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Related to jazz: jazz dance, blues


the most significant form of musical expression of African-American culture and arguably the most outstanding contribution the United States has made to the art of music.

Origins of Jazz

Jazz developed in the latter part of the 19th cent. from black work songs, field shouts or hollers, sorrow songs, hymns, and spiritualsspiritual,
a religious folk song of American origin, particularly associated with African-American Protestants of the southern United States. The African-American spiritual, characterized by syncopation, polyrhythmic structure, and the pentatonic scale of five whole tones, is,
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 whose harmonic, rhythmic, and melodic elements were predominantly African. Because of its spontaneous, emotional, and improvisational character, and because it is basically of black origin and association, jazz has to some extent not been accorded the degree of recognition it deserves. European audiences have often been more receptive to jazz, and thus many American jazz musicians have become expatriates.

At the outset, jazz was slow to win acceptance by the general public, not only because of its cultural origin, but also because it tended to suggest loose morals and low social status. However, jazz gained a wide audience when white orchestras adapted or imitated it, and became legitimate entertainment in the late 1930s when Benny GoodmanGoodman, Benny
(Benjamin David Goodman), 1909–86, American clarinetist, composer, and band leader, b. Chicago. Goodman studied clarinet at Hull House. In Chicago he had the opportunity to hear (and eventually to play beside) some of the outstanding jazz musicians of the
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 led racially mixed groups in concerts at Carnegie Hall. Show tunes became common vehicles for performance, and, while the results were exquisite, rhythmic and harmonic developments were impeded until the mid-1940s.

Jazz is generally thought to have begun in New Orleans, spreading to Chicago, Kansas City, New York City, and the West Coast. The blues, vocal and instrumental, was and is a vital component of jazz, which includes, roughly in order of appearance: ragtime; New Orleans or Dixieland jazz; swing; bop, or bebop; progressive, or cool, jazz; neo-bop, or hard-bop; third stream; mainstream modern; Latin-jazz; jazz-rock; and avant-garde or free jazz.


The heart of jazz, the blues is a musical form now standardized as 12 bars, based on the tonic, dominant, and subdominant chords. The "blue notes" are the flatted third and seventh. A statement is made in the first four bars, repeated (sometimes with slight variation) in the next four, and answered or commented on in the last four. In vocal blues the lyrics are earthy and direct and are mostly concerned with basic human problems—love and sex, poverty, and death. The tempo may vary, and the mood ranges from total despair to cynicism and satire.

Basing his songs on traditional blues, W. C. HandyHandy, W. C.
(William Christopher Handy), 1873–1958, American songwriter and band leader, b. Florence, Ala. Largely self-taught, Handy began his career as a cornet player in a minstrel show in 1896, and later organized various small bands.
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 greatly increased the popularity of the idiom. Important vocal blues stylists include Blind Lemon Jefferson, LeadbellyLeadbelly,
nickname of Huddie William Ledbetter,
1885–1949, American singer, b. Mooringsport, La. While wandering through Louisiana and Texas, he earned a living by playing the guitar for dances.
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, Lightnin' Sam Hopkins, Robert JohnsonJohnson, Robert,
1911–38, African-American blues singer, guitarist, and songwriter, b. Hazelhurst, Miss. A sharecropper's son, he grew up absorbing the music of Delta bluesmen, learning the harmonica and then mastering the guitar.
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, Gertrude (Ma) Rainey, Bertha (Chippie) Hill, Bessie SmithSmith, Bessie,
1894–1937, American singer, b. Chattanooga, Tenn. About 1910 Smith became the protégée of Gertrude (Ma) Rainey, one of the earliest blues singers.
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, Billie HolidayHoliday, Billie,
1915–59, American singer, b. Baltimore. Her original name was Eleanora Fagan. She began singing professionally in 1930, and after performing with numerous bands—especially those of Benny Goodman, Teddy Wilson, Count Basie, and Artie Shaw—she
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, Dinah Washington, and Muddy WatersWaters, Muddy,
1915–83, African-American blues singer and guitarist, b. Rolling Fork, Miss., as McKinley Morganfield. As a teenager he began singing and playing traditional country blues on harmonica and guitar, and in 1941 he was recorded by Alan Lomax for the Library of
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The earliest form of jazz to exert a wide appeal, ragtime was basically a piano style emphasizing syncopation and polyrhythm. Scott JoplinJoplin, Scott
, 1868–1917, American ragtime pianist and composer, b. Texarkana, Tex. Self-taught, Joplin left home in his early teens to seek his fortune in music. He lived in St. Louis (1885–93), playing in saloons and bordellos. In 1894 he moved to Sedalia, Mo.
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 and Irving BerlinBerlin, Irving
, 1888–1989, American songwriter, b. Russia as Israel Baline; his Jewish family fled a pogrom in 1893 and settled in New York's Lower East Side. Alexander's Ragtime Band (1911) was his first outstanding hit.
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 were major composers and performers of ragtime. From about 1893 to the beginning of World War I this music was popularized through sheet music and player-piano rolls. In the early 1970s, ragtime, particularly Joplin's works, had a popular revival.

