National Museum of American History, The Growth of Jazz
Jazz developed in the United States in the very early part of the 20th century. New Orleans, near the mouth of the Mississippi River, played a key role in this development. The city's population was more diverse than anywhere else in the South, and people of African, French, Caribbean, Italian, German, Mexican, and American Indian, as well as English, descent interacted with one another. African-American musical traditions mixed with others and gradually jazz emerged from a blend of ragtime, marches, blues, and other kinds of music. At first jazz was mostly for dancing. (In later years, people would sit and listen to it.) After the first recordings of jazz were made in 1917, the music spread widely and developed rapidly. The evolution of jazz was led by a series of brilliant musicians such as Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington (listen to Ellington in Duke's Music Class), Charlie Parker, and Miles Davis. Jazz developed a series of different styles including traditional jazz, swing (listen, for example, to Benny Carter, who got his start in swing music, in Benny's Music Class) bebop, cool jazz, and jazz rock, among others. At the same time, jazz spread from the United States to many parts of the world, and today jazz musicians--and jazz festivals--can be found in dozens of nations. Jazz is one of the United States's greatest exports to the world.