Breaking down the history of jazz

A highlight on Black history and the Ferris jazz band concert

Music lovers from all around agree that jazz music stands out from other kinds of classical music. However, without Black composers, jazz would have never existed. 

According to the Hancock Historical Museum, j­azz is believed to have first appeared in the late 1890s in New Orleans, Louisiana. Jazz music is a combination between classical music styles in America and Europe, as well as old slave folk songs mixed with West African culture. Since then, jazz music has come a long way.

The jazz band’s concert features two songs by Black jazz trumpeter and jazz music composer Thaddeus Jones: “Big Dipper” and “Us.” Jones was born in Pontiac, Michigan in 1923 and dedicated his life to jazz music.

“Thad Jones is a legend and icon in the jazz world, particularly in the Big Band jazz world,” Ferris Jazz Band Director Matt Moresi said. “His musical writing has been a gold standard for some time, and I try to program it whenever I have a band capable of playing his professional-level music.”

Moresi feels a personal connection with this music, making its inclusion even more meaningful in their performances.

“My father had records of the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Big Band that I listened to growing up, and I’ve always enjoyed his music,” Moresi said. “In college, the bands I played in performed his music, and in my jazz arranging classes, his music was analyzed and taught to us. Many of my arrangements for jazz bands are inspired by his music. He is a personal musical hero, and I’ve learned a lot through studying
his music.”

The love for this style of music doesn’t stop with the director. Jazz band performer and digital animation and game design freshman Brandon Lee has been in band since sixth grade. During this time, he has built a great appreciation for music.

“Jazz music specifically is quoted as ‘musical soul,’” Lee said. “It is very freeform and cognitively powerful. Jazz is very free-flowing to play.”

Because of jazz music’s unique style, it quickly gained popularity and has been studied by other composers. It broke the “rules” of music writing at the time. According to the Tri-State Jazz Society, when jazz started to gain more and more popularity, it was known as the “gumbo” of music.

This is said because of all the different “ingredients” that go into the production of jazz music. Jazz music incorporates elements from working songs from the American South, African American church music, classical music in the New Orleans area, piano rags from the Midwest, blues from the Mississippi area and historical American marches.

The meaning of jazz holds a lot of Black history, especially African American history. Thanks to the hard work and creativity of the founders of the genre, everyone is able to enjoy jazz, rock and blues music, and feel free to be themselves, be proud of how far they’ve come and, most importantly, appreciate Black history.