Referred to as “America’s classical music,” jazz is North America’s oldest and most celebrated musical genre. It is one of America's greatest cultural achievements and exports to the world community—giving a powerful voice to the American experience. Born of a multi-hued society, it unites people across the divides of race, region and national boundaries and has always made powerful statements about freedom, creativity and American identity both home and abroad.

Learn More...

The history of jazz can be traced back to the United States in the early part of the 20th century. It traces its roots from traits found in West African black folk music and over time, joined with European popular and light classical music of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Its unique expression drew from African-American life experiences and the human emotions they endured during this period.

Developed over time, jazz music is now characterized by a strong rhythmic under-structure, blue notes, solos, “call-and-response” patterns, and improvisation of melody. Throughout the evolution of jazz, these characteristics have worked together in establishing an inventive style and a musical force.

From Ragtime and Blues to Big Band and Bebop, jazz has been a part of a proud African-American tradition for over 100 years. The city of origin of jazz is most often attributed to New Orleans, although the music genre occurred almost simultaneously in areas like Saint Louis, Kansas City, Chicago and New York City. The jazz musical tradition within these cities still lives on today.

As jazz evolved, highly arranged dance music became the norm. When white musicians like Benny Goodman and Glen Miller added black arrangements for their scores, jazz began to move into the Swing or Big Band period. Both large black and white jazz bands toured the United States filling the radio airwaves with “swing,” a term which became synonymous with jazz. Great African-American bands during the swing era included Count Basie, Duke Ellington and Louis Armstrong. It was also a time when vocalists came to the forefront led by such favorites Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday and Dinah Shore.


Jazz and Blues Classics: Vol 1

Jazz and Blues Classics: Vol 2