Jazz can be very hard to define because it spans from Ragtime waltzes to 2000s-era fusion. Attempts have been made to define jazz from the perspective of other musical traditions—using the point of view of European music history or African music for example—but jazz critic Joachim Berendtargues that all such attempts are unsatisfactory. One way to get around the definitional problems is to define the term “jazz” more broadly. Berendt defines jazz as a “form of art music which originated in the United States through the confrontation of blacks with European music”; he argues that jazz differs from European music in that jazz has a “special relationship to time, defined as ‘swing‘”, “a spontaneity and vitality of musical production in which improvisation plays a role”; and “sonority and manner of phrasing which mirror the individuality of the performing jazz musician”.
n jazz, however, the skilled performer will interpret a tune in very individual ways, never playing the same composition exactly the same way twice. Depending upon the performer’s mood and personal experience, interactions with fellow musicians, or even members of the audience, a jazz musician/performer may alter melodies, harmonies or time signature at will. The jazz soloist is supported by a rhythm section who “comp”, by playing chords and rhythms that outline the song structure and complement the soloist. European classical music has been said to be a composer’s medium. Jazz, however, is often characterized as the product of egalitarian creativity, interaction and collaboration, placing equal value on the contributions of composer and performer, ‘adroitly weigh[ing] the respective claims of the composer and the improviser’.
In New Orleans and Dixieland jazz, performers took turns playing the melody, while others improvised countermelodies. By the swing era, big bands were coming to rely more on arranged music:arrangements were either written or learned by ear and memorized—many early jazz performers could not read music. Individual soloists would improvise within these arrangements. Later, in bebopthe focus shifted back towards small groups and minimal arrangements; the melody (known as the “head”) would be stated briefly at the start and end of a piece but the core of the performance would be the series of improvisations in the middle. Later styles of jazz such as modal jazz abandoned the strict notion of a chord progression, allowing the individual musicians to improvise even more freely within the context of a given scale or mode. The avant-garde and free jazz idioms permit, even call for, abandoning chords, scales, and rhythmic meters.
n general, smooth jazz is downtempo (the most widely played tracks are in the 90–105 BPM range), layering a lead, melody-playing instrument (saxophones–especially soprano and tenor–are the most popular, with legato electric guitar playing a close second) over a backdrop that typically consists of programmed electronic drum rhythms, synth pads and samples. In hisNewsweek article “The Problem With Jazz Criticism” Stanley Crouch considers Miles Davis‘ playing of fusion as a turning point that led to smooth jazz. In Aaron J. West’s introduction to his analysis of smooth jazz, “Caught Between Jazz and Pop” he states,
Developed by the mid-1970s, is characterized by a strong back beat (groove), electrified sounds, and often, the presence of the first electronic analog synthesizers. The integration of Funk, Soul, and R&B music and styles into jazz resulted in the creation of a genre whose spectrum is indeed quite wide and ranges from strong jazz improvisation to soul, funk or disco with jazz arrangements, jazz riffs, and jazz solos, and sometimes soul vocals.
At the jazz end of the spectrum, jazz-funk characteristics include a departure from ternary rhythm (near-triplet), i.e. the “swing”, to the more danceable and unfamiliar binary rhythm, known as the “groove“. Jazz-funk also draws influences from traditional African music, Latin American rhythms, and Jamaican reggae, most notably Kingston band leader Sonny Bradshaw. A second characteristic of Jazz-funk music is the use of electric instruments, and the first use of analogue electronic instruments notably by Herbie Hancock, whose jazz-funk period saw him surrounded on stage or in the studio by several Moog synthesizers. The ARP Odyssey, ARP String Ensemble, and Hohner D6 Clavinet also became popular at the time. A third feature is the shift of proportions between composition and improvisation. Arrangements, melody, and overall writing were heavily emphasized.
