The word "jazz" (in early years also spelled "jass") began as a West Coast slang term and was first used to refer to music in Chicago in about 1915.
From its beginnings in the early 20th century jazz has spawned a variety of subgenres: New Orleans Dixieland dating from the early 1910s, big band-style swing from the 1930s and 1940s, bebop from the mid-1940s, a variety of Latin jazzfusions such as Afro-Cuban and Brazilian jazz, free jazz from the 1950s and 1960s, jazz fusion from the 1970s, acid jazz from the 1980s (which added funk and hip-hop influences), and Nujazz in the 1990s. As the music has spread around the world it has drawn on local national and regional musical cultures, its aesthetics being adapted to its varied environments and giving rise to many distinctive styles.
Jazz can be very hard to define because it spans from Ragtime waltzes to 2000s-era fusion. Attempts have been made to define jazz from the perspective of other musical traditions—using the point of view of European music history or African music for example—but jazz critic Joachim Berendt argues that all such attempts are unsatisfactory. One way to get around the definitional problems is to define the term "jazz" more broadly. Berendt defines jazz as a "form of art music which originated in the United States through the confrontation of blacks with European music"; he argues that jazz differs from European music in that jazz has a "special relationship to time, defined as 'swing'", "a spontaneity and vitality of musical production in which improvisation plays a role"; and "sonority and manner of phrasing which mirror the individuality of the performing jazz musician".
Travis Jackson has also proposed a broader definition of jazz which is able to encompass all of the radically different eras: he states that it is music that includes qualities such as "swinging", improvising, group interaction, developing an 'individual voice', and being 'open' to different musical possibilities". Krin Gabbard claims that “jazz is a construct” or category that, while artificial, still is useful to designate “a number of musics with enough in common to be understood as part of a coherent tradition”.
While jazz may be difficult to define, improvisation is clearly one of its key elements. Early blues was commonly structured around a repetitive call-and-response pattern, a common element in the African American oral tradition. A form of folk music which rose in part from work songs and field hollers of rural Blacks, early blues was also highly improvisational. These features are fundamental to the nature of jazz. While in European classical music elements of interpretation, ornamentation and accompaniment are sometimes left to the performer's discretion, the performer's primary goal is to play a composition as it was written.
In jazz, however, the skilled performer will interpret a tune in very individual ways, never playing the same composition exactly the same way twice. Depending upon the performer's mood and personal experience, interactions with fellow musicians, or even members of the audience, a jazz musician/performer may alter melodies, harmonies or time signature at will. The jazz soloist is supported by a rhythm section who "comp", by playing chords and rhythms that outline the song structure and compliment the soloist. European classical music has been said to be a composer's medium. Jazz, however, is often characterized as the product of egalitarian creativity, interaction and collaboration, placing equal value on the contributions of composer and performer, 'adroitly weigh[ing] the respective claims of the composer and the improviser'.
In New Orleans and Dixieland jazz, performers took turns playing the melody, while others improvised countermelodies. By the swing era, big bands were coming to rely more on arranged music: arrangements were either written or learned by ear and memorized—many early jazz performers could not read music. Individual soloists would improvise within these arrangements. Later, in bebop the focus shifted back towards small groups and minimal arrangements; the melody (known as the "head") would be stated briefly at the start and end of a piece but the core of the performance would be the series of improvisations in the middle. Later styles of jazz such as modal jazz abandoned the strict notion of a chord progression, allowing the individual musicians to improvise even more freely within the context of a given scale or mode. The avant-garde and free jazz idioms permit, even call for, abandoning chords, scales, and rhythmic meters.
There have long been debates in the jazz community over the definition and the boundaries of “jazz”. Although alteration or transformation of jazz by new influences has often been initially criticized as a “debasement,” Andrew Gilbert argues that jazz has the “ability to absorb and transform influences” from diverse musical styles. While some enthusiasts of certain types of jazz have argued for narrower definitions which exclude many other types of music also commonly known as "jazz", jazz musicians themselves are often reluctant to define the music they play. Duke Ellington summed it up by saying, "It's all music." Some critics have even stated that Ellington's music was not jazz because it was arranged and orchestrated. On the other hand Ellington's friend Earl Hines's twenty solo "transformative versions" of Ellington compositions (on Earl Hines Plays Duke Ellington recorded in the 1970s) were described by Ben Ratliff, the New York Times jazz critic, as "as good an example of the jazz process as anything out there."
