The Origins of Contemporary Jazz

The third season kicks off with our annual Ballet + Beer series, which celebrates the importance of jazz music as an American jewel of dance, poetry, music, and singing. The audience of Ballet Jazz + Beer enjoys a unique opportunity to see what happens when classical jazz and ballet are combined with contemporary and post-modern dance.

Jazz is a highly improvisational form of music created by African-Americans influenced by European harmonic structures and African rhythms from Ragtime and Blues characterized by syncopated rhythms, polyphonic interplays, different degrees of improvisation, and deliberate pitches variations using original timbres. Its roots lie in African and European classical music, dance, and art.

The Evolution of Jazz

The music that became jazz evolved from a series of assimilated mixtures of black and white folk music, a popular style with roots in West Africa and Europe. Jazz has its roots in American pop songs, which make up a large part of its repertoire: blues, hokum, circus, marching, and popular dance music. Solo jazz dance and steps are vintage jazz with jazz roots, characterized by improvisation, syncopated steps, rhythms, and call and response music which occurs in the vocabulary and steps of popular tradition.

Contemporary choreographers working with jazz dance and its sister tap dance align one of the many different styles in the family tree of jazz dance. Since the end of the 1910s, “jazz dance” often refers to black dance forms associated with the style. Created in the 1960s, her work as background music was not as complex or innovative as traditional jazz. There are many reasons why most jazz dances taught and performed until the 1980s did not regard jazz as their primary source of inspiration and accompaniment. Jazz explores new ways to use melody, rhythm, and harmony to create sounds.

African and European Roots

Returning to their roots in dance music from Europe, the jazzers combined European house, techno, drums and bass, jungle music, acoustic, electronic, and sampled sounds into a popular populist variation. The early smooth jazz pioneers did not betray their musical roots, but they found a way to remain relevant to the time they lived.

Jazz was one of the first genres of music due to its spread into a completely new world of communication and information. Jazz music was danced in Broadway musicals and gained mainstream popularity in Chicago cabarets. A group of women described the music of Benson and Bob James as “smooth jazz,” and the term stuck.

In general, modern jazz is a form that developed after the Second World War and is now called mainstream, as the music of various bands by Gerry Mulligans makes clear. The forces that exaggerated smooth jazz were partly responsible for its decline, as new technologies for measuring radio ratings found that they could not record music without the background noise. Compared to European music a century earlier, where trained voices sounded perfect on instruments, jazz moved in the opposite direction: it trained instruments to sound like emotional human voices, like blues.

Its purpose is clear and enlightening despite all its challenges and demands as a musical form, the various changes it has undergone through the 20th century and into the 21st century, and its aspirations to embody and transform music’s modernity. It remains an art that many, many of its followers do not understand. Its roots lie in a society in which music and dance are an integral part of daily life. Music attracts intellectuals and artists, music whose influence can be felt on the bandstand, the dance floor, and the recording studio.

As a Manhattan School of Music student, he started playing contemporary jazz with saxophonist Greg Osby and recorded fiery live albums with Banff, New York, and others. There is a long history of Northern European musicians combining traditional techniques with a pastoral aesthetic.


Contemporary jazz music is a number of styles that developed in the late 1940s and 1950s, primarily in the United States and, to a lesser extent Europe. It also often incorporates elements of related musical genres, including soul-jazz. Contemporary jazz includes several subgenres that reflect events and trends in African-American music, such as bebop and hard bop, which originated in the mid-1940s. The term also refers to a period of increasing complexity in jazz that began around 1960 and continued through the 1970s, with multiple influences from European symphonic music; this time is post-modern jazz.

Described by some as “the last great era in American Popular Music,” it is characterized by complex rhythms that are often played at faster tempos and greater freedom in the use of modal and non-modal sounds; it also includes influences from other genres such as blues. The word “contemporary” has been used to refer to several periods in music history, including the period between 1885 and 1915 (the late 19th century), when jazz began to develop in the US, and the period between 1915 and 1945 (the early 20th century), when jazz combined with other elements to become what would be called “contemporary.” Contemporary music is at once traditional, stylistic, or innovative, yet also contemporary.


Accordo dei Contrari is a music blog created to promote music that doesn't fit into any established genre, but rather is a mixture of different styles. The blog currently features reviews for albums, singles, and EPs by artists from all over the world.

© 2021