Which Type of Music Most Influenced the Emergence of Jazz?

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

Contributors: Andranick Tanguiane, Fred Lerdahl,


The question of which type of music most influenced the emergence of jazz is a hotly debated topic. While there are many different schools of thought, there are a few key genres that seem to stand out as being particularly influential. In this blog post, we’ll take a look at some of the most important types of music that influenced the development of jazz.

The Birth of Jazz

Jazz is a music genre that was born in the early 20th century in the southern United States. It is a blend of African and European musical traditions. The music most influenced the emergence of jazz was the blues.

The late 19th century

The late 19th century saw the codification of ragtime music with the publication of Scott Joplin’s “Maple Leaf Rag” in 1899. Jazz began to take shape in the early 20th century, and by the 1920s was firmly established as a distinct musical genre. But what exactly is jazz? And what type of music most influenced its emergence?

Jazz is often said to be a combination of European and African musical traditions. The African influence is most evident in the use of blue notes (flattened or sharped third, fifth, and seventh notes), call-and-response vocals, and rhythm. The European influence is seen in the use of harmony and instrumentation.

Some historians believe that jazz was born out of the blues, a distinctly African-American form of music that emerged in the Deep South around the end of the 19th century. The blues was characterized by its signature 12-bar chord progression, emotive lyrics, and 3/4 or 4/4 time signature. Jazz incorporated many of the same elements, but added its own unique flourishes, such as improvised solos and enhanced rhythm.

Jazz also drew inspiration from other genres of music, including European classical music, Latin American rhythms, and even popular songs from Broadway musicals. These diverse influences came together to create a truly original style of music that has gone on to shape American culture in profound ways.

New Orleans

New Orleans was the intersection of many cultures that influenced the birth of Jazz. The city was a melting pot of African, European, and Creole influences. New Orleans was also the home of the first Black professional musiciians in the United States. These factors all contributed to the unique sound that would become Jazz.


Ragtime was the most popular type of music in the early 1900s and it had a big influence on the development of jazz. Ragtime was a syncopated style of music that was usually played on the piano. It was a very popular type of music to dance to and it often had a happy and upbeat sound.

Scott Joplin

Ragtime is a genre of music that was popular in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Its main characteristic is a syncopated, or “ragged,” rhythm. It was typically played on pianos, and its popularity helped to spread the use of that instrument in North America and Europe.

The popularity of ragtime music coincided with the rise of jazz. Many of the early jazz musicians were exposed to ragtime through the piano rolls that were used to play music on mechanical pianos. The syncopated rhythms of ragtime were a major influence on the development of jazz, and many of the early jazz standards were based onragtime tunes.

Scott Joplin is one of the most famous composers of ragtime music. He wrote several pieces that became standards, such as “The Entertainer” and “Maple Leaf Rag.” Joplin’s work helped to popularize ragtime and make it into a respected genre of music.

The Maple Leaf Rag

Considered by many to be the first jazz composition, “The Maple Leaf Rag” was published in 1899 by Scott Joplin. Joplin was a classically trained musician who became one of the most popular composers of his era. His work helped to define the genre of ragtime, which was characterized by its syncopated, or off-beat, rhythms. “The Maple Leaf Rag” was so successful that it remained one of the best-selling ragtime songs for many years after its release.


While many genres contributed to the emergence of jazz, blues was the most significant. Blues is a genre of music that originated in the African-American community in the southern United States. It is characterized by a call-and-response pattern, static chord progressions, and a focus on the vocalist.

W.C. Handy

W.C. Handy is considered the “father of the blues.” He was one of the first to codify the blues by writing down the melodies and lyrics, which previously had been passed down orally. His 1908 song “The Memphis Blues” was one of the first written blues songs and his 1912 song “St. Louis Blues” was one of the most popular songs of its time.