Commercially oriented or popular music-influenced forms of jazz have both long been criticized, at least since the emergence of Bop. Traditional jazz enthusiasts have dismissed Bop, the 1970s jazz fusion era [and much else] as a period of commercial debasement of the music. According to Bruce Johnson, jazz music has always had a "tension between jazz as a commercial music and an art form". Gilbert notes that as the notion of a canon of jazz is developing, the “achievements of the past” may become "...privileged over the idiosyncratic creativity...” and innovation of current artists. Village Voice jazz critic Gary Giddins argues that as the creation and dissemination of jazz is becoming increasingly institutionalized and dominated by major entertainment firms, jazz is facing a "...perilous future of respectability and disinterested acceptance." David Ake warns that the creation of “norms” in jazz and the establishment of a “jazz tradition” may exclude or sideline other newer, avant-garde forms of jazz.
The origin of the word jazz is one of the most sought-after word origins in modern American English. The word's intrinsic interest—the American Dialect Society named it the Word of the Twentieth Century—has resulted in considerable research, and its history is well-documented. The word began as West Coast slang around 1912, the meaning of which varied but did not refer to music or sex. It came to refer to the music in Chicago around 1915. The music was played in New Orleans prior to that time but was not referred to by that name.
The word jazz makes one of its earliest appearances in San Francisco baseball writing in 1913. Jazz was introduced to San Francisco in 1913 by William (Spike) Slattery, sports editor of the Call, and propagated by a band-leader named Art Hickman. It reached Chicago by 1915 but was not heard of in New York until a year later. One of the first known uses of the word appears in a March 3, 1913, baseball article in the San Francisco Bulletin by E. T. "Scoop" Gleeson.
In the late 18th-century painting The Old Plantation, African-Americans dance to banjo and percussion.
By 1808 the Atlantic slave trade had brought almost half a million Africans to the United States. The slaves largely came from West Africa and brought strong tribal musical traditions with them. Lavish festivals featuring African dances to drums were organized on Sundays at Place Congo, or Congo Square, in New Orleans until 1843, as were similar gatherings in New England and New York. African music was largely functional, for work or ritual, and included work songs and field hollers. The African tradition made use of a single-line melody and call-and-response pattern, but without the European concept of harmony. Rhythms reflected African speech patterns, and the African use of pentatonic scales led to blue notes in blues and jazz.
In the early 19th century an increasing number of black musicians learned to play European instruments, particularly the violin, which they used to parody European dance music in their own cakewalk dances. In turn, European-American minstrel show performers in blackface popularized such music internationally, combining syncopation with European harmonic accompaniment. Louis Moreau Gottschalk adapted African-American cakewalk music, South American, Caribbean and other slave melodies as piano salon music. Another influence came from black slaves who had learned the harmonic style of hymns and incorporated it into their own music as spirituals. The origins of the blues are undocumented, though they can be seen as the secular counterpart of the spirituals. Paul Oliver has drawn attention to similarities in instruments, music and social function to the griots of the West African savannah.
The abolition of slavery led to new opportunities for the education of freed African-Americans. Although strict segregation limited employment opportunities for most blacks, many were able to find work in entertainment. Black musicians were able to provide "low-class" entertainment in dances, minstrel shows, and in vaudeville, by which many marching bands formed. Black pianists played in bars, clubs, and brothels, as ragtime developed.
Ragtime appeared as sheet music, popularized by African American musicians such as the entertainer Ernest Hogan, whose hit songs appeared in 1895; two years later Vess Ossman recorded a medley of these songs as a banjo solo "Rag Time Medley". Also in 1897, the white composer William H. Krell published his "Mississippi Rag" as the first written piano instrumental ragtime piece, and Tom Turpin published his Harlem Rag, that was the first rag published by an African-American. The classically trained pianist Scott Joplin produced his "Original Rags" in the following year, then in 1899 had an international hit with "Maple Leaf Rag". He wrote numerous popular rags, including, "The Entertainer", combining syncopation, banjo figurations and sometimes call-and-response, which led to the ragtime idiom being taken up by classical composers including Claude Debussy and Igor Stravinsky. Blues music was published and popularized by W. C. Handy, whose "Memphis Blues" of 1912 and "St. Louis Blues" of 1914 both became jazz standards.
