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Ella Fitzgerald was born on April 25, 1917 in Newport News, Virginia. Some time after her birth, Ella’s parents separated, and Ella moved with her mother to Yonkers, New York. In 1923, Ella’s mother passed away, leaving her to move in with her aunt. It was during this time that Ella began to skip school and was sent to a special reform school. In the following year, she was living on the streets alone to make a living for herself. Ella entered a contest at Harlem’s Apollo Theater, and ended up winning the first place prize of $25 for her singing. It was this winning that began to put Ella’s career into motion.
Ella met Chick Webb who was a drummer and in a band and ended up letting Ella join in as a singer. She recorded the song “Love & Kisses” in the year 1935 and was singing in a very popular club in Harlem repeatedly, which was called “The Savoy.” Ella also co-wrote a song called “A-tisket, A-tasket” in 1938 which ended up being her first number one hit. In the same year, Ella had another hit called “I found my yellow basket.” Her other jobs included performing and recording with the Benny Goodman Orchestra and handling a side job of Ella Fitzgerald and Her Savoy Eight. Ella soon became the leader of Webb’s band as her passed in 1939, changing the name to “Ella Fitzgerald and Her Famous Orchestra.”
In the 1940’s, Ella was able to get a solo deal with Decca Records and recorded many hit songs in this decade, as well as making her film debut in 1942. Ella was skyrocketing in the 40’s as it is also the same decade in which she began working with Norman Granz who would end up creating Verve Records. Ella also began to play Jazz concerts and live records in the mid 40’s at the Philharmonic, hired Granz as her manager, and also incorporated scat singing in her songs and performances. Through the 50’s and 60’s, Ella proved to have a unique and amazing talent as she was very popular and had unparalleled vocal talents with her uniqueness in being able to mimic instruments. She was also a key figure in makine improv vocals of scatting, which was known to be her signature technique.
Ella won two Grammy Awards at the first ever Grammy show in 1958, and also made history as the first African American woman to win the award. The awards she won were best individual jazz performance and best female vocal performance. Ella collaborated with many artists, including Louis Armstrong and Count Basie, as well as performing many times with Frank Sinatra. In the 60’s, Ella was on the pop charts, and she continued to perform and collaborate through the 1970’s. Her last performance was in 1991 at New York’s Carnegie Hall, and her last recording was done in 1989. On June 15, 2996, Ella passed away leaving behind an immense legacy and rich, barrier breaking history.
With more than two hundred albums and over two thousand songs throughout her life, Ella’s record sales total was more than forty million dollars. She won a total of thirteen Grammy Awards, the NAACP Image Award for Lifetime Achievement, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, as well as a commemorative stamp that was issued on her 90th birthday by the United States Postal Service. Ella Fitzgerald made a name for herself and ended up becoming one of the most well known singers of all time. She broke barriers for women and African Americans, proving that there are no limits to creativity. She revolutionized Jazz by aiding in popularizing scatting and improv vocal mimicing, a unique and astounding talent that is now recognized world wide. Ella is also known as “The First Lady of Song” by many, which truly recognizes her talent as a fine jazz singer.
Avant-Garde Jazz came about in 1960’s as a subgenre of Jazz. This specific type of Jazz incorporates elements of traditional Jazz and Avant-Garde art music. The founders of Avant-Garde Jazz in the mid 1950’s are Cecil Taylor, a pianist, Ornette Coleman, an altoist, and Sun Ra, a keyboardist-bandleader. The most popular person of Avant-Garde Jazz is John Coltrane, who was influential as well. From the mid 1960’s and beyond, this specific type of Jazz really helped pushed the genre past “bebop.”
Avant-Garde Jazz has a structure in the ensembles, which is similar to it having a clear game plan. It breaks the boundaries of Jazz down and heavy use of structure, melody, and instrumentation. The genre is also characterized by heavy use of extended techniques such as overblowing, multiphonics and flutter-tonguing.Compositions of Avant-Garde Jazz range from dense, complex, and thoroughly composed to loose and improvised. In the best Avant-Garde performances, it is difficult to tell when the compositions end and when the improvisations begin. The goal is to have the solos be the main outgrowth of the arrangement.
It was said that Avant-Garde Jazz would not last, as it was known to be just a free form of new music. In the 1960’s, it was initially stated that the genre sounded chaotic and was an assault on traditional notions of harmony, structure and rhythm. Today, Avant-Garde Jazz has been preserved and has not been diluted as many thought would have happened as it is such a different kind of music.
Swing Jazz is a music genre that includes the rhythmic energy of Jazz and specific Jazz idiom as it was prominent from 1935 to the mid 1940’s, also known as the “Swing Era.” As the demand for Jazz was growing from 1920’s, it is said that Swing actually began when Louis Armstrong paired together with Fletcher Henderson’s Orchestra in 1924, with written arrangements from Don Redman for the band. It is written that the Swing Era began in 1935 when Benny Goodman’s Orchestra ‘caught on’ to Armstrong’s idea. Swing Jazz is known to have a gripping momentum from the musicians fixed beats. It is also considered to be a fragment of the Jazz tradition, but diluted as it organizes musicians into large groups, usually twelve to sixteen musical players who are required to play more written music along with the fundamental improvisatory aspects of traditional Jazz. Swing Jazz proved its success as it was the first successful idiom of Jazz that was commercially successful and popular amongst audiences. The Swing Era also brought a much respect for Jazz as it moved into ballrooms across America.