In the late 1960s and early 1970s the hybrid form of jazz-rock fusion was developed by combining jazz improvisation with rock rhythms, electric instruments, and the highly amplified stage sound of rock musicians such as Jimi Hendrix. All Music Guide states that “..until around 1967, the worlds of jazz and rock were nearly completely separate.” However, “…as rock became more creative and its musicianship improved, and as some in the jazz world became bored with hard bop and did not want to play strictly avant-garde music, the two different idioms began to trade ideas and occasionally combine forces.”  Miles Davis made the breakthrough into fusion in 1970s with his album Bitches Brew. Musicians who worked with Davis formed the four most influential fusion groups: Weather Report and Mahavishnu Orchestra emerged in 1971 and were soon followed byReturn to Forever and The Headhunters. Although jazz purists protested the blend of jazz and rock, some of jazz’s significant innovators crossed over from the contemporary hard bop scene into fusion. Jazz fusion music often uses mixed meters, odd time signatures, syncopation, and complex chords and harmonies. In addition to using the electric instruments of rock, such as the electric guitar, electric bass, electric piano, and synthesizer keyboards, fusion also used the powerful amplification, “fuzz” pedals, wah-wah pedals, and other effects used by 1970s-era rock bands. Notable performers of jazz fusion included Miles Davis, keyboardists Joe Zawinul, Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock, vibraphonist Gary Burton, drummer Tony Williams, violinist Jean-Luc Ponty, guitarists Larry Coryell, Al Di Meola, John McLaughlin and Frank Zappa, saxophonist Wayne Shorter, and bassists Jaco Pastorius and Stanley Clarke. Jazz fusion was also popular in Japan where the band Casiopeareleased over thirty albums praising Jazz Fusion.
Soul jazz was a development of hard bop which incorporated strong influences from blues, gospel and rhythm and blues in music for small groups, often the organ trio, which partnered a Hammond organ player with a drummer and a tenor saxophonist. Unlike hard bop, soul jazz generally emphasized repetitive grooves and melodic hooks, and improvisations were often less complex than in other jazz styles. Horace Silver had a large influence on the soul jazz style, with songs that used funky and often gospel-based piano vamps. It often had a steadier “funk” style groove, different from the swing rhythms typical of much hard bop. Important soul jazz organists included Jimmy McGriff and Jimmy Smith and Johnny Hammond Smith, and influential tenor saxophone players includedEddie “Lockjaw” Davis and Stanley Turrentine. (See also List of soul-jazz musicians.)
Latin jazz combines rhythms from African and Latin American countries, often played on instruments such as conga, timbale, güiro, and claves, with jazz and classical harmonies played on typical jazz instruments (piano, double bass, etc.). There are two main varieties: Afro-Cuban jazz was played in the US right after the bebop period, while Brazilian jazzbecame more popular in the 1960s. Afro-Cuban jazz began as a movement in the mid-1950s as bebop musicians such as Dizzy Gillespie and Billy Taylorstarted Afro-Cuban bands influenced by such Cuban and Puerto Rican musicians as Xavier Cugat, Tito Puente, and Arturo Sandoval. Brazilian jazz such as bossa nova is derived from samba, with influences from jazz and other 20th century classical and popular music styles. Bossa is generally moderately paced, with melodies sung in Portuguese or English. The style was pioneered by Brazilians João Gilberto and Antônio Carlos Jobim. The related term jazz-samba describes an adaptation of bossa nova compositions to the jazz idiom by American performers such as Stan Getzand Charlie Byrd.
Bossa nova was made popular by Elizete Cardoso‘s recording of Chega de Saudade on the Canção do Amor Demais LP, composed by Vinícius de Moraes (lyrics) and Antonio Carlos Jobim (music). The initial releases by Gilberto and the 1959 film Black Orpheus brought significant popularity in Brazil and elsewhere in Latin America, which spread to North America via visiting American jazz musicians. The resulting recordings by Charlie Byrd and Stan Getz cemented its popularity and led to a worldwide boom with 1963′s Getz/Gilberto, numerous recordings by famous jazz performers such as Ella Fitzgerald (Ella Abraça Jobim) and Frank Sinatra (Francis Albert Sinatra & Antônio Carlos Jobim), and the entrenchment of the bossa nova style as a lasting influence in world music for several decades and even up to the present.
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