The feeling of JAZZ ...in just six songs!
All that JAZZ history
Jazz is an American music genre which can be traced back to the the 1920s and is a combination of dixieland, blues, and swing music. One of the most unique characteristics of Jazz is that no two performances of a song are ever the same because the performers literally "make up" the notes they will be playing when it's their turn to solo.
The skill of each top jazz performer is their ability to create interesting solos with their instrument or voice. The solo is performed while the song is making chord changes, and the notes of the solo give a unique experience to this performance of that song.
Hello Dolly - Louis Armstrong (1962) Original hit recording
"Hello Dolly!" - Louis Armstrong (1964) performed live
Hello, Dolly? This is Louis, Dolly
LOUIS ARMSTRONG (trumpet & vocals) grew up poor in New Orleans, but became so popular as a trumpet and cornet player in jazz circles that he became popular and influential to all forms of music. Along with his instantly recognizable gravel-like raspy voice, Armstrong had a energetic and charismatic on-stage personality, too,as you'll see in his video on this page.
In other genres like Country, Pop, or Rock, the audiences want the live performer to duplicate their recording as exactly as possible. Not so with Jazz. People love Jazz performers because the audience knows (and automatically expects) that they will get a unique performance each time.
Armstrong will provide you with a great example of how Jazz performers literally change the notes in their solos each time. Watch the first video of "Hello Dolly" on this page, so you'll get familiar with how the original song sounded to millions.
THEN, watch the second video of the same song, also by Armstrong, but notice how he changes his singing and trumpet solo for this live performance.
"Take Five" - Dave Brubeck Quartet (1961)
Gimmie FIVE for BRUBECK
DAVE BRUBECK (piano) and his quartet travelled the globe in the 1950's through the 1980's exposing their "cool" brand of jazz to many countries. Their signature song is still their best know "Take Five", actually features sax soloist Paul Desmond, as well as a long drum solo. Listen to the "Take Five" video on this page and notice how each member of the band takes their turn at ad libbing notes.
"So What!" - Miles Davis (1958)
Horn of Plenty...Plenty of Talent
MILES DAVIS (trumpet) ranks near or at the very top of most lists of most influential jazz musicians of all time. From the 1940's to his death in 1991, Davis played in or created a number of groups over the years which helped spawn other successful musicians. Watch Davis and the other soloists in the song "So What" on this page
"Giant Steps" - John Coltrane (1961)
Practicing Safe SAX with John
JOHN COLTRANE (saxophone) had a major influence on musicians because of his ability to compress a huge amount of soloistic ideas into a small period of time, so just a few seconds would contain dozens, and a minute would contain hundreds of notes. The brilliant video link on this page lets you SEE THE NOTES as Coltrane plays them.
"Chameleon" - Herbie Hancock
Changing to match his surroundings
HERBIE HANCOCK (keyboardist) wrote the song "Watermelon Man" in 1962 and it became a surprise pop hit by the performer Mongo Santamaria. The song's success paid Hancock's bills for a number of years. He was one of the first musicians to incorporate funk music and electronic synthesizers into his performances, beginning in the 1970's.
On this page is a link to Hancock's group performing "Chameleon". In this video, notice how each soloist contributes to the song as a whole as well as adding their own unique contributions. Towards the end of this video, watch carefully as Hancock adds a number of wild electronic effects to his keyboard solo.
In fact, this is a great spot to point out that unlike other genres of music, jazz performers often "pass the spotlight around" as each person has a few seconds to shine as they add their own ad libbed solo contributions (which, remember, may be different each time they perform it!).
In most other genres, one or two people get the spotlight the entire song as lead singer or lead instrumentalist while others in the group take a back seat to the lead performers.
Hancock created innovations in jazz his entire life and continues to do so. His 2007 album "River: the Joni Letters" was a tribute to his long time friend, musician Joni Mitchell, and won the Grammy Award for Album of the Year in 2008. This was only the second jazz album ever to receive this award.