the music of white American jazz singers. In urban areas, African American jazz was played on the radio more often than in the suburbs. Big-band jazz, like that of James Reese Europe and Fletcher Henderson in New York, attracted large radio audiences.
1920s youth used the influence of jazz to rebel against the traditional culture of previous generations. This youth rebellion of the 1920s went hand-in-hand with fads like bold fashion statements (flappers), women smoking cigarettes, freer talk about sex, and new radio concerts. Dances like the Charleston, developed by African Americans, suddenly became popular among the youth. Traditionalists where aghast at what they considered the breakdown of morality.
With the women’s suffrage at its peak in the 1920s and the entrance of the flapper women began to make a statement within society and the Jazz Age was not immune to these new ideals. With women now taking part in the work force after the end of the First World War there were many more possibilities for women in terms of social life and entertainment. Ideas like equality and free sexuality were very popular during the time and women seemed to capitalize during this period. The 1920s saw the emergence of many famous women musicians including Bessie Smith. Bessie Smith also gained attention because she was not only a great singer but also an African American woman. She has grown through the ages to be one of the most well respected singers of all time. Singers such as Billie Holiday and Janis Joplin were inspired by Bessie Smith. Another exception to the common stereotype of women at this time was piano player Lil Hardin Armstrong, Louis Armstrong's wife. She was originally a member of King Oliver's band with Louis, and went on to play piano in her husband's band the Hot Five and then his next group called the Hot Seven  It was not until the 1930s and 1940s that many women jazz singers, such as Bessie Smith and Billie Holiday were recognized as successful artists in the music world. These women were persistent in striving to make their names known in the music industry and lead the way for many more women artists to come.
As jazz flourished, American elites who preferred classical music sought to expand the listenership of their favored genre, hoping that jazz wouldn't become mainstream. Conversely, jazz became an influence on composers as diverse as George Gershwin and Herbert Howells.
Jazz still exists in the modern world. There are many jazz clubs in New York, and in Florida some cities have their own Jazz Societies, which hold concerts every month. Also, lots of colleges, high schools, and middle schools have their own jazz bands.
- McCANN, PAUL. 2008. "Performing Primitivism: Disarming the Social Threat of Jazz in Narrative Fiction of the Early Sixties." Journal of Popular Culture 41, no. 4: 658-675. America: History & Life, EBSCOhost (accessed October 5, 2010). Pg 3
- Barlow, William. 1995. "Black music on radio during the jazz age." African American Review 29, no. 2: 325. America: History & Life, EBSCOhost (accessed October 4, 2010)
- Biocca, Frank, Media and Perceptual Shifts: Early Radio and the Clash of Musical Cultures, Journal of Popular Culture, 24:2 (1990) pg 3
- William Barlow, "Black music on radio during the jazz age," African American Review (1995) 29#2 pp 325-28 in JSTOR
- Paula S. Fass, The Damned and the Beautiful: American Youth in the 1920s (1977) p 22
- Ward, Larry F. “Bessie” Notes, Volume 61, Number 2, December 2004, pp. 458-460 (Review). Music Library Association
- Borzillo, Carrie Women in Jazz: Music on Their Terms--As Gender Bias Fades, New Artists Emerge Billboard - The International Newsweekly of hit Music, Video and Home Entertainment 108:26 (29 June 1996) p. 1, 94-96.
- Borzillo, Carrie Women in Jazz: Music on Their Terms--As Gender Bias Fades, New Artists Emerge Billboard - The FTW International Newsweekly of hit Music, Video and Home Entertainment 108:26 (29 June 1996) p. 1, 94-96.
- Biocca, Frank, Media and Perceptual Shifts: Early Radio and the Clash of Musical Cultures, Journal of Popular Culture, 24:2 (1990). pg 9
- Allen, Frederick Lewis. Only Yesterday: An Informal History of the Nineteen-Twenties (1931). online edition
- Best, Gary Dean. The Dollar Decade: Mammon and the Machine in 1920s America Praeger Publishers, 2003.
- Dumenil, Lynn. The Modern Temper: American Culture and Society in the 1920s Hill and Wang, 1995
- Fass; Paula. The Damned and the Beautiful: American Youth in the 1920s. Oxford University Press, 1977.
- David E. Kyvig; Daily Life in the United States, 1920-1939: Decades Promise and Pain Greenwood Press, (2002). online edition
- Leuchtenburg, William. The Perils of Prosperity, 1914–1932 University of Chicago Press, 1955.
- Lynd, Robert S., and Helen Merrell Lynd. Middletown: A Study in Modern American Culture Harcourt, Brace and World, 1929. Famous sociological study of Muncie, Indiana, in the 1920s.
- Mowry; George E. ed. The Twenties: Fords, Flappers, & Fanatics Prentice-Hall, 1963; readings
- Parrish, Michael E. Anxious Decades: America in Prosperity and Depression, 1920–1941 W. W. Norton, 1992