The different eras of jazz

The different eras of jazz

Jazz is one of those music genres that people like or dislike. There really is no in between. I’m not going to lie, it’s a tough genre to get into because of all the different styles of jazz that there are. I will say this, however, once you find the right one for you, it is like you just opened up a whole new world of music for yourself. With jazz being one of the biggest and most iconic genres of music, here we’re only going to focus on jazz from the 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s.

Jazz in the 1950’s was known for a style called bebop. This style consists of saxophones, trumpets, and a rhythm section, and all of this is played at a fast pace with a big-band swing sound, and that is what gives it its unique style. One of the biggest acts of this time was a man named Miles Davis. He was a trumpeter who had a major influence on jazz with his album titled Birth of the Cool, which was released in 1957. Birth of the Cool is a great example of bebop because of the unusual instrument combinations used in all the songs that create a unique concept of that time–fast-paced, fun, and loose. When listening to the album I can’t help but think about the way life must have been in the 50’s. I picture it as shown in the movies with a black and white filter with people dressed in fancy suits, fedoras, and them just casually smoking and drinking. I am pretty much picturing the LA noir scene from that time with this playing in the background and it seems to really fit in with that era. 

Another well-known artist to come out of the 50’s was a jazz pianist by the name of Ahmad Jamal. Out of all the artists that I am going to mention, I think he is my favorite one by far. I was first introduced to him by my brother, and I instantly fell in love with his music because of his play style. Ahmad’s style is catchy, soft, relaxing, and it’s smooth like butter, and it is really easy to get into. If I were trying to introduce people to the genre of jazz, I would start by showing them some of Ahmad’s earlier work, especially his album titled Ahmad Jamal At The Pershing: But Not For Me. His song titled “Poinciana” is a good starting point into the world of jazz and I’m sure a lot of people would like it. When doing some research, I discovered that Ahmad Jamal actually influenced Miles Davis, and I saw that he had a huge influence on other genres. A lot of hip-hop artists sampled his music, and some of them included J Dilla, De La Soul, Jay-Z, and a lot of others. This shows us just how big of an impact he had on music, and that is what makes him one of my favorite artists.

After the 50’s came the 60’s, jazz evolved into a whole new different genre. The 60’s were famous for a specific style of music known as bossa nova, which was brought over from Brazil to the United States. What makes this genre so different from other jazz genres is that there is singing involved (Portuguese). This genre includes flutes, clarinets, traditional American jazz, and elements of samba which is way more than what other jazz musicians use. One of the best and well known bossa nova musicians is Stan Getz. He is known for his album titled Getz/Gilberto. The album was released 1964 and was awarded Grammy’s Best Jazz Instrumental award. When listening to each song you feel very peaceful and relaxed. Each song is just soothing to listen to. My favorite song has to be “The Girl From Ipanema” because João Gilberto’s and Astrud Gilberto’s voices complement each other’s when singing, it’s like putting me to sleep but in a nice way.

The 70’s were a different time for jazz. Instead of there being slow and smooth jazz, the genre shifted to a more funky style of music. Some great examples of this specific genre are the albums Stepping Into Tomorrow by Donald Byrd, released in 1975, and Mister Magic by Grover Washington, Jr.  released in 1974. Both of these albums are very much different but have the same funky style in each one of their songs from their albums. Stepping Into Tomorrow is groovier and it branched out from the usual instrumentation of jazz. The album is a mixture of soul, R&B, soul-jazz, and many more music genres mixed together to create its unique style. This helped shape a new form of jazz and when listening to the full album it really gets you in a good mood. As for Mr. Magic, it contains elements of jazz from the 50’s, but we see the funkier side of it in songs like the title track, as it contains electric keyboards and an electric guitar. It’s not heavy funk, but you can still feel the funk in the music, and it makes for a pleasant listening experience.

My overall opinion is that the best eras of jazz were in the 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s and I would pretty much recommend listening to the artist and music mentioned in this paper. You will not regret it and maybe jazz might become one of your favorite genres in the future like it has become for me.