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"The Jazz Age describes the period from 1918-1929 when music was a large part of our culture and occurred at the years after the end of World War I, continuing through the Roaring Twenties and ending with the start of the Great Depression."(nfo,1) The traditional values of music were very strong at this time. The major parts of music during this era were mostly a slow Blues, an up-beat swing piece, an entertaining Big Band song or a 'funky' soul jazz tune.


The type of music is considered one of the most fun types of music with its very upbeat and 'danceable' feel. Swing music spawned around the time of World War 1, and was exactly what the society needed for relief.

"Swing music is also known as "swing jazz" or just swing. Swing music is a form of jazz music that started in the early 1920's-1930's, and had been noticed as a popular style by 1930 (Wikipidia, 1) ." Swing uses a strong "swingy" rhythm section which supports a lead section that can includes brass instruments (trumpets and trombones), woodwinds (saxophones and clarinets), or stringed instruments (violin and guitar). Swing music had a medium to fast tempo, and a lively swing time rhythm. Swing bands usually featured soloists who would improvise a new melody over the arrangement. The danceable swing style of bandleaders such as Benny Goodmanand Count Basie were the dominant form of American popular music from 1925 to 1945.

"The history of swing dates back to the 1920's, where the black community, while dancing to contemporary Jazz music, discovered the Charleston, the shimmy, the Black bottom, the snake hips, and the Lindy Hop."(Just-The-Swing, 2) "On March 26, 1926, the Savoy Ballroom opened its doors in New York. The Savoy was an big immediate success with its block-long dance floor and a raised double bandstand."(Heikkila,1) Nightly dancing attracted most of the best dancers in the New York area. Stimulated by the presence of great dancers and the best black bands, music at the Savoy was largely Swinging Jazz .



With the creation of swing music, the place of the bandleader also changed. Some of the older conductors, like Paul Whiteman and Paul Ash who stood in front of a band and waved a baton, were replaced by bandleaders who very skilled musicians on their own. Other band directors leaders played piano full time on most songs like Count Basie and Duke Ellington. Along with that, other players were given more opportunities to solo during the song."Musicians like Gene Krupa, "Cootie" Williams, and many others got famous from that, most of the time going on to be bandleaders on their on."(Just-The-Swing,1)

The music started to vary also."The Ballads became much slower and more sentimental, while the faster music became almost frantic. The two types were often played alternately in the ballrooms and dance halls."(Just-The-Swing,1) A fast 'jump' tune would be followed by a slow ballad giving the dancers a break from doing the 'Lindy Hop'. During World War 2, the slow ballads were extremely popular.

"It is very fair to say that Swing truly dominated the Social condition. Swing music became a popular style to every event from New York's hottest night clubs to school proms."(Centralhome,1) Every part of society found some form of swing that they liked for dancing or listening. Country Club couples fox-trotted to Moonlight Serenade. Although swing made a very big impact on the 1920s, it isn't the only style of music that this era enjoyed.

The Blues are another popular genre from the 1920's. The Blues are also given credit for influencing Rock and Rap music, and also influencing genres such as "Blues Rock". The Blues can also be associated with country or western music. Blues artists then are considering legends now, and many people love a good blues song to this day. Little is known about the origins of Blues, and it's hard to decipher a correct time period when the Blues came around. The style of the Blues have evolved from different typed of songs and chants all the way back from Africa. The Blues are originated by spiritual songs, field chants, and hollers.

Blues were probably originated from songs back in Africa. The most important American antecedent of the blues was the spiritual, a form of religious song with its roots in the camp meetings of the Great Awakening of the early 19th century. Spirituals were a passionate song form, that "convey(ed) to listeners the same feeling of rootlessness and misery" as the blues. But spirituals were less about the problems of the performer, and the problems were more figurative than direct. But besides that, they are so similar that it is hard to separate them. Spirituals could have possibly been called "The Blues", had the word been popular around that time. [Wikipedia, 1]

The genre of "Blues" became popularized around the 1920's, but originated from years before, sometime in the 1890's. It was formed from African-American songs, but "Such individualized song had never been the main ingredient of black music. Prior songs consisted of field hollers, which served as a means of communication among plantation workers, and work songs, which were used by slaves to keep time with a task." (McElrath, 1) The blues were different from these field songs and hollers, but it was formed from traditional African-American songs.