New Orleans Jazz

New Orleans, or Dixieland, jazz is played by small bands usually made up of cornet or trumpet, clarinet, trombone, and a rhythm section that includes bass, drums, guitar, and sometimes piano. When the band marched, as it often did in the early days, the piano and bass were omitted and a tuba was used. The three lead instruments provide a contrapuntal melody above the steady beat of the rhythm, and individualities of intonation and phrasing, with frequent use of vibrato and glissando, give the music its warm and highly personal quality. The music ranged from funeral dirges to the exuberant songs of Mardi Gras.

The pioneer black New Orleans jazz band of Buddy Bolden was formed in the 1890s. The Original Dixieland Jazz Band and the New Orleans Rhythm Kings, both white bands, successfully introduced jazz to the northern United States. The closing in 1917 of the notorious Storyville district of New Orleans produced an exodus of jazz musicians. Many went to Chicago, where the New Orleans style survived in the bands of King OliverOliver, King
(Joseph Oliver), 1885–1938, American jazz musician, b. Abend, La. Oliver began his professional career in 1904 with the Onward Brass Band. After playing with leading bands in New Orleans and establishing himself as a master cornetist, he moved to Chicago in
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, and later in the music of Louis ArmstrongArmstrong, Louis
(Daniel Louis Armstrong), known as "Satchmo" and "Pops," 1901–1971, American jazz trumpet virtuoso, singer, and bandleader, b. New Orleans. He learned to play the cornet in the band of the Waif's Home in New Orleans, and after playing with Kid Ory's
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, Jelly Roll MortonMorton, Jelly Roll,
1890–1941, American jazz musician, composer, and band leader, originally named Ferdinand Joseph Lamothe, b. Gulfport, La. He began studying piano as a child and in his youth was a pianist in the colorful Storyville district of New Orleans.
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, and Johnny Dodds. Fate Marable, who had played on Mississippi riverboats since 1910, now began to organize riverboat jam sessions with outstanding musicians.

Meanwhile, distinctive styles developed in many cities, evolved by younger musicians who stressed a single melodic line rather than the New Orleans counterpoint. Bix BeiderbeckeBeiderbecke, Bix
(Leon Bismarck Beiderbecke) , 1903–31, American jazz cornetist, pianist, and composer, b. Davenport, Iowa. Mainly self-taught, he was influenced by recordings of the Original Dixieland Jazz Band and by the music of King Oliver, Louis Armstrong, and Jimmie
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, a cornetist and pianist and a major Chicago-style musician, was influential in developing more complex melodic lines. Jazz spread to Kansas City, Los Angeles, and New York City.


