About Jazz Music

The development of jazz begins in New Orleans during the late 19th century when brass bands would perform in marches, parades and funerals playing anything from military tunes to rags in a polyphonic style similar to African-American vocal music. Since many of these marches were very lengthy, the tunes would have to be repeated many times leading the performers to improvise on the melodies to relieve their boredom. Over time, as the musicians left New Orleans and spread their music to other cities, the marching aspect was phased out and instruments that could be played while seated, such as the piano and trap drum set, began to enter the jazz scene. Starting in the second decade of the century and leading into the 1920s, jazz began to diversify and different genres such as Dixieland and Classic Jazz began to emerge.

Under the guiding hands of Fletcher Henderson and Louis Armstrong, 1920s Classic Jazz developed into Swing Jazz and the golden age of the Big Band was born. After the demise of the Big Band era, jazz began to split into even more genres; first Be-Bop and Jump Blues, and then followed soon by Cool Jazz, Hard Bop, Bossa-Nova, Afro-Cuban and Soul Jazz. In developments that came slightly later, Jazz also took in the worlds of concert hall composition and abstract expressionism thus creating the genres Third Stream, Avant-Garde Jazz, Post-Bop and Progressive Big Band.

The arrival of loud amplified instruments to the world of jazz via the musical worlds of rock, funk and RnB again brought many changes to jazz, as well as new genres such as Classic Fusion and Funk Jazz. Since the 1980s, jazz has taken on so many genres and influences that creating easily definable genres is becoming increasingly difficult. Many current jazz artists can be found on JMA in genres such as World Fusion, Nu Jazz, Acid Jazz, Dub Fusion, Post-70s Eclectic Fusion, DJ Hip-Hop Jazz, DrumnBass Jazz, and Post-Fusion Contemporary.

At JMA, we not only try to include an extensive data base of jazz artists, but we also try to include those artists from other genres who have had an influence on the world of jazz, as well as those artists who come from a jazz background but work in genres besides jazz. Some of those artists can be found in genres such as Jazz Related Rock, Jazz Related RnB, Exotica, Soundtracks, Funk, Latin Rock, Jazz Related Improvisation and Jazz Related Blues.

Written by JS (John Sanders, 2011)

JMA Jazz subgenres

Early Jazz Modern Jazz Jazz Related

21st Century Modern

As we move into the new century, jazz artists continue to merge and blend pre-existing genres in ways that make it hard to find easy labels. Today's jazz artist is likely to pull from the avant-garde, post bop, 3rd stream and modern fusion all within the same piece. Yet as these artists draw from all these eclectic sources, we begin to see some similarities in a lot of new jazz in the 21st century.

The 21st Century Modern genre at JMA is for artists who do not easily fit into pre-existing genres such as the aforementioned, Post Bop, Avant-Garde, Fusion, or 3rd Stream, but whose music may contain elements of all those genres, as well as other elements from outside the jazz world.

Despite all these eclectic elements, we do find some things in common with many of the artists listed in our 21st Century Modern genre.

1)Many artists in this genre feature arrangements and composition in their music, along with improvisation based on chord progressions, or entirely freely improvised sections as well. Large scale pieces with multiple sections are often a part of this genre. There is an attempt in modern jazz to blend composition and improvisation in ways that make them hard to tell apart.

2)Larger ensembles (5 to 8 pieces) and 'mini-big bands' play a part in a lot of modern jazz. Instruments like the violin, cello and clarinet have made a comeback.

3)Rhythmically, modern jazz is all over the map, sometimes swinging, sometimes drawing on international fusion, and sometimes totally free, almost any style can happen.

4)Harmonically modern jazz is equally eclectic, ranging from the extended harmonies of post bop, to atonal free jazz, to the simple triad based harmonies of folk songs and hymns, once again, anything can happen.

Acid Jazz

Acid jazz grew out of the late 80s DJ scene in London in which record spinners would treat dancing patrons to difficult to find 45s released by 60s soul jazz artists. Eventually contemporary lounge/jazz performers such as James Taylor began to capitalize on this interest in 60s 'rare groove' and began to perform live music that had equal appeal for the trendy club crowd. Another aspect of early Acid Jazz involved the mixing of 60s RnB-jazz with the sounds and rhythms of acid house. Once Acid Jazz left England, confusion as to what it actually was created a diversity of influences including dub reggae, hip-hop, drumnbass and 60s psychedelic rock. More recently Acid Jazz is often seen as either 60s rare groove, or a merging of jazz with trip-hop or other club friendly electronica sounds and rhythms.

Typically the artists listed in JMA's acid jazz genre are live bands while acid jazz artists who are more DJ based are listed in our DJ/Electronica jazz genre.

African Fusion

The African Fusion genre at JMA is for music that combines traditional and current African and Caribbean music with jazz, fusion and RnB. Some of the musical styles found here include Afrobeat, Makossa, Juju, Rumba, Highlife, Calypso, South African Township and more.

Elsewhere on the site JMA also includes a separate Dub/Ska/Reggae genre, three different Latin Jazz genres, and a World Fusion genre for cultural hybrid music.

Ultimately, almost any style of substantive jazz music could be considered a form of African fusion.

