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Jazz in the 1920's

The roaring 20's were some of the best years in Jazz music, featuring legendary Jazz musicians like Louis Armstrong, Jelly Roll Morton, Paul Whiteman and Duke Ellington. These four artists are but the tip of the Jazz iceberg, the number of great Jazz players from the 1920's is simply too great to put all in one place.

American Jazz music of the 1920's was fast and improvisational, with timeless sound that holds strong even to this day, some ninety years later. Even more impressive was the number of African American musicians who were popular among the white middle and upper class of the time, demonstrating a transcendence of racial hatred, during the time of intense segregation. At the same time, "race records" were being produced, and were incredibly lucrative. Recorded by African American musicians, and marketed towards the African American population, these amazing records made vast amounts of money considering the time period.

Despite the large numbers of white middle and upper class listeners, and the associated transcendence of segregation (at least in the arts), it is often argued the Jazz music of the 1920's exacerbated the racial tension during the post war years. It could be said that these increased tensions were the results of the white middle and upper class becoming aware of the great success of these African American musicians. Something that, up until that point, had never occurred, at least not commercially or financially.

During the roaring 20's, the New Orleans sound began spreading throughout the United States, bringing incredible amounts of new listeners and fans. In the 1920's, Jazz bands were made up of three voices and a rhythm section. The voices consisted of the cornet, clarinet, and trombone. 

Up until 1923, extreme racial tension in New Orleans lead to many great Jazz musicians leaving, spreading out across the United States. With them they brought their unique brand of music and showmanship. For the most part, only three cities took in these Jazz refugees, New York, Chicago and Kansas City. Kansas City proved to be the friendliest towards New Orleans style Jazz music, where it remained popular and in demand up until the mid 1930's.

The 1920's may have been a mere ten year period that ended 80 years ago, yet the musical influence from that era of great Jazz music lives on, even to this day. You can still occasionally hear that 1920's sound, even in today's modern Jazz. Jazz has a history spotted with racism and hatred, hoisted upon the shoulders of these legendary musicians by the white middle and upper class. We all know who emerged on top. The Jazz musicians with a love for music, a talent for playing, and the desire to demonstrate that even in those tense racial times, a black man could rise to the top, forever ingraining his name in musical history.

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