The Memphis Blues

The Memphis Blues is a form of blues music that was popularized in the early 1910s by W.C. Handy and his band in Memphis, Tennessee. The style was based on the existing African-American folk music traditions of the Mississippi Delta, as well as light Classical music influences. The Memphis Blues quickly spread throughout the American South and became one of the most popular forms of blues music in the 1920s.


Dixieland, also called Traditional Jazz, is a style of jazz characterized by a light and happy tone. Many of the tunes are familiar folk songs or popular tunes of the day. The Clarinet and Trumpet often take the lead, with the Trombone playing the role of “tailgate” or “ragtime” rhythm section.

King Oliver

Marching bands were a big part of life in New Orleans at the turn of the century, playing for both sporting events and public celebrations. These bands would frequently take popular songs or folk tunes and give them their own spin, adding improvised riffs and embellishments. The musicians who played in these marching bands went on to form some of the earliest jazz groups. One of the most influential was King Oliver and his Creole Jazz Band.

King Oliver was born in Louisiana in 1885 and began playing the cornet at a young age. He soon joined a local marching band, where he honed his skills as an improviser. In 1918, he relocated to Chicago, where he put together a group called the Creole Jazz Band. The band quickly became popular, thanks in part to their novel approach to music.

While most jazzgroups at the time played written-out arrangements of popular songs, Oliver and his bandmates would often improvise their own parts on the fly. This gave their performances a unique energy and excitement that was unmatched by other groups. In addition, they were one of the first jazz bands to feature a soloist prominently—in this case, King Oliver himself.

The Creole Jazz Band made several recordings during their brief time together, including some of the earliest examples of jazz on record. They disbanded in 1923, but their music had a significant impact on the development of jazz in the years that followed.

New Orleans Jazz

Though it did not have its origins in New Orleans, Louisiana, New Orleans jazz was the first truly distinctive style of jazz. It was also the music that was most responsible for re-establishing jazz as a serious musical form after its decline in popularity in the early 1920s.

New Orleans jazz is characterized by a number of important musical elements, including a strong 2-beat rhythm, blue notes, improvisation, and polyphony. These elements combine to create a musical style that is both unique and instantly recognizable.

While New Orleans jazz was certainly influenced by other types of music, including ragtime and marching band music, it ultimately developed into its own distinct style. This is due in large part to the unique cultural mix that existed in New Orleans at the time.

Today, New Orleans jazz is widely considered to be one of the most important and influential genres in all of American music.


Swing music is a type of jazz that developed in the early 1930s and became popular in the mid-1930s. Swing uses a strong rhythm section of bass and drums as the foundation of the music. The lead instruments in swing are the saxophone, trumpet, and trombone. The piano and guitar are also important instruments in swing.

Louis Armstrong

Louis Armstrong was born in New Orleans in 1901 and was one of the most influential figures in jazz. He started playing the trumpet in his teens and by the 1920s he was a leading player in New Orleans jazz bands. He made his first recordings in 1923 and soon thereafter moved to Chicago, where he became a leading figure in the city’s vibrant jazz scene. In 1930, he made his first recordings with his own band, which featured such innovative musicians as trombonist Jack Teagarden and clarinetist Barney Bigard. These recordings showcased Armstrong’s remarkable talents as a trumpeter, singer, and bandleader, and they helped to make him one of the most popular entertainers of the 1930s.

Duke Ellington

Duke Ellington is one of the most important figures in the history of jazz music. He was a pianist, composer, and bandleader who led one of the most successful and influential jazz orchestras of the early 20th century.

Ellington was born in Washington, D.C. in 1899, and he began his musical career playing piano in nightclubs and hotels in New York City. In 1923, he formed his own band, which soon became one of the most popular jazz bands in the country.

Ellington’s band played a mix of blues, ragtime, and other popular styles of music, but they also developed their own unique sound that would come to be known as “swing.” This sound was characterized by a strong rhythm section, solos by outstanding soloists, and intricate compositions that were often based on African-American folk melodies.