Afro-Cuban Jazz

Afro-Cuban Jazz combines traditional African based rhythms from Cuba with the pyrotechnical solos of jazz or fusion. This genre got its start when Mario Bauza introduced bop trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie to Cuban percussionist Chano Pozo. The two made exciting new music together starting in 1947 and ending abruptly in 1948 when Pozo passed away. About this same time Cuban bandleader Machito began to feature jazzy solos in his band arrangements. With the rise of artists such as Tito Puente, Afro-Cuban jazz became one of the most popular styles of jazz in the 1950s.

Afro-Cuban is still one of the more popular styles of jazz today and continues to grow and evolve as it takes on influences from fusion and even the avant-garde. You can also check our genres; Latin Jazz, Bosasa Nove and World Fusion for other styles of Latin Jazz.

Avant-Garde Jazz

In brief:

The Avant-garde Jazz genre at JMA generally consists of jazz that is usually atonal, and quite often a-rhythmic as well. Avant-garde jazz can be ‘free’, in that there is no prescribed structure for the musicians to follow, or there may be some sort of compositional structure being used as well. Other factors that can result in an avant-garde tag include the use of extremes, such as extremely loud music, or extremely quiet music etc. Also, experimental presentations can be considered, such as a piece where the performers are playing without being able to hear each other, or all of the musicians are submerged in water, etc. Generally the Avant-garde Jazz genre is reserved for musicians from a jazz background, but JMA also includes some non-jazz avant-garde musicians in our Jazz Related Improvisation/Composition genre.

The history:

In all arts, the term avant-garde refers to those who lead the way towards experimentalism and change. This was true in music up until about the mid-60s, when western concepts of harmony and structure hit a breaking point. Prior to the 60s, western concepts of musical advancement centered around increasingly chromatic harmonies moving towards atonality, and increasing difficulties and complexities in rhythm. This breaking point, or dead end for western ideas of continued advancement occurred in the world of concert hall music with John Cage’s chance operations, and it occurred in the jazz world with the arrival of ‘free jazz’. Both John Cage’s aleatoric music, and free jazz, turned western ideas of linear advancement on their head and instead showed the ongoing development of music to be more like a snake swallowing its tail, more circular than linear. In other words, how different was ‘free jazz’ from early man’s attempts to intuitively make music with a hollow log or reed. Surely there are differences, but there are also unmistakable similarities.

After this sort of philosophical breaking point, the term ‘avant-garde’ found a final resting place in the world of jazz as being jazz that is usually atonal, often a-rhythmic and quite often free of any structure. Over the years, many avnt-garde jazz artists began to mix compositional structure with free style playing, but there still continues to be devotees to a 60s style totally free approach.

As we move further into the 20th century, what is termed “avant-garde jazz’ may not necessarily be on the front-lines of change, instead, Avant-garde Jazz as defined by JMA, and as defined by most jazz resources stands as one more genre with its own fixed history, definitions and boundaries. Today’s artist can chose elements from the ‘avant-garde’ as well as any of the other historical jazz genres. In today’s jazz world, the elements introduced by the avant-garde are alive and well, and more common than ever, but many artists today will mix those avant-garde elements with all the other stylistic elements musicians can choose from. Today's top jazz composers and performers often challenge themselves to make music that blurs boundaries such as free and structured, or atonal and tonal.

From a musician’s point of view, the advent of free jazz opened some doors, and closed some others. The initial impact of the freedom was exhilarating as artists like Lennie Tristano, Cecil Taylor, Sun Ra, John Gilmore, Marshall Allen, Pat Patrick, John Coltrane, Ornette Coleman, Archie Shepp and Albert Alyer unleashed some of the greatest jazz ever recorded, but in time, a lack of harmonic changes (chord changes) to work with made many musicians feel like they were playing the same solo over and over. After the initial explosion of the mid 60s, many musicians were happy to go back to the eternal challenge of trying to reconstruct music from a set of complex and harmonically rich chord changes. Still, there continues to be artists such as Joe Morris, Ivo Perelman, Evan Parker and Peter Brotzmann, who continue to make meaningful modern free jazz.

Big Band

The Big Band genre at JMA is for large ensembles (generally ten or more musicians) who play in what best can be called a "big band style". The big band style involves breaking the large ensemble into separate sections, usually grouped by instrument, that then engage in call and response type figures with each other. These motifs can be arranged or improvised. The big band arranging style can also use repeating interlocking riffs by the various sections that provide a rhythmic groove for soloists. Early innovators in big band music include Fletcher Henderson, Duke Ellington, Count Basie and Benny Goodman. Modern big band leaders include Quincy Jones and Maynard Ferguson.

The Big Band genre at JMA also includes jazz influenced pop orchetra leaders such as Paul Whiteman, Glen Miller and the Dorsey Brothers. Modern big bands that are influenced by avant-garde music, 3rd stream music or other types of modern elements can be found in the Progressive Big Band genre.


The blues have had a strong influence on jazz since the very beginning. This is no big surprise since jazz and blues both come from the same African roots. The JR Blues genre at JMA is not meant to be an exhaustive list of every blues artist in the world, we'll leave that formidable task for sites dedicated to the blues.

