All About That Jazz

It was new and different. Catchy yet soulful. A uniquely American contribution to the world of music. It was jazz.

During the roaring twenties―also called the Jazz Age―American society was shifting, and the musical landscape followed right along. How much do you know about jazz? Here are a few interesting facts about this very special genre.

The Great Migration that started in the early 1900s played a huge role in spreading jazz beyond its birthplace in Louisiana. During the Great Migration, roughly six million African Americans left the South to escape poor economic conditions and social injustice. They moved primarily to urban centers; in Baltimore, the Famous Ballroom became a local jazz hotspot.

A key characteristic of jazz music is improvisation, giving musicians and singers an opportunity to loosen up and often showcase their individual talents within a piece of music. They might make it sound easy, but this specialized skill takes plenty of practice and a keen understanding of musicality!

The Original Dixieland Jass Band (later renamed the Original Dixieland Jazz Band) is credited as making the very first jazz recordings, with several tunes being released in 1917. The group consisted of a clarinetist, drummer, two trombonists, a pianist, and a cornetist.

The bestselling jazz album of all time is Miles Davis’s “Kind of Blue,” which contains just five songs recorded in two days in 1959. According to Newsweek, it has sold more than 4 million copies, and it’s still holding its own to this day, with an average of 5,000 copies sold per week.

In 2011, UNESCO proclaimed April 30 as International Jazz Day to raise awareness of “the virtues of jazz as an education tool for empathy, dialogue and enhanced cooperation among people.” This year’s International Jazz Day Global Concert will take place in Tangier, Morocco, but will also be livestreamed on YouTube and Facebook.