History of Jazz from 1970-1990

Custom Student Mr. Teacher ENG 1001-04 22 September 2016

History of Jazz from 1970-1990

American jazz has been studied from many perspectives. The musical form itself, its origins and evolution, and the artistes who perform it have become subjects for a large body of scholarly and critical literature. Jazz is one of the oldest types of music, with origin since the 1400s. This essay focuses on jazz from 1970-1990, and on other aspects within the same period. Section I Since 1970, jazz music took a new direction from the previous one, which was characterized by wide experiments using new electric instruments. Major styles that were introduced include jazz fusion, pop fusion and jazz rock.

Jazz fusion, can be defined as an art form that can be called jazz as it does not compromise the qualities of melodic, harmonic, rhythmic and formal considerations of the early masters, but seeks to develop them on new directions. (Jazz history timeline) On the other hand, pop fusion, can be defined as a simple dance style, with fewer improvised solos, in form of simple songs, a streamlined version of jazz fusion, which offers much less variety in rhythmic and harmonic structures. Don Ellis was one of the greatest performers of the time. He innovated bands and played the trumpet as well as other electric instruments successfully.

Since he was constantly experimenting with different electric instruments, he was able to produce many albums; all completely different from one another. Don’s contribution to music was large. In the late 1960s, he studied Indian rhythms, creating the Hindu Orchestra, comprising of three string bases and three drummers. His band was composed of eight brasses, five woodwinds, and six rhythms were amongst the most successful bands of the period. He was an imaginative jazz lover, and his use of many instruments and electric devices are a testimony that he was a genius. (Jazz history timeline)

Maynard Ferguson also played jazz-rock from1970 to 1990. He maintained this style until 1990, when he changed to the bop style. His contributions to famous soundtrack themes are legendary, an example being the main title theme from the T. V series “Star Trek. ” At about the same time, Miles Davis started experimenting with electric instruments; he also played at the CBS studios. Robert Moog invented Moog synthesizer, causing a great sensation in New York. The Moog synthesizer was used in reproduction of music by the great Baroque masters before it was discovered by the jazz movement.

One of the reasons why the music changed in the 1970s was because the free jazz movement of the 1960s had encouraged a more daring approach to instrumental innovations. This saw the innovations and experimentations with electric musical instruments in the early 1907s. This period also saw a diversity of opinions created within the jazz ranks, concerning the instruments. (Jazz resources) Electrified instruments offered fuzz phasers for guitars and basses, electric pianos and clavinets, as well as ring modulators and echoplexes for wind instruments.

However, jazz musicians that were used to the acoustic instruments rejected these new electrical instruments, assuming that their electric effects were an interference with the natural talents that were inherent with acoustic musicians and instruments. Many musicians were lured to cross over and to compete with the jazz-rock performers, who were successful in producing and selling their music to a large number. In the 1980s, the emergence of modern key board technology produced a fragmented style, which had a great appeal on the masses.

In many ways, it resembled the swing era in terms of popularity, and shared some of the characteristics. (Timeline of trends in music) Pop-fusion style became popular; it was a simple dance style, with fewer improvised solos, but in simple song form. It was a streamlined version of jazz fusion, as it offered much less variety in rhythmic and harmonic structures. Melodies were simple, and emphasized on repetitive vamps, highly dependent on the effects of the studio. It doesn’t maintain the musical intensity of the early jazz-fusion masters, such as Miles Davis and Chick Corea.

However, credible jazz musicians who have continued to cross over and back again, to and from the mainstream tradition continue to play it. Studio technology, which includes overdubbing use of the Musical Instrument Digital Process with synthesizers and programmed samples from drum machines, characterize pop-fusion as in jazz-fusion. Pop-fusion was a synthesized style that is highly simplified musically with expended vamps and limited emphasis on improvisation. Vamps were used with little variation compared to fusion of the 1970s; however, Latin rhythms are a major influence. (Jazz history timeline)

There is a major difference between pop-fusion and true jazz-fusion. This can be illustrated by the fact that most musicians who are hired on an individual basis report to the gig. Many times, they meet other musicians with whom they will play with for the first time. Trained jazz musicians know the basis jazz literature repertoire which comes from fake books. With knowledge of tunes, and basic chord interpretations they can play just about anything, and to the average listener, the band will sound like a group that has been together for a long time.

