This is the second part of my blog post on Jazz genres. In this post I will go in depth on the styles of jazz from the 1940s to the present time. As I stated earlier there are so many genres and sub genres there is no way for me to go into depth on each one in just two posts. However, hopefully with these posts, you have a better understanding of the different genres that exist in Jazz and the ones you prefer to listen to. So, without further to do, let’s begin with some mainstream jazz.
Mainstream Jazz began during the 1950s following the big band era. Mainstream jazz took the emphasis away from the melody and into improvisation. This change played a integral role into shaping up the Jazz music that would follow. This style of music can be difficult to describe and identify. So many different artists from different eras create music that could fall into this description. Here is a tune by the Jazz Messengers, a group that focused on Mainstream Jazz and also had elements of the blues and soul jazz. Hopefully this will make it easier to identify and show the contrast between this style and big band music.
Be bop music started as early as the 1940s . Charlie Parker was one of the most important figures and pioneers of this music. Bebop music is very largely based on improvisation. It follows a very strict chord structure with a new chord nearly every two beats. This structure leads the musicians into certain types of melodic ideas. There is also a be bop scale which gives bebop its signature sound. Many of the songs even had the same chord progressions with new melodies. This is called a contra fact. This allowed more musicians to solo together even if they never have played together before. Here is a example of a classic bebop standard by Charlie Parker.
Cool Jazz began during the late 1940s. The music was in many ways a response/ alternative to bebop. Bebop was known for its fast paced music and its complex chordal arrangement. Cool Jazz was precisely the opposite with a slower pace, fewer chords, and more arranging and less soloing involved in the music. It also was more of a West Coast style of music while Bebop was thriving on the East Coast. See if you can hear the differences between my earlier example of Bebop versus Cool Jazz. What parts in this Cool Jazz song sound like improv? What is most likely written down or memorized? How about the tempo compared to “Confirmation”?
Latin Jazz has existed for many decades. One of the most famous early tunes was performed in the 1940s. However Latin jazz began to expand and grow during the 1960s with the emergence of the Bossa Nova. The Bossa Nova style of music was made famous in the Jazz world (and really the world in general) by Carlos Jobim. He composed many Bossa Nova songs and his Bossa Nova “The Girl From Ipanema” is still one of the most well known examples of Bossa Nova music today. Latin Jazz is such a blanket term as so much Latin music in general has elements of jazz and vice versa. There are dozens and perhaps more genres and sub genres of latin jazz alone. I recommend trying as many different styles as you can. Here are two examples, the first is from 1947 with Dizzy Gillespie incorporating Latin Jazz into his music. The other is Jobim’s “The Girl From Ipanema” Does this music sound familiar to you? How is it different/ similar to the previous styles of Jazz I’ve discussed?
Last but certainly not least is Fusion. Again another word that means so many things. Fusion jazz was a term coined in the early 70s to describe Jazz music that incorporated rock rhythms, synthesizers, and all things not usually used in Jazz music before. Because it is such a vague term Jazz fusion can be so many different things. For me it is one of the easier genres to identify because its clearly branching out and trying sounds that have never been attempted in Jazz music before. If you find this style more difficult to embrace, give it time. Trust me this is a genre of Jazz you don’t want to close a door on.
I hope you have found this explanation of the different Jazz genres helpful. If you have any questions or styles you would like me to discuss in the future feel free to post a comment and I will try to incorporate it into a blog in the near future. Putting all this music into a certain title/ genres can seem to be against what Jazz entirely stands for which is a freedom to play whatever you like. try to keep in mind that genres are just templates. They give us a starting point nothing is just one genre. You may here some Latin Jazz in bebop, some Mainstream fusion, and a big band playing Cool Jazz. Be open to it all, open your ears and your mind. And, as always, Thank you for staying in The Jazz Loop.