How Jazz Started | Artists of the Jazz Age | Impact on Modern Music | Historical Significance | Bibliography In the 1920's, jazz was all the craze. When you went out to a club, there was a jazz band playing. On the street, a man with a trumpet might be playing for money. The radio streamed the sounds of a saxophone as the blues singers were capturing the hearts of America. African American artists began to publicly perform and record with publishers on a scale never dreamt of. The Jazz Age was the beginning of a great wave of passion in America, and a foreshadowing of our obsession with music.

How Jazz Started

A big band
A big band
Jazz was created in “New Orleans in 1818 at the end of the Spanish American war.”[1] It was a new sound that not a lot of people had heard. The “unconventional playing technique and unconventional rendering” kept the audience’s attention.[2]

Some people helped publicize the sound of the music but, ‍‍no one person single-handedly created Jazz. ‍‍
This music was a way for the ‍‍slaves‍‍ to express themselves. ‍‍That is why different people have different sounding Jazz. The cool jazz or west coast jazz of Bruno and Mulligan, the big bands, the bebop, all of that was due to the different styles of playing which led to new and interesting sounds. The least favorite was Bebop among the older folks but, most popular with the younger teens because it was considered rebellious. Big Band and cool jazz was most popular with the adults. So, your age group also contributed to the type of jazz you listened to.[3] ‍‍

Artists of the Jazz Age

The Jazz age opened up many doors for African American artists, as it created new opportunities for Stage Performers and musicians. There were several people who made a huge impact on Jazz music in the 1920’s. The most popular is Louis Armstrong, the first “Super Star” of jazz music.[4] Armstrong was a foundational influence in jazz, shifting the music's focus from collective improvisation to solo performance. Armstrong's influence extends well beyond jazz music, and by the end of his career in the 1960s, he was widely regarded as a profound influence on popular music in general. Joseph “King” Oliver was a mentor of Armstrong, as once he noted, “If it had not been for Joe Oliver, jazz would not be what it is today.”[5]

This age also saw the rise of women as performers. One in particular was Ella Fitzgerald. Over the course of her 59 year recording career, she was the winner of 13 Grammy Awards, and was awarded the National Medal of the Arts by Ronald Reagan, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom by George H. W. Bush.[6] Gertrude Pridgett (better recognized as Gertrude "Ma" Rainey) was one of the many famous women blues singers. She was the first female to record the blues professionally when she signed a recording contract with Paramount in 1923, and in 1983 was inducted into the Blues Foundation's Blue Hall of Fame.[7]

Louis Armstrong

Impact on Modern Music

The 1920’s marked huge advancements in the music industry. Independent record companies were born at this time because small companies started taking dramatic chances on artists that bigger companies were too uncomfortable with hiring. During this time, jazz was being played live in dance halls, roadhouses, and speakeasies all over the country. Early jazz influences found their first mainstream expression in the music used by marching bands and dance bands of the day, which was the main form of popular concert music in the early 20th century.[8] It also began playing on the radio as it became a common and inexpensive source of entertainment for the average person.

‍‍When listening to modern music, we always hear a “guitar solo” or some sort of instrument being played by itself for a long time. This originated in the 1920’s when trumpets and saxophones of the jazz age began using improvisation as a spontaneous melody to keep listeners interested.‍‍[9] Despite the stereotypical view on the saxophone that all the musician does in press a bunch of buttons, improv was quite difficult. Today, there are still jazz bands as well as solo jazz musicians.


Historical Significance

The era of the jazz age shed a light on how musicians would be seen today. Our musicians and vocalists are similar to those of the 1920's in that they have to start small and make their way to the top. The development of music in general was affected by the inspirations of artists such as Louis Armstrong. Without jazz, the 1920's would have never seen the Harlem Renaissance. Jazz formed the clubs and rhythms for music that we have now. Without jazz in the 1920's there would possibly be no modern music or the racial equality in the music business that there is today. The 1920's would not be the same as it was because this was the music of that time period. This is the music that played at all the clubs. This is what made the twenties thrive.


  1. ^ "How Jazz Started" http://www.redhotjazz.com/bigband.html . Accessed on January 27, 2012
  2. ^ "How Jazz started" http://lausd.net/hobart_EL/support_files/Student_showcase/jazz/jazz . Accessed on January 27,2012
  3. ^ "1920's Music." http://www.1920-30.com/music/. Accessed January 27, 2012.
  4. ^ Wilson, Jeremy. "Jazz Standards." http://www.jazzstandards.com/history/history-2.htm. Accessed on January 27, 2012.
  5. ^ "Louis Armstrong." http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Louis_Armstrong. Accessed on January 27, 2012.
  6. ^ "Ella Fitzgerald." http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ella_Fitzgerald. Accessed on January 27, 2012.
  7. ^ Pan, Wendy. "Famous Women in Jazz." http://ezinearticles.com/?Famous-Women-in-Jazz---Blues-Singers&id=1566900. Accessed January 27, 2012.
  8. ^ "1920's Music." http://www.1920-30.com/music/. Accessed January 27, 2012.
  9. ^ Wilson, Patricl. "The Influence of Jazz on Modern Music." EHow.com. http://www.ehow.com/about_6521267_influence-jazz-modern-music.html Accssed on January 27, 2012.