A Brief History of


It is important to know the history and background of Jazz music in order to understand its influences and where the other sub-genres of jazz music came from.

Jazz was born in the late 19th-early 20th century, in the Southern States of the United States (mainly New Orleans), by the black African-American community.

During these centuries of slavery, slaves, torn from their native Africa, will look for ways to survive in these inhuman living conditions. God and music will be their only comfort. To give themselves courage during their hard work, the slaves will sing songs accompanied by the rhythm of their tools. These are called Worksongs. The white owners will then teach their slaves their religious songs, that the latter will sing “in their sauce” that is what will give the negro spiritual (whose texts are inspired by episodes of the Bible or Testaments), then later to gospel music.

During the American Civil War (from 1861 to 1865) African-Americans will recover the instruments of brass bands on the battlefields (brass and percussion like snares).

After the Abolition of Slavery in 1865, African-Americans began learning to play Old World instruments, including violin and piano. Job opportunities are opening up for African-American musicians, but life remains particularly hard, with segregation taking over from slavery. Afro-American freedmen can only find employment in the popular entertainment industry, even downstairs: the minstrel show (shows with racist overtones presenting the Black as a jester), cabarets, bars, clubs, and houses closed.

Black musicians begin to associate and form fanfares that play for weddings, parades, births, burials, various celebrations.

It is in this context of the warm neighbourhoods of New Orleans that ragtime was born, a syncopated music that would punctuate the nights of Louisiana dancers first, then spread throughout the US and gives birth to Jazz.

It’s in Storyville, New Orleans’ hot neighbourhood, and that jazz was born. Brass and percussion for brass bands, double basses, pianos and drums for the groups of clubs, will become the basic instruments of the style New Orleans (black) and Dixieland (white), the first style of Jazz. In this New Orleans jazz, the trumpet plays the melody or variations of it, while the other brass improvises around this melodic line, while the string instruments pass in the rhythm section.

In 1914, while the artful recklessness reigns on Storyville and its furious music, the first world war bursts. New Orleans has become a war port where many soldiers are garrisoned or stationed waiting for embarkation. In 1917, the Navy Storyville closing many musicians go looking for work in other cities: Chicago of course, but also New York and Kansas City.

At the end of the First World War, the US is now booming economically. Chicago is the most accessible city and has jobs to provide, it will host the most jazz musicians neo-Orleans. From their presence in force was born the Chicago Dixieland, under the impetus, among others, Louis Armstrong with his Hot Five, or Jelly Roll Morton and his Red Hot Peppers.