Originating in Kansas City and Harlem in the late 1920s and becoming a national craze, swing was marked by the substitution of orchestration for improvisation and a rhythm that falls between the beats. The average big band had about 15 members (five reeds, five brass, piano, bass, and drums) and could generate overwhelming volume or evince the most subtle articulations. The bands led by Duke EllingtonEllington, Duke
(Edward Kennedy Ellington), 1899–1974, American jazz musician and composer, b. Washington, D.C. Ellington made his first professional appearance as a jazz pianist in 1916.
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 and Count BasieBasie, Count
(William Basie) , 1904–84, American jazz pianist, bandleader, and composer, b. Red Bank, N.J. After working in dance halls and vaudeville in New York City, Basie moved to Kansas City, a major jazz center.
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 were the finest practitioners of this idiom, while those of Fletcher HendersonHenderson, Fletcher
(James Fletcher "Smack" Henderson), 1898–1952, American jazz composer, arranger, and pianist, b. Cuthbert, Ga. Henderson played piano from childhood. Short of funds after coming to New York City in 1920 to study graduate chemistry, he took a job with W.
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, Jimmy Lunceford, Benny Goodman, Artie ShawShaw, Artie,
1910–2004, American clarinetist and bandleader, b. New York City as Arthur Jacob Arshawsky. He began playing professionally as a teenager, becoming a studio musician in New York after 1929.
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, Glenn MillerMiller, Glenn
(Alton Glenn Miller), 1904–44, American jazz trombonist, bandleader, and composer, b. Clarinda, Iowa. Playing in Ben Pollack's band by 1927, he was a freelance musician in New York City during the 1930s.
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, Tommy Dorsey (see under Dorsey, JimmyDorsey, Jimmy
(James Francis Dorsey), 1904–57, and his brother Tommy Dorsey
(Thomas Francis Dorsey, Jr.), 1905–1956, both b. Shenandoah, Pa., American jazz musicians and bandleaders during the Big Band era.
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), and Harry James were also outstanding. The music was often written to showcase soloists who were, or were intended to be, supported by the ensemble.


The vigor of the music notwithstanding, a revolt against the confining nature of the harmony, melody, and rhythm of swing arose in Kansas City and Harlem in the 1930s and reached fruition in the mid-40s. The new music, called "bebop" or "rebop" (later shortened to "bop"), was rejected at first by many critics. Bop was characterized by the flatted fifth, a more elaborate rhythmic structure, and a harmonic rather than melodic focus. Charlie ParkerParker, Charlie "Bird"
(Charles Christopher Parker, Jr.), 1920–55, American musician and composer, b. Kansas City, Kans. He began playing alto saxophone in 1933 and, shifting from one band to another, eventually met Dizzy Gillespie in New York City.
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, Dizzy GillespieGillespie, Dizzy
(John Birks Gillespie) , 1917–93, American jazz musician and composer, b. Cheraw, S.C. He began to play the trumpet at 15 and later studied harmony and theory at Laurinburg Institute, N.C. He played with the bands of Cab Calloway and Billy Eckstine.
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, Thelonius MonkMonk, Thelonius
(Thelonius Sphere Monk), 1917–82, American jazz pianist, composer, and arranger, b. Rocky Mount, N.C. Monk is considered one of the most important, and eccentric, figures in modern jazz.
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, Kenny Clarke, and Charlie ChristianChristian, Charlie
(Charles Henry Christian), 1916–42, African-American jazz guitarist, b. Bonham, Tex. The son of a singer-guitarist father and pianist mother, he grew up in Oklahoma City, where he began playing professionally at 15.
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 were major influences in the new music, which became the basis for modern jazz. The influence of two swing musicians, the tenor saxophonist Lester YoungYoung, Lester Willis,
1909–59, American jazz musician, b. Woodville, Miss. He played the tenor saxophone with various bands (1929–40), including those of Fletcher Henderson and Count Basie, with whom he first recorded in 1936.
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 and the drummer Jo Jones, was of paramount importance in influencing the harmonic and rhythmic direction of bop.

Progressive Jazz

After beginning in New York City, progressive, or cool, jazz developed primarily on the West Coast in the late 1940s and early 50s. Intense yet ironically relaxed tonal sonorities are the major characteristic of this jazz form, while the melodic line is less convoluted than in bop. Lester Young's style was fundamental to the music of the cool saxophonists Lee Konitz, Warne Marsh, and Stan GetzGetz, Stan,
1927–91, American jazz tenor saxophonist, b. Philadelphia, as Stanley Gayetsky. As a mature musician he was especially known for his "cool" jazz style.
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. Miles DavisDavis, Miles,
1926–91, American jazz musician, b. Alton, Ill. Rising to prominence with the birth of modern jazz in the mid-1940s, when he was a sideman in Charlie Parker's bop quintet, Davis became a dominant force in jazz trumpet.
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 played an important part in the early stages, and the influence of virtuoso pianist Lennie Tristano was all-pervasive. The music was accepted more gracefully by the public and critics than bop, and the pianist Dave BrubeckBrubeck, Dave
(David Warren Brubeck) , 1920–2012, American pianist and composer, b. Concord, Calif. Brubeck began studying piano at the age of four and later studied composition with Milhaud and Schoenberg.
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 became its most widely known performer.

