All about the history of jazz

Jazz has many styles – from the early days of Ragtime, around 1900, it evolved through many periods to the present day. Here at The Jazz Agency you can hire anything from traditional to contemporary jazz for your event.

A lot of weddings, parties and corporate events are based on a theme, generally harking back to a certain era. Here is a handy, chronological, list of styles so you can choose the one that fits your era…

1900 – 1920s

If you’re having a Great Gatsby-themed event, with Prohibition era flapper-girl frolics, then you’ll need either a gypsy jazz band, with guitars, bass, clarinet and vocals, or a traditional jazz band. Either of these will fit the era perfectly.

1930 – 1940s

In the Art Nouveau and Art Deco eras, big-band jazz and smaller swing jazz bands were all the rage. The musicians began to feature as much, or even more so, than the singer, and tunes from Broadway became the material they would use. This was when jazz was at it’s zenith, being the number one popular music of the age. Check out our number-one swing band, Rockin’ in Rhythm, here.

1950 – 1960s

Maybe you’re having a Mad Men-styled event, or you just dig the ‘60s, man. Well at this time, big-bands had slimmed down to quartets and quintets, and the language of be-bop had emerged. The jazz groups of this era were still using the Broadway tunes (or slightly altered versions to avoid copyright fees), but were allowing themselves much more freedom to explore, taking longer solos, and being more creative with the music. Perhaps not everybody’s cup of tea, but if it’s your thing, then hey, groovy baby. Chris Coull’s band is perfect for this setting. This year they played a Mad Men party at King & Wood Mallesons. Take a look at the band here.

1960s

In this decade a fusion of Brazilian music and jazz was born – bossa nova (new beat). It caught on in a big way, and the whole latin jazz movement was born. It thrives today, and the crossovers are too many to count – jazz samba, Cuban jazz, bossa nova, flamenco jazz and more. Jazz bands had a new place to pick melodies and rhythms from, and incorporated as much as possible, like musical magpies.

1970 to present

Nobody in recorded history has asked for a 70s-style jazz band to play at their corporate party. What we will say is this – contrary to popular belief – contemporary jazz isn’t all honks and squeals and impenetrable rhythms!

There was a school of jazz that emerged in the 60s that embraced the chaos, but it was sidelined fairly quickly. It does live on in some corners, but it’s a rare thing. Contemporary jazz bands are still embracing melodic music, just like they did back in the 30s.

The difference is they will have a more modern sound, and a repertoire that may contain some modern tunes amongst the old classics. It is a burgeoning scene, and tastefully done, as you will find if you explore the jazz clubs around the world.