Jazz is a genre of music that originated from African-American musicians in New Orleans, Louisiana in the US in the late 19th Century. It is derived from blues, ragtime, and folk music. It is sometimes described as the mix of European harmony and African rhythm.
The earliest jazz musicians were playing in bars and brothels in the “red light district” of New Orleans. The African rhythmic patterns didn’t come from the descendant of African slaves in the US directly, as the Black Codes forbid enslaved people from drumming for decades. Rather, it came from Afro-Cuban and other Afro-Caribbean musicians, who had have no such restrictions on them, and traveled to perform in America at times. The influence of European harmonies came from the folk songs of European settlers in America.
Later, marching bands in the South started adapting the new style of music, often performing at funerals - so-called “jazz funerals” became a practice in New Orleans. What instruments are typically found in a marching band are the ones most commonly used in jazz still to this day. Traveling vaudeville acts from the South also began to play jazz in the 1910’s, spreading the new style of music across the country.
The “Original Dixieland Jass Band” was founded in 1916 by Papa Jack Laine. They were the first ever to record jazz music, the song called “Livery Stable Blues” in 1917. In the 1920’s, when the music industry started to boom in the US with record sales due to advancement in recording technology, jazz was one of the most popular genres in the country. The 1920’s and 30’s are sometimes referred to as “the Jazz Age”, with many popular clubs and bars playing jazz music in big urban centers. In the time of the prohibition, these were often illegal “speakeasies”, selling alcohol despite the ban. The most famous artists of this era were Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, and Al Jolson. Jolson also starred in the first ever movie with sound, “The Jazz Singer” in 1927.
From the late 1930’s onward, jazz’s popularity steadily declined. It is still around today, but it’s not among the most listened-to genres anywhere in the world.
Jazz heavily features brass instruments, most commonly the trumpet, saxophone, and trombone. Other common instruments are the piano, bass, guitar and drums. This type of music is polyrhythmic, meaning that two or more rhythms are used simultaneously in the song: one could be played by the trumpet, while the other could be played by the bass line, for example. The most often featured rhythm pattern in jazz is three against two, meaning a three-note rhythm held over a two-note rhythmic pattern, with quarter-note triplets.
As for the harmonies, typical jazz chord progressions include a II-V-I sequence. Overall, jazz uses major chords a lot more often than minor chords. The blues scale, also common in rock, is often used here as well: it's a major pentatonic scale with the addition of a sixth note, the flatted 5th. This genre typically does not feature vocals, when it does, the singers tend to use the technique of backphrasing or fowrard phrasing. Improvisation by the musicians is a big part of the jazz tradition.
Since, as we wrote above, jazz songs typically don’t have vocals, they evidently often don’t have lyrics either. The few that do usually sing about love, as it is for most genres, but also the Black experience in America sometimes.
As we wrote above, jazz is not among the most popular genres of today.
Michael Bublé is one of the few singers who managed to achieve considerable commercial success with songs in this genre. His biggest jazz hits to date are “You Make Me Feel So Young” (2013), and “Crazy Love” (2009). The other best known jazz artists of today are Herbie Hancock, Sonny Rollins, Pat Metheny, and Tigran Hamasyan.