The Culture of Jazz Music
by Anjali Patel
Earlier this year, I started to take interest in jazz music. I began listening to various instrumentals I found on YouTube while I was doing homework, reading, or studying. While these instrumentals helped me focus, I gradually developed an appreciation for the various layers and creative energy it radiated. After some research, I mostly came to admire aspects of history and vitality regarding jazz music.
Considering its history, the African American race is one of resilience. While African Americans have repeatedly been exploited, their innovative spirit has long prevailed and jazz music is one of those innovations. Jazz was created by the combination of differing styles of music. While it originated in Louisiana, A Passion For Jazz reports that this genre also thrived in other locations including Chicago and Saint Louis. This similarity demonstrates that people in various parts of the country were able to share this common ground regardless of regional differences.
The very early beginnings of jazz music took place in the Congo Square in New Orleans. According to Go Nola, French and Spanish individuals allowed slaves to socialize in the Congo Square. The slaves were able to practice many traditional African art forms including music and dance. Despite their tremendous plight, the fact that the slaves had the opportunity to uphold some of their traditions allowed for the formation of a distinct African American culture which later led to the production of jazz music. For many, this genre acted as a musical outlet to express hardship through a relaxing yet inventive technique.
Perry Bradford is a notable jazz blues composer and artist who has successfully established personal meaning in his lyrics by expressing universal concepts. One of Perry Bradford’s most popular songs is Crazy Blues. Some of my favorite lyrics in the song are:
"there's a change in the ocean,
Change in the deep blue sea, my baby;
I tell you folks there ain't no change in me,
My love for that man will always be”
The lyrics are, of course, poetic and hold depth to one of the most explored yet confusing topics: love. These lyrics can obviously apply to those who find themselves in a similar situation. Mamie Smith, a jazz blues singer recorded Bradford’s song. The tone of her voice throughout the song, especially during these lyrics was one of certainty and confidence. Through her strong voice, she made an unfortunate truth seem empowering. That’s one of the greatest assets of jazz music: songwriters develop positive voices and beats to convey a rather undesirable reality. This is an extremely healthy way to respond to a despairing condition. More importantly, this method highlights the elasticity of the genre’s creators.
Altogether, jazz music has a deep and long history. I hope this snippet stimulates your desire to read more about the genre and discover some lesser-known artists. Through the evolution of jazz music, one can learn about the capabilities of the human race even during exacting times.