The Primary Source Musics of Jazz: Ragtime, Blues, and March

Contrary to a common myth that jazz is the first true African-American music, there were two fully fledged musical genres created by blacks in the post slavery era: Ragtime and Blues. And these were distinctly different musical genres, ragtime being an instrumental/rhythmic music shaped to the piano keyboard, blues being a vocal/melodic music shaped to the flexible singing voice. Yet these essentially incompatible musical idioms were mixed and fused by the New Orleans black marching bands to create the musical hybrid that was jazz. Thus, jazz as a finished product was a unique blend of march, ragtime, and blues that could only have arisen in New Orleans. Indeed, early New Orleans jazz bands, significantly, utilized European military instruments: trumpet, clarinet, trombone, and tuba, supported, not by African drums, but snare drums, bass drums, and cymbals. The use of these instruments, playing ad libitum performance of march music (marches and hymns), ragtime, and blues is what constitutes the first jazz bands.