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Acid Jazz Acoustic Blues Acoustic Chicago Blues Afro-Cuban Jazz Avant-Garde
Ballads Big Band Boogie Woogie Bop Bossa Nova
Cabaret Classic Female Blues Classic Jazz Contemporary Funk Contemporary Jazz
Cool Country Blues Crossover Jazz Dance Bands Dixieland
East Coast Blues Folk-Jazz Free Funk Free Jazz Fusion
Groove Hard Bop Instrumental Pop Jazz Blues Jazz-Rock
Jive Jump Blues Latin Jazz M-Base Mainstream Jazz
Modern Electric Blues New Orleans R&B New Orleans Jazz Piano Blues Piedmont Blues
Post-Bop Progressive BB R&B Ragtime Soul-Jazz
Standards Stride Swing Texas Blues Third Stream Trad Jazz
Traditional Pop Urban Blues Vocal-Pop Vocalese West Coast Blues
World Fusion        

Acid Jazz

The music played by a generation raised on jazz as well as funk and hip-hop, Acid Jazz used elements of all three; its existence as a percussion- heavy, primarily live music played it closer to jazz and Afro-Cuban than any other dance style, but its insistence on keeping the groove allied it  with funk, hip-hop and dance music. The term itself first appeared in 1988 as both an American record label and the title of an English compilation series which reissued jazz-funk music from the '70s, called rare groove by the Brits during a major mid-'80s resurgence. 
A variety of acid jazz artists emerged during the late '80s and early '90s: live bands such as Stereo Collective, Galliano and Jamiroquai as well  as studio projects like Palmskin Productions, Mondo Grosso, Outside and United Future Organization.

Acoustic Blues

A general catch-all term describing virtually every type of blues that can be played on a non-electric musical instrument. It embraces a wide range of guitar and musical styles including folk, the songster traddition, slide, fingerpicking, ragtime, and all of the myriad regional strains (Chicago, Delta, Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas, Piedmont, etc.) that thrived in the early days of the music's gestation. But Acoustic Blues is not limited to merely guitar music; its "acoustic" appellation being an elastic enough term to also include mandolin, banjo, piano, harmonica, jug bands, and other non-electric instruments including home made ones, like the one string monochord bottleneck diddleybow.

Acoustic Chicago Blues

This describes the version of music emanating from the Windy City in the years before the twin arrivals of Muddy Waters and electric guitars changed everything. Chicago was recording central for most blues recording artists of the 1930s and 1940s and most performers were plugged  into was became known as "the Bluebird Beat," an acoustic based progenitor of the later Chicago blues band lineup. Its music is earmarked by  what is usually described as a "hokum style," heavy on lyrics that promote a light hearted atmosphere, propelled by a jazz influenced beat and  a more city derived slant to it.

Afro-Cuban Jazz

Afro-Cuban jazz is a combination of jazz improvising and rhythms from Cuba and Africa; it is also known as Latin Jazz although several of its practioners prefer the former term. There were some hints of Afro-Cuban jazz in isolated cases during the 1920s and '30s (Jelly Roll Morton's "Spanish tinge" in some of his more rhythmic piano solos, a few Gene Krupa performances where he sought to include South American rhythms  and even in the Latin pop music of Xavier Cugat) but one can really trace its birth to trumpeter-arranger Mario Bauza. Bauza introduced trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie to the masterful Cuban percussionist Chano Pozo (they teamed up during 1947-48 to create innovative music before Pozo's death) and also persuaded Latin bandleader Machito to use jazz soloists. During the late '40s Stan Kenton began to integrate Latin Rhythms in his music and, with the rice in popularity during the 1950s of Tito Puente and Cal Tjader, Afro-Cuban jazz caught on as one of the most popular jazz styles. In more recent times some groups have developed Afro-Cuban jazz beyond its boppish roots, performing Monk and Coltrane tunes, adding funk to the mixture and having more adventurous solos. The spirit of the music (a true fusion between North, South and Central America) and an emphasis on infectious rhythms are the keys.


Avant-Garde Jazz differs from Free Jazz in that it has more structure in the ensembles (more of a "game plan") although the individual impro- visations are generally just as free of conventional rules. Obviously there is a lot of overlap between Free Jazz and Avant-Garde; most players in one idiom often play in the other "style," too. In the best Avant-Garde performances it is difficult to tell when compositions end and impro- visations begin; the goal is to have the solos be an outgrowth of the arrangement. As with Free Jazz, the Avant-Garde came of age in the 1960s and has continued almost unnoticed as a menacing force in the jazz underground, scorned by the mainstream that influences.  Among its founders in the mid- to late 1950s were pianist Cecil Taylor, altoist Ornette Coleman and keyboardist-bandleader Sun Ra.  John Coltrane became the avant-garde's most popular (and influential) figure and from the mid-1960s on the avant-garde innovators made a  major impact on jazz, helping to push the music beyond bebop.


The word "ballad" often has two meanings: a lyrical and melodic piece that can be sung, or simply any selection taken at a slow tempo. In the "AMG" we generally use the former definition while the latter can be said to be played at a "balled tempo." Although there were sentimental ballads in the 1800s, the idiom  came of age with the rise of the great American popular song and such composers as Jerome Kern, Irving Berlin, George Gershwin and Cole Porter among others. Even if there have been some standard ballads written since 1970 (only a few from the pop and rock fields are easily transferable to jazz), the majority of the repertoire of jazz-influenced ballad singers tends to date from the 1920-60 period.

Big Band

Big Band refers to a jazz group of ten or more musicians, usually featuring at least three trumpets, two or more trombones, four or more saxophones and a "rhythm section" of accompanists playing some combination of piano, guitar, bass, and drums. "Big band music" as a concept for music fans is identified most with the swing era, although there were large, jazz-oriented, dance bands before the swing era of the 1930s and 1940s, and large jazz-oriented concert bands after the swing era.