The JR Blues genre at JMA is for:

1) Artists who play music that is a mix of jazz and blues, such as Jimmy Smith and Robben Ford.

2) Blues artists who were major innovators and trend setters, such as Bessie Smith, Robert Johnson, BB King and Muddy Waters.

3) Artists who are particularly creative within the blues genre such as Taj Mahal, Otis Taylor and Peter Green.

Boogie Woogie Piano

Boogie-Woogie is a piano style that involves repeating left hand bass patterns made up of hard driving eighth notes grouped in one bar phrases. The patterns often start with an octave leap off of the root note and the songs are usually similar to twelve bar blues in form. Boogie-Woogie first appeared in the 1920s via the innovations of Pine Top Perkins. The genre had several revivals in the 30s and 40s in the hands of Meade Lux Lewis, Albert Ammons and others.

The left hand patterns of Boogie-Woogie went on to become the roots of Jump Blues, RnB and early Rock-n-Roll.


Bop, or be-bop in its full name, was a young jazz man's answer to the more conservative prevailingly swing music of the time. Developed in New York City during the early 40s, bop hit the international scene in 1945 and took everyone by surprise with its energetic and radical approach to swing jazz music. In the hands of innovators such as Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker and Bud Powell, the old swing music was given much faster tempos and more spare accompaniments from the rhythm section which opened up space for rapid fire pyrotechnical solos. Still a favorite genre in jazz music schools around the world, many clubs still feature be-bop to this day, but today's bop sounds tamer and calmer than the original item.

Bossa Nova

Although it had been developing throughout the 50s, Bossa Nova became popular in the early 60s as a more mellow alternative to the aggressive urban sounds of hard bop and the avant-garde. Bossa Nova was a Brazilian concoction that combined simplified and slowed down samba rhythms, relaxed cool jazz sensibilities and modern European impressionistic harmonies into a music that was pleasing, but hardly simplistic. The pulsing relaxed rhythm, marked with hypnotic accents, that defines Bossa Nova can be heard in the songs and guitar rhythms of Joao Gilberto and Antonio Carlos Jobim.

Classic (1920s) Jazz

Classic Jazz refers more to a transitional era (1920s), rather than any specific style. During the 1920s jazz slowly shifted from the exuberant New Orleans and Dixieland styles toward a more sophisticated and urbane swing style. Many artists who participated in this transition had careers that overlapped into Dixieland in the early 20s, and into swing in the middle 30s. Not only was the music shifting during this time, but the performing ensembles were growing bigger as more dance orchestras began to use jazz elements creating a big band jazz/pop hybrid that would lead to the classic big bands of the swing era.

The leaders of classic 1920s jazz are orchestra leader Fletcher Henderson and his star soloist, Louis Armstrong. The Henderson orchestra did away with the constant polyphonic soloing of New Orleans jazz and replaced it with cool relaxed riffing which provided a background for Armstrong's expressive melodies and exciting solos. Classic jazz is still played by jazz lovers all over the world, although not always with the right feel.

Cool Jazz

Cool jazz arose slowly in the late 40s when many jazz musicians realised there was no point in following in the fast paced be-bop footsteps of Diz and Bird and began to try a more relaxed and quieter approach to playing. Early examples of cool jazz came from Miles Davis' Nonet and Lenny Tristano's group, while later practitioners like Gerry Mulligan and Chet Baker showed up on the west coast where cool jazz was often referred to as west coast jazz.

Many cool jazz saxophonists looked to the pre-bop languid sax style of Lester Young for inspiration. Also, 3rd Stream influenced arrangements that featured Baroque style counterpoint became popular during the cool era. One lasting innovation of the cool genre is the idea of concert hall influenced 'chamber jazz' as pioneered by The Modern Jazz Quartet. For some critics, west coast jazz seemed like a souless sell-out compared to the more challenging and urban flavored be-bop of New York City. In 1952 Miles Davis was one of the first 'cool' band leaders to lead the way to a more aggressive next phase in jazz, hard bop.

Cool jazz began to fade before the arrival of fusion and never made a comeback afterwards. Today Cool Jazz is a retro style that defines a certain time and place in jazz history, but is still played by some.


Dixieland started as a continuation of the original New Orleans jazz tradition (see New Orleans Jazz genre), but in a different locale and under different circumstances. During the early 1920s, many New Orleans musicians drifted up to Chicago seeking work where they continued their musical traditions, but no longer as marching bands. The more stationary aspect of these bands led to the addition of the piano to the band, while the stand up bass replaced the tuba.

The music also began to evolve as the musicians began to play with a faster more aggressive feel, and the rhythm section began to accent the 2 and 4 of the beat which led to the driving accented rhythms of RnB and rock-n-roll. Dixieland has had many revivals over the years, sometimes authentic and sometimes corny and amateur. To this day you can still find bands all over the world that play this traditional form of jazz.


Dub, Ska and Reggae are related forms of Jamaican music that have always had a close association with jazz and fusion. Ska arose in the early 60s and involved the intersection of American RnB and Caribbean rhythms. Many professional ska musicians were out of work Jamaican jazz musicians who brought their jazz background and sensibilities to ska recordings. The highly influential Skatalites are a good example of an early jazzy ska band.

