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During. The evolution of jazz. A survey of American art form from Scott Joplin to Lenny Tristan over. The evolution of jazz as a tape recorded teacher presented under the auspices of Northeastern University by the Lowell Institute cooperative broadcasting Council. Now associate editor of Downbeat Magazine discusses the growth of jazz from its roots in Europe and Africa. And considers the musical as well as the sociological forces that shaped it. Mr Hentoff toward the end of the last hour I was pointing out the fact that in the development of Afro American music in this country it must always be remembered that there was a constant cross fertilizing of musical culture it's that the negro slaves were influenced by the white and the Southern mountain songs of English Scotch an Irish origin. And the French and Spanish and American Indian
and others of the many musical veins of the pre-war south and north for that matter that they heard about them all these musical cultures were influencing each other and were being influenced themselves by those stylistic elements of African musical speech that survived among the slaves in the new Afro-American folk idiom the negro was in the process of creating. I have emphasized these constant mutually interactive forces for healthy hybridization because of the oversimplified statements that have occasionally been made in connection with Afro American music. The Negro spiritual for example is not an exclusive product of African influences nor is it true that the spiritual is some of written is an exclusively white creation merely borrowed by the negro. It's just not possible to be that generalized that categorical the spiritual was based on white hymn tunes and in the process of adapting those
hymns to their musical needs. The negro fused certain Afro American music elements into the white hymn tunes and so the result in music is a hybrid. And as I tried to demonstrate last week an exceedingly vigorous and valuable one. Let's continue the section I had just begun last week and it has borne Min's the anthropologist looks at jazz and learn of some of the influences present in the musical context of the pre-Civil War South influences that interacted with the constantly evolving constantly changing Afro American music. Werman prefaces his investigation into the south with a brief description of what happened elsewhere in Central and South America when African slaves came into contact with the new cultural patterns in the Latin settlements and colonies of the New World from Lee and Caribbean islands to the Central and South American mainland. These influences can be observed here intermarriage took place in a much wider scale than for other
noisy Spanish folk songs already influenced by African music from the days of the Mauritian invasion emerged easily with those of the slaves rapidly a new series of Afro American dances grew out of this merger of southern culture. Before the first slave ships had reached the North American mainland the first of these dances had already grown into a definite pattern. By the time jazz began to develop in Louisiana some of the traditional Afro-American dances were celebrating their first centenary on the West Indian Islands. From a basic beat of the habanero named after Cuba's capital there I developed the tangled named after a West African drum named after a West African dance step. The Soam phone done thing that they are all rocky about and poor of Cuba from Trinidad to Granada and Santo Barbados Martinique Dominica Guadalupe sine qua Rico Santo Domingo Hayti Jamaica and the behaviors there would emerge such widely different
songs and dances as the beginning. The Congo and the calypso from the mainland and especially from that rich a storehouse of Afro-American culture between British Guiana and the region of Brazil. There would come a sound by the axes and the condom Blay the sundae and the coral. Here for example recorded in Martinique is an interesting example of musical interaction in name and form. Both the dance and the music of this French but the polite European model long since had been changed and revitalized by a heavy infusion of African culture. The instrumentation of the typical Martinique dance orchestra consists of a front line of wind instruments always dominated by the clarinet Plus a rhythm section. The rhythm section employs conventional drums guitar cello played Sokoto and a cylinder of tin filled with hard pebbles which is vigorously shaken by the percussionist. Those of you
who have heard New Orleans Jazz will note the similarities of style between the clarinetist on this record and such early New Orleans clarinetist as city but Shea and George Lewis in both styles fast biting swooping phrases I contrasted with the low register passages and tremolos for reasons will come to very shortly. Brass men are apt to be obscured by the traditional brilliance of the Martinique clarinet players and the trombonist as they did to some extent in New Orleans play the simple obbligato fill in style. So here is an example of Martinique music. I am.