Classification difficulties occur when music stores shelve recordings by all large jazz ensembles as though it were a single style, despite the shifting harmonic and rhythmic approaches employed by new ensembles of similar instrumentation that have formed since the swing era.
By lumping the music of all large jazz bands together, marketers overlook the different kinds of jazz that large groups have performed: swing (Duke Ellington and Count Basie), bebop (Dizzy Gillespie), cool (Gerry Mulligan, Shorty Rogers, Gil Evans), hard bop (Gerald Wilson), free jazz (some of Sun Ra's work after the 1950s), and jazz-rock fusion (Don Ellis' and Maynard Ferguson's groups of the 1970s). Not all of them are "swing bands."

Many listeners consider "big band" to denote an idiom, not just an instrumentation. For them, the strategies of arranging and soloing that were established during the 1930s link all large jazz ensembles more than the different rhythmic and harmonic concepts distinguish those of one era, for example bebop, from those of another, for example those of jazz-rock.

Another important consideration is that journalists and jazz fans of the 1930s and 1940s drew distinctions between bands that conveyed the most hard-driving rhythmic qualities and frequent solo improvisations and those that conveyed less pronounced swing feeling and improvisation. The former were called "swing bands" or "hot bands" (for example, Count Basie's and Duke Ellington's). The latter were called "sweet bands" (for example, Wayne King's, Freddy Martin's, and Guy Lombardo's). Although the big band era ended by 1946, there have been some large orchestras used in jazz ever since if virtually none (other than the Count Basie ghost band) operate on a full-time basis. Nearly all are led by arrangers.


Boogie-woogie is a jazz piano style using two pulses stated by the left hand for every beat and the 12-bar blues chord progression as its repertory. The brief, continuously repeating patterns from the left hand give the style its identity. It's jazz flavor comes from rhythmically and melodically playful phrases improvised by the pianist's right hand.

First popularized during the late 1920s by Pinetop Smith, boogie-woogie experienced a strong revival during the late 1930s and early 1940s through the recordings of Meade Lux Lewis, Albert Ammons, Pete Johnson, Jimmy Yancey, Cripple Clarence Lofton, and Cow Cow Davenport. This genre had considerable influence on accompaniment styles in the popular music called rhythm & blues, as well as the beginnings of rock 'n'roll.


Also known as bebop, bop was a radical new music that developed gradually in the early 1940s and seemed to explode in 1945. The main difference between bop and swing is that the soloists engaged in chordal (rather than melodic) improvisation, often discarding the melody altogether after the first chorus and using the chord as the basis for the solo. Ensembles tended to be unisons, most jazz groups were under seven pieces and the soloist was free to get as adventurous as possible as long as the overall improvisation fit into the chord structure. Since the musicians were getting away from using the melodies as the basis for their solos (leading some listeners to ask "Where's the melody?"), the players were generally virtuosos and some from popular music a dancing audience, uplifting jazz to an art music but cutting deeply into its potential commercial success. Ironically the once-radical bebop style has become the foundation for all the innovations that followed and now can be almost thought of the establishment music. Among its key innovators were altoist Charlie Parker, trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie, pianist Bud Powell, drummer Max Roach and pianist-composer Thelonious Monk.

Bossa Nova

Influenced by the West Coast jazz, in the 1950s composer Antonio Carlos Jobim helped to form a new music that blended together gentle Brazilian rhythms and melodies with cool-toned improvising,; the rhythms are usually lightly as 3-3-4-3-3 with beats 1,4,7,11 and 14 being accented during every two-bars (played in 8/4 time).
Joao Gilberto's soothing voice perfectly communicated the beauty of Jobim's music.
The late '50s film "Black Orpheus" helped to introduce Jobim's compositions to an American audience and other important early exponents of bossa nova were guitarist Charlie Byrd, tenor saxophonist Stan Getz (Byrd and Getz teamed up for the highly influential Jazz/Samba) and housewife-turned-singer Astrud Gilberto who, along with her husband Joao and Getz, made "The Girl from Ipanema" a huge hit. The very appealing bossa nova's popularity peaked in the mid-'60s but it has remained a viable music up to the present time.


As a musical style cabaret refers to two different aspects of music. The "night clubs" were initially opened to provide a place for painters, writers, musicians and  other artists to gather, talk, perform and experiment. The key to understanding cabaret as a style is that the music was all experimental. Avant-garde styles, reactions to (or against) current trends and conventions were formulated in the cabarets. Other styles include the music that was performed in the cabarets when these clubs received their repute for being associated with vice.
Cabaret music was considered bawdy, vampish, rhythmic and often lewd considering the numerous lyrical double entendres. Melodic lines could be smooth and soft when that form of stimulation was wanted from and for the audience but most of the lines were memorable, filled with motions and extended interval leaps. There were few soft curves to these musical phrases. Cabaret music was intended as an energized form of entertainment.

Classic Female Blues

This is the earliest aurally documented form of the blues. The classic female blues singers of the 1920s were the first to get on record and the first to have hits in the genre, subsequently reaching a national audience and starting the first great push in recording blues music of all styles. This strain generally features big voiced female vocalists singing material with close connections to pop music of the period (mid-'20s to early '30s), utilizing primarily jazz backings, giving even the most gutbucket of performances a more uptown air to them. The style of these women singers is loud, brassy, sassy, and assertive with the occasional nascent feminist sentiment being inserted into the lyrics from time to time.

