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By the mid-1950s a form of neo-bop, or hard-bop, had arisen on the East Coast. John Coltrane, Sonny Rollins, Cannonball Adderley, Horace Silver, Art Blakey, and Max Roach led various small groups that produced an idiom marked by crackling, explosive, uncompromising intensity. About the same period, a number of outstanding musician-composers, including Gunther Schuller and John Lewis of the Modern Jazz Quartet, produced "third stream" jazz, essentially a blend of classical music and jazz. Jazz has also been successfully combined with Afro-Latin music, as in the music of Candido, Machito, Eddie Palmieri, and Mongo Santamaria.

In the last half of the 1950s there were three major trends in contemporary jazz. First, a general modern jazz form had developed in the period since World War II, which can be called "mainstream," best exemplified by the music of Gerry Mulligan's various bands. Second, a number of instruments that either had never been used seriously in jazz, such as the flute, oboe, and flügelhorn, or had been unpopular, such as the soprano saxophone, were used to bring new instrumental voices into the music. Third, avant-garde or free jazz leaders such as John Coltrane, Ornette Coleman, Eric Dolphy, Pharaoh Sanders, Archie Shepp, Cecil Taylor, and Rahsaan Roland Kirk continued to explore new harmonic, melodic, and rhythmic relationships. The new jazz is often atonal, and traditional melodic instruments often assume rhythmic-percussive roles and vice versa.

In the late 1960s many jazz musicians, such as Miles Davis, Wayne Shorter, Larry Coryell, Gary Burton, Keith Jarrett, and Chick Corea, investigated the connections between rock and jazz in a musical style known as fusion. After the rapid innovations of the 1960s and 70s, the jazz of the 1980s appeared less form-bending and somewhat revivalist, with musicians reluctant to follow trends and accept labels. Emerging in the early 1990s was a style often called acid jazz, a hybrid form that combined traditional jazz, soul, and funk with Latin and hip-hop rhythms. Some of the prominent jazz artists of the 1980s, 1990s, and early 2000s include Wynton and Branford Marsalis, Terence Blanchard, David Murray, John Carter, Henry Threadgill, Cyrus Chestnut, and Joshua Redman.

Jazz has always been a distinctively American idiom, with Europeans largely forming an appreciative audience and Europe's jazzmen following trends begun in the United States. At the end of the 20th cent., however, many Scandinavian and French musicians, feeling that mainstream American jazz expression had retreated into the past, began creating a new genre nicknamed "the European." Returning to jazz's roots as dance music, they combined elements from European house, techno, drum and bass, and jungle music with acoustic, electronic, and sampled sound to create a more popular and populist variety of jazz. Musicians involved in this movement include Norwegian pianist Bugge Wesseltoft and trumpeter Nils Petter Molvaer, French pianists Martial Solal and Laurent de Wilde, French saxophonist Julien Lourau and flutist Malik Mezzadri, Sweden's Esbjorn Svensson Trio, and France's Ludovic Navarre and St. Germain groups.

Jazz artists in America have suffered much and received little. In many cases the misery of their lives and public indifference have driven them to find relief in drugs and alcohol. Despite hardships they have produced a richly varied art form in which improvisation and experimentation are imperative; jazz promises continued growth in directions as yet unforeseeable.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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