Django Reinhardt, Aquarium, New York, N.Y., ca. Nov. 1946Django Reinhardt and St├ęphane Grappelli were largely responsible for the invention of "Gypsy Jazz"

The Influence Of American Jazz Music

It would be no surprise that the Jazz music phenomenon would spread from the USA, and naturally as it arrived in other parts of the world it was assimilated with the different musical genres popular in each location. It encouraged experimentation within existing musical fields melding their familiar sounds with the improvisational essence of Jazz.

One of the earliest, and best known non-American Jazz bands came from France: the Quintet Du Hot Club De France which included both Django Reinhardt (guitar) and St├ęphane Grappelli (violin) together responsible for the invention and popularisation of "Gypsy Jazz". They fused the styles of French Musette, which was already popular in 1930s dance halls, eastern European Folk, known as Manouche, and American swing. The sound was mostly developed by instruments from the string rather than wind family: steel string guitar, violin, and a upright acoustic bass. The atmosphere of the Jazz music is seductive with sudden unpredictable twists, and accelerating rhythms. Today, the French guitarist Bireli Lagrene still plays this unique music recreating the Gypsy Jazz style of the pre-war years.

But the Second World War would have a massive impact on the spread of jazz around the world. Although Jazz had reached Europe before 1939, the large numbers of American troops stationed in the United Kingdom would have a huge impact. Jazz was increasingly being played by British musicians entertaining at US military bases, and the American musicians within military units stationed there - Glen Miller perhaps the best known example. As Europe was freed from the Nazis, so jazz music spread around the continent.

After the war, the UK was developing it's own jazz scene, roughly split between the traditional (trad) jazz fraternity - Ken Colyer, George Webb, Humphrey Lyttelton etc and the Beboppers - John Dankworth and Ronnie Scott. This lead to a number of dedicated clubs: the Feldman Swing Club (later the 100 Club), Ronnie Scotts and very many more. Modern Jazz was adopted by the Mods (hence the name) in the early 1960s, and in many ways, this grounding in jazz helped spark the improvisational blues-rock and progressive genres that defined much of British music in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

The 1970s saw the rise of Jazz Fusion: a mixture of typical Jazz harmony and improvised solos, with Rock instrumentation, effects and of course volume. Most Fusion bands were guitar-based, with heavy bass and keyboards - for example the Mahavishnu Orchestra, Weather Report and electric violinist Jean-Luc Ponty.

Perhaps the style of Jazz music that allowed the musicians to express themselves most freely was Avant-garde or free-Jazz music. Both of these styles stemmed from the Bebop era, yet produced a less-constrained form of harmonic and rhythmic music. Artists such as John Coltrane, Dewey Redman, Charles Mingus, Sun Ra, Sam Rivers, Ornette Coleman and many more were the creators and perpetrators of free Jazz. Again the impact on later musical forms, psychedelia and progressive rock is plain to see in UK bands like Soft Machine.

But in the same way that Jazz influenced other musical genres, Jazz in turn was influenced by them - particularly in the 1960s and 70s. Latin musicians such as Chico O'Farrill, Tito Puente, Chano Pozo, Xavier Cugat, Mario Bauza and Arturo Sandoval were hugely influential to non-Hispanic bebop musicians such as trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie and pianist Billy Taylor. Latin Jazz was massive, both in the countries of South America (particularly Brazil) and amongst the Puerto Rican immigrant community living in the United States. As the 1960s turned into the 70s, the poppier sounds of New York Boogaloo were replaced by the harder edge Latin Funk and Salsa. The improvisational nature of Jazz fitted perfectly with the extended instrumental pieces by the likes of Eddie Palmieri and other musicians on the Fania record label.

Brazilian musicians were mixing Jazz with traditional Samba rhythms to create the Bossa Nova. This music had Classical harmonic structure from Europe, Samba polyrhythm's from Brazil and the sensabilities of Jazz. Bossa Nova tempos were typically slowish, around 120 beats per minute, and played on the nylon stringed guitar, piano, acoustic bass and drums, often keeping a 16th beat pattern. Most notable artists playing Bossas were Joao Gilberto and Antonio Carlos Jobim, who both became popular in the sixties with this style of music. The 'cool' Bossa Nova sound is much more accessible than many other Jazz forms, and is often associated with non-Brazilian 'easy listening' artists.

Africa was another musically rich and diverse continent that embraced Jazz music, and blended it with it's own regional forms. Perhaps the best known exponent of African music in general is Nigerian Fela Kuti, who, in the late 1960s blended African rhythms with jazz, rock and funk to create some outstanding, but deeply political music - dubbed Afro-Beat and Highlife. But he was by no means alone, jazz was all over Africa, and still is today.

Miles Davis is often the first name associated with Jazz, and aswell as creating new styles within jazz, he was also more than happy to use elements of other genres in his music. He was always experimenting and exploring new forms; a good deal of this resulted from his choice of musicians in his ever evolving bands. Albums were often musically quite distinct - 1971's A Tribute To Jack Johnson heavily featured distorted rock guitar playing of John McLaughlin and Sonny Sharrock, whilst 1972's On The Corner was rich in the syncopated rhythms of Funk, but also heavily awash with Indian instruments, sitar and tabla drums.

The influence of Jazz music on recent musical forms has been less apparent than in the past, and typically comprises a jazzy feel or traditional jazz instrumentation, rather than an emphasis on improvisation, experimentation and soloing. The 1990s saw the rise of the Acid Jazz label in the United Kingdom, and Jazz Hip Hop in the form of the Jungle Brothers and A Tribe Called Quest. Singers such as Harry Connick, Jr., Diana Krall and Nora Jones are often described as jazz, but, in truth, would fit in many musical categories from pop to easy listening.


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