The Earliest Jazz: Music for Dancing

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

Contributors: Andranick Tanguiane, Fred Lerdahl,


The Earliest Jazz: Music for Dancing is a compilation of some of the earliest recorded jazz music. This music was recorded between the years of 1917 and 1922 and includes songs by Jelly Roll Morton, King Oliver, and Louis Armstrong.


Jazz is a music genre that originated in the United States in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It originated in the African-American communities of New Orleans, Louisiana. It has its roots in West African musical traditions and in European military band music. Jazz is characterized by swing and blue notes, call and response vocals, polyrhythms and improvisation. Jazz has influenced other genres of music, including rock, pop, Hip Hop, Latin and African music.

Jazz dancing is a style of dance that is inspired by jazz music. Jazz dancing has influences from both tap dancing and ballet. Jazz dancers often use gestures and body movements that are inspired by the music they are listening to.

The First Jazz Recordings

The earliest jazz recordings were made in 1917 and 1918 by the Original Dixieland Jass Band and the New Orleans Rhythm Kings. These records were made to be played on phonographs, and they were mostly records of popular songs with a jazz twist.

The Original Dixieland Jass Band

In 1917, the Original Dixieland Jass Band made the first recordings of what we now know as jazz. These recordings, made in New York for the Victor Talking Machine Company, were exceptionally popular and helped to spread the new music around the world. The band’s repertoire included such classics as “Tiger Rag” and ” Darkness on the Delta,” which would become standards of the jazz repertoire. The band’s style was characterized by a strong rhythmic drive, catchy melodies, and improvisation.

The Original Dixieland Jass Band was not the only band to make early jazz recordings, but they were certainly the most popular and influential. Other notable early jazz bands include King Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band, Jelly Roll Morton’s Red Hot Peppers, and Louis Armstrong’s Hot Five. These bands helped to define the sound of early jazz and set the stage for the development of this uniquely American art form.

King Oliver and his Creole Jazz Band

In 1923, the King Oliver Creole Jazz Band made the first recordings of what would become known as jazz. Previously, this new type of music had only been heard live, in dance halls and clubs in New Orleans and other cities in the South. The Oliver band’s recordings, which featured such greats as Louis Armstrong and Jelly Roll Morton, brought this exciting new sound to a national audience for the first time.

The Oliver band’s records were hugely popular, and jazz began to spread across the country. New York City soon became a major center for jazz, with its own style that was different from the New Orleans sound. In the 1930s and 1940s, big bands began to dominate the jazz scene, playing a more polished type of music that was often used for dancing. Meanwhile, small groups of musicians were developing a new style of jazz known as bebop, which featured complex harmonies and fast-paced improvisation.

Today, jazz is enjoyed all over the world, and its influence can be heard in many different genres of music.

The Spread of Jazz

Jazz is a style of music that originated in the early 20th century in the United States. It is characterized by a strong rhythmic groove, improvization, and a bluesy feel. Jazz has been a major influence on other styles of music, including rock and roll, pop, and hip hop.

Jazz in New Orleans

The earliest form of jazz was called Dixieland and it developed in New Orleans, Louisiana around 1900. The music was interactive and lively, meant for dancing. The style was a blend of African and European music, with some enhancements from Cuban and Brazilian rhythms. Brass instruments were common, as were marching band elements like the use of a snare drum. Soloing was not common in early jazz– instead, the focus was on playing together as an ensemble.

One of the earliest Dixieland groups was The Original Dixieland Jazz Band, formed in 1916. They were the first jazz band to make recordings and to tour Europe. The popularity of their records helped to spread jazz beyond New Orleans and turn it into a global phenomenon.

Jazz in Chicago

Jazz was also developing in Chicago at the same time as in New Orleans. As in New Orleans, there were many musicians who had moved to Chicago from the South. They brought with them the same kind of music that they had been playing in New Orleans. There were also many people from other parts of the United States and from other countries who came to live in Chicago. They brought different kinds of music with them. All of this helped to make Chicago a very important center for jazz.

One of the most important early jazz musicians from Chicago was King Oliver. He was born in Louisiana but moved to Chicago when he was young. Oliver played the cornet, and he soon became one of the most popular musicians in the city. He played in many different clubs and became famous for hissolos, or Assistant Conductor
In 1908 Oliver went to New York City to play with his band at Carnegie Hall. While he was there, he met a young musician named Joe “King” Oliver Englander
Joe “King” Oliver was born in New York City on June 11, 1885. His father was a well-known Jewish musician and his mother was Irish Catholic. Joe grew up listening to all kinds of music, but he especially liked ragtime and jazz. When he was thirteen years old, he started playing the cornet. He played in marching bands and then in dance bands

Jazz in New York

The first important center of jazz was New Orleans, Louisiana. The music migrated north along the Mississippi River to Chicago and then to New York City.

In New York, jazz took two directions. One was commercial, or society, jazz, which was played in high-class nightclubs and restaurants. The best-known exponent of this brand of jazz was the pianist and bandleader Duke Ellington. Society bands were noted for their smooth sound and elegant style. They often featured strings along with the standard band instruments—cornet, clarinet, trombone, drums, and piano.

The other direction was more technical and improvised. It developed in the city’s cheaper nightclubs and bars and in private parties called rent parties. These were social gatherings at which tenants collected money from friends to pay their rent. Musicians were hired to provide entertainment, and they improvised freely around popular songs of the day. The style they created came to be called swing because of its propulsive rhythm, which encouraged listeners to dance. At first swing was looked down on by society bands as too lowbrow for their taste, but eventually even they began to play it—though in a more refined style—when they realized that audiences liked it better than their usual fare


While there is no precise date or location for the origin of jazz, most scholars agree that it developed in the late 19th or early 20th century in the southern United States. Jazz is a complex and ever-evolving form of music that encompasses a wide range of styles and influences. From its humble beginnings in dance halls and bars, jazz has grown to become one of the most popular and revered genres of music in the world.

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