Reggae grew out of ska and featured slowed down relaxed rhythms, rasta lyrics and African rhythms. The rhythms of reggae have a had a major influence on jazz, as well as the entire world of music.

Dub is reggae music stripped down and re-mixed into mostly instrumental tracks in which individual instrumental parts are constantly shifting in and out of the mix. Dub style mixing has had a huge influence on modern groove based music and can show up in almost any genre. Modern jazz and fusion musicians have often gravitated towards dub as a style to work with and solo over. Some well known dub fusion musicians include Bill Laswell, Jah Wobble, Graham Haynes and Nils Petter Molvaer. Originators of the dub approach include King Tubby, Sly and Robby, Prince Jammy and Scientist. In the jazz and fusion world, dub has been a major influence on nu jazz and acid jazz.

Early Jazz

Eclectic Fusion

Fusion was a term coined in the early 70s to designate a style of music that involved a combination of jazz, rock, funk and Latin styles. In the 80s a new style of fusion emerged that sometimes utilized those elements, but also turned to current musical developments such as punk, thrash metal, rap/hip-hop, neo-surf and diverse ethnic music such as klezmer, polka, Bulgarian wedding music and more. At JMA we call this 80s based fusion music, Eclectic Fusion. The Eclectic Fusion artist tends to be a bit more urban and hard edged than the 70s fusion artist, and is liable to call on a much more diverse array of influences. These artists can also be more prone towards an avant-garde and/or deconstructionist approach to their creations.

Some precedents to the Eclectic Fusion genre can be found in Miles Davis' "Black Magus" and Ornette Coleman's "Dancing in Your Head". Possibly the first full realization of Eclectic Fusion can be found in John Zorn's Naked City band. Other popular practitioners of Eclectic Fusion include Sax Ruins, Electric Masada, Panzerballet, Raoul Bjorkenheim's Krakatau, Led Bib, The Thing and Kazutoki Umezu.


Exotica can range from silly campy novelty records for 'swingin bachelor pads' to more serious experimental blends of jazz, Latin rhythms, studio technology and modern orchestration. The JMA exotica genre excludes the former but welcomes the latter. Good examples of the more artistic practitioners of the Exotica genre include Martin Denny and Les Baxter. Both Denny and Baxter were accomplished jazz musicians who also drew on a wealth of other musical influences including French impressionistic composers, Afro-Cuban jazz and Polynesian percussion to create highly original and creative musical landscapes.

Other jazz influenced artists that might be found in the Exotica genre include: artists who record creative versions of well known pop songs, artists who juxtapose in-congruent styles in an ironic fashion, artists who have an anachronistic presentation and musical style, and artists who create unique recordings that do not fit easily into any standard genre. A final common element of many exotica artists is a sense of ironic kitsch, this element is easily recognized by fans of the genre, but may be too subtle for outsiders to recognize.

Although the age of tiki lounges has long passed, artists who can be labeled as exotica still exist. Many of today's exotica practitioners create colorful and often psychedelic instrumental tracks similar in length to a pop song. The use of analog synthesizers, vintage keyboards and effects are often common as well. Many of today's exotica artists came up through the trip-hop scene. Recent exotica artists include ROOT and Julian Julien.


The worlds of jazz and funk have been intertwined since the early days when James Brown brought us the One. Both genres have been such an influence on each other over the years that it is often hard to tell where one starts and the other ends.

The funk genre at JMA is not an exhaustive list of all the funk bands in the world, but is instead a list of the best, most pure funk bands that are of the most interest to jazz fans. Our definition of pure funk can be found in the music of James Brown, Bootsy Collins and Parliament.

Funk is a genre that is often misunderstoood, poorly imitated and pimped for all the wrong reasons. You will find none of that at JMA. Its hard to describe what is pure funk, but often it involves interweaving snippets of syncopated melody that intertwine in circles within loops and land on the one every other bar. Funk artists such as Bootsy and Parliament, with their constant improvised polyphony, are closer to the concept of early jazz than most jazz artists since the 1930s.

Funk Jazz

Funk jazz is a sub-genre of jazz fusion and is basically the blending of funk rhythms with jazz improvisation. Some classic funk jazz artists include The JBs, The Meters, The Brecker Brothers and Soulive. At JMA, additional funk jazz music can be found in the Fusion, Funk, Soul Jazz and Acid Jazz genres.


Rock and RnB came from jazz in the 1940s via the jump blues genre. Needless to say, over the years jazz, rock and RnB have enjoyed a close relationship and have cross-influenced each other from the beginning. In the mid to late 60s, rock and RnB under went major changes with rock becoming much louder and more experimental under the influence of artists such as Jimi Hendrix and Cream, while RnB became more syncopated and abstract with the new funk sound created by James Brown, Bootsy Collins, Sly Stone and Larry Graham. Meanwhile, Latin jazz was undergoing similar experimental changes under the guidance of artists such as Hermato Pascoal and Flora Purim.

