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Since its inception Jazz music unites people in all corner of the globe. With International Jazz Day – on Monday 30th April – UNESCO is highlight our favourite music genre’s important diplomatic role. Ahead of our special event (more info here and at the bottom of this blog), we wanted to share a slice of our passion for Jazz by sharing with you a brief chronological history illustrated with inspiring quotes.

“In times of change and uncertainty, we need the spirit of jazz more than ever before, to bring people – especially young women and men – together, to nurture freedom and dialogue, to create new bridges of respect and understanding, for greater tolerance and cooperation,” says Irina Bokova, Director General of UNESCO.

Jazz originated in the African-American communities of New Orleans, Louisiana, USA in the early 20th century. Influenced by the many nationalities travelling through New Orleans’ port Jazz emerged from Spanish folk music, French military band music, Ragtime, European ballroom dance music, Blues music and more.

“Jazz, to me, is one of the inherent expressions of Negro life in America: the eternal tom-tom beating in the Negro soul—the tom-tom of revolt against weariness in a white world, a world of subway trains, and work, work, work; the tom-tom of joy and laughter, and pain swallowed in a smile.” Langston Hughes, American Poet 1902 – 1967

At birth, Jazz was unlike any other music not written down. It was passed on from one to another by ear. It was the improvisation of different instrument around the same melody.

“Life is a lot like jazz – it’s best when you improvise.” George Gershwin, American composer and pianist 1898 – 1937

1910s / 1920s: Early Jazz combined brass-band marches, French quadrilles, biguine, ragtime and blues with collective polyphonic improvisation. However, in the 20s, Louis Armstrong had a changing influence on the sound of Jazz. Being the brilliant trumpet player as we still know him today, he was allowed to play solos and quickly became Jazz’s first great soloist. Since then, Jazz has been based on solos instead of a band improvising around each other.

“Very few of the men whose names have become great in the early pioneering of jazz and of swing were trained in music at all. They were born musicians: they felt their music and played by ear and memory. That was the way it was with the great Dixieland Five.” Louis Armstrong, 1901 – 1971

1930s: The Era of Swing belonged to big bands often including 16 or more players, in which soloist became as famous as band leaders such as Count Basie, Duke Ellington and many more. Over time racial segregation began to relax in America and white bandleaders began to recruit black soloist and vice versa.

“The real innovators did their innovating by just being themselves.” Count Basie, 1904 – 1984

1940s/1950s:Latin Jazz combined the rhythms of African and Latin American countries with the harmonies from U.S. Jazz and was brought mainstream by Dizzy Gillespie. Be-Bop sometimes know as modern Jazz became a more refined expression of Swing with more complex rhythm and harmony. Charlie Parker was a pioneer in the genre. Cool Jazz and for some West Coast Jazz was more impersonal and relaxed than be-bop; focusing on a simpler, understated style it was widely influenced by Miles Davis.

“Sometimes you have to play a long time to be able to play like yourself.” Miles Davis, 1926 – 1991

1960s: Hard Bop was an extension of Be-bop with a slower tempo and more varied playing on the bass.  Then came Soul Jazz as a development of Hard Bop influenced by blues and gospel music with greater complexity and repetitive grooves and melody.  Free Jazz was lead by Jazz pianist Cecil Taylor and was characterised by its ignoring previous rules and constraints on harmony and structure; leaving improvisation more freedom than ever.

“If you take the creation of music and the creation of your own life values as your overall goal, then living becomes a musical process.” Cecil Taylor, 1929 – 2018

1970s: Jazz Fusion was formed with the merging of jazz with Funk, Rhythm and Blues, Latin Jazz and predominantly Rock and by the use of electrical instruments. The Weather Report group, for example merged Rock and Jazz with unpredictable improvisations.

“There is no luck; you’ve got to make your luck. You’ve got to always be prepared-without trying to.” Joe Zawinul, The Weather Report keyboard player, 1932 – 2007

1980s/1990s: Acid Jazz took Jazz Fusion to the next level by combining Jazz with Soul, Funk, Disco and Hip-Hop. It started in London and Jamiroquai was one of the pioneer.

“Now, I’m the most impatient person that ever walked the planet. However: for the best, you always wait.” Jay Kay, Jamiroquai founder member, 1969

Patron’s all-star singers Sue Henry, Louise Golbey, Natasha Sutton & Madeleine Rose Witney will each be performing a short set with talented pianist Philip Blandford.