The music of New Orleans had a profound effect on the creation of early jazz. Many early jazz performers played in venues throughout the city; the brothels and bars of the red-light district around Basin Street, called "Storyville". was only one of numerous neighborhoods relevant to the early days of New Orleans jazz. In addition to dance bands, numerous marching bands played at lavish funerals arranged by the African American and European American community. The instruments used in marching bands and dance bands became the basic instruments of jazz: brass and reeds tuned in the European 12-tone scale and drums. Small bands mixing self-taught and well educated African American musicians, many of whom came from the funeral-procession tradition of New Orleans, played a seminal role in the development and dissemination of early jazz, traveling throughout Black communities in the Deep South and, from around 1914 on, Afro-Creole and African American musicians playing in vaudeville shows took jazz to western and northern US cities.
The cornetistBuddy Bolden led a band often mentioned as one of the prime movers of the style later to be called "jazz". He played in New Orleans around 1895–1906. No recordings remain of Bolden. Several tunes from the Bolden band repertory, including "Buddy Bolden Blues", have been recorded by many other musicians. (Bolden became mentally ill and spent his later decades in a mental institution.)
Morton published "Jelly Roll Blues" in 1915, the first jazz work in print.
Prohibition in the United States (from 1920 to 1933) banned the sale of alcoholic drinks, resulting in illicit speakeasies becoming lively venues of the "Jazz Age", an era when popular music included current dance songs, novelty songs, and show tunes. Jazz started to get a reputation as being immoral and many members of the older generations saw it as threatening the old values in culture and promoting the new decadent values of the Roaring 20s. Professor Henry Van Dyck of Princeton University wrote “...it is not music at all. It’s merely an irritation of the nerves of hearing, a sensual teasing of the strings of physical passion.” 
Even the media began to denigrate jazz. The New York Times took stories and altered headlines to pick at Jazz. For instance, villagers used pots and pans in Siberia to scare off bears, and the newspaper stated that it was Jazz that scared the bears away. Another story claims that Jazz caused the death of a celebrated conductor. The actual cause of death was a fatal heart attack (natural cause). From 1919 Kid Ory's Original Creole Jazz Band of musicians from New Orleans played in San Francisco and Los Angeles where in 1922 they became the first black jazz band of New Orleans origin to make recordings. However, the main centre developing the new "Hot Jazz" was Chicago, where King Oliver joined Bill Johnson. That year also saw the first recording by Bessie Smith, the most famous of the 1920s blues singers.
The King & Carter Jazzing Orchestra photographed in Houston, Texas, January 1921.
Swing was also dance music. It was broadcast on the radio 'live' nightly across America for many years especially by Hines and his Grand Terrace Cafe Orchestra broadcasting coast-to-coast from Chicago, well placed for 'live' time-zones. Although it was a collective sound, swing also offered individual musicians a chance to 'solo' and improvise melodic, thematic solos which could at times be very complex and 'important' music. Over time, social strictures regarding racial segregation began to relax in America: white bandleaders began to recruit black musicians and black bandleaders white ones. In the mid-1930s, Benny Goodman hired pianist Teddy Wilson, vibraphonist Lionel Hampton, and guitarist Charlie Christian to join small groups. An early 1940s style known as "jumping the blues" or jump blues used small combos, uptempo music, and blues chord progressions. Jump blues drew on boogie-woogie from the 1930s. Kansas City Jazz in the 1930s as exemplified by tenor saxophonist Lester Young marked the transition from big bands to the bebop influence of the 1940s.
Beginnings of European jazz
Outside of the United States the beginnings of a distinct European style of jazz emerged in France with the Quintette du Hot Club de France which began in 1934. Belgian guitar virtuoso Django Reinhardt popularized gypsy jazz, a mix of 1930s American swing, French dance hall "musette" and Eastern European folk with a languid, seductive feel. The main instruments are steel stringed guitar, violin, and double bass. Solos pass from one player to another as the guitar and bass play the role of the rhythm section. Some music researchers hold that it was Philadelphia's Eddie Lang (guitar) and Joe Venuti (violin) who pioneered the gypsy jazz form, which was brought to France after they had been heard live or on Okeh Records in the late 1920s.
In the late 1940s there was a revival of "Dixieland" music, harkening back to the original contrapuntal New Orleans style. This was driven in large part by record company reissues of early jazz classics by the Oliver, Morton, and Armstrong bands of the 1930s. There were two populations of musicians involved in the revival. One group consisted of players who had begun their careers playing in the traditional style, and were either returning to it, or continuing what they had been playing all along, such as Bob Crosby's Bobcats, Max Kaminsky, Eddie Condon, and Wild Bill Davison. Most of this group were originally Midwesterners, although there were a small number of New Orleans musicians involved. The second population of revivalists consisted of young musicians such as the Lu Watters band. By the late 1940s, Louis Armstrong's Allstars band became a leading ensemble. Through the 1950s and 1960s, Dixieland was one of the most commercially popular jazz styles in the US, Europe, and Japan, although critics paid little attention to it.
