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Nowadays, in the second decade of the 21st Century, jazz may seem to many a marginalized music. Of course, it goes without saying that there are still musicians who have risen out of the jazz ghetto, crossed over, and sold humungous amounts of records to the mainstream public – think Gregory Porter and Diana Krall, in recent times – but on the whole, jazz music no longer makes the bestseller lists.
But there was a time when jazz was the dominant form of popular music and it could be heard emanating from radio stations, jukeboxes, nightclubs and concert halls throughout the world. From the era of the flapper to the beatnik epoch, jazz ruled. But what ended the music’s 35-year reign was a seismic event called rock’n’roll, which was embodied in the mainstream by the hip-gyrating antics of a certain Elvis Presley, the crowned king of a genre that initiated a cultural and musical tsunami that swept all other forms of music away into insignificance.

Jazz’s musical aesthetic has evolved through many different forms and shapes over the last hundred years. Nevertheless, it has never lost its key components including a general discursive orientation towards improvisation, the employment of syncopated rhythmic structures and the utmost importance of the interaction between the members of the performing ensemble.
Other common qualities refer to individual trends within different jazz branches which perfectly exemplify the enormous diversity and fast-paced development that jazz went through in its century of existence. For example, a common trait to most jazz music is the high prevalence of brass and woodwind instruments as soloists, especially the saxophone, the trumpet and the trombone, while the rhythm section is usually composed of drums, double bass and piano which would both provide the backdrop for the soloists and from time to time break into solos. While melody and harmony are all important parts of any song, Jazz emphasizes something that is so important to the development of music: improvisation. In Jazz, each performer takes a turn experimenting with different notes to create an overall new sound experience. Every time they step out on stage, Jazz musicians may perform songs that no one has ever heard before, and no one will hear again. Since the beginning of Jazz, people have been using its improvisation factor to express how they feel.

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Jazz has contributed a great deal to the style of Hip-hop music. Some critics have said that Hip-hop is just a way to “ruin” or “vulgarize” Jazz, but what those people don’t understand is that the artists of today are taking the influences of past Jazz musicians and adding their own new elements to create new music. Hip-hop takes all the elements that Jazz contains, like infectious rhythms and intense melodies, and develops it into something new. Just like with Jazz, improve-or freestyling-is a lauded skill in hip-hop that allows rappers to express their thoughts and feelings on the spot with their music. It’s not uncommon for “battle rappers” to engage in freestyle battles and ciphers for sport. It all comes back to improvisation. Whether you’re playing Jazz or rapping your own lyrics, you are able to communicate your feelings through music, which is an enlightening experience.

‘Jazz artists’ conjures up images of the great classics like Ella Fitzgerald, John Coltrane, Miles Davis and Louis Armstrong. But there’s a new school of Jazz artists re-imagining and reinventing contemporary Jazz for today. These artists are able to stay true to the essence of Jazz whilst infusing a spectrum of modern influences in their sound. We’re always here for it – good music is always inspired, yet spurred onwards by sounds of the past. It’s incredible to see a new generation adopt and reinvent the sound of a timeless genre, proving that ‘good music’ not only lives on but thrives.

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