The Jazz Music Era: A Timeline

This article is a collaborative effort, crafted and edited by a team of dedicated professionals.

Contributors: Andranick Tanguiane, Fred Lerdahl,


A comprehensive look at the history of Jazz music, from its humble beginnings to its present day popularity.

The Early Jazz Era- 1890s to 1920s

Jazz music first emerged in the late 19th century in African American communities in the Southern United States. The earliest jazz bands were typically made up of marching bands playing a blend of European military brass band music and African American music. The first recorded use of the word “jazz” was in a Chicago Tribune article in 1912.

The Origins of Jazz

Jazz music originated in the late 19th and early 20th centuries in African American communities in the Southern United States. Its roots were in the blues, ragtime, brass band music, and African American folk music. Over time, jazz evolved into a successful genre of popular music that continues to evolve today.

The first jazz recordings were made in 1917 by the Original Dixieland Jass Band. These recordings became very popular, and soon other jazz bands were formed. The 1920s were a golden age for jazz, with great musicians such as Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, and Jelly Roll Morton making important contributions to the genre.

In the 1930s and 1940s, jazz became more experimental, with artists such as Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie pushing boundaries and expanding the possibilities of what could be done with the genre. In the 1950s and 1960s, jazz was at its height of popularity, with musicians like Miles Davis and John Coltrane becoming household names.

Today, jazz is still evolving, with new artists taking the genre in new directions while still paying homage to its origins. Jazz remains an important part of American culture and continues to influence other genres of music around the world.

The Spread of Jazz

The earliest forms of jazz were created in the late 19th and early 20th centuries in the southern United States. Jazz combines elements of African American musical traditions, such as the call-and-response style of singing, with European musical elements, such as harmonic structure and instruments.

Jazz began to spread from its roots in New Orleans to other parts of the country in the early 20th century. Jazz bands began to tour nationally and internationally, and jazz recordings became popular. By the 1920s, jazz was becoming a major force in American music.

During the 1920s, jazz underwent a major transformation. New styles emerged, such as Chicago style jazz and swing. Jazz began to be influenced by other genres of music, such as blues and gospel. The most famous jazz musician of the era was Louis Armstrong.

The First Jazz Recordings

The first known jazz recordings were made by the Original Dixieland Jass Band in 1917. These recordings, “Livery Stable Blues” and “Dixie Jass Band One Step,” were made in New York for the Victor Talking Machine Company and released in 1917. They were an instant sensation and sparked a national craze for all things jazz.

New Orleans Jazz
The Original Dixieland Jass Band was not from New Orleans, but the music they played was. New Orleans was the birthplace of jazz and the home of many of its early pioneers, such as Jelly Roll Morton, Bunk Johnson, and Kid Ory. The city was a hotbed of musical activity in the early 20th century, with a vibrant live music scene and a thriving recording industry.

The popularity of the ODJB’s recordings led to a renewed interest in New Orleans jazz, and many bands began emulating their style. One of the most successful was the New Orleans Rhythm Kings, who made their recordings for Victor in 1922. They were followed by other New Orleans-based bands like King Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band, Sidney Bechet’s Blue Note Jazz Men, and Louis Armstrong’s Hot Five. These bands took the basic elements of New Orleans jazz – collective improvisation, a strong rhythm section, and creative solos – and developed them into new musical forms.

The early 1920s also saw the rise of Chicago jazz, which would come to dominate the genre in the years to come. Bands like Joe “King” Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band, Jelly Roll Morton’s Red Hot Peppers, Louis Armstrong’s Hot Five, and Earl Hines’ Grand Terrace Orchestra were all making waves in Chicago during this period. They would go on to influence countless other musicians and define what we now think of as “classic” jazz.

The Golden Age of Jazz- 1920s to 1930s

The Jazz music era is often considered to have begun in the early 1920s and ended in the late 1930s. This was a time when Jazz music was becoming more popular and mainstream. Many famous Jazz musicians emerged during this time, including Duke Ellington and Louis Armstrong.

The Jazz Age

The Jazz Age was a period in the 1920s and 1930s in which jazz music and dance styles rapidly gained nationwide popularity in the United States. The Jazz Age began on December 5, 1916, with the debut performance of the Original Dixieland Jass Band at New York City’s famed Reisenweber’s Cafe. The term “Jazz Age” was coined by F. Scott Fitzgerald, who wrote about the era in his 1931 novel Tender Is the Night.

During the Jazz Age, many African American musicians, singers, and bandleaders rose to prominence and helped to shape the course of jazz music. Some of the most famous jazz musicians of the era include Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, and Benny Goodman. The popularity of jazz spread quickly throughout America and by the mid-1920s was being performed in dance halls, nightclubs, and restaurants across the country.

By the 1930s, however, the Great Depression had begun to take its toll on the nation and many Americans could no longer afford to patronize nightclubs and dance halls. As a result, the popularity of jazz began to decline. Nevertheless, some jazz musicians continued to find success during this period, notably Benny Goodman, who became known as “the King of Swing.” The Jazz Age came to an end with World War II (1939-1945), after which many jazz musicians were drafted into military service or left America to join European bands.

