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The ‘20s and ‘90s Jazz

By Kajsa Holmlund.

I am sure we are all familiar with the music style jazz. The improvised, syncopated, and usually regular or forceful rhythmic music, which often takes us back to the roaring twenties’ blameless happiness. But the ‘20s were a long time ago, the jazz they listened to then is different from today's. Jazz has had its ups and downs throughout history, and I am going to compare two decades which I find the most interesting: the ‘20s and the ‘90s.

The ‘20s jazz was an outcome of the Jazz Age, which emerged after World War One. During the roaring twenties, jazz exploded as entertainment in uppermost America. Many famous jazz artists have their origin in the ‘20s, such as Duke Ellington, Cab Calloway and Chick Webb, which could be heard on the popular radio show called Potter Palm. The dance style jazz was invented and flappers had their breakthrough. The African - American, the jazzmen, were brought to the white middle class with their famous music. After the war, large numbers of jazz musicians immigrated from New Orleans to major northern cities such as New York and Chicago. This created a wider dispersal of jazz, as different styles emerged in different cities. Also the Americans employed new musical techniques along with African traditions, developing the jazz even more. As the roaring twenties, jazz had its end as World War Two began. The lightest days for jazz are now over.

The popularity of jazz had sunk over the years and in the ‘90s it was hard to get one’s record to sell. Jazzmen had to be creative for the music to sell, leading to an increased exploration and development of jazz. Many movements emerged throughout the ‘90s, such as Acid jazz, Latin jazz and New Orleans jazz. Rap jazz continued progressing and incorporated jazz influence into hip hop. Punk jazz and jazzcore began to influence the increasing popularity of elements of extreme metal in hardcore punk. Despite the jazz lack of popularity during the ‘90s, smooth jazz was the dominant movement of the decade. It is a more calm and relaxing type of jazz compared to the ‘20s. Some of the most famous smooth jazz musicians from the ‘90s are George Benson, Kenny G and Dave Koz.

The biggest and most clear difference between the ‘20s and ‘90s jazz is the popularity of it. During the roaring twenties jazz was everything, compared to the ‘90s where it was almost not heard at all. Also the ‘90s jazz is a more relaxed and laid back type of jazz, compared to the roaring twenties happy dance tones. Some similarities between the two decades are that they use about the same instruments ( brass, woodwind and piano) and women were allowed to sing too, the bands did not only consist of men.

Jazz has had a long and large evolution. Beginning in the 1900 and ending around the ‘80s. Meaning the difference between ‘20s and ‘90s jazz is fairly large. During the ‘20s, Ragtime and Dixiland stood in the center. Jazz then developed to become Swing Music, then Bebop, then Cool jazz, then Modal jazz, then Free jazz, then Post bop, and lastly Fusion. During the 90s the evolution of jazz stood fairly still. Many movements emerged, but still there was no defined style of jazz during the ‘90s. Jazz musicians mostly focused on refined the previous periods of jazz. As well as the music, the instruments associated with jazz, such as the brass, woodwind and piano, have been improved over the decades, creating more clear sounds, which can be carried further.

People have always listened to jazz, from its origin around the 1900 to present time. As time progressed, jazz evolved and so did the ways of listening to it. During the ‘20s, jazz was heard on the radio, at home on the gramophone, but many also went to jazz bars to watch and dance to the live bands. Later on, during the ‘90s people still went to watch live bands, but it was not as popular. Jazz was played on the radio, but not so frequently. Instead jazz was heard on CDs and MP3 players.

After doing my research, I must say I’d rather listen to the ‘20s jazz rather than the ‘90s. Generally I like all types of jazz, but the exuberant and blameless happiness and excitement during the ‘20s shines through the music and brings nostalgic feelings and thoughts to me. I do like the ‘90s smooth and chill jazz, however I am more of an energetic type of person when it comes to music. Therefore I like the ‘20s music better. Over time the popularity of jazz has ebbed out, though it still lives on in time. I would say jazz has turned from a forward-looking art to one that looks back on its history to celebrate and honor it.