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The Roots of Jazz

While jazz is commonly said to have begun in the first decade of the 20th century, it is also rooted in cultural trends that reached back far into the 19th century. This chapter explains how jazz synthesized various kinds of (primarily African American) music making, such as:

  • folk traditions, with the emergence of the blues c. 1900, and the development of the blues as a commercial genre (the “classic” or “vaudeville” blues of Bessie Smith)
  • blackface minstrelsy, which shaped images of African Americans in popular culture; the birth of ragtime in the late 19th century; and the long tradition of African American professional dance musicians
  • European concert music, including marching bands
This chapter also discusses the radical changes in dance music in the first two decades of the 20th century and the new technologies of radio and recording.
  • Georgia Sea Island Singers, The Buzzard Lope
  • Mississippi Fred McDowell, Soon One Morning
  • Bessie Smith, Reckless Blues
  • John Philip Sousa, The Stars and Stripes Forever
  • Wilbur Sweatman, Down Home Rag

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