I am. In the region of Vienna as well as in the autonomous regions of
Haiti where Africans regain their liberty after years of civil war. A greater store of unadulterated African isms than in Africa itself has been preserved intact and it is to these regions an anthropologist a musicologist have come to study forms of African culture long dead in their homelands. Yet unlike the English folk tunes with Cecil sharp so successfully salvaged from the Appalachians African folk tunes tend to evade the musicologist for precisely the same reason which enables them to survive by assimilation of native strains. The pattern of the survival which took place in these regions and which finally in the United States led to the evolution of jazz was invariably the same and consisted of a strategically brilliant war of flexible defense which permitted the negro singer and instrumentalist to accept and assimilate elements of the white man's music which bore any resemblance to any elements of traditional music. For example the Scotch snap.
One of the few examples of syncopation which Africans could glean from the white man's music. Not just read rhythmically but also in terms of the very themes to be found in Scotch music or Irish or English. Did this interaction take place.
Irish for example was influential because of the fact that the five tone scale of Irish folk songs closely resemble the West African pentatonic. And as we've seen in the section on the spirituals hymn tunes were transformed. Another example from the secular field would be a folk song like the gallows tree which I'm sure many of you are familiar with. A Ballad of many tongues that was known in England more than 500 years ago. This song traveled east into Russia South to the Mediterranean North through Scandinavia and through the United States by means of its English antecedents and in the original. The lyrics are something like this like you know a rope hangs a man no slack at it for a while. I think I see my father coming riding many a mile. Well Father have you brought any gold or have you paid my fee or have you come to see me
hanging on the gallows tree. I have not brought you gold I have not paid you a fee but I have come to see you hanging on the gallows tree. In the second third and fourth verses the words mother brother and cousin replace the word Father and the sign concludes although there can be many other verses like you a rope hangs a man like it for a while I think I see my true love coming riding many a mile. Oh true I have have you brought me gold or have you paid my fee. Where have you come to see me hanging on the gallows tree. Yes I have brought you gold Yes I have paid you a fee. Nor have I come to see you hanging on the gallows tree. Well here is what happened that English folk song when an Afro-American folk artist like Leadbelly read it and transformed it. Or rather remembered what he had heard of the transformations of it into the Gallows Pole. You know.
Thank you. You don't think it was right you. Think I'm going to I'm going to go right.
OK then you know what would be good to get him out of a window. The thing
in addition to these English folk influences there was also the Spanish music heard in the New World which in turn went back at least in part to the flamenco and Hyundai Honda music of Spain and of Lucia particularly which uses tambour effects in the African manner over a narrow compass of rhythmically repeated phrases. And. That Spanish influences were quite important in the early days of New Orleans jazz has been
attested to by the really New Orleans pianist Jelly Roll Morton said in his recordings for the Library of Congress that the Spanish tinge as he phrased it was quite essential to many early jazz compositions and to illustrate his point he played one of his own compositions the Spanish Swat. One of the most powerful of the later influences on Afro American music. Continuing with
Gordon's Bourne's analysis was the Jewish one. Here I was in the Morris music of Spain the earlier contacts with African music during the Egyptian and Byzantine exile years resulted in a swift Newser go rapprochement which brought fruit and such disputed strains as the negroes Go Down Moses and the Hebrews Cain and Abel which are so similar in harmonic and rhythmic structure that any musicologist would venture upon exceedingly thin ice if he were to say which of the two was the original theme in which the variation of minor thirds and diminished sevenths are as common to Hasidic music as to the blues. The whole bag of tricks from glissando import a mentee to shifted accents and Tambor of facts are of several elements of resemblance. And here again the influence was mutual and retroactive. This is it.
