In April of this year, much of the world celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Beatles’ legendary LP, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. What most people don’t realize is that 2017 also represents another significant milestone: the 100th anniversary of recorded jazz.
Just over a century ago, the first commercial jazz recording was made on February 26, 1917 by the Original Dixieland Jass Band – jazz was often termed “jass” at this time – and sold more than a million copies. In the following few decades, jazz innovators like Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, and Charlie Parker made jazz a legendary, timeless genre. Since then, jazz has become a staple in American musical culture.
While it originated in the U.S., jazz is embraced by countries all over the world. No matter what city you travel, you are likely to find live jazz music. There’s even an international Jazz festival with artists performing at venues in nearly every country in the world!
Jazz reaches deeply into our hearts, and without any spoken words, the music alone can evoke a variety of emotions. Some songs feel light and pleasant, while others feel more serious and intentional. Regardless of the emotions evoked, the provocative rhythms of jazz invite us to experience the sounds multi-dimensionally, with both our hearts and our minds.
Listening to live jazz makes you part of the music
Perhaps the reason jazz touches us so deeply is because it’s always fresh; jazz musicians are adept at improvising with syncopated rhythms played underneath the melody of the song.
Experiencing live jazz is like witnessing a unique piece of art as it’s being created. Just as a river isn’t the same river once you step into it, a jazz song will be unique each time it’s performed.
The uniqueness of each performance and its power to evoke emotions makes jazz a popular genre for weddings. Instrumental trios often perform in the background during the cocktail hour, while the addition of vocalists and saxophonists can entice people to get up and dance during the reception. Although many genres of music are played at weddings, jazz has the unique ability to appeal to all age groups and the flexibility to fit in both the background and the foreground.
Jazz is an eternally evolving art form
Although the original styles of jazz are still played at private parties and in nightclubs across the world, new styles are constantly being created, and jazz is an ever-evolving genre. Jazz has influenced nearly every musical genre we enjoy today, including hip-hop, which often features samples of famous jazz songs.
The influence of jazz is everywhere, even though it’s more subtle in some places. The improvisational aspect of jazz is what has allowed it to evolve so creatively over the last century, as each new era and musician adds a new flavor. Even modern bands like Radiohead have adopted the influence of jazz. Radiohead isn’t the only modern artist to be influenced by jazz. The 2007 Jazz award winner Neil Cowley wrote the piano parts for Adele’s first two albums.
Schools love jazz
Thousands of high schools and colleges across America have at least one jazz band, providing the opportunity for the younger generation to experience a uniquely American music that radiates the depth of the human spirit.
For those students who want to take their love of jazz further, the Berklee College of Music offers a Bachelor of Music in Jazz Composition.
Music programs in schools are important for kids to participate in, not just because it gives them something creative to do, but because music has a profound affect on the brain. Music has the ability to influence our moods for better or worse, and raise or lower our levels of stress, and inspire us to achieve our greatness.
Jazz has been evolving for over a century, and it’s not going to stop anytime soon. It will be interesting to see who, from our time, will be considered jazz legends in the future.