Jazz - Then and Now (Chapter 5, page 2 of 13)


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Chapter 5

Although the Negroes had no accurate knowledge of music, their three-line stanzas established the rhythm-and-chord progression of the twelve bar blues. The chord progression of the blues involves three simple basic chords. They are; the tonic (I), the sub-dominant (IV) and the dominant (V). The distribution of these chords for the blues, are four bars of the tonic (I) chord, two bars of the sub-dominant (IV) chord, two bars of the tonic (I) chord, two bars of the dominant (v) chord and two bars of the tonic (I) chord.

One outstanding melodic feature of the blues is that of lowering the third and seventh degrees of the major scale. The lowered third and seventh degree notes are called "blue notes." These became essential in the development of early jazz. When jazz musicians came into the picture, they developed new forms and styles of jazz. Improvisation became the jazz musician's most important asset.

When the musician improvised around a given theme, additional notes and embellishments were included, which in turn created more harmonic progressions to the basic I - IV - V chords.

From the early blues progressions, a gradual chord change was developing. As time went on, black musicians settled in New Orleans and demonstrated their jazz improvisations. They played in dance halls, gambling places, saloons, "sporting houses" (brothels) and at funerals.

A Negro funeral in New Orleans was an event that became a major celebration. Jelly Roll Morton said, "There is nothing in the United States like a New Orleans funeral."

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