Roots of The Blues

Field Hollars

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Work Songs

Religious Songs


Field Hollars

Sung by solitary field workers

Bent, liquid, or sliding pitches

Descending melodic voices

Nasal vocal quality with vocalistic effects

Work Songs

Sung by a group of workers accompanied by tools of labor

Bent, liquid, or sliding pitches

Descending melodic voices

Lead singer/backup group relationship

Basic harmony employed by the singers

“Backbeat” rhythm provided by the tools of labor


Religious Songs

A mixture of Southern Baptist service and traditional ceremonial procedures of Western Affrican religions

Astoundingly emotional music that greatly influenced the twentieth century American popular styles

Examples – lining hymn and prayer

Ring shouts

Spirituals and lullabies


Blues Form


Derived from religious hymn formats

Lyric Form (Blues)

A: statement of problem

A: repeat of the above, sometimes with additional words

B: response to the A statement (solution, moral messages)

Music Form (Blues):

A: I chord = home key

A: IV chord resolving to the I chord

B: V chord resolving to the I chord

Mississippi Delta Blues

intense, gritty, gowling vocal style

use of yodeling and other vocalistic ornamentation

percussive style guitar playing; hard plucking

strong rhythm guitar 4-beat pulse emphasized

use of bottleneck on the guitar – sliding, or liquid notes

Greatky influences the development of electric rhythm and blues

Robert Johnson

Hellbound on My Trail – 1937 (TX)

Primitive recording made in warehouse

Cutting, intense vocal style

Mixture off declamatory and harsh, intense blues singing

Predominant A-A-B form; lyric phrases of varying lengths

Guitar used as an extension of his voice; aggressive, rhythmic plucking

Johnson influenced the vocal style of Bob Dylan


Urban Blues

A-A-B form formally structured into three 4-bar phrases = 12 bar blues

Vocal style related to European “trained” vocal techniques

Use of steady vibrato

Powerful vocal style

Vocalist accompanied by a band

Call and response – emsemble approach

Lyrics were more sophisticated and dealth with universal themes rather than local topics

Folk/Country Blues

Lyric Themes: Local events, people; love, death, freedom

Song Structures: A-A-B; three unequal phrases

Vocal Styles: Raw, nasal vocal sound; vocalistic effects such as “bent” notes, scoops, smears; “liquid” quality

Accompaniment: Folk-singing style; self-accompaniment on guitar or banjo

Performers: Itinerate male folk singers traveling the rural South (Mississippi Delta region)

Cold in Hand Blues

Bessie Smith


classic example of urban or city blues

Begins with a non-blues verse

Powerful vocal style

Use of vibrato

Blues notes are evident throughout, although they are sung without as much sliding or “liquid” vocal sound of country blues

Cornetist Louis Armstrong answers vocal lines

Blues influence on Jazz

root of jazz

provided basis for improvisation

provided a standard repertoire of songs for jazz musicians

Introduced “blues notes” 

Used vocal inflections to make instruments sound like human voices

Jazz got its soul from the blues



Original form lacks improvisation, not considered true jazz

Thoroughly composed music originally for piano

Sources: Dance (exaggerated black dance style), Improvisation, and Rhythm (music felt “ragged”, left hand played 2-beat, right hand syncopated melody lines).

Scott Joplin

important ragtime composer


Maple Leaf Rag

Scott Joplin

composed 1899

based on march music of John Phillop Sousa


Each theme 16 measures in length

Composed music

Left hand: 2-beat figures; Right Hand: 3-note melodic patterns

Ragtime influence on jazz

provided ealy model for jazz performances

horn players played syncopated melodies over the top of a steady beat

Early jazz horn players borrowed ragtime (right-hand) melodic phrasing ideas while improvising

Early jazz players emulated ragtime’s left-hand 2-beat march rhythms

Brass Bands and New Orleans

nineteenth century

brass bands of New Orleans represented several cultures

The Black Code

reclassified creoles as blacks ; stripped them of rights

classically-trained Creole musicians began interacting with blues singers, ragtime pianists, and black brass band musicians

earliest jazz bands found lucrative club work in Black Storyville
Tiger Rag

Punch Miller Band

early favorite

New Orleans jazz

Featured cornetist Ernest “Punch” Miller

Use of counterpoint (multiple) melodies played simutaneously

Maple Leaf Rag

Turk Murphy Band

New Orlans jazz band musicians jammed with ragtime piano players and blues singers at night in the bars and clubs in Storyville

re-creation of a Storyville bar band

original melody of Scott Joplin’s tune is paraphrased

Jazz (early)

term came form streets of black Storyville

slang for sexual activity

Buddy Bolden

first important New Orleans jazz musician and improviser

powerful cornetist

Jazz Moves Up The Mississippi River

After 1910

Gave way to new centers of activity in CHicago, Kansas City and New York

There were no recordings in New Orleans/Storyville

New Orleans Jazz

free rhytmic improvisation

vocabularity of the blues

First Jazz Recording
Around 1917
Livery Stable Blues

Original Dixieland Jass Band

first jazz recordings 

White musicians

Clarinet shreiks, comical trombone swoops

Trumpet “horse whinnies”

