Jazz is a musical art form which originated at the beginning of the 20th century in the Southern United States from a confluence of African and European music traditions. The word jazz began as a West Coast slang term of uncertain derivation and was first used to refer to music in Chicago in about 1915Jazz has, from its early 20th century inception, spawned a variety of subgenres including New Orleans Dixieland, big bandswing, bebop, Latin jazz fusions such as Afro-Cuban and Brazilian jazz, jazz-rock  and acid jazz.


New Orleans Dixieland

Jelly Roll Morton is a seminal figure in the birth and development of jazz in the early decades of this century. A multi-talented pianist, composer, arranger and bandleader, Morton wove disparate musical strands-blues, stomps, and ragtime, plus French and Spanish influences-into the fabric of early jazz. Morton’s pioneering work was contemporaneous with the innovations made by Louis Armstrong with his Hot Five and Hot Seven.


Louis Armstrong,  nicknamed "Satchmo" or "Pops," was a foundational influence on jazz, shifting the music's focus from collective improvisation to solo performers. With his distinctive gravelly voice, Armstrong was also an influential singer, demonstrating great dexterity as an improviser, bending the lyrics and melody of a song for expressive purposes.  Renowned for his charismatic stage presence and deep, instantly recognizable voice as much as for his trumpet-playing, his influence extended well beyond jazz,. He is widely regarded as  the most important American musician of the 20th century.


Big Band Swing

Duke Ellington was known in his life as one of the most influential figures in jazz, if not in all American music. Ellington called his music "American Music" rather than jazz. Many of the musicians who served with his orchestra were considered among the giants of jazz. While many were noteworthy in their own right, it was Ellington who melded them into one of the most well-known orchestras in the history of jazz. Some of Ellington's most famous songs include "Take The A Train," "Don't Get Around Much Anymore," "Sophisticated Lady" and "In a Sentimental Mood."
Count Basie was widely regarded as one of the most important jazz bandleaders of his time, Basie led his popular Count Basie Orchestra for almost 50 years. Many notable musicians came to prominence under his direction, including tenor saxophonistsLester Young, trumpeter Harry "Sweets" Edison and singers Jimmy Rushing and Joe Williams. Basie's theme songs were "One O'Clock Jump" and "April In Paris".

Cab Calloway was a legendary fireball of talent, whose infectious "hi-de-hi's," "ho-deho's," scattin', and jivin', in a baritone singing voice rich and vibrant, became the spirited cry of people wanting to be happy.  He was a master of energetic scat singing and led one of the most popular big bands from the start of the '30s through the late '40s.


The Women of Jazz

Billie Holiday, nicknamed "Lady Day", was a seminal influence on jazz and pop singing. Her vocal style, strongly inspired by jazz instrumentalists, pioneered a new way of manipulating phrasing and tempo. Above all, she was admired for her deeply personal and intimate approach to singing. She co-wrote only a few songs, but several of them have become jazz standards, notably "God Bless the Child", "Don't Explain", and "Lady Sings the Blues". She also sang jazz standards written by others, including "Easy Living" and "Strange Fruit."
Ella Fitzgerald, dubbed "The First Lady of Song," was the most popular female jazz singer in the United States for more than half a century. Her voice was flexible, wide-ranging, accurate and ageless. Gifted with a three-octave vocal range, she was noted for her purity of tone, near faultless phrasing and intonation, and a “horn-like” improvisational ability, particularly in her scat singing. She could sing sultry ballads, sweet jazz and imitate every instrument in an orchestra. In her lifetime, she won 13 Grammy awards and sold over 40 million albums.

Sarah Vaughan, nicknamed “Sassy” and “The Divine One”, was described as “possessor of one of the most wondrous voices of the 20th century”. Ella Fitzgerald called her the world’s “greatest singing talent. ” During the course of a career that spanned nearly fifty years, she was the singer’s singer, influencing everyone from Mel Torme to Anita Baker. She was among the musical elite identified by their first names. She was Sarah, Sassy — the incomparable Sarah Vaughan.



Dizzy Gillespie was one of the greatest Jazz trumpeters of 20th century and, together with Charlie Parker, was a major figure in the development of bebop and modern jazz. He was instrumental in founding Afro-Cuban jazz. Gillespie was a trumpet virtuoso and gifted improviser, adding layers of harmonic complexity previously unknown in jazz. In addition to his instrumental skills, Dizzy's beret and horn-rimmed spectacles, his scat singing, his bent horn, pouched cheeks and his light-hearted personality were essential in popularizing bebop.


Charlie Parker was one of the most influential improvising soloists in jazz, and a central figure in the development of bop. A legendary figure in his own lifetime, he was idolized by those who worked with him, and he inspired a generation of jazz performers and composers. Parker acquired the nickname "Yardbird" early in his career, and the shortened form "Bird" remained Parker's sobriquet for the rest of his life, inspiring the titles of a number of Parker compositions, such as "Yardbird Suite" and "Ornithology." Parker's innovative approaches to melody, rhythm, and harmony exercised enormous influence on his contemporaries.


Miles Davis was at the forefront of almost every major development in jazz from World War II to the 1990s: he played on various early bebop records and recorded one of the first cool jazz records; he was partially responsible for the development of hard bop and modal jazz, and both jazz-funk and jazz fusion arose from his work with other musicians in the late 1960s and early 1970s; and his final album blended jazz and rap. As a trumpeter, Davis had a pure, round sound, but also an unusual freedom of articulation and pitch.