Is Jazz R.I.P. dead?

Lashonde Lavelle Christian
October 22, 2020
5 minutes
It’s 2020, and we’re placing all bets that many of you (the younger generation of today, that is) don’t know nuts about Jazz.
Believe it or not, Jazz is a musical genre that is, well particularly old. It came about at the beginning of the 20th century in New Orleans USA over a 100 years ago, and was a brash new style, that was both bold as well as unpredictable.
Based highly on improvisation, Jazz is basically mixture music from a little bit of here and there, with a bit of blues, a bit of march, a bit of orchestra and a whole variety of instruments.

Forming a myriad of melodies, during its inception Jazz was actually described as a type of music which portrayed rebellion. From the association of its name with sexual connotations, to it being performed and played in the dark of the night, where sins were tryingly masked, or music that often symbolized black-white racism in America, Jazz actually started off as a rather controversial musical genre.
However, because the prettiest roses still have thorns, Jazz continued to thrive on, despite the then disapproval of the bourgeoisie.
Amongst the many pioneers of the music genre, legend has it, that Charles ‘Buddy’ Bolden was actually the first to bring popularity to Jazz. However, that didn’t quite stick.

Soon after, other musicians in New Orleans stumbled upon it, grew the genre, and many top Jazz artists took over the music scene in early America. From Louis Armstrong to Miles Davis, Ella Fitzgerald, Ben E. King and many others, Jazz became so popular, that the 1920’s came to be known as The Jazz Age!
The music spread to major cities like Chicago, New York and became all the rage throughout the 1930s as well as the 1940s. From singing to dancing, on the radio, TV, restaurants, lounges, the Jazz of then was basically the Pop of now.
Image via WTTW

Unfortunately, the golden age of Jazz music was short-lived. From the 1920’s to the 1940’s, Jazz didn’t remain Jazz, or rather, it couldn’t. It shifted into many forms, like Swing, Dixieland Jazz, Cool Jazz, Vocal Jazz, Bebop, so on and so forth.
The reason for its transformation was simple, if Jazz intended on surviving, Jazz had to adapt, and so adapt (just a fancy word for change, we think) is what Jazz did.
Then came the 60’s-70’s, and Jazz, together with all its different derivations, faded further into the background. As a matter of fact, it was also during that time when acts like Jimmy Hendrix and Freddie Mercury came on to take center stage. The genre of rock had taken over the music scene and with it, people’s attentions.

With time, genres like pop, R&B, soul and many others also slipped right in, and before anyone knew it, Jazz became a prompt of the past.
Today, although many could be asking what is Jazz, the question we’ve chosen to ask is, where is Jazz and what has happened to it? Is it gone? Is it dead? Does Jazz still matter?

Based on some stats, there is no denying that Jazz music, has always been one step behind, as compared to the other musical genres. As a matter of fact, according to the certified sales of some of the best-selling albums of all time, Jazz’s best-selling album, (which was released in the year 1959, by the way), only sold over 5 million copies, a monumental difference from the Eagles' Classic Rock, Their Greatest Hits.
We mean, if that isn’t the shorter end of the stick, then what is?

However, this isn’t to say that Jazz is dead, because although it may look the part, it is not. Rather, it has just merely transformed again, inserting itself into other genres of music. Lending its influence to major genres like hip hop, R&B, pop and even classical music, Jazz is simply doing what Jazz was made to do, improvise.
There is no denying that Jazz is far from where it used to be about a century ago, but it’s safe to say that its music is still enjoyed among many around the world. Of course, it is rather unfortunate that those numbers have now become a mere handful, but alas, people, like music, is constantly evolving.

So, it’s not really anyone’s fault that the masses taste in music have altered. It just is what it is and whether it’s Jazz or any other musical genre, the blatant truth is that, all music can really do is move like everything else with the hopes that their genre, doesn’t end up being the next one on the chopping block.