Very little improcisation

Cowbells, blocks, etc

Joe “King” Oliver and his Creole Jazz Band

Joe tutored young Louis Armstrong

New Orleans style

Dippermouth Blues

King Olover’s Creole Jazz Band

12-bar blues

4-part collective improvisation


Louis Armstrong

after his release in 1914, Joe Oliver became his mentor


Gut Bucket Blues

Louis Armstrong’s Hot Five

Armstrong – cornet

Johnny Dodds – clarinet

Kid Ory – trombone

Lil Armstrong – piano

Johnny Cyr – banjo


their recordings revolutionized jazz

12-bar blues

solo improvisation

Heebie Jeebies

Louis Armstrong’s Hot Five

Scat singing

First recorded example of improvised scat singing

Made scat singing popular

Cornet Chop Suey

Louis Armstrong’s Hot Five

first recording of an extended jazz solo improvisation

Louis featured as a soloist

Potato Head Blues

Louis Armstrong’s Hot Seven

Armstrong plays two solos


Louis Armstrong’s Important Contributions to Jazz

changes the focus of jazz performances from collective improvisation to solo

abondoned the stiffness of ragtime and defined the art of swinging

first jazz soloist to improvise melodic lines that could stand by themselves

Extended vocabulary

Popularized Jazz 

Influenced with swinging techniques and scat singing style

Sidney Bechet


New Orleans style

Blue Horizon

Blue Horizon

Sidney Bechet

“sung” the blues through his clarinet

12-bar blues

Vocalistic effects on clarinet (scoops, soaring notes, wailing high notes, intense beat notes, blues notes, wide vibrato – very emotional)

Chicago Jazz

(categories of musicians)

older white musicians

transplated jazz musicians

young, white, musicians who studied the New Orleans style


Chicago Jazz (characteristics)

solo improvisation; collective furing melody

2-beat feel derived from ragtime

Bix Beiderbecke

Chicago jazz style

Spent only a short amount of his life in Chicago

Developed technical habits that led to a new, unique sound: mellow, shallow, yet very expressive

Big Boy

The Wolverines

incorporated advanced harmonies in their music

Cool approach, reflective tone quality, lyrical improvisations

Singin’ The Blues

incorporated a “rip” –a sudden loud upward slide– as a climatic point in his solo

Chicago jazz

Stride Piano

Evolved out of New Orleans stride

Jelly Roll Morton was primarily responsible for its development

LH: bass notes on beats 1,3: chord on beats 2,4

RH: melody lines/improvisation

Faster tempos, more complex harmonies, less reliance on the blues, more reliance on technique

Jelly Roll Morton

born in New Orleans

Boasted that he “invented jazz”

Probably the first player to “jazz up” written melodies 

Maple Leaf Rag (Jelly Roll Morton)
Jelly made it sound “swing” by rhythmically interlocking the LH with the right hand with striding, left-hand bass lines flowing naturally with the right hand by “jazzing up” or paraphrasing the original melody lines
Harlem Stride

Grew out of New Orleans stride style

Faster, more melodically complex

Forerunner to boogie woogie

James P Johnson

“father of Harlem stride”

piano style

Solo laced with impressionistic harminic devices including tritones and whole tone scales

Earl “Fatha” Hines

developed a percussive appraoch to piano playing

Perfected an approach to playing melodic lines by doubling the melody in octaves (played high pitch and low pitch)

Utilized flowery classical establishments  which added a sense of formal dignity

Thomas “Fats” Waller

Bridged from stride to swing


Handfull of Keys

Fats Waller

sounded as if he had four hands and two pianos at once

Fast temps

Stride Piano

Meade “Lux” Lewis

leading exponent of boogie woogie

Driving walking left-hand bass line riff patterns

Highly syncopated blues-based riffs in the right hand

Art Tatum

Legally blind, self-taught pianist


Never made popularity with general public

Swing Era

1930 – 1945

Played for dancers and “jitterbugs”

12-16 musicians: big band

many came out of Chicago jazz scene

Swing music grew out of…

1920s as a combination of:

Society bands

New Orleans and Chicago jazz

Swing musicians divided the swing bands into..

Sweet Bands: utilized very little or no jazz improvisaton in their music

Hot Bands: preferred to feautre jazz improvisation

Jelly Roll Morton and His Red Hot Peppers

first significant jazz composer

intentions were to combine written and improvised jazz

experimented with various sound textures

first to utilize the string bass in place of tuba

Created the standard walking bass lines commonplace in contemporary lines

Fletcher Henderson

Known as “father of the modern big band”

Developed effective block chord voicings within a section

Introduced concept of soli (plural of solo)

Introduced shout choruses

Benny Goodman

Clarinetist – Chicago jazz scene

Regular on national network radio program NBC’s Let’s Dance

“King of Swing”

first jazz musician to have success in the classical world

Seven Come Eleven

Benny Goodman Sextet

Swing Era

Solos by Christian, Hampton, and Goodman

Use of riffs to accomany soloists

Vibraphone riff

Chick Webb

Swing Era

One of the first ti play rhytms on high hat cymbals

inspiration for succeeding jazz drummers

Duke Ellington

played at the Cotton Club in Harlem

portrayed African – American culture through his music

A-A-B 24-bar

loved sound of muted brass instruments

created a “gowling trumpet”

Concerto for Cootie

Duke Ellington Orchestra

Ellington called for extensive mutes in this piece

Concerto: performed by a soloist, usually with large ensemble accompaniment

Harlem Airshaft

Tone poem: impressionistic compositions

12-bar blues form

saxophone soli, call and response, and a driving shout chorus


William “Count” Basie

Kansas City big band style

Blues-based music

Improvisation was the primary focus

Well known for its “head arrangements)

Basie’s rhytm was known as the All-American Rhythm Section

Coleman Hawkins and Lester Young

“Father of the Tenor Sax”

Swing Era

Django Reinhart

International jazz musician

Guitars played like percussion instruments

Rose Room

Django Reinhard 

Very strong four beat pulse

Swinging groove

Mary Lou Williams


Gemini from Zodiac Suite

Gemini from Zodiac Suite

Mary Lou Williams

Bass line moving in one direction

Piano line moving in opposite

Boogie woogie