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What is Jazz?

IV. Jazz - America's Music

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52nd Street

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Parker & Monk

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Paul Desmond

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Anthony Braxton

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Malachi Favors

A. America's indigenous art form


Jazz is America’s indigenous art form, having its birth and evolution in the United States. In 1987 the Joint Houses of Congress passed a resolution declaring jazz an American National Treasure. Jazz masters have been honored in Washington DC (as well as throughout the country), appeared on postage stamps, etc. 

B. Jazz is everywhere


Jazz is everywhere; it is an ingrained element of American styles and attitudes. 



nightclubs and concert halls 



sidewalks and subway stations 



elementary, middle, and high school classrooms; college classrooms 



television and film soundtracks; television commercials 



records, CDs, and the radio 



in America’s slang and jargon (see jazz jargon glossary) 

C. A Reflection of American Culture


Throughout America’s turbulent 20th century, jazz has entertained, interested, affected, and inspired Americans; it has contributed to and been a reflection of American culture. 



Jazz has inspired more praise and more controversy than any other American music. 



Jazz, more than any other music, has been closely associated with the geographical, social, political, and economic affects of American cities as well as the fluctuating reputation of American culture throughout the world. 



Jazz, more than any other music, has been intimately linked with legal and social equality for all, particularly African Americans. 



Jazz emerged out of ragtime at the turn of the century during a tumultuous period of urban and industrial growth. 



In the 1920s, jazz symbolized the cultural struggle between modernists and traditionalists. 



This period in American history has been coined the "Jazz Age." 



As the “new” jazz music was, in part, a rejection of what traditionalists thought music was “supposed” to be, it was a metaphor for the rejection of Victorian values which dominated 19th century American life.  



In the 1930’s, jazz reached new levels of sophistication in the Swing Era, reflecting America’s need for self-esteem following the Great Depression. 



The World War II era witnessed rapid changes in American tastes as well as logistics of making music (e.g., the decline of large ensembles in favor of the jazz combo was, in part, due to economic and social reasons). 



In the late 1950s and 60s, avant-garde and free jazz reflected America’s social and political changes and the loosening of strict standards of behavior. 



Today, jazz is universal. It is performed and listened to by people of virtually every ethnicity, religion, and attitude -- a reflection of the world becoming “smaller” (via technology and mass communication) and, perhaps, of the planet’s best-intentioned striving to bring its peoples together. 

the Herbie Hancock institute of jazz
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