Classic Jazz

Not all jazz from the 1920s can be described as "New Orleans Jazz" or "Dixieland." The 1920s were a rich decade musically with jazz-influenced dance bands and a gradual emphasis on solo (as opposed to collective) improvisations. Whether it be the stride pianists, the increasingly adventurous horn soloists or the arranged music that predates swing, much of the jazz from this decade can be given the umbrella title of "Classic Jazz." Some of the modern-day revivalists (many who can be heard on the Stomp Off label) who look beyond the Dixieland repertoire into the music of Fletcher Henderson, Clarence Williams and Bix Beiderbecke (to name a few) can be said to be playing in this open-ended style.

Contemporary Funk

Contemporary funk refers to a kind of jazz from the 1970s and 1980s in which accompanists perform in the Black pop style of soul and funk music while extensive solo improvisations ride atop. Instead of using standard vocabularies of any modern jazz saxophonists (Charlie Parker, Lee Konitz, John Coltrane, Ornette Coleman), most saxophone improvisations in this style use their own repertory of simple phrases that are loaded with bluesy wails and moans.
They draw upon traditions illustrated by sax solos on rhythm & blues vocal recordings, such as those of King Curtis with the Coasters, Junior Walker with the Motown vocal groups, and Dave Sanborn with the Paul Butterfield Blues Band.

A prominent figure in this genre is Grover Washington, Jr., who often solos in a Hank Crawford-like style over funk accompaniments. These instances com- prise his best-known recordings, though he is also capable of playing other styles of jazz. The Jazz Crusaders (Wilton Felder, Joe Sample) achieved wide popularity when they changed their repertory to this approach during the 1970s and dropped "Jazz" from their band name. A considerable portion of music by Michael Brecker, Tom Scott, and their disciples uses this approach, though they can also play in the jazz styles of John Coltrane and Joe Henderson. Najee, Richard Elliott, and their contemporaries also perform in this "contemporary funk" style.
From approximately 1971 to 1992, Miles Davis led bands in a sophisticated variation of this style, though his saxophone soloists also drew upon the methods of John Coltrane, and his guitarists also showed modern jazz thinking and Jimi Hendrix influence. Much of contemporary funk can also be classified as "crossover."

Contemporary Jazz

Contemporary jazz refers to mainstream jazz performed in the '80s and '90s. Usually, it is either a variation on classic, small group hard-bop or slick fusion that concentrates on rhythms instead of improvisation. Often, Contemporary jazz exhibits more rock and pop influences than traditional hard-bop, but its bop origins are still quite evident.


In the late 1940s and 1950s cool jazz evolved directly from bop. Essentially it was a mixture of bop with certain aspects of swing that had been overlooked or temporarily discarded. Dissonances were smoothed out, tones were softened, arrangements became important again and the rhythm section's accents were less jarring. Because some of the key pacesetters of the style (many of whom were studio-musicians) were centered in Los Angeles, it was nicknamed "West Coast Jazz." Some of the recordings were experimental in nature (hinting at classical music), while some overarranged sessions were bland but in general this was a viable and popular style. By the late 1950s hard bop from the East Coast had succeeded cool jazz although many of the style's top players had long and productive careers. Among the many top artists who were important in the development of Cool Jazz were Lester Young, Miles Davis, Gerry Mulligan, Stan Getz, Shorty Rogers and Howard Rumsey (leader of the Lighthouse All-Stars).

Country Blues

A catch-all term that delineates the depth and breadth of the first flowering of guitar-driven blues, embracing both solo, duo, and string band performers. The term also provides a convenient general heading for all the multiple regional styles and variations (Piedmont, Atlanta, Memphis, Texas, acoustic Chicago, Delta, ragtime, folk, songster, etc.) of the form. It is primarily - but not exclusively - a genre filled with acoustic guitarists, embracing a multiplicity of techniques from elaborate fingerpicking to the early roots of slide playing. But some country-blues performers like Lightnin' Hopkins and John Lee Hooker were to later switch over the electric guitars without having to drastically change or alter their styles.

Crossover Jazz

With the gradual decline of rock (from an artistic standpoint) starting in the early 1970s, fusion (a mixture of jazz improvisations with rock rhythms) began to become more predictable since there was less input and inspiration from the rock world. At the same time, now that it was proven that electric jazz could sell records, producers and some musicians searched for other combinations of styles in order to have big sellers. They were quite successful in making their brand of jazz more accessible to the average consumer. Many different combinations have been tried during the past two decades and promoters and publicists enjoy using the phrase "Contemporary jazz" to describe these "fusions" of jazz with elements of pop music, R&B and world music. However, the word "crossover" (which describes the intent of the performances as well as the usual results) is more accurate. Crossover and fusion have been quite valuable in increasing the jazz audience (many of whom end up exploring other styles). In some cases the music is quite worthwhile, while in other instances the jazz content is a relatively small part of the ingredients. When the style is actually pop music with only an insignificant amount of improvisation (meaning that it is largely outside of jazz), the term "instrumental pop" applies best of all. Examples of crossover range from Al Jarreau and George Benson vocal records to Kenny G., Spyro Gyra and the Rippingtons. All contain the influence of jazz but tend to fall as much (if not more) into the pop field.

Dance Band

Although virtually all jazz groups prior to the rise of bebop in the early to mid-'40s played for dancers, the term "dance bands" is used to describe orchestras of the 1920s and '30s whose primary function was to play background music for dancers rather than to serve as vehicles for jazz improvisations. The more progressive dance bands of the early to mid-'20s (such as those led by Paul Whiteman, Isham Jones and Ben Selvin) left some room for short solos and by the late '20s most of the less commercial dance bands had brief spots in their arrangements for trumpeters and reed playersto solo after the vocal refrain. The dance bands, although emphasizing the melody and vocalists, were generally influenced by jazz and incorporated elements of swing after the emer-gence of Benny Goodman in 1935 although they were often classified as "sweet" bands. After 1945, dance orchestras became less common, were often tied to nostalgia and were much less relevant to jazz.


