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When researching jazz music for my project, I thought it was strange how I was quite unfamiliar with several influential jazz musicians. Not a huge fan of jazz, I thought it would be interesting to learn more of a topic that I did not know that much about. When I think of jazz, I typically imagine old black and white movies with affluent hotel lobbies and cocktail parties. World War II connotations also come to mind. In pop music of the twenty-first century, hip hop and electric undertones commonly express themselves in music as opposed to brass. Even though jazz itself is less prevalent in pop culture than it was in prior decades, influential jazz musicians are still respected and revered.
One of the less influential musicians that is still given credit for being extremely skilled. Art Tatum, nearly blind, “revolutionized the role of piano in jazz.” Playing up the sound of cacophony, Tatum was at his apex about ten years before the advent of bebop, yet paved the way for this phenomenon. Other artists similar to Tatum include Theolonius Monk, Charles Mingus, and Art Blakey. Each overcoming his own difficulties such as Mingus’s depression, they all remain in the canon of American jazz music. While these artists primarily used American sounds, Dizzy Gillespie traveled to Cuba and incorporated some Cuban rhythms into his music. Not only a trumpet player and singer, Dizzy Gillespie was also a composer. He did much to advance the sound of Afro-Cuban jazz. As a great improviser, Gillespie remained true to bebop throughout his career and is remembered for his horn-gimmed glasses and improvisatory jazz style. Apart from trumpet, Max Roach is remembered as a renowned percussionist. Along with a few other jazz musicians, he is responsible for the modern techniques of jazz drumming. Capable of giving solo performances, Roach sometimes played alongside other famous musicians.
While they are mostly men, jazz musicians were not always restricted to the male gender as a lot of the singers were women such as Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald. Receiving numerous posthumous Grammy Hall of Fame awards, Holiday is shown to have been quite successful as her music continues to resonate with so many. With a strong voice, Holiday used her song “Strange Fruit” to inspire because of its “powerful theme and topic” as well as the fortitude of her “performance.” Unfortunately, she only wrote but few songs; however, those she did write are able to carry the messages of several.
John Coltrane, Count Basie, Coleman Hawkins, and Benny Goodman also hold sway over the halcyon days of jazz music. They each made their marks on jazz music by engaging in implications to promote racial equality such as Goodman’s dogma not to tour in Southern states. Miles Davis, Charlie “Bird” Parker, and Duke Ellington are typically recognized at least in part by non experts in jazz. Along with their astounding repertoire of music, each’s ability to perform should not go without credit.
Arguably the most famous jazz musician is Louis Armstrong. Called “Satchmo,” Armstrong played the trumpet with a skill not like any other. One of the first scat singers, Armstrong holds prodigious influence over aspiring jazz musicians as well as music historians of the early twentieth century. Although jazz music is still prevalent in certain areas and among certain people, the influence of jazz musicians remains ubiquitous.