But it was not only the white man's music which left its impact on the Afro American idiom. One of the earliest native stimuli came from the American Indian which was not surprising in view of the close structural resemblance between African and Indian music. In some respects by the way I noticed in a recent article that a graduate student in the program in American Studies at the University of Minnesota in the course of research found in Thomas ASIO's travels in America and a dean six published three years later in London a description of a West Virginia band which consisted of two negroes playing banjos in a Chickasaw Indian playing the flute. Both the Afro-American and Indian music was strictly functional in purpose at least in their beginnings both use drums as basic instruments both used poly rhythmic patterns as basis of their musical form. Both use narrow intervals coupled with a tambour and the bridle effect in preference to
large intervals and what has been called pure tone. Both tended to attack a note by beginning it sharply and sliding immediately to the sustaining tone both had little or no feeling for a complex harmony. Yeah.
Still another possible influence came from an unexpected quarter. The Chinese railroad workers and laundry men and other Chinese laboring people whose Cantonese idioms and songs were based on the characteristic that we found in West African music that of the use of intonation of pitch to help determine the meaning of a word a word pronounced in various pitches will mean different things in Chinese as well as in the original African speech. Was was.
That any test not enough research on any of these interactions and I've only illustrated it. Has been done to allow for any definitive conclusions for example on the matter of the Jewish influence which came about quite late in the development of Afro American music. If it can be proved that it came about at all. There was a recent Ph.D. thesis in sociology at Columbia University which maintained that the majority of jazz musicians generally agreed to be of high caliber of Negroes. But the next largest group are Jewish and the third largest group are Italians. And I wonder whether the presence of a large number of musicians in jazz who are exposed at least as boys to the music of the synagogue and perhaps to some of the Jewish folk songs.
I wonder whether their adaptability to jazz is practically due to the similarities just noted between Jewish musical tradition and the Afro-American. The danger of course here is over emphasizing the similarities. The sociologist in his thesis was more interested of course in the fact that since jazz for so long had been a minority music and has been regarded by its practitioners and to some extent by several days as a particularly freeing psychological a form of expression it might be expected that it would attract more members of minority groups both as a way after a fashion of attaining recognition in a society that otherwise occasionally discriminated against them as members of a minority group and simultaneously as a form of protest against that society in connection with that I recommend an article by Howard Becker of the University of Chicago in the September 1951 edition of The American Journal of sociology It's called the professional musician and it's public and it goes into this question of the attitudes of the jazz
musician. Torrid to his societal environment about social logical theorizing is not the province of this course so let us continue with the historical evolution of jazz to sum up as one man does here. The racial element seems to be of amazingly small importance in the determination of musical archetypes there is no such thing as pure negro music in America nor is there any such thing as racial inheritance or racial proclivity in music festivals after a lifetime of research has come to the conclusion that the evidence thus far has not been such as to allow any successful correlation of race with culture. Howard in a similar manner has come to the conclusion that composers rarely happen they are generally produced by environment or in some cases by tradition and tradition is not a matter of racial inheritance but rather of the mechanism by which tradition is handed down from one generation to the next via the contact of a child with its elders.
The Evolution of Jazz
Episode Number
Influences Merging, Part One
Producing Organization
WGBH Educational Foundation
Contributing Organization
University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Episode Description
This program, the first of two parts, explores the continued merging of the various influences that lay at the foundation of jazz.
Series Description
Jazz historian Nat Hentoff presents a series that traces the history of jazz, from its musical and cultural roots to its contemporary forms. "The Evolution of Jazz" was originally broadcast from WGBH in 1953-1954, and was re-broadcast by the National Educational Radio Network in 1964.
Broadcast Date
Asset type
African Americans--Music--20th century--History and criticism.
Media type
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Host: Hentoff, Nat
Producer: Hentoff, Nat
Producing Organization: WGBH Educational Foundation
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 55-32-4 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:29:36
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Chicago: “The Evolution of Jazz; 4; Influences Merging, Part One,” 1953-11-27, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed May 29, 2024,
MLA: “The Evolution of Jazz; 4; Influences Merging, Part One.” 1953-11-27. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. May 29, 2024. <>.
APA: The Evolution of Jazz; 4; Influences Merging, Part One. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from