Because the Dixieland revival (one could say fad) of the 1950s was eventually overrun by amateurs, corny trappings (such as straw hats and suspenders) and clichés, many musicians playing in that idiom grew to dislike the term and wanted it to be changed to "traditional" or "classic." But rather then blame the term or the style, it seems more justifiable to separate the professionals from the poor imitators. Dixieland, a style that overlaps with New Orleans jazz and classic jazz, has also been called "Chicago jazz" because it developed to an extent in Chicago in the 1920's. Most typically the framework involves collective improvisation during the first chorus (or, when there are several themes, for several choruses), individual solos  with some riffing by the other horns, and a closing ensemble or two with a four bag tag by the drummer being answered by the full group.  Although nearly any song can be turned into Dixieland, there is a consistent repertoire of forty or so songs that have been proven to be consistently reliable.  Despite its decline in popularity since the 1950s, Dixieland (along with the related classic jazz and New Orleans jazz idioms) continues to flourish as an underground music.

East Coast Blues

This genre combines two basic schools under one general heading.
The first and most notable consist of disciples of the Piedmont school (primarily  of the East Coast area's main Piedmont style) who had relocated along the East Coast by the early to mid 1950s and ended up comprising much of that city's early blues revival scene in the mid 1960s. The second consists of both electric R&B artists and modern performers hailing from the area working in a variety of styles indigenous to the overall genre itself.


This term is used for musicians from the 1950s on who often utilize strong folk melodies as vehicles for solos. They tend to keep their ears open to musical developments in other countries (world music), emphasize quieter volumes and break down boundaries between jazz and seemingly unrelated genres. Examples of folk-jazz include som of the music of Jimmy Giuffre, Tony Scott (post-1959), Paul Horn, Paul Winter and Oregon. Folk-jazz was a direct influence on new age.

Free Funk

Free Funk is a mixture of avant-garde jazz with funky rhythms. When Ornette Coleman formed Prime Time in the early '70s, he had a "double quartet" (comprising two guitars, two electric bassist and two drummers plus his alto) performing with freedom tonally but over eccentric funk rhythms. Three of Ornette's sidemen (guitarist James "Blood" Ulmer, bassist Jamaaladeen and drummer Ronald Shannon Jackson) have since led free funk groups of their own and free funk has been a major influence on the music of the M-Base players including altoist Steve Coleman and Greg Osby.

Free Jazz

Dixieland and swing stylists improvise melodically and bop, cool and hard bop players follow chord structures in their solos. Free jazz was a radical departure from past styles for typically after playing a quick theme, the soloist does not have to follow any progression or structure and go in any unpredictable direction. When Ornette Coleman largely introduced Free jazz to New York audiences (although Cecil Taylor had preceded him with less publicity), many of the bop musicians and fans debated about whether what was being played would even qualify as music; the radicals had become conservatives in less than 15 years. Free jazz, which overlaps with the avant-garde (the latter can utilize arrangements and sometimes fairly tight frameworks), remains a controversial and mostly underground style, influencing the modern mainstream while often being ignored. Having dispensed with many of the rules as far as pitch, rhythm and development are the success of a Free jazz performance can be measured by the musicianship and imagination of the performers, how colorful the music is and whether it seems logical or merely random.


The word "fusion" has been so liberally used during the past quarter-century as to become almost meaningless. Fusion's original definition was best: a mixture of jazz improvisation with the power and rhythms of rock. Up until around 1967 the worlds of jazz and rock were nearly completely separate. But as rock became more creative and its musicianship improved, and as some in the jazz world became bored with hard bop and did not want to play strictly avant-garde music, the two different idioms began to trade ideas and occasionally combine forces. By the early 1970s, fusion had its own separate identity as a creative jazz style (although sneered upon by many purists) and such major groups as Return to Forever, Weather Report, the Mahavishnu Orchestra and Miles Davis' various bands were playing high-quality fusion that mixed together some of the best qualities of both jazz and rock. Unfortunately as it became a money-maker and as  rock declined artistically from the mid-'70s on, much of what was labelled fusion was actually a combination of jazz with easy-listening pop music and lightweight R&B crossover. The promise of fusion to an extent went unfulfilled although it continues to exist today in groups such as Tribal Tech and Chick Corea's Elektric Band.


Groove is a sub-set of soul-jazz, one that is injected with the blues and concentrates on the rhythm. It is a funky, joyous music, where everything in the performance is there to establish and maintain the groove. There's a steady beat to the music, whether it's uptempo funk or slow blues. Usually, groove is performed by small combos that feature guitar, organ, bass and drums. Horns, especially saxophones, can be featured, but sometimes the presence of too many horns moves the music too close to hard-bop, which tends to be cerebral. Groove is emotional and physical, hitting your soul. In many ways, it's almost spiritual, since everyone is working collectively for the greater good, and, at its best, it locks into rhythms that are nearly hypnotic. Groove always has funky rhythms, bluesy vamps and, usually, gospel overtones to the playing. There a re solos, but they are worked into the overall feeling, the overall groove of the music, and in the end, that's what counts with groove.

