The Evolution of Jazz: How the Genre Has Changed Over the Years

Jazz is American-style music and is a combination of many styles, such as brass bands, ragtime, blues, and African music. It consists of "bent" tones and notes, which makes this genre an emotive one. Jazz is popular due to its uniqueness, considering that it arranges a rhythm using a wide range of instruments.

Where did it first begin?

It was in New Orleans where African-Americans first introduced the genre in the 1800s. New Orleans was far more racially accepting than most of America, one reason that the city welcomed the genre with open arms. 

In the 1900s, jazz's popularity soared and took the world by storm. By the 1920s, jazz made its way to Chicago and NYC from New Orleans.  

Many fans regard Jelly Morton (pictured above) as the inventor of what we know today as jazz. When he recorded Black Bottom Stomp back in 1926, jazz had already traveled to Chicago. 

Louis Armstrong redefined jazz. He has played quite a role in the development and spread of jazz. He transformed traditional Dixieland jazz or Pop, where musicians would collectively play melodious lines simultaneously, into the improvised-soloist format.

The Mid-1930s

Musical historians know this period as the Swing Era. Considered as jazz's basic rhythm, swing is all about people being in sync with each other and enjoying the music. 

During the Great Depression, swing managed to garner popularity. It instantly lifted moods and spirits during a rather difficult and challenging time for many Americans. Popular names of this era include Duke Ellington (pictured above), Fletcher Henderson, and Benny Goodman.


During the early 1940s, we saw a major split in jazz, which forever altered the face of jazz music. Jazz musicians were looking forward to experimenting and exploring. Soon, bebop was born. 

Bebop is a type of jazz music that consists of faster and fiery tempos, in addition to intricate and complex melodies. To sum it up, bebop was way more complicated than jazz's existing versions. Intellectuals had a taste for this type of jazz. There were smaller groups that played for the audiences who simply wanted to listen and not dance. 

Latin and African-Cuban Jazz

Latin American, coupled with African and Spanish cultures, created a unique form of jazz called Cubop. 

Popular jazz performers such as Jelly Roll Morton and Dizzy Gillespie combined Latin sounds with their music pieces, creating a powerful, catchy blend. It was their way to celebrate their culture and create a common ground through music. 

Free Jazz

In the 1960s, jazz musicians rebelled and wanted to break free from the conventional jazz music structure. Free jazz emerged, and musicians had the room to create freer and wilder tones and tempos. The musicians drew inspiration from other cultures in addition to presenting their own take on the genre.

Retro Swing 

In the 1990s, the world of music witnessed the emergence of Retro Swing, a jazz form which consisted of celebratory blues and swing hybrid. This style of jazz brought back swing dancing.

Wrapping up

Currently, jazz continues to draw inspiration from 21st-century music and change or adapt for the best. It has evolved over the years and continues to do so! Please show your support to jazz and other independent musicians by listening to my music at

With Love, Maggy

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