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Jazz Forms - Evolution 1 - A New Dialogue

Jazz and popular music were directly linked, if not synonymous, until the late 1950's. The rhythms were the dance beats of the day, and the popular song was the principle medium for the jazz improviser. In Jazz in the Sixties, Michael Budds states; "Jazz began as a distinctive manner of performing pre-existing music ... its' general framework was almost completely defined by the nature of the borrowed material, which included spirituals, hymns, marches, blues, dance tunes, and popular songs." Even Bebop, although revolutionary in rhythmic and melodic ways, still used chord progressions from popular music as the basis for many new melodies. An example of this in Charlie Parker's material is Donna Lee*, a melody written to the chords of an earlier popular standard called Indiana.

Rock and Roll replaced jazz as the popular dance music in the late 1950's, leaving many jazz musicians out of work. Those who chose to continue exploring jazz found the restriction of the dance beat no longer applied, since a smaller audience sought the sound of jazz rather than a night of dancing. Social, political, and spiritual influences overtook economic considerations for many musicians. Jazz began a search for new musical elements similar to the one which took place in classical music earlier in the century. One result of these developments was the change in jazz rhythm. Michael Budds says, "Thanks largely to Ornette Coleman, Charles Mingus, and the black avant-garde, the treatment of rhythm and meter in jazz was substantially enhanced. These leaders demonstrated that jazz did not have to "swing" in the traditional manner; in the process, the rhythm section was emancipated from its traditional duties."

As jazz musicians built on the European harmonic and melodic concepts and the African rhythmic and structural elements, the growing cultural awareness of the sixties also encouraged many artists to look elsewhere for ideas. The current explosion of world music grew out of this social and musical search. New instruments joined the full range of orchestral instruments as legitimate jazz tools. At the same time electronic keyboards, electric and bass guitars and other amplified instruments added to the palette of colors. Experimentation and diversity shaped the music in countless ways. Popular songs were replaced by original compositions or structural frameworks, as in certain free jazz concepts. Bands became associated with characteristic sounds, much as individual musicians were. John Coltrane, Miles Davis and many others created instantly recognizable groups and launched careers and styles through musical associations with many now famous sidemen like Bill Evans, McCoy Tyner, and Tony Williams. Jazz entered into a new dialogue with itself, raising issues about its own identity and definition, as well as the direction the music should take. The intrusion of a new reality forced jazz to evolve, but even the musicians themselves had little idea where it would all lead.  [top]
- article by Frank Singer 2002

* A recording of Donna Lee can be found on the CD oFF tHE tOP: standards 1 Frank Singer plays Donna Lee on oFF tHE tOP: standards 1 / click here for more info



Jazz Origins
I - Beginnings 
II - Jazz and Technology
III - Radio and the Industrial Beat    
The Swing Era
I - Precursors
II - The Decade of Swing
III - The BeBop Strain
A First Look Back
New Orleans Revival

Jazz Forms

The Blues
The 32 bar Song Form
The Latin Influence
Hard Bop
Evolution 1 - A New Dialogue
Evolution 2 - Into The Seventies
Evolution Of The Jam Session
Post Modernism


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