Hard Bop

Although some history books claim that hard bop arose as a reaction to the softer sounds featured in cool jazz, it was actually an extension of bop that largely ignored West Coast jazz. The main differences between hard bop and bop are that the melodies tend to be simpler and often more "soulful," the rhythm section is usually looser with the bassist not as tightly confined to playing four-beats-to-the-bar as in bop, a gospel influence is felt in some of the music, and quite often the saxophonists and pianists sound as if they are familiar with early rhythm and blues. Since the prime time period of hard bop (1955-70) was a decade later than bop, these differences were a logical evolution and one can think of hard bop as bop of the '50s and '60s. By the second half of the 1960s, the influence of  the avant-garde was being felt and some of the more adventurous performances of the hard bop stylists (such as Jackie McLean and Lee Morgan) fell somewhere between the two styles. With the rise of fusion and the sale of Blue Note (hard bop's top label) in the late 1960s, the style fell upon hard times although it was revived to a certain extent in the 1980s. Much of the music performed by the so called Young Lions during the latter decade (due to other influences altering their style) can be said to play modern mainstream, although some groups (such as the Harper Brothers and T.S. Monk's Sextet) have kept the 1960s idiom alive.

Instrumental Pop

Music classified under this style is commercially-oriented music with minimal improvisation or creative risks. The music is characterized as generic and short in duration with simplified themes with little or no development. Major proponents of instrumental pop are Herb Alpert, Chuck Mangione, Kenny G., Acker Bilk, Boots Randolph and George Benson.

Jazz Blues

While seemingly self explanatory, the jazz blues genre is somewhat misleading. Many jazz musicians have roots in the blues, with several of them providing their own interesting hybrids of the form. Its major proponents are blues performers who have integrated jazz stylings into their work, with surprisingly successful results. Some of these artists work both sides of the fence (vacillating between hard blues and jazzier sounds), while others utilize the genre as their principal stylistic distinction. Embracing everything from honking tenor saxophonists to big band singers to cocktail piano stylings, the style still has room to grow and enter a more contemporary phase.


Unlike fusion - which is jazz played with rock is essentially rock-based songs played with jazz flourishes and jazz impro- visations. When the two genres first developed in the late '60s, the genres were nearly identical; during the early '70s they began to branch away from each other and jazz-rock became known as a slightly more commercial version of fusion.


Jive, a slang word meaning (as in "don't jive me," or don't mess with me), also became associated with a type of vocalizing popularized in the 1930s and '40s by Cab Calloway, Fats Waller, Slim Gaillard, Leo Watson and Harry "The Hipster" Gibson, among others. Connected musically to swing, jive featured its singers making up nonsense syllables and humorous words, some of which are adopted by the youth of the swing era.

Jump Blues

This form refers to an uptempo, jazz-tinged style of blues that first came to prominence in the mid- to late '40s. Usually featuring a vocalist in front of a large horn-driven orchestra or medium sized combo with multiple horns, the style is ear-marked by a driven rhythm, intensely shouted vocals, and honking tenor saxophone solos- elements now associated with rock 'n' roll. The lyrics are almost always celebratory in nature, full of braggadocio and swagger. With less reliance on guitar work (which was usually confined to the rhythm section) than other styles, jump blues was the bridge between the older styles of blues- primarily those in a small band context - and the big band jazz sound of the 1940s.

Latin Jazz

Off all the post-swing styles, Latin jazz has been the most consistently popular and it is easy to see why. The emphasis on percussion and Cuban rhythms make the style quite dance-able and accessible. Essentially it is a mixture of bop-oriented jazz with Latin percussion. Among the pioneers in combining the two styles in the 1940s were the big bands of Dizzy Gillespie and Machito, and the music (which has never gone out of style) has remained a viable force through the 1990s, played most notably by the bands of Tito Puente and Poncho Sanchez. The style has not changed much during the past 40 years but it still communicates to today's listeners. Latin jazz is also sometimes called Afro-Cuban Jazz, a term preferred by Mario Bauza and Ray Barretto.


Short for "macro-basic array of structured extemporization," M-Base was developed by altoist Steve Coleman and Greg Osby, tenor saxophonist Gary Thomas and various other young associates (including singer Cassandra Wilson) in the 1980s. An extension of Ornette Coleman's free funk (although with a greater use of space and dynamics), M-Base often features crowded and noisy ensembles, unpredictable funk rhythms and an entirely new logic in soloing that owes little to bebop. Although the leaders of M-Base have since gone their separate ways (occasionally regrouping in different combinations), the influence of the music can be heard in the playing of some of the more adventurous young musicians.

Mainstream Jazz

The term "mainstream" was coined by critic Stanley Dance to describe the type of music that trumpeter Buck Clayton and his contemporaries (veterans of the swing era) were playing in the 1950s. Rather than modernize their styles and play bop or join Dixieland bands (which some did on a part-time basis in order to survive), the former big band stars (which included such players as Coleman Hawkins, Lester Young, Harry "Sweets" Edison and Roy Eldridge, among many others) jammed standards and riff tunes in smaller groups. Mainstream, which was fairly well documented in the 1950s, was completely overshadowed by other styles in the '60s and its original players gradually passed away. However, with the rise of tenor saxophonist Scott Hamilton and trumpeter Warren Vache in the 1970s and the beginning of the Concord label (which emphasized the music), mainstream has made a comeback that, with its hints of both bop and Dixieland, survives up to this day.

Modern Electric Blues

Modern electric blues is an electric mixture, a subgenre embracing both the old, the new and something that falls between the two. Some forms copy the older styles of urban - primarily offshoots of the electric Chicago band style - right down to playing the music on vintage instruments and using replications of amplifiers from the period. It is also a genre that pays homage to those vintage styles while sismultaneously recasting them in contemporary fashion. It can also be the most forward looking of all blues styles, embracing rock beats and pyrotechnics, and enlivening the form with funk rhythms and chord progressions that expand beyond the standard three usually heard in blues.