At this point in the mid to late 60s, any intersection between jazz, rock, funk and Latin became a radically different form of music that eventually came to be called fusion. Pioneers in the world of fusion include Larry Coryell, Jermy Steig, Gary Burton, Don Ellis, Chico Hamilton, Charles Lloyd, Jack DeJohnette, John McLaughlin, Tony Williams, Soft Machine, Brian Auger, Miles Davis, Joe Zawinul, Wayne Shorter, Chick Corea and Dreams (Billy Cobham and the Brecker Brothers)

Hard Bop

Cool jazz's reign as the prevalent jazz style after bop's demise was short lived as many jazz players, especially on the east coast, wanted to return to a style of jazz that had a little more grit and aggression. Hard bop was a return to some of the ascetics of bop, but also offered some new differences. Hard bop brought back the faster tempos of the bop era, but in hard bop the harmonic changes did not come in such rapid fire succession and musicians found themselves stretching out on longer modal style solos. The new emphasis on albums rather than singles also led to longer songs. Hard bop players also began to bring more influences from the church, blues and RnB into jazz which foreshadowed the coming of soul jazz. Despite an influx of avant-garde jazz in the 60s, hard bop remained the prevalent jazz style until the emergence of fusion in the late 60s. Hard bop has enjoyed many revivals over the years and remains one of the most enduring and popular styles in jazz. Miles Davis is considered an early innovator in the field of hard bop, but Art Blakey and the many musicians who played in his Jazz Messengers are considered to be the epitome of the style.

Jazz Education

In the late 60s, Jamey Aebersold started introducing albums that featured top notch musicians playing the rhythm sections to well known bebop, swing, hard bop and post bop tunes for aspiring musicians to practice soloing over. It was a brilliant idea, and soon other musicians began to contribute their own play along educational records.

Although the idea of the play along record started with jazz, these days you can find such records, CDs, video tapes and DVDs in almost any genre imaginable.

Jazz Related

Jazz Related Electronica/Hip-Hop

The Jazz Related DJs and Electronica genres at JMA are for artists who create jazz related music with turntables, samplers, sequencers and the occasional live musician.

JMA is only interested in fully developed sophisticated jazz influenced music. We do not list generic trip-hop, internet radio 'chill' tracks or other types of music built with obvious repeating looped samples.

It could be argued that improvised poetry to a syncopated beat is just another form of jazz. For this reason, JMA maintains a select cadre of rap artists chosen for their influence on the development of the genre, or for their close relationship to the greater world of jazz.

Jazz Related Gospel

The call and response motifs in gospel music are a direct descendant of African music and plantation field hollers, which makes gospel music a reservoir for African music traditions. Gospel and jazz have been linked together from the very beginning, and the recent rise in popularity of radio stations that play 'gospel jazz', particularly in the US south, is a testament to the ongoing connection between these two musical forms and how they bring new life to each other.

The Gospel Jazz genre at JMA is for artists that mix jazz and gospel together. We also include some historically important gospel artists such as Mahalia Jackson and Sister Rosetta Tharpe.

Jazz Related Improv/Composition

The art of improvisation in music did not begin with jazz, but the appearance of jazz in the early 20th century has certainly heightened the popularity of improvisation in all styles of contemporary music.

The artists featured in JMA's Jazz Related Improvisation genre play improvised music that has strong similarities to jazz, especially avant-garde jazz. The boundary between the Jazz Related Improvisation genre and the Avant-Garde Jazz and Fusion genres may not always be clear, but generally the JMA Avant-Garde jazz artist comes from a jazz background, while the Jazz Related Improviser may come from a more eclectic background. Also, the artists listed in this genre may include groups that mix jazz artists with other experimental artists.

Jazz Related Rock

Like its close cousin RnB, rock grew out of the 1940s jazz genre known as jump blues. Needless to say, rock and jazz have had a close relationship from the very beginning. The jazz related rock section at JMA pays tribute to those rock artists who display a certain amount of competent jazz influence in their music. This influence can be displayed via virtuoso extended jam sessions, jazz influenced harmonic language, big band style horn charts or a combination of all this and more.

Jazz artists who utilize rock in their music can be found in the Fusion, Eclectic Fusion, Nu Jazz and Post-Fusion Contemporary genres.

Jazz Related Soundtracks

The jazz soundtrack genre at JMA is for artists who compose soundtracks with a strong jazz element. These artists may also work in other genres, but its their jazz soundtrack work that is of most interest to the jazz fan. Some good examples of jazz soundtrack composers are Quincey Jones, Henry Mancini and Isaac Hayes.

Jump Blues

Jump blues is a loud rowdy simplified blues influenced form of jazz that became popular in the 40s after the hard times of the 30s drove many big bands out of business. Patrons of noisy dance halls and clubs needed small groups that could match the volume of the departed big dance bands to fuel their entertainment. To keep the attention of their patrons in the crowded rooms, the singers would shout and the saxophonists would honk and growl giving the performers names like 'shouters and honkers'. Jump Blues' hard rhythmic drive and snare beat emphasis on the 2 and 4 has given the genre credit for being the forebear of rock-n-roll and RnB. Some jump blues innovators include Joe Turner and Louis Jordon.

