Though jazz music is blowing up once again – as it has before, there is no arguing the fact that what laid the base for all the wonderful styles you hear today was early jazz!
Also referred to as traditional or original jazz, early jazz encompasses jazz music being produced between 1910 and the 1940s. Some early jazz styles include ragtime, swing, hot jazz, Chicago style, New Orleans style and Dixieland jazz among others.
Given that Dixieland jazz is one of the jazz styles our band—the Razmajazz Dixie Band—specializes in, we’re going to tell you a little bit about the characteristics that make this form of jazz music so special.
Many of you may know that music is played to a count. This count may vary depending on the genre and specific style of music. Where many forms of music follow a progression that can be described as a four beat progression (one-two-three-four, one-two-three-four, and so on), Dixieland is different.
Dixieland like certain other musical genres goes by a two beat count or a ‘one-two, one-two, one-two’ if you will. In a sense this contributes to the lively rhythm of many Dixieland jazz numbers.
The Instruments Used
Different jazz styles make use of different instruments. Though many used instruments may overlap, styles like Dixieland jazz follow a certain instrumental arrangement or lineup for the most part. Common essentials when it comes to instruments used in Dixieland jazz include:
- The Clarinet
- The Trumpet
- The Cornet
- The Banjo (rhythm)
- The Guitar (rhythm)
- Percussions (either simple or complex)
- Tuba (bass)
- String Bass (alternative to tuba)
The combination of these instruments is what helps give Dixieland jazz its unique sound.
Unlike many later styles of jazz which were prized and praised for harmonic complexity, one of the reasons Dixieland jazz is so widely appealing is because it is simple. It uses unembellished triads often as well as basic seventh chords, leaning less on other types of extended or altered-chord forms.
Improvising as a Collective
Where many jazz forms spotlight one particular instrument or musician during improvisation, allowing them the base on which to fly free, Dixieland jazz allows for even more. Collective improvisation is something that this jazz style gives weight to, the same giving it an interesting and multilayered musical quality.
Like Dixieland jazz, all forms and styles of jazz music also have their own unique characteristics and traits that set them apart from others in the genre. If you really want to learn more about Dixieland jazz music, you can always look up Dixieland jazz bands and hear the kind of music they play!