New Orleans R&B

Primarily a piano and horn-driven style, New Orleans R&B is the next step over from its more bluesier practitioners. There's a cheerful good naturedness to the style that infuses the music with a good time feel, no matter how somber the lyrical text may be. The music itself utilizes a distinctively "lazy" feel, with all of its somewhat complex rhythms falling just a hair behind the beat, making for what is known as "the sway."
The vocals can run the full emotional gamut from laid back crooning to full throated gospel shouting, while the horn lines provide a perfect droning backdrop. Enlivened by Caribbean rhythms, an unrelenting party atmosphere, and the distinctive "second'line" strut of the Dixieland music so indigenous to the area, there's nothing quite as intoxicating as the sound of Crescent City R&B.

New Orleans Jazz

The earliest style of jazz, the music played in New Orleans from about the time that Buddy Bolden formed his first band in 1895 until Storyville was closed in 1917 unfortunately went totally unrecorded. However, with the success of the Original Dixieland Jazz Band in 1917 and the many performances documented in the 1920s, it became possible to hear what this music sounded like in later years. Ensemble-oriented with fairly strict roles for each instrument, New Orleans jazz generally features a trumpet or cornet providing a melodic lead, harmonies from the trombone, countermelodies by the clarinet and a steady rhythm stated by the rhythm section (which usually consist of piano, banjo or guitar, tuba or bass and drums). This music is a direct descendant of marching brass bands, and although overlapping with Dixieland, tends to de-emphasize solos in favor of ensembles featuring everyone playing and improvising together. Due to its fairly basic harmonies and the pure joy of the ensembles, it is consistently the happiest and most accessible style of jazz.

Piano Blues

A genre that runs through the entire history of the music itself, this embraces everything from ragtime, barrelhouse, boogie- woogie, and smooth West Coast jazz stylings to the hard-rocking rhythms of Chicago blues.

Piedmont Blues

Piedmont blues refers to a regional substyle characteristic of African-American musicians of the south-eastern United States. Geographically, Piedmont refers to the foothills of the Appalachians west of the tidewater region and the Atlantic coastal plain stretching roughly from Richmond, VA, to Atlanta, GA. Musically, Piedmont blues describes the shared style of musicians from Georgia, the Carolinas and Virginia, as well as others from as far afield as Florida, West Virginia Maryland and Delaware. It refers to a wide assortment of aesthetic values, performance techniques, and shared repertoire rooted in common geographical, historical, and sociological circumstances.
The Piedmont guitar style employs as complex fingerpicking method in which a regular, alternating thumb bass pattern supports a melody on treble strings. The guitar style is highly syncopated and is closely related to an earlier string-band tradition integrating ragtime, blues, and country dance songs. It's excellent party music with a full, rock-solid sound.


It has become increasingly difficult to categorize modern jazz. A large segment of the music does not fit into any historical style, is not as rock-oriented as fusion or as free as the avant-garde. Starting with the rise of Wynton Marsalis in 1979, a whole generation of younger players chose to play an updated variety of hard bop that was also influenced by the mid-'60s Miles Davis Quintet and aspects of free jazz. Since this music (which often features complex chordal improvisations) has become the norm for jazz in the 1990s, the terms "modern mainstream" or "post-bop" are used for everything from Wallace Roney to John Scofield and symbolize the electric scene as jazz enters its second century.

Progressive Big Band

Progressive big band music is music for listening, with denser, more modernistic arrangements than the earlier, more dance-oriented big band styles, with more room to improvise. Major proponents of this style were Gil Evans, Stan Kenton, Toshiko Akiyoshi, Cal Massey, Frank Foster, Carla Bley, George Gruntz, David Amram, Sun Ra, and Duke Ellington.


Evolving out of jump blues in the late '40s, R&B laid the groundwork for rock 'n' roll. R&B kept the tempo and the drive of jump blues, but its instrumentation was more sparse and the emphasis was on the song, not improvisation. It was blues chord changes played with an insistent backbeat. During the '50, R&B was dominated by vocalists like Ray Charles and Ruth Brown, as well as vocal groups like the Drifters and the Coasters. Eventually, R&B metamorphized into soul, which was funkier and looser than the pile-driving rhythms of R&B.


Although not really jazz (ragtime does not have improvisation or the feeling of the blues), this early style (which was at its prime during 1899-1915) was a strong influence on the earlier forms of jazz. Best-known as a piano music, ragtime (which is totally written-out) was also performed by orchestras. Its syncopations and structure (blending together aspects of classical music and marches) hinted strongly at jazz and many of its melodies (most notably "Maple Leaf Rag") would be played in later years by jazz musicians in a Dixieland context.


Soul-jazz, which was the most popular jazz style of the 1960s, differs from bebop and hard bop (from which it originally developed) in that the emphasis is on  the rhythmic groove. Although soloists follow the chords as in bop, the basslines (often played by an organist if not a string bassist) dance rather than stick strictly  to a four-to-the-bar walking pattern. The musicians build their accompaniment around the bassline and, although there are often strong melodies, it is the catchiness of the groove and the amount of heat generated by the soloists that determine whether the performance is successful. Soul-jazz's roots trace back to pianist Horace Silver whose funky style infused bop with the influence of church and gospel music along with the blues.
Other pianists who followed and used similar approaches were Bobby Timmons, Junior Mance, Les McCann, Gene Harris (with his Three Sounds) and Ramsey Lewis. With the emergence of organist Jimmy Smith in 1956 (who has dominated his instrument ever since), soul-jazz organ combos (usually also including a tenor, guitarist, drummer and an occasional bassist) caught on and soulful players including Brother Jack McDuff, Shirley Scott, Jimmy McGriff, Charles Earland and Richard "Groove" Holmes, along with such other musicians as guitarists Grant Green, George Benson and Kenny Burrell, tenors Stanley Turrentine, Willis "Gator" Jackson, Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis, David "Fathead" Newman, Gene "Jug" Ammons, Houston Person, Jimmy Forrest, King-Curtis, Red Holloway and Eddie Harris and altoist Hank Crawford were soul-jazz stars. Despite its eclipse by fusion and synthesizers in the 1970s, soul-jazz has stayed alive and made a healthy comeback in recent years.