Latin Jazz

The Latin Jazz genre at JMA is a catch all genre for jazz bands that use Latin rhythms, but do not fit our Bossa Nova or Afro Cuban genres. Many of the bands listed here mix rhythms from Brazil, Cuba, Central America and Africa in ways that are not always easy to categorize or define.

Latin Rock/Soul

Latin Rock and Soul combines the instrumentation, emphasized back-beat and volume of rock and RnB with the complicated rhythms of Afro-Cuban jazz and other Latin styles. The early music of Santana is an excellent example of an Afro-Cuban/rock mixture. Carlos Santana's loud distorted guitar would cover the high melodic brass parts, Greg Rollie's B3 would cover the rhythm and mid-range parts, and the two extra percussionists would cover the clave and other rhythm parts giving the seven piece band the sound of a full Afro-Cuban jazz band.

Modern Jazz

Nu Jazz

Nu jazz grew out of the combined influences of Jon Hassel’s Kiranic trumpet playing and ‘fourth world’ rhythms, Miles Davis’ soft tone and use of ambience on “In a Silent Way”, and the early 90s intersection of jazz and electronica, particularly trip-hop, dub and down-tempo. Some early Nu Jazz artists include Nils Petter Molvaer and Bugge Wesseltoft. Over time, other influences were introduced to the Nu Jazz sound.

For a time, the jangling ambient guitar sound of post-rock was a big influence on Nu Jazz, but that has mostly faded now. Meanwhile, bands like Jagga Jazzist and Snarky Puppy have re-discovered the lush orchestrations of sophisticated easy listening and exotica arrangers such as Henry Mancini and Les Baxter. Yet another influence, one that has emerged from the sound of the popular Portico Quartet and others, is the use of repeating minimalist phrases. This use of short repeating melodic phrases not only comes from minimalist composers such as Steve Reich and Phillip Glass, but also from Zeuhl artists and a long history of European art rock. An influence from ambient music is also part of the Nu Jazz genre, this can be found in the early music of Nils Petter Molvaer, as well as others. Nick Bartsch is a popular Nu Jazz artist who often combines the repeating figures of minimalism with a dub reggae style ambiance.

All of the above mentioned influences may appear on a Nu Jazz album, but not necessarily all. As Nu Jazz continues to develop, the most constant factors tend be a relaxed 'cool' approach, an influence from modern electronica and an appreciation for ironic kitsch and retro sounds. Some early precedents for Nu Jazz can found in the Terry Riley influenced ambient sections on Soft Machine's IIIrd album, Brian Eno's use of Brand X's funk/fusion backing tracks in building his late 70s ambient art rock albums, and Miles Davis' lengthy "He Loved Him Madly" from his "Get Up With It" album.

Although there are musical differences between Nu Jazz and Contemporary Jazz, from a pop-culture standpoint, the more obvious difference between the two is Nu Jazz’s self-aware ’hipster’ stance, compared to Contemporary Jazz’s more emotionally earnest approach.

Original New Orleans Jazz

The genre New Orleans Jazz refers to jazz in its earliest forms. In the late 19th century New Orleans brass bands would perform in marches, parades and funerals playing anything from military tunes to rags in a polyphonic style similar to African-American vocal music. Since many of these marches were very lengthy, the tunes would have to be repeated many times leading the performers to improvise on the melodies to relieve their boredom.

Typical New Orleans bands in this era had a front line of coronet, clarinet and trombone, while the rhythm section was composed of banjo, tuba and a percussionist. The coronet would play the melody while the clarinet would improvise counter melodies and the trombone supplied pedal points that pointed out harmonic changes while the tuba covered the bass. Improvisation would take place in a similar counter-point style with no one member being a featured soloist. The rhythm sections in early New Orleans bands would place the accent on every beat. Later the Chicago Dixieland musicians would place the accent on 2 and 4, which eventually led to the creation of RnB and rock-n-roll. Unfortunately there are no recordings of early jazz bands because the first recording of a jazz band didn't take place until 1917.

Pop/Art Song/Folk

The Jazz Related Pop/Art Song/Folk genre is for artists who perform pop jazz music, for instance; George Benson, Bob James, David Sanborn and Wes Montgomery. This genre also includes jazz influenced art song performers such as Tuomi and Robert Wyatt, as well as jazz influenced folk performers such as Paul Simon and Joni Mitchell.

Post Bop

Part I

Post Bop is a modern jazz style that continues the distinguishing characteristics that separate jazz from the world of pop and rock; swing rhythm and extended harmonies (9th chords 11ths, altered chords, etc). Post Bop grew out of the Hard Bop genre during the early to mid 60s as musicians such as Bill Evans, Wayne Shorter, and Herbie Hancock began to introduce more extended harmonies, abstract structures and looser rhythms in their playing and compositions. When Hancock and Shorter joined Miles Davis’ quintet in the mid-60s, that group became the perfect vehicle for extending the boundaries of what could happen in a Post Bop format. The Miles Davis Quintet albums, "Nefertiti" and "Sorcer", continue to be pinnacles of Post Bop composition and performance. Some styles of free modal jazz, such as Coltrane's "A Love Supreme", are also part of the Post Bop sound. Sometimes referred to as 'spiritual jazz', this style has made a comeback with young musicians, especially in London and Los Angeles.