However, a standard means of operation for musicians is to often create tunes on the spot through standard progressions, like the blues form, vamps or riffs. Many pop-fusion groups depend on their equipment for musical effects rather than on their own creativity, and thus often sound like simple jam sessions with a repetitive vamp, a standard bridge, and little variation. The harmonic progressions remain basically simple, with statistic melodies. There has not been much room for creativity within the infrastructure of the tune, nor does there appear to be ample opportunity for improvisation.

The improvisations, like the vamps, are standard fare with clinched links and bass lines. Jazz fusion, on the other hand, usually presents a much higher standard, with extremely gifted sidemen. In this kind of music there is nowhere to hide. Much planning and rehearsal are usually obvious, because of the musical dimensions of the material. The compositions are generally much more involved, with intricate harmonic schemes, subtle rhythmic changes, and fresh melodies that demand an original and creative approach to improvisation.

Section II In the period between 1970 and 1980, there were changes in the industrial structure, labor power, and indicators of inequality were evident. The counties where the bargaining power of workers vis-a-vis their employers, was greater and counties with more favorable geographic locations in the national political economy did have better social economic conditions. Of the industrial sectors in America, the manufacturing sector experienced the relatively largest growth with the percentage of the employed labor force in this sector, expanding from 14% in 1970 to 16% in 1980.

These employees provided sufficient labor to the industries, enabling the sector to improve and produce more goods, not only for sale in the American market, but also in the other markets. Most of the labor came from the poor families. It comprised of freed slaves, Hispanic immigrants, and the low class Americans. Peripheral employment decreased slightly, mainly due to declines in extractive, textiles, and apparel employment. In the late 1970s, there was an improvement in economic inequality, and hence poverty declined from 17% in 1970 to about 13% in 1980.

At the same time, there was inequality between the whites, and the blacks. Several Acts had been passed in the 1970s to bring slave trade to an end. The war against slavery was almost over in 1980; blacks were not being discriminated as they were before. In the same period, cities like New York have already started developing. It attracted big crowds in jazz concerts. Hollywood was also catching up, due to the fact that most movie stars resided there and that most movie producers shot their movies in such cities. Kolchin) Although it is not always true, it does not seem reasonable to suppose that governing is easier when a country’s economy is growing in real terms, and its status and power abroad are in ascendant. Both applied in the case of the United States 1942 and 1965. Between 1965 and the 1980s, American International economic and foreign policy influence experienced relative decline. Since the early 1980s, this trend has continued, although there was something of a respite in the late 1890s.

There is no question that the management of the economy and the exercise of military and diplomatic power abroad were more likely to be difficult during periods of relative decline or when there is little consensus on management of the economy or on America’s role abroad. The Vietnam War was the first major demonstration of the limits to American military power, and it effectively broke President Lyndon Johnson, and led another, President Richard Nixon to commit a series of illegal acts, including the secret bombing of Cambodia and the unauthorized surveillance of opponents of the war.

At the end of the period (1970-1990), the United States had improved communication and spread of government responsibilities, making the whole society much more centralized. Information started being disseminated by the four major television networks (NBS, CBS, ABC, and Fox), by the news services, and by the syndicated columns of major newspapers and cable TV networks. The introduction of network usage was another step that facilitated nationalization trends. Economically, the society became more centralized, with giant corporations providing the same goods and services uniformly throughout the country.

The activities of the government were centralized, and Washington increasingly became the focus of political activity. The state and the local government became more interdependent with the federal government in the same period. This also applied to corporations, small businesses and almost all those interests in society affected by federal government spending, regulation and arbitration. Among the Mexican Americans, Mexican folk customs and practices existed both inside and outside of the immigrant families. Traditional folk songs and music from their homeland served as popular forms of entertainment.

Family celebrations usually included some form of musical entertainment. Some families afforded to hire a small group of musicians, who played a variety of musical styles, including jazz. Religion played a key role in the life of the Mexican Americans. A majority of the Mexican immigrants were Catholics, but blended specific cultural practices with the traditional catholic beliefs and rituals. At the level of every citizen, the church exerted a tremendous force by shaping every aspect of society from birth to death.

Their deep relationships with each other and their deep faith in Catholicism was a way to comfort themselves due to the sufferings most of them faced with the authorities. Family gatherings in the backyard, Neighborhood Park, or at some other location for a celebration usually included story telling. As another immigrant communities, the oral tradition provided immigrants with a connection to their homelands. Their oral literature included Mexican tales called “cuentos”, legends, and children’s stories.