Recent Trends

By the mid-1950s a form of neo-bop, or hard-bop, had arisen on the East Coast. John ColtraneColtrane, John
, 1926–67, American jazz musician, b. Hamlet, N.C. He began playing tenor saxophone as an adolescent. Coltrane worked with numerous big bands before emerging in the mid-1950s as a major stylist while playing as a sideman with Miles Davis.
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, Sonny RollinsRollins, Sonny
(Theodore Walter Rollins), 1930–, African-American tenor saxophonist and composer, b. New York City. A master of jazz improvisation, Rollins is known for his rich tone, emotional depth, and inventive use of melody, harmony, and rhythm.
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, Cannonball Adderley, Horace Silver, Art Blakey, and Max RoachRoach, Max
(Maxwell Lemuel Roach), 1924–2007, African-American jazz drummer, b. Newland, N.C. Raised in Brooklyn, N.Y., he was playing jazz in Harlem clubs by 1943.
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 led various small groups that produced an idiom marked by crackling, explosive, uncompromising intensity. About the same period, a number of outstanding musician-composers, including Gunther Schuller and John Lewis of the Modern Jazz Quartet, produced "third stream" jazz, essentially a blend of classical music and jazz. Jazz has also been successfully combined with Afro-Latin music, as in the music of Candido, Machito, Eddie Palmieri, and Mongo Santamaria.

In the last half of the 1950s there were three major trends in contemporary jazz. First, a general modern jazz form had developed in the period since World War II, which can be called "mainstream," best exemplified by the music of Gerry Mulligan's various bands. Second, a number of instruments that either had never been used seriously in jazz, such as the flute, oboe, and flügelhorn, or had been unpopular, such as the soprano saxophone, were used to bring new instrumental voices into the music. Third, avant-garde or free jazz leaders such as John Coltrane, Ornette ColemanColeman, Ornette,
1930–2015, African-American saxophonist and composer, b. Fort Worth, Tex. Largely self-taught, he began playing the alto saxophone in rhythm-and-blues bands.
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, Eric Dolphy, Pharaoh Sanders, Archie Shepp, Cecil Taylor, and Rahsaan Roland Kirk continued to explore new harmonic, melodic, and rhythmic relationships. The new jazz is often atonal, and traditional melodic instruments often assume rhythmic-percussive roles and vice versa.

In the late 1960s many jazz musicians, such as Miles Davis, Wayne Shorter, Larry Coryell, Gary Burton, Keith Jarrett, and Chick Corea, investigated the connections between rock and jazz in a musical style known as fusion. After the rapid innovations of the 1960s and 70s, the jazz of the 1980s appeared less form-bending and somewhat revivalist, with musicians reluctant to follow trends and accept labels. Emerging in the early 1990s was a style often called acid jazz, a hybrid form that combined traditional jazz, soul, and funk with Latin and hip-hop rhythms. Some of the prominent jazz artists of the 1980s, 1990s, and early 2000s include Wynton and Branford MarsalisMarsalis, Wynton
, 1961–, American trumpeter, bandleader, and composer, b. New Orleans. Born into a distinguished jazz family, he studied classical music at Juilliard.
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, Terence Blanchard, David Murray, John Carter, Henry Threadgill, Cyrus Chestnut, and Joshua Redman.

Jazz has always been a distinctively American idiom, with Europeans largely forming an appreciative audience and Europe's jazzmen following trends begun in the United States. At the end of the 20th cent., however, many Scandinavian and French musicians, feeling that mainstream American jazz expression had retreated into the past, began creating a new genre nicknamed "the European." Returning to jazz's roots as dance music, they combined elements from European house, techno, drum and bass, and jungle music with acoustic, electronic, and sampled sound to create a more popular and populist variety of jazz. Musicians involved in this movement include Norwegian pianist Bugge Wesseltoft and trumpeter Nils Petter Molvaer, French pianists Martial Solal and Laurent de Wilde, French saxophonist Julien Lourau and flutist Malik Mezzadri, Sweden's Esbjorn Svensson Trio, and France's Ludovic Navarre and St. Germain groups.