While still in its infancy, Post Bop was pushed off the radar during the 70s as many of its early proponents pursued the far more lucrative fields of fusion and smooth jazz. As the fusion fad began to fade, musicians began to tire of three chord vamps and the limitations of rock/pop rhythms and yearned to work with sophisticated chord changes and jazz rhythms again. The stage was set in the early 80s for the “young lion” movement and a return to both Post Bop and Hard Bop for a lot of young musicians and their fan base.

Today’s Post Bop covers a wide variety, from radio friendly to borderline avant-garde, and it’s a genre that is still ripe for more exploration. Generally speaking, the difference between Post Bop and Hard Bop is that Hard Bop carries a stronger trace of the blues and a more straight forward driving rhythm, but when you are trying to analyze certain artists or pieces of music, that difference is not always clear. Much of Branford Marsalis's music is a good example of jazz that sits right between post and hard bop. With some music, arguing whether it is Post Bop or Hard Bop becomes pointless, since depending on perspective, either genre can be seen as a subset of the other. Although we use the genre term Post Bop to tag the music described above, in a more generic sense, post bop can be the name of any swing based jazz music created after the passing of the be-bop era.

Part 2 - Post Bop in the New Century

As jazz continues to grow and develop, the worlds of modern fusion and post bop have grown closer together as many musicians; such as Dave Douglas, Craig Taborn, Greg Osby and others, freely mix elements into new hybrids.

At JMA, the distinction between Fusion and Post Bop continues to be that distinctive African syncopation known as "swing". Generally Post Bop should swing, while Fusion, quite often does not. What has changed, as we move further into the 21st century, is the way in which modern drummers are 'swinging'. Inventive drummers such as Jeff "Tain" Watts, Rudy Roystan and others are no longer putting the swing beat solely on the ride cymbal. Instead, they are liable to use any, or all pieces of the drum set at once, while they swing the beat. Also, the swing feel itself is often a bit disguised in modern jazz, it may not be so obvious, and the drummer may move in and out of swing feel, sometimes even within one phrase.

Post-Fusion Contemporary

Post-Fusion Contemporary is a broad umbrella genre that contains several recent trends in jazz. One important branch of Contemporary Jazz (which first appeared in the mid 1970s) is rooted in Northern Europe and is often associated with the ECM label. This is a somber style of jazz often played in straight (non-swing) rhythm with elements of regional folk music and early 20th century classical music. This style is sometimes referred to as ‘chamber jazz’. Some early practitioners include Keith Jarret and Jan Garbarek. Although originally rooted in Europe, today this style is played and enjoyed around the world.

Another branch of the Contemporary sound started in the late 70s when artists such as Jeff Lorber and Pat Methany began to play in a style that mixed fusion with elements of smooth jazz and post bop. This was a somewhat light and radio friendly style of jazz, and a very dominant force until acoustic post/hard bop made a comeback.

Although most early forms of Contemporary Jazz were of a light and borderline easy listening nature, today’s Contemporary artists are often playing in a more energetic and rhythmic style influenced by indie rock, hip-hop, RnB, drumnbass, world beat and fusion. Leading the way in the new sound is the modern jazz piano trio. Heavily influenced by the popular trio, e.s.t., most of these groups consist of a trap set, acoustic bass and a very powerful virtuoso piano player.

Today’s Contemporary genre often borders on Classic Fusion, but there are differences. The rock influence in fusion comes from extravagant jam band artists like Jimi Hendrix, while the Contemporary artist draws from moody and dronish indie rock bands like Radiohead and REM. Fusion tends to have a basis in Afro-Latin or funk rhythms, while Contemporary Jazz tends to have straighter rhythms taken from pop and art rock.

Generally speaking, the difference between Contemporary and Post Bop is that Post Bop usually swings, while Contemporary often does not, although the new Contemporary piano trios continue to blur lines by occasionally playing in a post bop swing style too. Harmonically speaking, Post Bop usually uses the extended harmonies of jazz (9th chords, 11ths etc), while Contemporary may mix jazz harmonies with the simpler triadic harmonies of pop or classical.

Progressive Big Band

There are two big band genres at JMA; Big Band and Progressive Big Band. Although the term "progressive" might imply that the latter genre is more demanding and complex than the former, this is not always the case. Instead, Progressive Big Band is a term developed in the 1950s to refer to big band music that was not meant for dancing and entertainment, but instead was meant for listening to in a manner more similar to concert hall music. Other than that, the term "progressive" does not imply any sort of definable musical superiority.

Music found in the Progressive Big Band genre at JMA may have ambitions similar to lengthy concert hall pieces, and may also feature elements of the avant-garde and other modern tendencies. The Progressive Big Band genre begins with some extended works by Duke Ellington in the 1940s. Other early pioneers in this genre include; Stan Kenton, Sun Ra, David Amram, Gil Evans, Toshiko Akyoshi, Carla Bley, Don Ellis and others.