In the early 1940s bebop performers helped to shift jazz from danceable popular music towards a more challenging "musician's music." Differing greatly from swing, early bebop divorced itself from dance music, establishing itself more as an art form but lessening its potential popular and commercial value. Since bebop was meant to be listened to, not danced to, it used faster tempos. Beboppers introduced new forms of chromaticism and dissonance into jazz; the dissonant tritone (or "flatted fifth") interval became the "most important interval of bebop" and players engaged in a more abstracted form of chord-based improvisation which used "passing" chords, substitute chords, and altered chords. The style of drumming shifted as well to a more elusive and explosive style, in which the ride cymbal was used to keep time, while the snare and bass drum were used for accents.
These divergences from the jazz mainstream of the time initially met with a divided, sometimes hostile response among fans and fellow musicians, especially established swing players, who bristled at the new harmonic sounds. To hostile critics, bebop seemed to be filled with "racing, nervous phrases". Despite the initial friction, by the 1950s bebop had become an accepted part of the jazz vocabulary. The most influential bebop musicians included saxophonist Charlie Parker, pianists Bud Powell and Thelonious Monk, trumpeters Dizzy Gillespie and Clifford Brown, and drummer Max Roach.
By the end of the 1940s, the nervous energy and tension of bebop was replaced with a tendency towards calm and smoothness, with the sounds of cool jazz, which favoured long, linear melodic lines. It emerged in New York City, as a result of the mixture of the styles of predominantly white jazz musicians and black bebop musicians, and it dominated jazz in the first half of the 1950s. The starting point were a series of singles on Capitol Records in 1949 and 1950 of a nonet led by trumpeter Miles Davis, collected and released first on a ten-inch and later a twelve-inch as the Birth of the Cool. Cool jazz recordings by Chet Baker, Dave Brubeck, Bill Evans, Gil Evans, Stan Getz and the Modern Jazz Quartet usually have a "lighter" sound which avoided the aggressive tempos and harmonic abstraction of bebop. Cool jazz later became strongly identified with the West Coast jazz scene, but also had a particular resonance in Europe, especially Scandinavia, with emergence of such major figures as baritone saxophonist Lars Gullin and pianist Bengt Hallberg. The theoretical underpinnings of cool jazz were set out by the blind Chicago pianist Lennie Tristano, and its influence stretches into such later developments as Bossa nova, modal jazz, and even free jazz. See also the list of cool jazz and West Coast musicians for further detail.
Modal jazz is a development beginning in the later 1950s which takes the mode, or musical scale, as the basis of musical structure and improvisation. Previously, the goal of the soloist was to play a solo that fit into a given chord progression. However, with modal jazz, the soloist creates a melody using one or a small number of modes. The emphasis in this approach shifts from harmony to melody. The modal theory stems from a work by George Russell, but again Miles Davis unveiled this shift to the rest of the jazz world with Kind of Blue, an exploration of the possibilities of modal jazz and the best selling jazz album of all time. Other innovators in this style include John Coltrane and Bill Evans, also present on Kind of Blue, as well as later musicians such as Herbie Hancock.
A shot from a 2006 performance by Peter Brötzmann, a key figure in European free jazz
Free jazz and the related form of avant-garde jazz broke through into an open space of "free tonality" in which meter, beat, and formal symmetry all disappeared, and a range of World music from India, Africa, and Arabia were melded into an intense, even religiously ecstatic or orgiastic style of playing. While rooted in bebop, free jazz tunes gave players much more latitude; the loose harmony and tempo was deemed controversial when this approach was first developed. The bassist Charles Mingus is also frequently associated with the avant-garde in jazz, although his compositions draw from myriad styles and genres. The first major stirrings came in the 1950s, with the early work of Ornette Coleman and Cecil Taylor. In the 1960s, performers included John Coltrane (A Love Supreme), Archie Shepp, Sun Ra, Albert Ayler, Pharoah Sanders, and others. Free jazz quickly found a foothold in Europe – in part because musicians such as Ayler, Taylor, Steve Lacy and Eric Dolphy spent extended periods in Europe. A distinctive European contemporary jazz (often incorporating elements of free jazz but not limited to it) flourished also because of the emergence of musicians (such as John Surman, Zbigniew Namyslowski, Albert Mangelsdorff, Kenny Wheeler and Mike Westbrook) anxious to develop new approaches reflecting their national and regional musical cultures and contexts. Keith Jarrett has been prominent in defending free jazz from criticism by traditionalists in the 1990s and 2000s.
