Know Your Jazz: Hot Jazz versus Cool Jazz

Jazz is a genre that appeals to all age groups because it changes as each generation of artists modifies it with their own twist. While African Americans are pioneers of the genre, the genre combines both African rhythmic tunes and European-based harmonic structure.  

Initially, the genre came to life from ragtime in combination with blue notes. Other than this, syncopated rhythms and the use of timbre are also associated with jazz.  

Moving on, when it’s jazz we’re talking about, any effort to put forth a denotative definition will go in vain. It is not because there cannot be one, but because it will be an injustice to the genre to confine it to just one.  

Since the beginning, jazz is a form of music that is always evolving as well as expanding with each developmental phase. A definition applied during one phase (New Orleans swing) will prove to be inapt when used for another phase (free jazz).  

Speaking of this, previous attempts to define jazz as a music form thriving on improvisation turned out to be rather restrictive, not to mention somewhat untrue. This is because jazz comprises other elements, such as composition and ensemble. 

Types of Jazz Music 

There are two ways to enjoy and play jazz, namely hot jazz and cool jazz. While these two sets of playing jazz have been around ever since jazz came about, it was in 1950 that each of them achieved the status of a separate genre. 

In other words, the differences may not seem significant since cool jazz is low in energy, while happy jazz is high in energy. I suggest you hear some great hot and cool jazz tunes to learn what the difference sounds like. Songs by Louis Armstrong, like Dippermouth Blues, are great examples of hot jazz, while songs by Miles Davis, like So What, have elements of cool jazz.  

Cool Jazz 

During the 1940s, the United States saw a rise in cool jazz. Its chief characteristics are relaxed, lighter tempos and tones. In addition to this, the drums are softer, with slow or almost nonexistent vibratos. Moreover, the genre encompasses a wide range of emotions, intricacy, and of course, instrumentation. When we speak of emotions, cool jazz is more on a restrained and relaxed side. The rhythmic flow is quite light and quiet. The tones are unaccented with the smooth, lyrical melodic flow.  

Lester Young was one of the first to define Cool Jazz as a subcategory. His approach was soft, breathy, and restrained. 

Hot Jazz 

Also known as Dixieland music, hot jazz, as the name suggests, is all about fiery, hot tempos and improvisations. Louis Armstrong's jazz music paved the way for hot jazz in Chicago and NYC. Unlike cool jazz, hot jazz is a combination of ragtime, brass, and blues. A hot jazz number typically includes trumpet, trombone, drums, clarinet, and banjo. If we compare the two forms, then hot jazz is emotive in nature. The melodious are more angular as compared to the cool jazz. As for the vibrato, they are wider, unlike cool jazz, where it might not even exist. The rhythm is also heavy with faster tempos.  

Want some more classic hot jazz recommendations? My favorites include West End by Louis Armstrong and Snap It by King Oliver. 

Wrapping up 

Jazz has been and will continue to be one of the most popular genres of music. It has evolved in the past and will continue to do so in the future. It resonates with all age groups, which is a feat only a few genres can achieve. You can show your support for jazz and other independent musicians by listening to my music at

With Love, Maggy

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