A Brief History Of Jazz (part 2)

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In 1920, the first blues, “Crazy Blues,” was recorded by Mamie Smith and a blues craze soon supplanted the jazz fad. However, jazz still continued to progress and one of the first groups to feature short solos, the New Orleans Rhythm Kings, in 1922, sounded a decade ahead of the Original Dixieland Jazz Band.

Then, 1923 was the key year for jazz because the Creole Jazz Band of King Oliver, pianist-composer Jelly Roll Morton, and blues singer Bessie Smith all made their recording debuts during that year. While King Oliver’s band is thought to be the definitive ensemble-oriented New Orleans group, Louis Armstrong himself would soon permanently change jazz.

In the early 1920s, Chicago was the center of jazz music. When joining the big band of Fletcher Henderson (the Big Apple) in New York in 1924, Louis Armstrong found that the band’s technically superior musicians often played with a staccato feeling but not much blues feeling. Through his dramatic, explosive, and swinging solos with Henderson, Armstrong was extremely influential not only in opening up possibilities for improvisers but also in changing the way that jazz musicians phrased. In fact, there is an argument that Louis Armstrong was chiefly responsible for jazz’s shifting from collective improvisation to individual solos and setting the stage for the swing era.

Therefore, the 1920s was considered “The Jazz Age” not only for its music but also for its liberal social attitudes. Then, Jazz greatly influenced dance bands and the most commercial outfits started having a syncopated rhythm section and short solos. The remarkable series of Hot Five and Hot Seven recordings of Louis Armstrong inspired the other musicians to stretch themselves and his popularization of a relaxed vocal phrasing and scat singing influenced Bing Crosby, who in turn influenced everyone else. For example, cornetist Bix Beiderbecke, pianist Jelly Roll Morton, pianist James P. Johnson, arranger-composer Duke Ellington, and the up-and-coming tenor.