Jazz is one of the major forms of musical expression in traditional and popular music. It has a rich history and significant beginnings, and the rise to the top for jazz has come from hardships and pain.

Jazz music is entangled with the turmoil which has characterised aspects of the African American experience. Slavery, followed by segregation and ingrained racism meant that jazz took on a deep cultural and political significance. This increased as it became a more accepted and popular art form.

What is Jazz Music?

Jazz Music is improvisation. In most jazz performances, players play solos which they make up on the spot. The most common instruments heard in jazz music are the saxophone, trumpet, trombone, piano, bass, drums, and guitar. The beauty of jazz is the ability to express different forms of emotions, because of its origin.


The term ‘jazz’ derives from a Creole word that means both African dance and copulation. It originated in New Orleans in the second half of the 19th century. The horrors of the Atlantic slave trade had brought large numbers of Africans to North America. In the early 1900s, the population of New Orleans was  diverse. African Americans, descendants of slave from the Caribbean, Creoles, and various European immigrants all lived closely and shared their music.

The influences of West African folk songs, spirituals, blues, ragtime, and the marching band tradition came together to create ‘jazz.’

Jazz music brought freedom back into Black people’s lives, and acted as a bridge between black and white cultures through their love of music.

Jazz artist Louis Armstrong

Image Credit: history.com

Famous Jazz Artists

Artists that came from the 1920s Jazz Era are still known today because of their impact on the music genre. One of the most popular jazz bands known for their New Orleans vibe was the King Oliver Creole Band. The group included John Oliver, Billy Johnson, Johnny Dodds, Baby Dodds, and Louis Armstrong.

Armstrong joined the band late, but immediately became popular for his distinct voice and mesmerising trumpet skills. He is best known for his singles “What a Wonderful World,” and “La Vie En Rose.”

Many female musicians such as Bessie Smith and Ella Fitzgerald became famous during this time. Smith was one of the highest-paid African American musicians of her time. Fitzgerald worked with many jazz singers and sold over 40 million albums and won 13 Grammy Awards during her career. They helped paved the way for females and African Americans.

Lady Gaga during her jazz performance at the Grammys.

Image Credit: billboard.com

Lady Gaga’s Jazz Performance

Jazz music is still alive!

Lady Gaga hit the 2022 Grammys stage to perform a couple of jazz singles in honour of her close friend, Tony Bennett. Bennett introduced the singer over a video call before she took the stage.

Gaga tore the house down with a high energy version of “Love For Sale,” which she recorded with Bennett. She then slowed it down to devour a jazzy piano-filled rendition of “Do I Love You.” The video screen in the background showed footage of Gaga and Bennett in the studio recording the record.

The performance was a reflection of Gaga’s overwhelming talent. Her ability to play with her vocal range with the jazz instruments played with perfection by the band took the viewers straight back to the booming days of jazz. The hair with the stunning Tiffany blue dress rocked by Gaga was the cherry on top.

You can watch the performance here. 

Top Jazz Artists to Listen to

You can check out some of the following jazz artists along with the famous ones listed before.

  • Ornette Coleman
  • Kurt Elling
  • Herbie Hancock
  • Mary Lou-Williams
  • Charles Mingus

The Berks Jazz Festival

The Berks Jazz Fest is an on-going festival of jazz and blues held in Greater Reading, PA annually. It was created by the Berks Art Council and has entertained locals and tourists alike for more than three decades. The festival brings together the best Jazz artists from around the world who showcase their talent to the audience.

The current festival is the 31st annual fest, which started on April 1, and will be going on until April 10. Be sure to get jazzy if you can!

Published by: HOLR Magazine.