And all that Jazz!

By Sergio González | 10:15

Old jazz band from 1917

Jazz music depicts one of the most characteristic American sides, multiculturalism. Like no other music genre, it combines European and African styles -Improvisation, syncopation and the eternal “swung note” were African additions- but always mixed by the cosmopolitan American blender.

Having so many fathers is always troublesome and jazz can’t be understood without all the polemic around its origins.

In the middle of the 19th century, Afro-Cuban fusion music called habaneras, started to cross the narrow sea between New Orleans and Havana, taking advantage of the new steam daily ferry that joined both cities in a glimpse -for those times-.

The Habaneras influence reached rag-time, a syncopated tune that was all the rage at the turn of 20th century. Born as a dancing music among black communities in Louisiana, it reached its peak popularity at the turn of 20th century, when the  first piano versions started to appear. Jazz was about to be born.

Once it hit the new jukebox creation, Jazz became so popular that following its path into history can be discouraging. Here you can find a timeline of jazz music development and evolution. If you want to keep up to date with the best jazz artists that are currently jammin’ better than no one, check this site.

Defining Jazz is another tricky issue; tried by several and achieved by no one to others’ satisfaction. Jay Jay Johnson was a master of bebop, the faster tempo sister of jazz, was the one who perhaps gave the most accurate one  -because of its vague and loose- definition of jazz. Jazz is restless. It won’t stay put and it never will.

Nina Simone was considered one the greatest ladies of jazz, but she, who claimed her passion for music started once I understood Bach’s music, denied such interpretation. Jazz is a white term to define black people, my music is black classical music.

Jazz music has been entertaining our ears and emotions for so long that its boundaries have become blurry and precisely hard to define. Besides, it has been merged with so many music styles, actually each and every single one -jazz rap, cyber jazz, Indo jazz…- that it doesn’t require a definition any longer, the idea is to just enjoy and share the worldwide free feeling of jazz.

Neon jazz sign, jazz band

Talking about jazz we couldn’t  possibly skip the amazing city of New Orleans. Home of its own genre, New Orleans jazz where thousands flock each year to the city to find out about its French quarters or Cajun gastronomy and also join one of the many jazz tours that walk you up and down the most famous streets and favorite performing places, brothels and clubs -the red-light district at Basin Street- combines both old and new jazz stars.

As if having the greatest festival in America, Mardi Grass, wasn’t enough, New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival hits you at the end of April (April 26-May 5, 2013) with all the power and a classy touch which only a properly aged patina could achieve.

New York was referred by jazz music players in the late 20’s as the best place to perform because there are many apples on the tree, but only one Big Apple.

Once I heard that if it doesn’t happen in New York, it doesn’t happen at all. Well, as precaution is better than a cure, check out to find every single jazz concert going on in NY before you get there. In November, you can’t miss Jazz & Colors festival at the very heart of Central Park.

If you can wait until next summer, Newport Jazz Festival is the best one around NY city and reported as the first one in America, established in 1954. Don’t miss it to feel the real American jazz deal.

What about Chicago? Its jazz festival ended in September so we’ll have to wait  one more year. 

Photo Credit: Infrogmation

Photo Credit: pedrosimoes7


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