A Brief History of Jazz Roots: From Blues to Bebop

Jazz music is the most listened to and widely appreciated musical genre in America. Jazz has also been a major influence on other popular musical styles, such as funk, blues, rock, and hip hop. This article explores the history of jazz roots: from its beginnings in New Orleans to its evolution into the styles we hear today.

Jazz music is a genre that was developed in New Orleans, Louisiana. It was created by African American musicians and based on the blues. Jazz started out as a form of social music played by slaves and freedmen at parties. As it transitioned from being just a party music to being played at different venues around the country, jazz became more popular.

This article takes you through the history of jazz roots, from its origins in New Orleans to the other musical styles that have been influenced by it. The article also touches on how jazz has continued to be an influential genre even up to today’s times.

Beginning Roots

While jazz began in New Orleans and is best known for its African American origins, it has also been strongly influenced by the blues. The origin of jazz can be traced back to the Congo Square gatherings in New Orleans in the 18th century. These were open-air dances where African slaves and free blacks gathered to dance and sing together. The songs they sang were a mix of European folk ballads and chants with African rhythms, harmonies, melodies, and percussion.

This synthesis led to a new form of music called “jazz” by locals. Jazz was originally characterized by polyrhythms, improvisation, syncopation, call-and-response vocals, blue notes (notes from the blue scale), swung notes (notes played between beats), relentless basslines, and an emphasis on instrumental solos rather than just harmonic accompaniment.

The beginning of jazz is often traced back to Buddy Bolden, a cornet player who established systems of musical notation and taught other musicians how to play the cornet. In 1893, a group called the Red-Hot Peppers formed at this time to play what they called “jass.”

New Orleans became a major hub for playing jazz during the early 1900s. The city offered many opportunities for musicians to experiment with their music, including a more diverse culture that allowed for new musical influences to occur.

In 1917, Louis Armstrong began his famous career by playing with Kid Ory’s band at the Sunset Café. He quickly grew in popularity when he returned home from WWI and started playing in Joe Oliver’s Dixieland Jazz Band at Prendergast’s Playhouse.

In 1919, King Oliver joined Joe Oliver’s band as lead trumpeter and introduced his own style of improvisational trumpet that would later become known as “West-Indian” or “Dixieland” jazz. His influence helped this style of jazz become widespread throughout New Orleans and Louisiana.

The Blues Roots of Jazz

The roots of jazz are in the blues. The form of jazz most like its beginnings is ragtime, which began in the late 1800s. In New Orleans, African American musicians began using some of the ragtime rhythms and sounds with blues melodies. A style called Dixieland Jazz was created when these musicians moved to Chicago and New York City.

The next major development was Bebop, which came after World War II (1939-1945). Bebop musicians used more complex, sophisticated chords and harmonies and often improvised their melodies. As jazz became more popular throughout America and abroad, it developed into different styles that can be categorized by region or by instrumentation.

From Ragtime to Bebop

The roots of jazz come from a mixture of African and European musical traditions, with roots in the blues, ragtime, gospel, folk music, and other styles. The first jazz hit was “Livery Stable Blues” by James Bolden.

Jazz took off in Chicago in the 1920s where it began evolving into its own genre. As jazz became more popular it spread to cities across the United States. In 1936 Benny Goodman’s band played its first full length concert at Carnegie Hall and changed the way many people thought about jazz as a serious art form.


Jazz music is a genre that has evolved over several decades, and its roots are complex and rich in history. The music was born in the late 1800s, as slaves and servants began to play music together on plantations in the Deep South. This type of music became known as the blues, and it was characterized by its use of instruments like the banjo, guitar, harmonica, and piano. One of these musicians, Buddy Bolden, is considered the father of jazz. His influential recordings include “Funky Butt” and “The Dixieland One Step.”

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