Latin jazz combines rhythms from African and Latin American countries, often played on instruments such as conga, timbale, güiro, and claves, with jazz and classical harmonies played on typical jazz instruments (piano, double bass, etc.). There are two main varieties: Afro-Cuban jazz was played in the US right after the bebop period, while Brazilian jazz became more popular in the 1960s. Afro-Cuban jazz began as a movement in the mid-1950s as bebop musicians such as Dizzy Gillespie and Billy Taylor started Afro-Cuban bands influenced by such Cuban and Puerto Rican musicians as Xavier Cugat, Tito Puente, and Arturo Sandoval. Brazilian jazz such as bossa nova is derived from samba, with influences from jazz and other 20th century classical and popular music styles. Bossa is generally moderately paced, with melodies sung in Portuguese or English. The style was pioneered by Brazilians João Gilberto and Antônio Carlos Jobim. The related term jazz-samba describes an adaptation of bossa nova compositions to the jazz idiom by American performers such as Stan Getz and Charlie Byrd.
In the late 1960s and early 1970s the hybrid form of jazz-rock fusion was developed by combining jazz improvisation with rock rhythms, electric instruments, and the highly amplified stage sound of rock musicians such as Jimi Hendrix. All Music Guide states that "..until around 1967, the worlds of jazz and rock were nearly completely separate." However, "...as rock became more creative and its musicianship improved, and as some in the jazz world became bored with hard bop and did not want to play strictly avant-garde music, the two different idioms began to trade ideas and occasionally combine forces."  Miles Davis made the breakthrough into fusion in 1970s with his album Bitches Brew. Musicians who worked with Davis formed the four most influential fusion groups: Weather Report and Mahavishnu Orchestra emerged in 1971 and were soon followed by Return to Forever and The Headhunters. Although jazz purists protested the blend of jazz and rock, some of jazz's significant innovators crossed over from the contemporary hard bop scene into fusion. Jazz fusion music often uses mixed meters, odd time signatures, syncopation, and complex chords and harmonies. In addition to using the electric instruments of rock, such as the electric guitar, electric bass, electric piano, and synthesizer keyboards, fusion also used the powerful amplification, "fuzz" pedals, wah-wah pedals, and other effects used by 1970s-era rock bands. Notable performers of jazz fusion included Miles Davis, keyboardists Joe Zawinul, Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock, vibraphonist Gary Burton, drummer Tony Williams, violinist Jean-Luc Ponty, guitarists Larry Coryell, Al Di Meola, John McLaughlin and Frank Zappa, saxophonist Wayne Shorter, and bassists Jaco Pastorius and Stanley Clarke. Jazz fusion was also popular in Japan where the band Casiopea released over thirty albums praising Jazz Fusion.
Developed by the mid-1970s, is characterized by a strong back beat (groove), electrified sounds, and often, the presence of the first electronic analog synthesizers. The integration of Funk, Soul, and R&B music and styles into jazz resulted in the creation of a genre whose spectrum is indeed quite wide and ranges from strong jazz improvisation to soul, funk or disco with jazz arrangements, jazz riffs, and jazz solos, and sometimes soul vocals.
At the jazz end of the spectrum, jazz-funk characteristics include a departure from ternary rhythm (near-triplet), i.e. the "swing", to the more danceable and unfamiliar binary rhythm, known as the "groove". Jazz-funk also draws influences from traditional African music, Latin American rhythms, and Jamaican reggae, most notably Kingston band leader Sonny Bradshaw. A second characteristic of Jazz-funk music is the use of electric instruments, and the first use of analogue electronic instruments notably by Herbie Hancock, whose jazz-funk period saw him surrounded on stage or in the studio by several Moog synthesizers. The ARP Odyssey, ARP String Ensemble, and Hohner D6 Clavinet also became popular at the time. A third feature is the shift of proportions between composition and improvisation. Arrangements, melody, and overall writing were heavily emphasized.
In 1987, the US House of Representatives and Senate passed a bill proposed by Democratic Representative John Conyers, Jr. to define jazz as a unique form of American music stating, among other things, "...that jazz is hereby designated as a rare and valuable national American treasure to which we should devote our attention, support and resources to make certain it is preserved, understood and promulgated."