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Brief History of Jazz

Brief History of Jazz: Billie Holiday

Jazz emerged around the turn of the 20th century in New Orleans, Louisiana. The major port city quickly became a melting pot of cultures where musicians were exposed to an array of different types of music, ranging from European classical to South American folk. The resulting fusion of influences coupled with an emphasis on individual expression through the art of improvisation became its own style of music we commonly refer to as jazz. In many ways, it is a reflection of the cultural diversity and individualism that define the United States of America.

Throughout its history, jazz treaded the line between popular music and art music, and has expanded to a point where its styles are so varied, each one has its own distinct sound. By the 1940s, Chicago, Kansas City, and New York had the most thriving jazz scenes, where fans would flood the dance halls to see Big Band ensembles play swing music, which is a derivative of jazz. It was around this time that Billie Holiday, Louis Armstrong, Coleman Hawkins, and Ella Fitzgerald reached international fame and helped global audiences fall madly in love with the style.

More recently, incredible musicians inspired by the early days of jazz have further diversified the genre, adding elements of R&B, blues, funk, rock, soul, pop, and bebop. Among these were Nina Simone, Etta James, Sabina Margrit Sciubba, Amy Winehouse, Caro Emerald, Esperanza Spalding, and many, many other gifted artists.

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