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Jazz and Blues

Essay by   •  April 11, 2017  •  Term Paper  •  915 Words (4 Pages)  •  1,078 Views

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Jazz and Blues

The blues is considered to be the single greatest musical influence on the development of

jazz. From its earliest beginnings as it evolved from music heard in the Mississippi Delta roughly

a century ago up to present day jazz, jazz musicians have considered the blues an essential

benchmark that must be thoroughly mastered in order to express their art. While there is no

consensus as to precisely how either the blues or jazz originated, it is known from examination

of their musical structure that jazz, as it is known today, would not exist in its present form

without the influence of the blues. The 12-bar blues chorus provides jazz with its most popular

template for jazz improvisation. Musicians, such as King Oliver, Jelly Roll Morton and Louis

Armstrong, who are famous for their contributions to the development of jazz, drew upon blues

songs in creating their most famous compositions. From their earliest parallel histories, both

blues and jazz musicians have demonstrated their ability and willingness to adapt the structure of

the blues to their own devices, such as when Duke Ellington adds elaborations to "Mood Indigo"

or when Miles Davis uses chords instead of scales in "All Blues."

This history brings up the question of what, precisely, is meant by the term "the blues,"

which has been defined as a "feeling, a kind of musical scale, a type of song, a particular chord

progression, a poetic form, an attitude, a shared history [and] a 'flatted fifth.'" The history of the

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blues shows that it is all these things and more. The life narratives of great blues artists who were

instrumental in the development of the genre inevitably include descriptions of being castigated

and punished by their families for pursing what was characterized as the "'the devil's music.'"

Another recurring element in these narratives is the defense of the blues offered by these

performers. For example, Henry Townsend identified the main difference between the blues and

gospel music is that gospel music refers to biblical times and the blues "will send you anyplace

different from gospel,'" but that "'one truth is no greater than the other.'" Of course, the

perspective of the older generation during Townsend's youth in the early part of the twentieth

century was influenced by the prevalent association made by the public between the blues and a

culture that featured "violence, promiscuity, profanity and alcoholism." Nevertheless, the same

motifs, that is, stories of restless, prodigal sons who are attracted to the "forbidden musical fruit"

of blues, jazz and alluring nightlife, recur frequently throughout the biographies of famous blues

and jazz musicians during the 1920s and 30s, when the blues was emerging from the South and

the "devil's music" was evolving into a "codified form of entertainment."

The way in which contemporary audiences relate to blues and jazz is demonstrated by a

large-scale survey and in-depth interviews that were conducted at the 2007 Edinburgh Jazz and

Blues Festival (EJBF). First of all, this study's findings revealed that event's attendees valued the

opportunity to be among fellow blues and jazz enthusiasts, as they revealed a distinct sense of

community. These research results also provide a rebuttal to the idea that jazz/blues audiences

are younger than audiences attending events that feature classical

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