Cameron Crocheron
October, 20, 2011


Jazz is a type of music with a special beat that spread all across America in the 1920’s. This time period was after World War I, Jazz became very popular during the Depression of the 1920’s, and grew so fast that this time became known as the “Jazz Age”. Jazz grew into different kinds and styles, and included using a lot of different instruments and singing. Many groups formed jazz bands, and also had singers in them. The “Jazz Age” created a special sound that is still very popular today.

During the Great Depression of the 1920’s, the law said that people could not buy alcoholic beverages or smoke cigarettes in clubs. This was called Prohibition. A lot of jazz musicians worked in these clubs, and lots of people would sneak into the clubs to drink, smoke, and listen to the music. Also during this time, the phonograph or record player was invented where lots of people could listen to jazz musicians in their homes. And, radio stations started playing jazz music, and made it popular to the public. Jazz originally came from the African American community, but became popular all across America. The birthplace of jazz is New Orleans. No one knows for certain which musicians were the first to play jazz, but it is thought to be Buddy Bolden in New Orleans. He was the grandson of slaves, and formed his own brass band.

Bands of jazz musicians could be found all across America. Small bands of jazz musicians could be found everywhere, but jazz developed faster in Chicago in the 1930’s than anywhere else in the U.S. Louis Armstrong was a popular trumpeter who moved from New Orleans to Chicago during this time. Louis Armstrong’s music focused on instrumental solos, and he had a special voice that people knew only belonged to him. In Chicago, Louis Armstrong influenced a lot of local musicians who were the children of Russian, Polish, Irish, and Italian immigrants. Two of these musicians were Benny Goodman who played the clarinet, and Gene Krupa who was a drummer. These musicians became very popular and helped make a Chicago-style jazz that was different from New Orleans jazz. Two large bands that became popular in the Midwest during this era were the bands of Jean Goldkette, who was born in France and raised in Chicago, and Paul Whiteman, a symphony and dance band violinist born in Denver. Jazz became an influence on music no matter what race you belonged to.

During this time in 1923, a cultural revolution in the African American community in New York City was occurring called the Harlem Renaissance. A musician named Duke Ellington moved there and became well known for his compositions that were based on classical music. Other musicians who became well known during this time were William “Count” Basie, Lester Young, Ella Fitzgerald, and Billie Holliday who were singers. Even though the Great Depression made it hard for people to live and earn a living, jazz music continued to grow. By the time World War II came, jazz had begun to focus on big bands like Benny Goodman’s and Lionel Hampton’s, that played fast paced and upbeat music. These bands were known as “swing” bands. But, many of the jazz musicians had to go fight in the war, and a lot of jazz musicians also refused to write or perform their music because they felt like they were not being treated fairly by the recording companies. Jazz was not as popular as it had started to be.

The Jazz Age came to an end during the early 1940’s. Even though other music forms like “Bebop” became popular, jazz remained very popular and the style was heard in almost every other type of music around the world. The new “smooth” jazz style now is based on the music from the Jazz Era. People have never forgotten the jazz music that was made very popular during the Great Depression, and the music is still played on radio stations all over the world. Music and musicians are still influenced by the music and the style of the Jazz Age.


Buddy Bolden Band (Bolden is back row, second from left), New Orleans, c. 1895.
Courtesy of the Frank Driggs Collection.

Louis Armstrong’s Hot Five, Chicago, c. late 1920s. Courtesy of the Duncan P. Schiedt Collection.


Louis Armstrong and His Stompers (Earl Hines on piano) at the Sunset Café, Chicago, c. 1927. Courtesy of the Frank Driggs Collection.


Bandleader Jean Goldkette, c. 1920s.
Courtesy of the Duncan P. Schiedt Collection.


Bandleader Paul Whiteman.
Courtesy of the Duncan P. Schiedt Collection.


Duke Ellington.
Courtesy of the Frank Driggs Collection.


Bennie Moten’s Kansas City Orchestra with Bennie Moten (seated right), vocalist Jimmy Rushing (center), and Count Basie (seated left) at the Pearl Theatre, Philadelphia, c. 1931.
Courtesy of the Frank Driggs Collection.


Tenor saxophonist Lester Young at an afternoon jam session at New York’s Village Vanguard, c. 1940. The Charles Peterson Jazz Photo Collection, courtesy of Don Peterson.


Vocalist Billie Holiday, New York City, c. 1947.
Courtesy of William P. Gottlieb.


Vocalist Ella Fitzgerald with Dizzy Gillespie looking on (bassist Ray Brown in background), New York City, c. 1947. Courtesy of William P. Gottlieb.


Trumpeter Roy Eldridge at the Spotlight Club, New York City, c. 1946. Courtesy of William P. Gottlieb.


Young people struggle to get to Benny Goodman at the Paramount Theatre, New York City, c. 1939. Courtesy of the Duncan P. Schiedt Collection.


The Benny Goodman Quartet with vibraphonist Lionel Hampton, clarinetist Benny Goodman, pianist Teddy Wilson, and drummer Gene Krupa, c. 1939. Courtesy of the Frank Driggs Collection.


Clarinetist and bandleader Artie Shaw and his World War II Navy Band perform on a warship in the South Pacific, c. 1943.
Courtesy of the Duncan P. Schiedt Collection.