Jazz artists in America have suffered much and received little. In many cases the misery of their lives and public indifference have driven them to find relief in drugs and alcohol. Despite hardships they have produced a richly varied art form in which improvisation and experimentation are imperative; jazz promises continued growth in directions as yet unforeseeable.


See G. Schuller, Early Jazz (1968) and The Swing Era (1989), A. McCarthy et al., Jazz on Record: The First Fifty Years (1969), F. Kofsky, Black Nationalism and the Revolution in Music (1970), M. Williams, The Jazz Tradition (1970), D. Kennington, The Literature of Jazz (1971), H. Panassié, The Real Jazz (1960, repr. 1973), J. Berendt, The Jazz Book (1984), I. Gitler, Swing to Bop: An Oral History of the Transition in Jazz in the 1940s (1985) and The Masters of Bebop (2001), W. Balliett, 56 Portraits in Jazz (1986), E. Gioia, West Coast Jazz (1992), The History of Jazz (rev. ed. 2011), and The Jazz Standards (2012), G. Giddens, Visions of Jazz: The First Century (1998), and G. Giddens and S. DeVeaux, Jazz (2009); B. Kernfeld, ed., The New Grove Dictionary of Jazz (1998), and L. Feather and I. Gitler, ed., The Biographical Encyclopedia of Jazz (1999). For blues see C. Keil, Urban Blues (1966); P. Oliver, Conversation with the Blues (1965), The Story of the Blues (1969), and Aspects of the Blues Tradition (1970); A. Murray, Stomping the Blues (1976); G. Giddins, Riding on a Blue Note (1981). For ragtime see W. J. Schafer and J. Riedel, The Art of Ragtime (1974).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



a genre of professional musical art. Jazz emerged at the turn of the 20th century as the result of a synthesis by US Negroes of features of European and African music. It was molded by a number of African elements, including polyrhythm, repetition of a basic motif, the call-and-response pattern, vocal expressiveness, and improvisation, as well as by prevalent forms of Negro musical folklore, including ritual dances, work songs, spirituals, and blues.

The word “jazz” was first used in the expression “jazz band” in the middle of the first decade of the 20th century in the southern states. It referred to the music that was being created by small New Orleans ensembles (composed of a trumpet, clarinet, trombone, banjo, tuba or string bass, drums, and piano) through group improvisation on themes from the blues, ragtime, and European popular songs and dances. Among the founders of jazz, all of whom played in the New Orleans style, were the trumpeter and singer L. Armstrong, trumpeter King Oliver, clarinetist J. Dodds, trombonist K. Ory, and pianist Jelly Roll Morton.

Subsequently, ensembles of white musicians—so-called Dixieland groups—emerged, which played in a style imitating Negro jazz. To a great extent, the development of Dixieland groups helped spread jazz outside the southern states. In the 1920’s jazz became very popular in the USA and reached Europe. Chicago became the new center for the development of jazz and the birthplace of the so-called Chicago style, which was characterized by more rigid compositional organization and increased emphasis on the role of the soloist.

The transformation of jazz into an object of commercial exploitation lowered its artistic value. Attempting to transcend the use of the clichés spawned by commercialized variety stage music, Negro performers sought new paths for the development of jazz. In the 1930’s the so-called swing style emerged, in which three groups of wind instruments— saxophones, trumpets, and trombones—were interchanged to create the effect of a rhythmic swing. Performed most typically by a large band of 15-17 players, swing completely abandoned group improvisation in favor of solos and greatly increased the importance of the composer and arranger. The big bands of Duke Ellington, F. Henderson, W. Basie, C. Webb, and J. Lunceford were among the most important representatives of swing. A number of band leaders, including B. Goodman, T. Dorsey, and G. Miller, borrowed from Negro musicians. In the same period the pianist T. Wilson, vibraphonist L. Hampton, and tenor saxophonists C. Hawkins and L. Young, performing with small ensembles, developed a genre of chamber jazz.