Technically Ragtime isn't really jazz because it does not involve improvisation, but ragtime ran a parallel career to the early New Orleans jazz and featured similar melodies and rhythms. A simple way to look at ragtime is to consider it as a form of composed jazz, or possibly America's first classical music. Likewise, in a style similar to classical music, ragtime's rhythmic syncopations don't swing quite to the degree that they do in New Orleans jazz performance. Although ragtime first appeared in 1892, Scott Joplin would begin to dominate and define the genre in 1895.

The Smithsonian Collection of Classic Jazz opens with back to back renditions of Maple Leaf Rag by ragtime pianist Scott Joplin and early jazz pianist Jelly Roll Morton. In these two performances of this same piece you can clearly hear the difference between ragtime and jazz as Morton's version swings with free abandon, while Joplin's stricter version is more similar to the European late romantic period style of Chopin.


The line between jazz and RnB is often blurry. Both styles of music come from the same sources and both influence each other as they constantly cross paths. The Jazz Related RnB genre at JMA pays tribute to RnB bands that are not jazz bands in name only. For example, the early to mid-70s version of Earth Wind and Fire caught the attention of many jazz and fusion fans with their virtuoso horn charts, poly-rhythmic foundation and extended harmonies over modern jazz chord changes. Many of the RnB artists listed in this genre had a strong impact on the development of jazz.

Soul Jazz

Soul jazz is a subset of the hard bop genre and carries the hard bop tendency towards RnB and blues just a bit further. It was the original intention of JMA to list the soul jazz artists in hard bop, but the line was drawn at the bluesy B3 organ players such as Groove Holmes and Jack McDuff. Put simply, soul jazz is instrumental RnB or blues with a swing or funk beat topped with virtuoso jazz solos. You can also find soul jazz artists on JMA in the hard bop, funk jazz, and acid jazz genres.

Stride Piano

Stride is a piano style that involves left hand patterns that hit a bass note on beats 1 and 3, followed by a chord, that goes with the preceding bass note, on beats 2 and 4. Stride is based on the typical Ragtime pianist's attempt to make the piano into a one man band, but Stride has more swing and improvisation than Ragtime.

Stride developed in the 1920s, some major innovators included James P Johnson and Willy 'The Lion' Smith. Stride was a major influence on jazz piano for many years, and still has some influence in modern times.


The Swing genre represents a golden age for jazz that showed its first signs in the mid-20s, but really peaked from the mid-30s to the mid-40s. Going well into the 20s, most jazz bands still played in New Orleans or Dixieland styles in which the musicians all improvised simultaneously while staying within the boundaries of the original tune's melody and harmony.

When cornetist Louis Armstrong joined Fletcher Henderson's Orchestra in 1924, the band's arranger, Don Redman, knew he had a rare talent on his hands and began to spotlight Armstrong's melodic skills. No longer would the entire band improvise, instead Armstrong would be given the freedom to take solos to new heights while the rest of the band supplied supporting riffs. This new approach to band arranging spread and reached the public at a time when people were looking for large orchestral bands that could provide an evening's worth of dance music. Thus the golden age for big band jazz was born.

From 1935 to about 1946 jazz dance bands led by the likes of Benny Goodman and Duke Ellington were the number one form of entertainment in the US. The swing era finally came to an end when new taxation laws on nightclubs made dance floors unprofitable and jazz became an entertainment for listening, not dancing.

On JMA, The Classic (1920s) Jazz genre is considered the genre that happens between the end of Dixieland and the beginning of Swing. Many of the originators of swing, such as Louis Armstrong, can be found in the Classic Jazz genre.

Third Stream

Third stream is a term coined by composer Gunther Schuller to desribe music that attempts to mix jazz with classical concert hall music. Jazz caught the ear of many composers in the early 20th century and soon Ravel, Debussy, Stravinsky and others began to put elements of American ragtime into their music. French composer Darius Milhaud furthered these experiments that culminated in George Gershwin's 'Blue Monday' and 'Rhapsody in Blue', two pieces which represented some of the first truly successful fusions of jazz and concert hall music.

From the jazz side of things, early attempts at classical influence came from Duke Ellington, Artie Shaw, Woody Herman, Bix Beiderbecke, James P. Johnson and others. Gunther Schuller and John Lewis' 'Third Stream Music', which combined a string quartet with a cool jazz combo, was one of the first entirely successful concert hall pieces by a jazz composer.

In today's music world, Third Stream often refers to compositions that have some element of jazz. At JMA, the Third Stream genre is also where you will find jazz or jazz related music that relies on composition more than improvisation.

Vocal Jazz

Probably the easiest genre to define of all as the title says it best. Obviously here is where you will find vocalists who sing in a distictive jazz style, or styles I should say because although there is a similarity of delivery in the jazz nuances of these listed singers, the performing era and genre style of singers you will find here ranges from Billy Holliday to Doris Day and on to Norah Jones.

World Fusion

Some music resources use the word 'World' to basically mean the non-Western world. At JMA we reject such antiquated colonial attitudes. When we use the term 'World', we are referring to the entire world; east, west, north and south. Since we already have two genres for African and Caribbean music, and three for Latin Jazz, our World Fusion genre covers everyone else and is made up of music that comes from the intermingling of jazz with traditional music from Asia, Europe, The Middle East, North America and Australia. Our World Fusion genre also includes music that combines many different cultures from any part of the globe.


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