Performers of jazz improvise within the conventions of their chosenstyle. Improvisation gave jazz a personalized, individualized, anddistinct feel. Most jazz is based on the principle that an infinitenumber of melodies can fit the cord progressively of any cord. The twenties were a crucial period in the history of music. Revolutions, whether in arts or matter of state, create a newworld only by sacrificing the old. By the late twenties, improvisationhad expanded to the extent of improvisation we ordinarily expect fromjazz today.
It was the roaring twenties that a group of new tonalitiesentered the mainstream, fixing the sound and the forms of our popularmusic for the next thirty years. Louie Armstrong closed the book on thedynastic tradition in New Orleans jazz. The first true virtuoso soloist of jazz, Louie Armstrong was a dazzlingimproviser, technically, emotionally, and intellectually. Armstrong,often called the “father of jazz,” always spoke with deference,bordering on awe, of his musical roots, and with especial devotion ofhis mentor Joe Oliver. He changed the format of jazz by bringing thesoloist to the forefront, and in his recording groups, the Hot Five andthe Hot seven, demonstrated that jazz improvisation could go far beyondsimply ornamenting the melody.
Armstrong was one of the first jazzmusicians to refine a rhythmic conception that abandoned the stiffnessof ragtime, employed swing light-note patterns, and he used a techniquecalled “rhythmic displacement. ” Rhythmic displacement was sometimesstaggering the placement of an entire phrase, as though he were playingbehind the beat. He created new melodies based on the chords of theinitial tune. He also set standards for all later jazz singers, notonly by the way he altered the words and melodies of songs but also byimprovising without words like an instrument (scat singing)(Arnold12). Armstrong was a great musical architect.
He brought asuperb sense of drama to jazz solo conception. During a period whenmost improvisers were satisfied simply to embellish or paraphrase atune, Armstrong himself was a master at both. Armstrong^s command ofthe trumpet was arguable greater than that of any preceding jazztrumpeter who recorded. In actuality, the revolution initiated by Armstrong took placein fits and starts, and with little fanfare at the time.
AfterArmstrong^s departure from the King Oliver Creole Band, over a yearwould transpire before he would record as a leader. And even whenthose famous recordings were planned -the classic “Hot Fives”- therecord company considered enlisting a better known leader to front theband. Most accounts stress that Armstrong^s talents may have beenneglected by the general public, but were amply recognized by themusical community – ” his playing was revered by countless jazzmusicians,” runs a typical commentary – but even this claim issuspect. Fletcher Henderson, Armstrong^s first major employer afterOliver, made the trumpeter accept a cut in pay to join his band. Manyaccounts suggest that Henderson, in fact , preferred the playing ofcornetist Joe Smith, And that Armstrong was hired only because Smithwas unavailable.
Smith lacked Armstrong^s rhythmic drive, yet his warmsound and ease of execution could hardly be faulted and may have beenbetter receive by the average dancehall patron. Henderson was not evenenthusiastic about Armstrong^s singing, an attitude that deeplyfrustrated the new band member. Years later Armstrong would laterexclaim: ” Fletcher didn^t dig me like Joe Oliver. He had a milliondollar talent in his band and he never thought to let me sing.
“During the 1930s a new style of jazz emerged. It became themost popular kind of jazz in the twentieth century. This stylebegan during the late 1920s and continued to the 1940s. Most jazz fromthe 1930s and early 1940s is called “swing music,” and this time inhistory is now known as “the swing era. ” Big bands in the swing erawere made up of ten or more musicians whose instruments were groupedinto three categories called “sections:” rhythm, brass, and drums. Thebrass section included trumpets and trombones.
The saxophone sectionwas separated from the brass section because they originated frominstruments made of wood. In a big band the sax section contained fromthree to five musicians. The size of the trumpet section varied fromtwo to five musicians, two or three being the standard. Unlike the early jazz era, in the swing era hits that werejazz-oriented contained only a few solo improvisations, oftenonly one.
Swing music contained less collective improvisation and moresolo improvisation, and the amount of improvisation in most swing erahits was small. The construction of improvised solos in most hits weremelodically conservative. The onset of the Great Depression had a chilling effect on the jazzworld, as it did the whole entertainment industry. The ambiance ofjazz culture were demystified in the process.
During this period, thegrowing popularity of talking movies led many theaters to halt theelaborate live shows that had previously been a staple of popularentertainment in most cities, further reducing paying jobs formusicians. Although the development of the 1930s affected mostmusicians adversely, a handful of performers benefited considerablyfrom the more stratified structure of the entertainment world. Thecreation of a truly nationwide mass medium in the form of radiocatapulted a few jazz players to a level of celebrity that would havebeen unheard of only a few years before. Benny Goodman sent this apparatus into motion with avengeance.
In the process, he ignited not only his own amazingcareer, but sent off a craze for “swing music” that would last over adecade. As a soloist Goodman defined the essence of the jazz clarinetas no other performer, before or since; as a bandleader, he establishedstandards of technical perfection that were the envy of his peers,while his influence in gaining widespread popularity for swing musicwas unsurpassed. A decade later he reformed his ensemble to tackle thenascent sounds of bop music (Gioia 135). The new styles , which emerged after 1940 were classified asmodern jazz.
Bebop is classified as modern jazz. Modern jazzdid not burst upon the jazz scene suddenly. It developed graduallythrough the work of swing era musicians. Rather than being a reactionagainst swing styles, modern jazz developed smoothly from swingstyles.
Bop differed from swing in a number of performance aspects andstylistic aspects. Melodies and harmonies were more complex in bop. Bop tunes and cord progressions projected a more unresolved quality. Drummers played their time keeping rhythms primarily on suspectedcymbal, rather than snare drum, high-hat, or bass drum. Chick Corea grew and matured as an artist.
He joined the ranksof Herbie Hancock, Bill Evans, and McCoy Tyner as the Mostprominent and most imitated pianist in jazz. His style originatedwith aspects from the approaches of bud Powell, Horace Silver, BillEvans and McCoy Tyner and the classical pieces of twentieth-centurycomposers Paul Hindemith and Bela Bartok. Latin-American music alsoinspired Corea^s style. Early in his career, Corea had played inseveral bands that featured Latin-American music.
Corea^s crisp,percussive touch enhances the Latin feeling. It is also consistentwith his bright, very spirited style of comping. Like Tyner, Coreavoiced chords in fourths. Voicing in fourths means that chords aremade up of notes four steps away from each other. Chick Corea joinedMiles Davis^ band in 1968, and played electric piano on the landmark Ina silent way, album and the influential “Bitches Brew” session. Hisown trio recording with Miroslav Vitous and Roy Haynes, “Now He sings,Now He sobs,” became a staple in the record collection of modern jazzlovers during the late sixties.
Corea was a prominent composer duringthe 1960s and 1970s. Corea wrote pieces that made good use of presetbass lines in accompaniment, particularly those with a Latin-Americanflavor. In 1985, Chick Corea formed the Elektric Band, which becameknown for its use of synthesizers. The band^s debut was with ChickCorea Eleckric Band, on GRP Records.