|Duke Ellington & His Orchestra|
A question arises here that is sometimes debated: Which came first - blues or jazz? There is no known specific date for the origin of the blues sound. Many believe blues came first having emerged in the first decade of the 1900s inspired by African American traditions. Jazz (ofter spelled 'jass' in its early days) was first used to identify music in Chicago around 1915.
Blues is a simpler and more rigidly structured form of music than jazz. Blues is usually intended to convey a feeling of sadness (via flatted notes), and usually uses simple chords with emphasized downbeats, whereas jazz is usually intended to convey a feeling of cheerfulness (via syncopated rhythm), and usually uses complex chords with emphasized upbeats. In short, blues is basically a fixed chord progression whereas jazz is a general style of rhythm and chord embellishment. Read MORE...In jazz, unusual tonal effects of musical instruments, such as the trumpet, trombone, clarinet, saxophone, etc, heavily accent the rhythms. The prime musical instruments of the blues are the guitar and the harmonica. Of course, these are not the only instruments; the drums, bass guitar, piano, trombone, trumpet, saxophone are widely used for accompaniment. The most important instrument, however, in blues music is the human voice!
In the 1930s, many blues styles were prominent. Perhaps the most soulful blues music that stretched from Memphis, TN to Vicksburg, Mississippi became the Mississippi Delta Blues. The earliest recordings consisted of one person singing while playing an instrument. The blues also assumed an urban vibe, and post-war blues incorporated an electric sound. Chicago became home to the urban blues.
“I'm a bluesman moving through a blues-soaked America, a blues-soaked world, a planet where catastrophe and celebration- joy and pain sit side by side. The blues started off in some field, some plantation, in some mind, in some imagination, in some heart. The blues blew over to the next plantation, and then the next state. The blues went south to north, got electrified and even sanctified. The blues got mixed up with jazz & gospel & rock and roll.”
― Cornel West, Brother West: Living and Loving Out Loud, A Memoir
Ready for a little blues sound? Let's listen to the soul of Robert Johnson...
If the blues has a truly mythic figure, one whose story hangs over the music the way a Charlie Parker does over jazz or a Hank Williams does over country, it's Robert Johnson, certainly the most celebrated figure in the history of the blues. Of course, his legend is immensely fortified by the fact that Johnson also left behind a small legacy of recordings that are considered the emotional apex of the music itself. Read MORE...
Music was so diversified in the 1930s it did not stop with the big bands, blues and jazz. Country music became more widely recognized and out of the dreams of the Wild West and freedom it symbolized came the "singing cowboy." His popularity spanned radio and film singing of life on the trail with all the challenges, hardships and dangers encountered during long cattle drives up the trails and across the prairies.
And the music goes on beating to the rhythm of the changing times. . .