During the golden age of the American popular song (dating from around 1915-60), a couple dozen very talented composers wrote a countless number of flexible song that were adopted (and often transformed) by creative jazz musicians and singers. Often originally written for Broadway shows and Hollywood films, many of these works (generally 32-bars in length) have been performed and recorded a seemingly infinite number of times including "Body and Soul," "Stardust" and " "All the Things You Are." Such composers as Jerome Kern, Irving Berlin, George Gershwin, Harold Arlen, Hoagy Carmichael, Cole Porter, Richard Rodgers, Harry Warren, Fats Waller and Duke Ellington along with other talents supplied the jazz and pop music worlds with what must have seemed like an endless supply of gems. Called standards (which means that they caught on as a permanent part of the jazz and pop music repertoire), the songs differ from less flexible "originals" that are often put together for a record date and then quickly forgotten. Since the rise of rock, the pop music world has been a much less fertile area for jazz players to "borrow" material from and, although many of the old standards are still performed, jazz musicians and singers have had to rely much more on original material during the past three decades.


Stride is a style of jazz piano playing in which the pianist's left hand maintains a continuous pulse in groups of four beats by percussively playing a bass note on the first and third beats and a chord on the second and fourth beats. The right hand improvises melodies and harmonies, and the result resembles a very energetic one-man band. It was performed by immensely talented pianists who were able to control the piano with a power and virtuosic force previously unknown in popular music. The style originated in New York before the 1920s, as pianists took ragtime ad began developing new, more swinging styles. Major proponents were James P. Johnson, Willie "The Lion" Smith, and Joe Sullivan, who, in turn, went on to be influential themselves. Art Tatum and Ralph Sutton, for instance, were both influenced by Fats Waller.


While New Orleans jazz has improvised ensembles, when jazz started becoming popular in the 1920s and demand was growing for larger dance bands, it became necessary for ensembles to be written down, particularly when a group included more than three or four horns. Although swing largely began when Louis Armstrong joined Fletcher Henderson's Orchestra in 1924 and Don Redman began writing arrangements for the band that echoed the cornetist's relaxed phrases, the swing era officially started in 1935 when Benny Goodman's Orchestra caught on. Swing was a major force in American popular music until the big band era largely ended in 1946. Swing differs from New Orleans jazz and Dixieland in that the ensembles (even for small groups) are simpler and generally filled with repetitious riffs while in contrast the solos are more sophisticated. Individual improvisations still paid close attention to the melody but due to the advance in musicianship, the solo flights were more adventurous.
The swing musicians who continued performing in the style after the end of the big band era (along with later generations who adopted this approach) can also be said to be playing "mainstream." Among the many stars of swing during the big band era were trumpeters Louis Armstrong, Bunny Berigan, Harry James and Roy Eldridge, trombonists Tommy Dorsey and Jack Teagarden, clarinetists Benny Goodman and Artie Shaw, tenor saxophonists Coleman Hawkins, Lester Young and Ben Webster, altoists Johnny Hodges and Benny Carter, pianists Teddy Wilson, Art Tatum, Earl Hines, Count Basie and Nat King Cole, guitarist Charlie Christian, drummers Gene Krupa and Chick Webb, vibraphonist Lionel Hampton, bandleader Glenn Miller and singers Billie Holiday, Ella Fritzgerald and Jimmy Rushing.

Texas Blues

A geographical subgenre earmarked by a more relaxed, swinging feel than other styles of blues, Texas Blues encompasses a number of style variations and has a long, distinguished history. Its earliest incarnation occurred in the mid-'20s, featuring acoustic guitar work rich in filigree patterns, almost an extension of the vocals rather than merely a strict accompaniment to it. This version of Texas blues embraced both the songster and country-blues traditions, with its lyrics relying less on affairs of the heart than in other forms. The next stage of development in the region's sound came after World War II, bringing forth a fully electric style that featured jazzy, single-string soloing over predominantly horn-driven backing. The style stays current with a raft of regional performers primarily working in a small combo context.

Third Stream

Third stream (a term invented by composer Gunther Schuller in 1957) essentially means a mixture of jazz and classical music. Most attempts at fusing the two very different idioms have been at best mixed successes with string sections weighing down jazz soloists.
Paul Whiteman in the 1920s, tried to (in his own words) "make a lady out of jazz" and alternated between symphonic string sections and classic jazz solos. Strings were used in some swing bands in the 1940s (most inventively by Artie Shaw and Stan Kenton's dissonant works of 1950-51), but in all cases the added musicians were merely reading their parts and backing the improvisers. Starting with Charlie Parker in 1949 jazz players recorded now and then while joined by strings but it was not until the mid- to late '50s that more serious experiments began to take place. Schuller, John Lewis, J.J. Johnson and Bill Russo were some of the more significant composers, attempting to bridge the gap between jazz and classical musics. Most musical forecasters in the mid-'50s would have predicted that jazz's next phase would involve a fusion of sorts with classical music but the rise of  the avant-garde (which as a spontaneity and an extrovertism that most pseudo-classical works lack) largely ended the Third Stream movement before it came close to catching on beyond academic circles. Since its heyday in the late 1950s, there have been occasional Third Stream projects ranging from significant successes (such as Eddie Daniel's "Breakthrough" CD for GRP) to some that sound closer to pompous muzak. Although the movement never really became a major force, it still has potential.

