The Parameters of Jazz

When jazz first emerged as a new form of popular dance music in the early 20th was electric: they recognized the music as something new and different from other forms of lively dance music of the time, such as fox trots, turkey trots, and one-steps. This is because early jazz, first shaped by African-American parade and dance bands in New Orleans, embodied certain musical traits not found in Euro-American music of the time and traceable to West African century the universal response among listeners music. The most essential of these traits was the improvisatory mode of performance and, more specifically, the collective improvisation of the New Orleans black bands, a spontaneous, interactive process outside the European musical tradition. A second musical feature, and the one most conspicuous to early jazz dancers, was the exhilarating complexity of early jazz rhythm that embodied two distinct rhythmic elements: syncopation and "swing." While syncopation (accents between the beats) exists as a special rhythmic effect in the European tradition, its complexity and ongoing, intensive use in jazz is rooted in West African polyrhythm. A third musical feature in early jazz is its microtonal melodic inflection (employing "bent" or "blue" notes), an African-American musical trait that jazz absorbed from the blues.