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Discover the birthplace and historic landmarks of jazz in the USA

The tunes that get people bopping heads and rolling shoulders – that’s jazz. It makes you feel at ease and puts you in the groove.

Typically consisting of a keyboardist, a sax or trombone player, bass player, and a drummer, this genre of music has a compelling and stunning history behind its beat and style. Let’s go back in time and study the core landmarks:

NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA

Revisit the birthplace of Jazz in New Orleans! Source: Flickr

Jazz music began in the late 19th and early 20th century among the African American communities in New Orleans, Louisiana. It wasn’t something that just happened; it was formed over time through meetings, mixing, collaborating and sharing skills.  

There are several versions of where the birthplace of jazz is; the most notable one being that was a combination of church and barroom music. The kind of music infused with a wild, jubilant, spirit-setting-free that made many get up on their feet and sway.

New Orleans is home to iconic cornetist Buddy Bolden, who often played at Storyville and it’s where Louis Armstrong had his musical influences.  

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS

Even the navy in Boston participates in Jazz! Source: Wikimedia Commons

It may not be New Orleans or Kansas City, but Boston has its share of playing its part in jazz history and development. The jazz scene centred in Columbus Avenue at clubs and taverns, lively experience for all. It was also where travelling performers made their mark at iconic venues like Symphony Hall.

In the 1920s, talented musicians such as alto saxophonist Johnny Hodges, baritone saxophonist Harry Carney collaborated with pianist and composer Duke Ellington which made jazz a more massive hit. The area’s largest local newspaper, The Boston Globe, sponsored a major annual jazz festival which spread the love of jazz across states and beyond.

Important to note that the New England Conservatory had a jazz program which added to the growth of the Berklee School of Music in the 1950s and 1960s. Many jazz musicians have performed in Boston, and regard it as one of many meaningful footprints of jazz. 

MEMPHIS, TENNESSEE

Home of the blues, Memphis, Tennessee. Source: Wikipedia

Known as the Home of the Blues, and the man responsible is composer W.C Handy. An influential man who wrote many songs, none as popular as “The St. Louis Blues” and popularly known as Memphis’s first international superstar.

The two main landmarks in Memphis are Beale Street and Graceland, intimately associated with blues, rockabilly and rock-n-roll. The streets were the hub of African American commerce and a place for black cultures from the city to dwell.

Memphis had a variety of radio stations that attracted many musicians at the time. Who knew this Memphis rockabilly sound would influence music legends such as Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Johnny Cash?

KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI

Have you heard of Bebop? Yes! It’s Kansas’ own gem! Source: Wikimedia Commons

Musical improvisation style Bebop belongs to Kansas City. This signature sound could be heard along 12th to 18th streets Downtown, where the African American community gathered and had many musical experiments. Jazz is widely celebrated and played at more than 40 jazz and fine-dining venues today, staying true to its roots.

The nightclubs, dance halls and vaudeville houses were offering the jazz that people love. At its peak, jazz could be heard in more than 200 venues throughout the city including The Gem Theatre, The Blue Room and the Mutual Musicians Foundation.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK

Empire state of mind and jazz, apparently! Source: Flickr

Though it came much later into the jazz scene, New York continued jazz and its rich sound. The original piano style introduced was incorporated from ragtime, which was well-received as the city was the music publishing business centre during that time.

New York City had two pioneering orchestras that added to jazz history. America was loving jazz and jazz was loving it back. Places like the Cotton Club was one of the best jazz clubs, which only allowed white clientele back then. It featured artists like Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Nat King Cole and other greats.

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