A Survey Of The Evolution Of Jazz For The General Reader

Date of Award




Degree Name

Doctor of Musical Arts (D.M.A.)


Music Performance


Jazz evolved originally as a mixture of musical elements from the African and European cultures, when African slaves were exposed to European music in the West Indies and southeastern United States in the late 1700s and 1800s. The blendings were both sacred and secular, and developed as an entity through work songs, field hollers, and rural and urban cries, spirituals and blues. Peripheral influences of the late nineteenth century (minstrelsy and ragtime) combined with strong role models supplied by military brass bands to form the foundation of jazz in the early 1900s.From a center in New Orleans, jazz spread throughout the United States, but particularly to Chicago, where certain modifications and sophistication were imposed during the late 1910s and early 1920s. The center of activity shifted to New York City in the mid-1920s, and the size of the bands increased approaching the Swing Era of the 1930s. From c. 1935 to 1945, big bands were in the forefront of activity in jazz, but beginning about 1940, a reaction against them manifested itself in the work of the pioneers of bebop. This small band jazz revolutionized the music and served as the basis for what is generally called modern jazz. A subdued version of bebop called Cool Jazz arose in the late 1940s, and became known as West Coast Jazz when its center established itself in California in the early 1950s. The center for the mainstream of jazz however, now called hard bop, remained fixed in New York City. Influences from the Caribbean, Latin and South America led to a type of jazz called Afro-Cuban music. Late in the 1950s, jazz began to evolve in two additional directions; modal or scalar music and free-form jazz, both exhibiting some influences from Eastern music. In the mid-1960s, initial attempts were undertaken to merge jazz and rock music, and the resultant fusion, aided by electronics, and additional Latin American influences has evolved into the jazz of today.Both women and musicians from countries throughout the world have achieved much more acclaim recently, and jazz--once strictly an American fine-art endeavor--has become an international phenomenon.The Survey of The Evolution of Jazz for the General Reader is intended to serve as a basic single work for the general reader interested in acquiring a fundamental understanding of the entire jazz history. It is specifically designed for a one-semester course application.Information and materials for this dissertation are derived from approximately ten major printed sources published within the past twenty-five years, and from the author's own experiences as a jazz musician and teacher.



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