Big Swing Jazz bands organized the performers of their bands into sections of brass, rhythms, and reeds, while hiring skilled Orchestrators to write music for them as well. This specific structure encouraged Swing performers to have simplicity in their compositional techniques. A popular device that was used in performances was the riff, which was a simple musical phrase that was used to counterpoint with other sections of the band, and it was almost hypnotic. Swing Jazz also replaced classic wind basses and banjos with stringed basses and guitars. With this replacement, the rhythm became lighter.
Unfortunately, during the time Swing Jazz was popular was a time in the United States where in order to be popular on a national scale, the leader had to be commercially exploitable, meaning they had to be White. Although there were Swing bands with black orchestras that were famous during the Swing Era, such as Chick Webb, Jimmie Lunceford, and Basie Ellington, the main bands that were famous were lead by White people, including Benny Goodman, Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey, Harry James, and Glenn Miller. The Swing Era was the last blooming of Jazz music before the period of harmonic expression. Swing Jazz was able to achieve the art of improvisation as well as balancing harmonic conventions with stylistic individuality.
The main differences between Avant-Garde Jazz and Swing Jazz is their difference in style and feel. Avant-Garde Jazz was created in the 1960s, years after Swing Jazz, as a Jazz substyle that broke the barriers of many of the traditional elements of Jazz music, which took awhile for people to get used to. Swing Jazz was a subgenre of Jazz that was popularized through White people, and it did not last long as Jazz enthusiasts wanted to reform the subgenre to get it away from the primarily White Swing era who focused on the show off and entertainment aspects.
Swing Jazz is more of a big band force in American music, and this popularity ended in 1946. This subgenre of Jazz consists mostly of extended harmonies what is known as the “Swing rhythm.” On the other hand, Avant-Garde Jazz consists mostly of strange melodies, unique approaches to rhythm, and alternative forms such as improvisation and mimicking instruments, as it is close to Free Jazz. Avant-Garde Jazz is more about pushing boundaries and limits on music, and trying new things that not everyone would enjoy. Swing is different as it is characterized to be a big band type of music and is usually made for dancing purposes.
Overall, there are many types of music and genres that have come and gone in American history. With the many types of genres are also subgenres that take the main aspects of the main genre and give it a twist. Although Avant-Garde Jazz and Swing Jazz are different types of subgenres of Jazz, they both had their moments of popularity amongst different groups and during different times, yet they both are astounding and will forever leave their mark on American music history.
Scott Joplin was born on November 25, 1868 in Northeast, Texas. His family moved to Texarkana in 1867 where Joplin grew up. Being apart of a musical family, Joplin’s mother was a singer and banjo player and his father was a violinist. At a young age, he learned how to play guitar and eventually played piano, was a vocalist, and played the cornet as a child as well. A German music teacher named Julius Weiss eventually taught Joplin piano even further.
As a teenager, Joplin left his home and began to work as a travelling musician who performed in bars, dance halls. He specialized in musical forms that formed the basis of ragtime, a distinct form of music which included specific rhythms and fusion of musical sensibilities. Joplin lived in Sedalia, Missouri in the 1880’s, and in 1893 he was the frontman of a band in Chicago during the World Fair. His first two published songs were “Please Say You Will” and “A Picture of Her Face.”
Joplin was able to go to Sedalia’s George R. Smith College for Negroes in the 1890’s to study music. He also worked as a teacher and mentor to similar musicians who specialized in ragtime music. Joplin’s first piano rag that was published in the late 1890’s was called “Original Rags.” His next composition was called “The Maple Leaf Rag,” which was published in 1899 by his new partnered published John Stark. Although it started off slow in sales, this composition became the biggest ragtime song ever, which eventually sold over a million copies. Joplin focused on publishing and composing more songs as the ragtime genre was becoming very popular, and Joplin was earning much praise for his artistry. Over the years, hits that Joplin had included, “Cleopha,” “The Ragtime Dance,” “The Entertainer,” “Solace,” “Peacherine Rag,” “Euphonic Sounds,” and “The Chrysanthemum.”
Joplin was very concerned with ragtime receiving its proper credit. Some critics made belittling comments because of the genre’s African American origin and radical form, according to Joplin, which was unfair as race should have no play in music genres abilities and uniqueness. In 1908, he published a series called “The School of Ragtime: Six Exercises for Piano” for students. Joplin also published the ballet “Ragtime Dance” in 1902, and created his first Opera called “A Guest of Honor” in 1903. By the year 1907, Joplin lived in New York and created another Opera called “Treemonisha” which took years to get its own full stage time.
Joplin continued to work on many musical forms, but always stuck to his original favorite of ragtime. By 1913, he also created his own publishing company with his wife. Unfortunately, Joplin was hospitalized and institutionalized due to his illnesses related to syphilis. On April 1, 1917, Joplin passed away in Manhattan State Hospital. Scott Joplin left behind a great legacy, and his music was resurfaced in the 1940’s and then again in the 1970’s, which really made ragtime popular during these times. Sadly, Joplin was not recognized for his music until about fifty years after he passed away.
Ragtime entered the film industry in 1973 as it was first introduced in the film “The Sting” which featured “The Entertainer” as the theme song. This feature eventually lead to an Academy Award for best film score. Joplin’s second published Opera “Treemonisha” was brought back and fully staged on Broadway in 1975. In the next year, Joplin was awarded the Pulitzer Prize which truly recognized and honored his talents. Scott Joplin’s influence on American Music was long lasting as it lasted and inspired many decades of music and shaping of the ragtime genre overall. He was also known as “The King of Ragtime Music,” as he is really responsible for continuing to work and popularized the genre throughout the years.

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