In the early 1940’s alto saxophonist C. Parker, trumpeter J. Gillespie, pianist T. Monk, and drummers K. Clarke and M. Roach radically changed the concept of jazz, abandoning the dance quality, melodic symmetry, and picturesque effects of swing. The new style, known as bebop (an onomatopoeic word), introduced themes that sounded awkward and were saturated with dissonance, as well as a dry, ascetic sound and free improvisation that was not connected with the melody of the piece but relied on a complex sequence of chords.

Contemporary or modern jazz is developing through a struggle between two different tendencies: so-called commercial jazz, which is an integral part of the bourgeois entertainment industry, and creative jazz, which is seeking new artistic methods. Progressive musicians have sought to preserve the link between jazz and folk sources and traditions, while drawing on various elements of classical and contemporary music. Duke Ellington, G. Schuller, J. Lewis, G. Evans, M. Davis, S. Rollins, J. Coltrane, O. Coleman, C. Lloyd, A. Shepp, A. Ayler, and C. Taylor are among the most important masters of contemporary jazz.

In the mid-1950’s a style representing the fusion of individual elements from jazz, blues, and the country folk style of white Americans was initially called rock’n’roll and later, big beat. The new style gave rise to the current form called pop music (abbreviation of “popular music”). Despite the increasing exploitation of pop music by businessmen in bourgeois commercial music, individual ensembles, including the Beatles and Chicago, have succeeded in creating a number of pop music works of genuine artistic value.

Jazz first began to spread outside the USA in the 1920’s. However, original groups that developed jazz based on national traditions emerged in Europe only in the 1940’s and 1950’s. Among them were bands led by J. Dankworth (England), M. Legrand (France), K. Vlach and G. Brom (Czechoslovakia), and K. Edelhagen (Federal Republic of Germany).

Jazz first developed in the USSR in the mid-1920’s and is associated with bands led by V. la. Parnakh, A. N. Tsfasman, G. V. Lansberg, and L. la. Teplitskii. The State Variety Stage Band, which was organized in 1929 and led by L. O. Utesov, played an important role in the creation of the Soviet jazz style, whose sources are mass and variety stage songs. Orchestras led by A. V. Varlamov, la. B. Skomorovskii, E. I. Rozner, and O. N. Lundstrem gained fame in the 1930’s and 1940’s. Small ensembles specializing in improvisation were formed in the 1950’s and have developed another trend in Soviet jazz, striving to create works based on the folk songs and folk dances of the peoples of the USSR. Ensembles led by A. E. Tovmasian, N. N. Gromin, A. N. Zubov, G. A. Garanian, G. K. Lukïanov, E. D. Gevorgian, and A. Kozlov have made the greatest contribution to this trend. Bands organized in the republics of the Soviet Union have become well known.

Jazz definitely influenced the development of 20th-century music. Many major composers, including C. Debussy, M. Ravel, G. Gershwin, P. Hindemith, I. F. Stravinsky, D. Milhaud, A. Copland, M. Blitzstein, and L. Bernstein, in the West and I. O. Dunaevskii, A. la. Eshpai, K. Karaev, R. K. Shchedrin, M. M. Kazhlaev, and A. P. Petrov in the Soviet Union, have used elements of jazz in their compositions.


Dzhaz-band i sovremennaia muzyka. (Collection of articles.) Edited by S. Ginzburg. Leningrad, 1926.
Mysovskii, V., and V. Feiertag. Dzhaz. Leningrad, 1960.
Utesov, L. S pesnei po zhizni. Moscow, 1961.
Konen, V. Puti razvitiia amerikanskoi muzyki, 2nd ed. Moscow, 1965.
Chernov, A., and M. Bialik. O legkoi muzyke, O dzhaze, O khoroshem vkuse. Moscow-Leningrad, 1965.
Armstrong, L. “Moia zhizn’ v muzyke.” Teatr, 1965, nos. 10, 12 1966, nos. 2, 3.
Pereverzev, L. “Iz istorii dzhaza.” Muzykal’naia zhizn’, 1966, nos. 3,5,9, 12.
Feather, L. The Encyclopedia of Jazz in the Sixties. New York [1966].
Ojakaar, V. Dzdssmusika. Tallinn, 1966.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


a. a kind of music of African-American origin, characterized by syncopated rhythms, solo and group improvisation, and a variety of harmonic idioms and instrumental techniques. It exists in a number of styles
b. (as modifier): a jazz band
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