Portal:Jazz

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Jazz is a genre of music that originated in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. Jazz emerged in many parts of the United States of independent popular musical styles; linked by the common bonds of European American and African American musical parentage with a performance orientation. Jazz makes heavy use of improvisation, polyrhythms, syncopation, and the swung note, as well as aspects of European harmony, American popular music, the brass band tradition, and African musical elements such as blue notes and ragtime. A musical group that plays jazz is called a jazz band.

As jazz spread around the world, it drew on different national, regional, and local musical cultures, giving rise to many distinctive styles: New Orleans jazz dating from the early 1910s, big band swing, Kansas City jazz and Gypsy jazz from the 1930s and 1940s, bebop from the mid-1940s, Afro-Cuban jazz, West Coast jazz, ska jazz, cool jazz, Indo jazz, avant-garde jazz, soul jazz, modal jazz, chamber jazz, free jazz, Latin jazz, smooth jazz, jazz fusion and jazz rock, jazz funk, loft jazz, punk jazz, acid jazz, ethno jazz, jazz rap, M-Base and nu jazz.

Louis Armstrong, one of the most famous musicians in jazz, said to Bing Crosby on the latter's radio show, "Ah, swing, well, we used to call it syncopation, then they called it ragtime, then blues, then jazz. Now, it's swing."

In a 1988 interview, jazz musician J. J. Johnson said, "Jazz is restless. It won't stay put and it never will". (Full article...)

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Song of Innocence made critics turn their heads in its day, regarding it as a visionary curiosity piece; today it's simply a great, timeless work of pop art that continues to inspire over three decades after its initial release.

 — Thom Jurek, AllMusic

Song of Innocence is the debut album of American composer and producer David Axelrod, released in October 1968 by Capitol Records. Axelrod sought to capitalize on the experimental climate of popular music at the time and composed the album as a suite-like tone poem based on Songs of Innocence, a 1789 illustrated collection of poems by William Blake. It was recorded at Capitol Studios in Los Angeles with an orchestra and studio musicians, including keyboardist and conductor Don Randi, guitarist Al Casey, bassist Carol Kaye, and drummer Earl Palmer.

Song of Innocence is an instrumental jazz fusion album that incorporates elements of classical, rock, funk, pop, and theatre music. It is arranged for bass, drums, and string instruments, and is written in the rock idiom, with tempos centered around rock-based patterns by Palmer. Axelrod used contrast in his orchestral compositions and interspersed the album's euphoric psychedelic R&B form with dramatic, harrowing arrangements to reflect the supernatural themes found in Blake's poems. The music's reverent, psychedelic overtones evoke their themes of innocence and spirituality.

Although it was innovative for its application of rock and jazz techniques, Song of Innocence was not commercially successful and confounded contemporary music critics, who viewed it as an ambitious curiosity piece. In the 1990s, critics reassessed the album and regarded it as a classic, while leading disc jockeys in hip hop and electronica rediscovered and sampled the album's music. "Holy Thursday", the album's best-known song, was frequently sampled by hip hop producers. The renewed interest in Axelrod's work prompted Stateside Records to reissue Song of Innocence in 2000. (Full article...)

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Louis Armstrong (August 4, 1901 – July 6, 1971), or Pops, was an American jazz trumpeter, singer, and an influential figure in jazz music.

Coming to prominence in the 1920s as an "inventive" trumpet and cornet player, Armstrong was a foundational influence in jazz, shifting the focus of the music from collective improvisation to solo performance. With his instantly recognizable gravelly voice, Armstrong was also an influential singer, demonstrating great dexterity as an improviser, bending the lyrics and melody of a song for expressive purposes. He was also skilled at scat singing (vocalizing using sounds and syllables instead of actual lyrics).

Renowned for his charismatic stage presence and voice almost as much as for his trumpet-playing, Armstrong's influence extends well beyond jazz music, and by the end of his career in the 1960s, he was widely regarded as a profound influence on popular music in general. Armstrong was one of the first truly popular African-American entertainers to "cross over", whose skin color was secondary to his music in an America that was severely racially divided. He rarely publicly politicized his race, often to the dismay of fellow African-Americans, but took a well-publicized stand for desegregation during the Little Rock Crisis. His artistry and personality allowed him socially acceptable access to the upper echelons of American society that were highly restricted for a black man. (Full article...)

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Beryl Davis
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April - July 2014

"At the Jazz Band Ball", played by the Dixieland Jazz Band ensemble of the U.S. Coast Guard Band for the album "U.S. Coast Guard Bicentennial, 1790–1990".

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

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