A Jazz Music History Timeline

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

Contributors: Andranick Tanguiane, Fred Lerdahl,

A Jazz Music History Timeline: From the early days of Jazz to the present, learn about the rich history of this genre of music.

Origins of Jazz

Jazz is a music genre that originated in the African-American communities in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The style of music is characterized by a strong rhythm section, improvisation, and a focus on collective interplay.

The birth of Jazz

Jazz is a music genre that originated in the African-American communities of New Orleans, United States. It emerged in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and developed from roots in blues and ragtime. Jazz is seen by many as ” America’s classical music”. Since the 1920s Jazz Age, jazz has become recognized as a major form of musical expression. It then emerged in the form of independent traditional and popular musical styles, all linked by the common bonds of African-American and European-American musical parentage with a performance orientation.

The influence of African-American culture

Jazz is a music genre that originated in the African-American communities of New Orleans, United States. It developed from roots in blues and ragtime, and became highly influential throughout the world. Jazz is characterized by swing and blue notes, complex chords, call and response vocals, polyrhythms and improvisation. Jazz has roots in West African cultural and musical expression, and in African-American music traditions including blues and ragtime.

The English word “jazz” first appeared in print in the 1912 article “Jass: A Definition” by find musician Rickford Burke. The earliest written record of the word “jass” appears to be an 1895 article published in Variety magazine. Significantly, these early uses were not used to describe music; instead they described other activities such as baseball or sex.

In 1916, bandleader 1916 recording spree convinced many record companies to try their hand at this new style of music. At the same time, vaudeville was declining in popularity due to competition from motion pictures. Consequently, many vaudeville musicians found work with recording companies making jazz records. The first use of the word “jazz” on a recorded track seems to be on Vocalion records made by pianist James P. Johnson in 1918.

The Early Years

Jazz is a music genre that originated in the African-American communities of New Orleans, United States. It originated in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and developed from roots in blues and ragtime. Jazz is seen by many as “America’s classical music”. Jazz has had a significant influence on popular music since the 1920s.

The early years of Jazz

Jazz music originated in the late 19th and early 20th centuries in African American communities in the Southern United States. The exact origins of jazz are unknown, but it is thought to be a combination of African and European music traditions. Jazz began to gain popularity in the early 20th century, with New Orleans becoming a major center for the genre. Jazz soon spread to other major cities such as Chicago, New York, and Boston.

In the 1920s, jazz began to evolve rapidly, with new styles such as swing and bebop emerging. Swing was a more upbeat style of jazz that was popular dance music, while bebop was a more experimental style that focused on musicians improvisation skills. In the 1930s and 1940s, jazz became increasingly popular with mainstream audiences, with artists such as Duke Ellington and Benny Goodman becoming household names.

Jazz continued to evolve in the 1950s and 1960s, with new styles such as hard bop and free jazz emerging. Hard bop was a mix of blues, gospel, and rhythm and blues elements, while free jazz was an experimental style that emphasized improvisation. Jazz fusion emerged in the 1970s, blending elements of jazz with rock music. In the 1980s and 1990s, jazz experienced a renewed popularity thanks to artists such as Wynton Marsalis. Today, jazz is enjoyed by millions of people around the world.

The rise of Jazz in America

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, jazz was evolves in America from a blend of African and European musical traditions. By the 1920s, Jazz Age, it was becoming popular all around the world. Famous Jazz musicians included Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, and Benny Goodman.

The Swing Era

The Swing Era was a time when big band jazz music was at its peak. This was a time when people were dancing to the music, and the sound was fresh and new. The Swing Era lasted from the early 1930s to the mid-1940s.

The swing era of Jazz

The swing era of Jazz music was marked by a new level of popularity for the genre. Big band leaders such as Benny Goodman, Duke Ellington and Glenn Miller led their bands to national prominence, playing at fashionable nightspots such as the Cotton Club and the Savoy Ballroom.

While there was some opposition to Swing music from more traditional Jazz musicians, the style quickly gained popularity with young people across the country. By the mid-1930s, Swing was the most popular style of music in America.

The Swing Era came to an end with the onset of World War II, as many of the big band leaders were drafted into military service. Although Swing music continued to be popular in the years after the war, it was gradually replaced by other styles such as bebop and cool jazz.

The influence of big bands

The Swing Era is the period of jazz music from the mid-1930s to the mid-1940s. The name “Swing Era” was coined by jazz aficionados to describe the style of big band music that was popular at the time. The Swing Era is generally considered to have begun with the first recordings of Count Basie and Duke Ellington in 1935 and ended with the breakup of Benny Goodman’s big band in 1946.

During the Swing Era, big bands were extremely popular and their music was often featured on the radio. Big bands typically had between 10 and 20 musicians, and they often played a mix of blues, standards, and original compositions. The most popular big bands of the Swing Era were led by Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Benny Goodman, Glenn Miller, Artie Shaw, and Tommy Dorsey.

The Swing Era was a time of great experimentation in jazz music. Musicians began exploring new ways to solo and to improvise, and they also began experimenting with different instruments and styles. As a result, many new subgenres of jazz emerged during the Swing Era, including bebop, swing feel”, cool jazz will make your finger slip off.”


