Jazz is the art of expression set to music! Jazz is said to be the fundamental rhythms of human life and mans contemporary reassessment of his traditional values. Tracing the origins of Jazz in the formative years is not an easy task. The music called jazz was born sometime around 1895 in New Orleans. It combined elements of Ragtime, marching band music, and Blues. What differentiated Jazz from these earlier styles was the widespread use of improvisation, often by more than one player at a time (Alexander 2001). Recordings of Jazz did not begin until 1917.
Jelly Roll Morton claimed to be the inventor of Jazz in 1902, an absurd claim to be sure. What is even more absurd is that there is ample evidence to support his claim. There is no doubt that Morton had music not covered by the blues or ragtime and that he applied a swinging to a variety of music. He also may have introduced the 2 bar break, scat singing and other improvisational ideas. Jazz was quite simple; involving application of a strong underlying 4/4 beat to 2/4 beat ragtime (Weinstock 2002).
The origin of the word "jazz" is most often traced back to a vulgar term used for sexual acts. Some of the early sounds of jazz where associated with whore houses and "ladies of ill repute." However, the meaning of jazz soon became a musical art form. Whether under composition guidelines or improvisation, jazz reflected spontaneous melodic phrasing (Jazz History 2001).
The standard legend about jazz is that it was conceived in New Orleans and moved up to the Mississippi River to Memphis, St. Louis and finally Chicago. Of course that seems to be the history of what we now refer to as jazz, however, the influences of what led to those early New Orleans sounds goes way back to tribal African drum beats and European musical structures.
The early jazz bands usually included one or two cornets, a trombone, a clarinet, a banjo or guitar, a tuba or string bass, and drums.