Ghost stories were also popular and included a moral lesson at the end. Escamilla and Kathy) The more time the Mexican Americans spent in the United States, the more they began to make some degree of transition to speak English. For most Mexicans, those who came during the first major wave of immigration, and those who arrived recently, the acquisition of English often originated with the development of code-switching, a process through which a person uses their primary language, in this case, Spanish, with a sprinkling of English words. Mexican immigrants often changed certain English words to “sound like” a Spanish language version.

English words like “market” and “sweater” were changed to “marqueta” and “suera” respectively. However, the Mexican immigrants from middle or upper class are less likely to use words such as these. In addition, to using an intermingling of Spanish and English and hybrid English-Spanish words, another common practice among Mexican Americans is involves the usage of grammatically incorrect Spanish. Mexican Americans show clear signs of linguistic and cultural assimilation over generations, tough it is gradual. (Mexican American history)

Section III In 1970s, there was a major shift in the American societal and cultural values. Despite the great evolutions that were happening to the music, the concert band connection to American history diminished significantly outside of educational settings. Fewer television and broadcasts of concert bands were aired to the point where television broadcasts ceased altogether. Popular stars of the American popular culture had either started dying or losing their popularity, and being replaced by folk artistes, R&B singers, and rock bands.

As a musician, my professional life would revolve around efforts to compose songs that would be competitive enough to attract enormous crowds. Making collaborations with famous musicians would also be a good way to market myself. I could also ask good song writers to write good songs, with the aim of attracting huge crowds and making more fans. Since some of the most famous musicians had stopped singing due to old age, the 1970s would have been a great time to make an impression to the jazz lovers. Marketing would also be an important aspect, although the radio and television stations were not be relied upon satisfactorily in the early 70s.

However, in the late 1970, an appearance of rock artistes dominated television, radio, record sales, and therefore the American consciousness. American musicians were faced with a new reality. Marketing strategies that promoted these new stars changed too. As people moved from the cities to the suburbs, urban culture, including fine arts events, their venues, and audiences were siphoned away to the suburbs for convenience sake. As a musician, keeping up with the changes in the music industry would have been an important thing to do.

I would come up with new and innovative ways to market my self, just as the other musicians. Since most people were moving to the rural areas, holding concerts at places where fans could assemble would be a great way to get attention from the crowds. As this period was characterized with revolutionalising music, it would also have been important to change or to evolve my music, to match the likes of the people at the time. (The history of jazz music)

Section IV Through studying the history of jazz, I have learnt that every music genre undergoes evolution. I’ve learnt that the social history of jazz involves two interrelated, yet analytically separable phenomena. One is the external dynamic, in which the development of jazz has been shaped and even contained by the larger world of entertainment. The tendency toward discrimination in studio hiring practices is an example of containment. In this sense, jazz is music shaped and molded by the mass media, in particular the worlds of radio broadcasting and phonograph record studio. Nowadays, Most Americans first hear something called jazz on a record or over the radio.

While it is true that what they hear is probably not ‘pure’ jazz, it is a modified version of the real thing. (History of Jazz) Since the production of records and radio broadcasting is motivated by the desire for profit, the most widely disseminated jazz is closer to ‘easy listening’ and to rock than to modern chamber music. I have also learnt of some of the factors affecting or constraining the development of jazz music, and the musicians who play it, some of them are large scale, global, while others are small scale. Jazz musicians, like everyone else, have to make a living.

While they are doing that, they are expected to extend and re-create the form itself. But there is the risk involved in attempting to create art in a popular context, the risk of losing one’s audience if the music goes beyond what the audience understands. This sets up a tension between the acts of performance and act of recreation. This tension is more evident in jazz, because it is the kind of music where creation or composition usually occurs during performance. I love listening to rock music, and through this course, I have learnt that it has gone through several transitions.

Some of the styles that were used in the early seventies are being used today. The course has enabled me to notice the similarities in the dancing styles, similar ways of composing and the dressing mode of rockstars of today and those of the past. Nowadays, some rock stars prefer using black and white pictures on their music videos, just as it was in the past, although that was due to the absence of color TVs. Generally, I would say that studying jazz has been an eye-opener; that even when listening to music, I should be keen to notice small details, such as its evolution.


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  • University/College: University of Chicago

  • Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter

  • Date: 22 September 2016

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