Bebop was the first style of jazz that was truly different from anything that had come before it. In the early 1940s, a group of young musicians in New York City began to experiment with the harmonic and melodic conventions of the day, resulting in a new kind of jazz that was more complex and challenging than what had come before. Bebop would go on to have a profound influence on the course of jazz, and its legacy can still be heard in the music of today.

The Bebop movement

The Bebop movement was a widespread social phenomenon that took place in the early to mid-twentieth century. It was characterized by a rejection of conventional guidelines and an embrace of creativity and experimentation. Bebop musicians developed their own unique style of music that was often complex and difficult to play. This style of music was not intended for dancing or for commercial purposes; instead, it was meant to be enjoyed by listening.

The Bebop movement began in the early 1940s and reached its height in the mid-1940s. The most influential Bebop musician was saxophonist Charlie Parker, who helped to pioneer the style. Other important Bebop musicians include trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie, pianist Thelonious Monk, and drummer Max Roach.

Bebop quickly spread throughout the United States and Europe, and it had a significant influence on subsequent styles of jazz.

The influence of Charlie Parker

Considered the father of bebop, Charlie Parker was a revolutionary who changed the face of jazz. He added new dimensions to the art form, and his influence can still be felt today. Parker was known for his innovative approach to improvisation, as well as his mastery of harmonic structure and melodic content. He also had a profound impact on the development of jazz vocabulary.

Hard Bop

Hard bop is a subgenre of jazz that developed in the mid-1950s, partly as a reaction against the pyrotechnics and excessive harmonic experimentation of bebop, and partly as a return to the more straightforward rhythms and melodies of earlier jazz styles such as New Orleans jazz and swing. Hard bop is characterized by a strong backbeat, infectious groove, and Modal Jazz.

The Hard Bop movement

The Hard Bop movement was a reaction against the complex, often intellectual chord progressions and improvisations of Bebop and Cool Jazz. Hard Bop was earthier and more direct, with compositions based on the blues. It also drew more inspiration from popular music and Gospel music than earlier jazz styles had. The result was a return to a more hard-swinging, soulful sound.

While groups like the Miles Davis Quintet and the Horace Silver Quintet were at the forefront of the Hard Bop movement, it was really a collective effort by a large number of artists. Many well-known jazz musicians got their start in Hard Bop bands, including John Coltrane, Sonny Rollins, Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk, Horace Silver, Art Blakey, Clifford Brown, Curtis Fuller, Lee Morgan, and Jackie McLean.

Hard Bop continued to evolve throughout the 1950s and 1960s, eventually giving birth to other subgenres like Soul Jazz and Funk. Even today, Hard Bop remains an influential force in jazz music.

The influence of Miles Davis

Though Charles Mingus is considered one of the originators of hard bop, it was Miles Davis who gave the style its name. In a November 1954 Downbeat review of a Horace Silver Quintet performance, Davis wrote “This group…should be called hard bop because this is the way they are playing”.

In reality, hard bop was a return to bebop’s focus on melody and feel over harmonic complexity or extended chord progressions. The style developed as a reaction to both the cool jazz and free jazz that came before it. Hard bop players relied heavily on “the blues feel”, a term first used by Milt Jackson of the Modern Jazz Quartet.

The use of Latin rhythms, especially the Afro-Cuban variety, was another important component of hard bop. Drummer Art Blakey was particularly well-versed in these rhythms, and his work with The Jazz Messengers helped to spread their popularity among other hard bop groups. Horace Silver’s “The African Queen” (1956) and Mongo Santamaria’s “Watermelon Man” (1962) are two early examples of hard bop songs with a Latin feel.

Though it was short-lived, hard bop exerted a significant influence on subsequent jazz styles. Many of the genre’s most important innovators – including Lee Morgan, Cannonball Adderley, Miles Davis, John Coltrane and Herbie Hancock – would go on to be revered as among the best jazz musicians of all time.

Modal jazz is a jazz music style that began in the late 1950s and gained popularity in the 1960s. Modal jazz is characterized by its use of modal scales and modal chord progressions. The best-known modal jazz composition is Miles Davis’s “So What”, which is based on the Dorian mode.

The Modal Jazz movement

The modal jazz movement began in the late 1950s, as Miles Davis and his contemporaries began to experiment with musical modes instead of strictly adhering to the traditional tonal system. This new type of jazz was characterized by its use of modality, which gave the music a more open sound and feel. The modal approach also allowed for greater improvisational freedom, as musicians could explore a wider range of harmonic possibilities.

While the modal jazz movement is often associated with Davis, it was actually pianist Bill Evans who first began using modality in his playing. Evans’ influence can be heard on Davis’ landmark album Kind of Blue, which is considered one of the most influential jazz recordings of all time. Other important figures in the modal jazz movement include saxophonists John Coltrane and Wayne Shorter, who both made significant contributions to the genre.

