The Jazz Age was in the 1920s, but jazz actually began earlier than that. Jazz grew out of the multicultural musical atmosphere of New Orleans in the 19th century. The population of New Orleans was made up of former slaves, refugees from Hispaniola and a wide range of Europeans. Jazz started as the convergence of the rhythm-centric music of Africa and the Caribbean; the highly melodic and multilayered harmonies of Negro Spirituals; European classical music; and the local, original American musical styles of brass band, Creole music and ragtime. Each musical style began to borrow from and share with the others until a new musical form -- jazz -- was created.
The earliest years of jazz are not well documented; unfortunately, there don't seem to be any recordings of the music played when jazz began. Buddy Bolden, born in 1877, is widely considered to be the first recognized jazz musician. The earliest jazz bands are reported to have been around in 1885, and Buddy Bolden started his jazz band in 1895. By 1900, Bolden, who played the cornet, was regarded as the most popular musician in New Orleans. Sadly, though he had a huge impact on jazz, he ended his life in a mental institution [source: All Music]. Some of the more well-known early jazz greats include Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, Charlie "Bird" Parker, John Coltrane and Miles Davis.
Jazz became increasingly popular in the 1920s, when people gathered in speakeasies to dance and enjoy alcohol, which was banned at the time. People loved jazz for its free-spirited nature, and it remained hugely popular through the '40s. Of course, jazz is still widely enjoyed today and has influenced just about every other form of music.
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