The history of jazz music began in New Orleans and spread across the world. This week marks Jazz Appreciation Week and the Florida A&M University music community is celebrating a genre created by black people.
Jazz has survived more than a century of changes in society and evolved into a music that many people enjoy and appreciate. “Jazz was created originally as dance music for African Americans,” said Lindsey Sarjeant, director of jazz studies and musical arranger for the Marching 100. ” It started off with
Ragtime piano style, after that was New Orleans style jazz.” Jazz remained a danceable music for a century and in the early 1940’s bebop emerged and jazz became a listening art form instead of music made for dancing.
“Bebop music showed the complexities of the musicians who played in that era,” Sarjeant said.
Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie and Thelonious Monk are among the many musicians famous from the bop era.
Parker is known as the most influential bop musician.
“Charlie Parker is considered to be the most important jazz musician that changed the way people looked at jazz music,” Sarjeant said.
In the 1950’s jazz was known as avant-garde or free jazz. Following the avant-garde era, all of the different styles of jazz came together to make jazz rock fusion.
But the different eras of jazz is not what is most important about jazz. “Jazz is important because it was created by African-American people who were oppressed, denied civil liberties and whose only outlet was their created parts,” Sarjeant said.
Jazz appreciation is more about appreciating its syncopated sounds or its melodic rhythms.
“We have to have a sense of understanding for what our ancestors fought for and the rich heritage that we must preserve,” said Diron Holloway, assistant professor of music and saxophone and clarinet jazz studies. “Jazz music is an integral part of our culture and heritage,” Holloway said.
Although jazz appeals to all types audiences, many students do not know the history of jazz and how it relates to them. “Even today all dance music we listen to now, even rap and R&B, owe its flavor and harmony to jazz music,” Sarjeant said.
Tashiana Phillips, 22, a criminal justice student, said she does not know much about the history of jazz but does enjoy the music.
“My favorite jazz musicians are Ella Fitzgerald, Billy Holiday and Herbie Hancock, but I just think music itself is a spirit booster,” Phillips said.
In contrast, Larry J. Smith, II, a jazz studies and commercial music student, said music has always been a part of his life.
“I’m just starting to get into the whole jazz concept. I was a church musician growing up and coming to FAMU has opened me up to the whole concept of jazz,” Smith said.
Smith, 22, said he is just starting to speak the “jazz language” but likes Cannonball Adderley because of his style and his dark tone.