Tthe Blues were not very mainstream until Ma Rainey started singing the blues. She is probably the first one to have used the term "Blues". Female artists singing the Blues were extremely popular in the 1920's. And when Mamie Smith recorded "Crazy Blues", it sold 75,000 copies in the first month alone. She was a hit right away. Other popular female blues arists were It seemed to have paved a path for future Blues singers. The market for the recorded blues was almost entirely black during the 1920s and 1930s, and the records became known as "race records." (McElrath, 1) Other popular blues artists were Bessie Smith and Victoria Spivey. Bessie Smith and Louis Armstrong, nicknamed "Satchmo". The Blues were usually voiced about racism at the time. Songs were about "personal woes in a world of harsh reality: a lost love, the cruelty of police officers, oppression at the hands of white folk, [and] hard times."

20080526-220px-MamieSmith.png uewb_09_img0649.jpg lois-armstrong.jpgFrom left to right: Mamie Smith, Bessie Smith, and Louis Armstrong, some of the most popular Blues aritsts of all time.

The first Blues were song by men and was called Folk Blues. W.C. Handy was a composer, musician, and a band member, when he came across the blues at a Mississippi train station around 1903. "According to Handy, while he was waiting for the train he heard the unforgettable sound of a man running a knife against the strings of his guitar while he sang, “Goin’ where the Southern cross the Dog.”" He originally thought the music as primitive, but used the line in his 1914 song "Yellow Dog Rag" with the name later changed to "Yellow Dog Blues". Earlier in 1912, he released "Memphis Blues", the third song in a few months to be named with "blues". The first recording of the blues was in 1895. George W. Johnson's "Laughing Song" was the first blues song recorded. Thereafter, blues songs began to appear in music rolls. The 1906 series of Music for the Aedian Grand, listed one blues title among the forty-nine music rolls. (McElrath, 1)

Forms and styles of The Blues, as well as modern "country" music to this day, come from the same time period in the same areas; The 19th century in the southern states. Records of The Blues can be dated back to the 1920's, when "hillbilly music" and "race records" were very popular. The terms "race records" were used to "sell music by blacks for blacks and by whites for whites respectively." Around that time, the difference between "country" and "the blues" was the race of the performer. [Wikipedia, 1]

A video featuring Mamie Smith's "Crazy Blues".

In the 1920's everyone loved to dance and listen to music. In jazz and swing clubs all over the world, bands played music that would make you wanna dance. These bands had large sound, and consisted of 12 to 25 musicians playing saxophones, trumpets, trombones, and a booming rhythm section. This was known as the Big Band sound. Big band music became popular in the swing era from the early 1930's till late 1940's. Unlike smaller bands that improvise based on the feel of the music, big bands were more arranged and had a band leader. Some of the great Big Band leaders were Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, Count Basie, Cab Calloway, Lionel Hampton, and Tommy Dorsey, just to name a few. These leaders were great musicians themselves. They were often also singers and had very lively personalities. The charismatic nature of these leaders were part of what got the crowd up and moving. Many great dance styles emerged during this era. They were the Charleston, Lindy Hop, Jitter Bug, and the Balboa. Each dance style was unique, but derived from the other. Like the Big Band sound itself, the dance styles evolved and used improvisation as a part of its expression.

A step by step video on how to do the charlston "1920's The Charleston"


Soul Jazz came partly from the funky subcategory hard bop. Soul Jazz became the form of hard bop known to the largest audience. Many musicians don't consider soul jazz a continued form of hard bop, they consider it an extension of jazz-influenced music called rhythm and blues. Soul jazz emphasized repetitive grooves and melodies unlike hard bop. Soul jazz bands include african-americans often playing saxophones. Soul jazz bands also often included a Hammond Organ.

Soul Jazz was a mix of hard bop, rhythm and blues, and gospel. The tenor saxophone and the guitar were very important instruments in Soul Jazz.



Resources Used:

Works Cited:

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Downey, Matthew. The Twentieth Century: The Roaring Twenties and an Unsettled Peace (1919-1929). New York, NY: Macmillian Publishing Company, 1992.

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