A Guide to the Music


Jazz must not be the property of an elite few who possess a vast knowledge of the music’s history, performers, nuances and intricacies. But since jazz is a very advanced art form and has such a rich history, it’s important to have a grounding in this tradition to fully understand and appreciate what’s happening on a CD or a bandstand. Similar to learning any new skill, the process of acquiring this knowledge can seem daunting at first.

But once you clear that first hurdle of jazz knowledge, the rewards that the music can provide are almost limitless.

The past 100 years have been labeled the “Jazz Century” (we’d definitely agree with that), and over the course of this time distinct musical periods have emerged. By creating this jazz primer, we want to help you understand where and how certain movements originated, what the music sounds like—such as the difference between Bebop and Fusion—and the key musicians involved with each movement. We also provide links to our page on each artist mentioned in this primer as well, which will lead to further exploration of the music.

One other thing to remember is that this guide is a work in progress. Jazz refuses to stagnate, but rather with each new generation comes new sounds and feelings in the music. And as we continue to progress into the tradition, this primer will continue to grow.

Once you get bitten by the jazz bug, there’s no turning back. Enjoy your explorations!

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August 2017
Wadada Leo Smith
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