The Swing Era

The Swing Era is the most populous era of jazz, characterized by an up-tempo musical style and lightheartedly entertaining lyrics. It was a period of intense activity in Harlem ballrooms, with rapid occurrences of fads such as Lindy Hop and Charleston. For a short time, the nation’s focus was on Harlem culture, as whites became curious about this ‘new music’ called jazz. The music quickly spread throughout the nation, carried by sailors, soldiers and eventually by recording artists such as Louis Armstrong and his All Stars.

The Great Depression and Jazz

The Great Depression was a time of economic hardship for many people in the United States. Money was tight, and jobs were scarce. But even during these difficult times, people still found ways to enjoy themselves. One of the most popular forms of entertainment during the Great Depression was jazz music.

Jazz emerged in the early 20th century, and by the 1920s, it was one of the most popular genres of music in the United States. Jazz bands often played at nightclubs and dancehalls, and many people enjoyed listening to jazz records at home. The popularity of jazz continued to grow during the 1930s, despite the economic challenges of the Great Depression.

During this era, many famous jazz musicians emerged, including Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, and Billie Holiday. Jazz music helped people to forget their troubles and to enjoy life, even during tough times.

The Modern Jazz Era- 1930s to 1950s

The Jazz music era began in the early 1930s and continued through to the 1950s. This was a time when big band and swing music were at their peak, and many of the great jazz musicians emerged. The modern jazz era was a time of great change in music, and it is still considered to be one of the most important periods in jazz history.


Bebop was the first style of modern jazz. It began in the early 1940s, and reached its height of popularity in the mid-1940s. Bebop was marked by fast tempos, complex chord progressions, and intricate melodies. Musicians such as Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, and Thelonious Monk helped to develop this new style of music.

Hard Bop

The Hard Bop Era is considered to have lasted from the early 1950s to the mid-1960s. Hard bop was developed as a reaction to Bebop. Musicians felt that Bebop had become too “cerebral” and disconnected from the African-American experience. They wanted to return jazz to its roots, making the music more emotional and down-to-earth.

Hard bop was influenced by gospel, blues, and rhythm and blues. It featured a strong backbeat, often played on the drums, and extended solos. Some of the most famous hard bop musicians include Miles Davis, Horace Silver, Art Blakey, and Thelonious Monk.

Cool Jazz

With the outbreak of World War II, many Jazz musicians were drafted into the military. This led to a decline in the popularity of Jazz. But, in the late 1940s, a new style known as “Cool Jazz” emerged. This style was calmer and more refined than previous styles of Jazz. It became very popular with middle-class Americans. Some of the most famous Cool Jazz musicians include:

-Miles Davis
-Dave Brubeck
-Chet Baker
-Dizzy Gillespie
-Thelonious Monk

The Contemporary Jazz Era- 1950s to present

The Contemporary Jazz Era is the period of time from the 1950s to the present day. This era of jazz is marked by the return of swing and bebop elements. Jazz started to become more experimental in this era, with artists such as Miles Davis and John Coltrane pushing the boundaries of the genre.


Fusion is a style of jazz that developed in the late 1960s and early 1970s when musicians began blending elements of jazz with rock, funk, and R&B. Jazz fusion often uses electric instruments and amplifiers, as well as incorporating different styles of soloing. Some of the most influential fusion bands include Miles Davis’ group from the late 1960s and early 1970s, Weather Report, Return to Forever, and The Headhunters.

Avant-Garde Jazz

The Avant-Garde Jazz is a type of jazz that was developed in the late 1950s. This type of jazz is characterized by its use of extended techniques, unusual instrumentation, and freeform improvisation. Some of the most famous Avant-Garde Jazz musicians include Ornette Coleman, Cecil Taylor, and Eric Dolphy.


Jazz-rock, also called fusion, popular musical style in which jazz improvisation is combined with the electric rock idiom and elements of other musics. The style developed in the late 1960s and early ’70s and reached its height of popularity in the ’70s.

In jazz-rock, as in all fusion styles, electric instruments and amplified sound became more prominent than they had been in traditional jazz. In addition to the standard electric bass and drums, guitars, keyboards, and other electronic instruments were used. This shift in instrumentation was a consequence of two developments: the increasing prominence of rock music as a commercial genre and the availability of new electronic instruments, such as the synthesizer.

As jazz-rock developed, it drew upon a variety of musical styles. Funk rhythms, Latin American music, rock melodies and harmonies, and even classical music were all melded into the new idiom. The result was a style that was both fresh and familiar—and one that was immediately appealing to a wide range of listeners.

Among the most successful and influential jazz-rock musicians were Miles Davis, Weather Report, Return to Forever, Chick Corea’s Electric Band, Herbie Hancock’s Headhunters, blood sweat & tears , Jean-Luc Ponty , Steely Dan ,The Doobie Brothers ,Yellowjackets ,Boz Scaggs ,Spyro Gyra ,Al Jarreau

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