Trad Jazz

Although the term "traditional jazz" has been used for everything from Dixieland to the current straightahead jazz scene, "trad" was the name for the form of New Orleans jazz that flourished in the United Kingdom during the 1950s and '60s. Similar in style and sound to Dixieland, the best trad bands developed their own repertoire and distinctive approach to playing the happy music. The most popular bands were led by trumpeter Kenny Ball (who had a major hit in "Midnight in Moscow") and trombonist Chris Barber and such stars as Humphrey Lyttelton, Ken Colyer and Monty Sunshine kept the scene alive and well, at least until the Beatles caught on.

Traditional Pop

Traditional pop refers to post-big band and pre-rock 'n' roll pop music. Traditional pop drew from a repertoire of songs written by professional songwriters and were performed by a vocalist that was supported by either an orchestra or a small-combo. In Traditional pop, the song is the key, and although the singer is the focal point, this style of singing doesn't rely on vocal improvisations like jazz singing does. Traditional pop can also refer to the orchestra leaders and arrangers that provided the instrumental settings for vocalists.

Urban Blues

The descriptive phrase, urban blues, was first used starting in the early part of the 20th century to differentiate between the more uptown sentiments pervasive to the style and the cruder, more rural stylings of "country" blues artists. This term was later used in the 1940s to describe a type of sophisticated blues written bout the vagaries of city life, its lyrics alternately dealing with romantic strife and the innumerable good times to be easily obtained in an urban area. Always city derived, the music is always earmarked by pronounced styling to smooth supper club style vocals.

Vocal Pop

Vocal-pop is considerably different than Traditional pop, which is largely comprised of standards and performed by skilled singers like Sinatra and Bennett. Vocal-pop is considerably lighter, falling somewhere between pop and easy listening. Vocal pop's heyday was in the late '50s and early '60s before rock 'n' roll had completely infiltrated all areas of popular record making. In those days, clean-cut groups like the Four Freshmen sang sweet, romantic and innocent songs that were given lush productions and arrangements. Vocal-pop primarily consisted of similar groups and sounds, the material lighter than Traditional pop, but sonically it had more in common with those standards than it did work with rock.


Vocalese is the art of writing lyrics to fit recorded instrumental solos, many of which end up being tongue twisters. Eddie Jefferson was the first important vocalese lyricist in the late '40s, although a 1929 record released for the first time in 1996 finds Bee Palmer singing words set to Bix Beiderbecke's solo on "Singing the Blues," Jefferson's words to Gene Ammons "Red Top" and Charlie Parker's "Parker's Mood" resulted in a pair of hits for King Pleasure (who also wrote some fine vocalese on his own). Vocalese reached his highest peak with Lambert, Hendricks & Ross during 1957-62, a group featuring the genius of vocalese Jon Hendricks, Annie Ross (famous for "Twisted") and Dave Lambert.
In later years Hendricks led the Hendricks Family (which revived many of the Lambert, Hendricks & Ross classics) and Manhattan Transfer sometimes used vocalese. Although it has rarely advanced beyond bop (other than Eddie  Jefferson's successful transformations of "Freedom Jazz Dance" and "Bitches Brew"), vocalese is still used as an option by today's jazz singers.

West Coast Blues

More piano-based and jazz-influenced than anything else, the West Coast style of blues is, in actuality, the California style, with all of the genre's main practitioners coming to prominence there, if not actual natives of the state in particular. In fact, the state and the style played host to a great many post-war Texas guitar expatriates and their jazzy, T-Bone Walker style of soloing would become an earmark of the genre.
The genre also features smooth, honey toned vocals, frequently crossing into "urban blues" territory.
The West Coast style was also home to numerous jump-blues practitioners, as many traveling bands of the 1940s ended up taking permanent residence there. Its current practitioners work almost exclusively in the standard small West Coast Jazz. Main proponents: Charles Brown, Pee Wee Crayton, Lowell Fulson, and Percy Mayfield.

World Fusion

World fusion refers to a fusion of Third World music, or just :world music" with jazz, specifically:
1) Ethnic music that has incorporated jazz improvisations (for example, Latin-jazz). Frequently, only the solos are improvised jazz. The accompaniments and compositions are essentially the same as the ethnic music.
2) Jazz that has incorporated limited aspects of a particular non-Western music. Examples include performances of Dizzy Gillespie's "A Night in Tunisia"; music on some of the 1970s quartet recordings by Keith Jarrett's quartet and quintet on Impulse, in which Middle Eastern instruments and harmonic methods are modified and used; some of Sun Ra's music from the 1950s into the 1990s, in which African rhythms are incorporated; some of Yusef Lateef's recordings that feature traditional Islamic instruments and methods.
3) New musical styles that result from distinctly original ways of combining jazz improvisation with original ideas and the instruments, harmonies, compositional practices, and rhythms of an existing ethnic tradition. The product is original, but its flavor still reflects some aspects of a non-jazz, ethnic tradition. Examples include Don Cherry's band Codona and Nu, some of John McLaughlin's music from the 1970s and the 1990s that drew heavily on the traditions of India, some of Don Ellis' music of the 1970s that drew upon the music of India and Bulgaria, work by Andy Narrell in the 1990s that melds the music and instruments of Trinidad with jazz improvisations and funk styles.

World fusion jazz did not first occur with modern jazz, and its trends are not exclusive to American jazz. For instance, Polynesian music was fusing with Western pop styles at the beginning of the twentieth century, and its feeling attracted some of the earliest jazz musicians. Caribbean dance rhythms have been a significant part of American pop culture throughout the twentieth century, and, since jazz musicians frequently improvised when performing in pop contexts, blends have been occurring almost continuously. Django Reinhardt was melding the traditions of Gypsy music with French impressionist concert music and jazz improvisation during the 1930s in France.

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