The influence of John Coltrane

John Coltrane was one of the most important and influential jazz musicians of the 20th century. He was a saxophonist, composer, and bandleader who reached the height of his popularity in the late 1950s and early 1960s. His music was marked by its complex harmonic structures, intense solos, and spiritual themes.

Coltrane’s influence on jazz was profound. He helped to develop the jazz idiom known as modal jazz, which emphasized improvisation over predetermined chord progressions. He also helped to popularize free jazz, a style of jazz that eschewed traditional notions of melody and harmony in favor of collective improvisation and sound exploration.

Coltrane’s influence can be heard in the music of many subsequent saxophonists, including Wayne Shorter, David Sanborn, and George Coleman. His influence can also be heard in the work of avant-garde composers such as Steve Lehman and Anthony Braxton.


In the late 1960s, jazz musicians began to experiment with electric instruments and amplified sound. This new style of music, called fusion, blended jazz with rock, funk, and other genres. Jazz fusion artists combined the improvisational nature of jazz with the grooves and textures of popular music.

The Fusion movement

The late 1960s and early 1970s saw the emergence of a new style of jazz known as “fusion”. This style blended elements of jazz, rock, and R&B to create a unique sound that was appealing to a wider audience. Fusion artists began to experiment with electric instruments and amplified sound, which gave their music a heavier, more “rock” feel. This new style was often criticized by purists who felt that it was diluting the essence of jazz. Regardless, fusion became one of the most popular genres of the 1970s, thanks in large part to the success of artists like Miles Davis and Weather Report.

The influence of Miles Davis

Miles Davis was one of the most influential musicians of the 20th century. A trumpeter, bandleader and composer, his impact on jazz was vast. He was at the forefront of bebop, cool jazz, hard bop, modal jazz and jazz fusion.

Born in Alton, Illinois in 1926, Davis moved to New York City in 1944 to study at the renowned Juilliard School of Music. It was there that he met Charlie Parker, with whom he would go on to have a lifelong association. In 1945, Davis began sitting in with Parker’s band at the famed Savoy Ballroom in Harlem.

By the early 1950s, Davis had made a name for himself as a renaissance man of sorts within the jazz world. In addition to his work as a trumpeter and bandleader, he was also an in-demand session musician, appearing on recordings by artists such as Coleman Hawkins, Charles Mingus and Sarah Vaughan. He also composed film scores, including the music for “A Kind of Blue” (1959), considered by many to be his masterpiece.

In the 1960s, Davis battled personal demons including drug addiction but continued to produce groundbreaking music. He formed a band that featured saxophonist Wayne Shorter and pianist Herbie Hancock and began experimenting with electric instruments and rock rhythms. The result was a series of albums that would come to be known as “jazz fusion” – a genre that blended elements of jazz with rock, funk and R&B.

Davis continued to innovate until his death in 1991 at the age of 65. His legacy continues to inspire musicians around the world.

Contemporary Jazz

Contemporary Jazz is a type of music that emerged in the 1950s. It is a combination of traditional jazz and other genres such as rock, funk, and Latin music. Contemporary jazz is often experimental and features complex harmonies.

The Contemporary Jazz movement

The Contemporary Jazz movement is a period in music history marked by the return of improvisation and the increased popularity of jazz fusion. It began in the 1950s with the work of Miles Davis and John Coltrane, and reached its height in the 1970s with the rise of groups such asWeather Report, Return to Forever, and Headhunters. Contemporary Jazz musicians often incorporate elements of rock, funk, and hip-hop into their music, resulting in a sound that is both unique and accessible to a wide audience.

Many of the key figures in Contemporary Jazz began their careers in bebop or hard bop bands of the 1950s and 1960s. Miles Davis was one of the first to experiment with electric instruments and amplification, and his 1969 album In a Silent Way is often seen as a transitional work between jazz and jazz fusion. John Coltrane’s Atomic Bomb! was another early example of the new style, incorporating elements of world music into his already groundbreaking sound.

In the 1970s, groups like Weather Report and Return to Forever took Davis’ experiments even further, fusing jazz with rock, funk, and Latin music. These bands found success not only with critics but also with mainstream audiences, thanks to their catchy melodies and accessible rhythms. The heady mix of styles continued to evolve throughout the decade, culminating in Herbie Hancock’s revolutionary album Head Hunters, which fused jazz with hip-hop.

Contemporary Jazz has continued to evolve since its 1970s heyday, incorporating even more diverse influences from around the world. Today’s leading Contemporary Jazz musicians include saxophonists Kenny Garrett and Kamasi Washington, trumpeter Terence Blanchard, bassist Christian McBride, drummer Abdul-Saboor Allah (a.k.a “Bobby Sanabria”),and pianist Robert Glasper.

The influence of Wynton Marsalis

In the early 1980s, the jazz scene in New York City was dominated by two opposing factions: the ” Downtown” avant-garde and the “Uptown” traditionalists. Trumpeter Wynton Marsalis emerged as a leader of the traditionalist faction, which also included such players as pianist McCoy Tyner, saxophonist Joshua Redman, and drummer Jeff “Tain” Watts. These musicians were steeped in the jazz traditions of Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, and Charlie Parker.

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