Ellington and his band toured extensively throughout the United States and Europe, and they made numerous recordings that helped to spread the popularity of jazz around the world. Ellington also composed several film scores and stage musicals, including his most famous work, Black, Brown, and Beige (1943).

Ellington continued to lead his band until his death in 1974. He remains one of the most revered figures in jazz history, and his music continues to be enjoyed by millions of people all over the world.


Bebop is a style of jazz characterized by fast tempos, improvisation, and complex chord progressions. It first emerged in the 1940s, and quickly gained popularity among jazz musicians. Bebop influenced the emergence of other styles of jazz, such as cool jazz and hard bop.

Charlie Parker

Charlie Parker was a jazz musician who played the alto saxophone. He is also known as “Bird” or “Yardbird”. He is considered one of the most influential jazz musicians of all time. Parker was born in Kansas City, Missouri, and began playing the saxophone at the age of 11. He joined Jay McShann’s band when he was 18. In 1940, he moved to New York City, where he played with various bands, including Benny Goodman’s orchestra. He also recorded with Coleman Hawkins and Dizzy Gillespie.

In 1945, Parker began leading his own group, which included Gillespie, pianist Bud Powell, bassist Curly Russell, and drummer Max Roach. The group recorded several albums and toured Europe in 1950. Parker died of a heart attack in 1955 at the age of 34.

Dizzy Gillespie

Dizzy Gillespie was one of the most important figures in the development of jazz. He was a master of bebop, a style of jazz that stresses on improvised solos and small group performances. Bebop was characterized by its fast tempo, its use of advanced harmony, and its sophisticated and often complex melody lines. It emerged in the early 1940s and quickly gained popularity among jazz musicians.

Hard Bop

Hard bop is a subgenre of jazz that developed in the mid-1950s, partly as a reaction against the “smooth” style of cool jazz. Hard bop places more emphasis on rhythm and groove, and incorporates elements of bebop, blues, and rhythm and blues. You could say that hard bop is the bridge between bebop and the soul jazz and funk of the 1960s.

Miles Davis

Miles Davis was an American jazz trumpeter, bandleader, and composer. He is among the most influential and acclaimed figures in the history of jazz and 20th century music. Davis adopted a variety of musical styles throughout his career, which included compositions inspired by West African Folk music, European classical music, and electroacoustic music.

Hard bop is an approach to jazz that was developed in the mid-1950s, hardening the sound of bebop with blues, R&B, and Gospel influences while retaining its complex chord progressions and traditional improvisation style. Hard bop is sometimes referred to as simply “bop”, although this Periodization can be misleading as all bop is hard bop; the term simply differentiates it from other subgenres of jazz that emerged in the mid-1950s such as cool jazz and West Coast jazz.

The Birth of the Cool

The “Birth of the Cool” is a term introduced by journalist and jazz enthusiast Leonard Feather in his liner notes for the 1957 compilation LP of the same name. It was used to describe a style of jazz that originated in the early to mid-1950s and featured a more restrained approach to improvisation and composition than bebop or hard bop. The music was intended as a contrast to the explosive, high-energy sound of bebop, and it quickly gained popularity among young musicians who were looking for something new.

One of the most important figures in the birth of cool jazz was trumpeter Miles Davis, who assembled a group of like-minded musicians in 1949 and recorded several seminal albums with them over the next few years. These recordings, which featured such players as saxophonist Lee Konitz, pianist Bill Evans, and bassist Paul Chambers, were marked by their spacious arrangements and subdued playing style. They were also influenced by European classical music, which Davis had been exposed to during a brief stay in Paris in 1949.

While Davis is generally credited with popularizing cool jazz, it was actually Konitz who coined the term “cool school,” which he used to describe the group of musicians associated with this new style. These players included such luminaries as trombonist J.J. Johnson, baritone saxophonist Gerry Mulligan, alto saxophonist Ornette Coleman, and trumpeter Chet Baker. Cool jazz quickly spread from its New York City birthplace to California, where it found a receptive audience among Hollywood celebrities and others looking for an elegant alternative to bebop.

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