Although Jazz and Country Music originated in America around the same era, Jazz differs from Country Music in several ways. Their styles, genres, musicians, and current audience are a few of the major differences.
The origins of Country Music can be found in recordings that Southern Appalachian fiddle players made in the late 1910s near the Tennessee-Virginia border. Many of these fiddle tunes came over from the British Isles around the 1700s. It wasn’t until the early 1920s, however, that Country Music was a familiar genre. The first commercial recording of Country Music was Sallie Gooden by fiddlist Eck Robertson in 1922 (History of Country Music). Most historians point to 1927, however, as the birth of Country Music because of a man named Jimmie Rodgers. Rodgers is known as the Father of Country Music. He is credited with the first million-selling single, Blue Yodel #1, and his series of songs. All of which was recorded between 1927 and 1933, establishing him as the first dominant voice in Country Music (Jimmie Rodgers’s Biography). Rodgers was later inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1961. Many other Country musicians old and new have had quite an impact to Country Music like Johnny Cash, Hank Williams, Willie Nelson, Dolly Parton, and so many others.
In contrast to Country, Jazz Music was born in New Orleans, Louisiana during the early 1900s, however, its roots can be found in both African and European musical traditions. New Orleans around the turn of the 20th century was a place filled of cultural and ethnic diversity. As a result, musicians were exposed to an assortment of music styles and sounds. It was a meeting, mixing, and merging of many cultures, several emotions, and many skills. Some historians point to Buddy Bolden as the key developmental figure of New Orleans style Jazz. As well, many early jazz musicians credited Bolden and his bandmates with having originated what came to be known as Jazz. Although the term was not common musical use until after the era of Bolden. No one in the band could read sheet music so all compositions played were either copied from other bands or created on the spot, helping to generate the spontaneous improvisation that would become a hallmark of jazz (Buddy Bolden). Unlike Rodgers, Bolden was not well recognized. Many other Jazz musicians, like Country, have had quite an impact on the development of Jazz like Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Miles Davis, Billie Holiday, to name just a few.
The musical styles of early Country Music were similar to their British ancestors. The lyrics, on the other hand, were completely different. The Americans preferred practical issues such as real-world experiences (ranching, logging, mining, railroads) and real-world tragedies (bank robberies, natural disasters, murders, train accidents) (History of Country Music). I personally like Johnny Cash on occasion and Jimmie Rodgers reminds me a lot of Cash. Rodgers’s music is similar to the type of music where the lyrics are almost talked rather than sung, with little instruments used, and the lyrics are about something the singer relates to personally. Rodgers’s music was actually influenced by the blues music styling, similarly, some Jazz music genres were too. His hit Blue Yodel #1 captures a part of his life as a young man working as a railway brakeman and traveling musician (YouTube, Waiting for a Train). Some of Rodgers’s most popular songs were actually versions of blues classics.
Similar to Country, Jazz has had many periods and genres from the 1900s until present. Early development, during the 1920s, is considered The Jazz age. Throughout this period, Jazz Music was called New Orleans or Dixieland Jazz. Developed in New Orleans and later spread to Chicago and New York. Very popular in its time, it combined elements of the blues, ragtime and brass band marching beats, whilst different instruments, such as the trumpet, trombone and clarinet improvised intricate patterns around the melodies. However, the famous musician Louis Armstrong had a changing influence on the sound of Jazz. He was such a brilliant trumpet player that he was allowed to play solos and became Jazz’s first great soloist. He is known for songs like “Star Dust,” “La Vie En Rose” and “What a Wonderful World” (YouTube, What a Wonderful World).
Country-Pop is perhaps the most listened to today as far as Country Music goes. It is a blend of Country and Pop music and is the sound of many modern artists such as Thomas Rhett, Luke Bryan, Florida Georgia Line, Carrie Underwood, and many others. This genre first appeared in Nashville during the 1960s. Jim Reeves was one of the first successful Country-Pop musicians. He scored his greatest success with “He’ll Have to Go a hit on both the popular and Country Music charts (Jim Reeves). Most Country-Pop songs include musical sounds from guitars both electric and acoustic, bass, drums, and vocals. There have been many different genres of Country between the 1920s and present. Including Bakersfield Sound, Texas Country, Red Dirt, Western Swing, Bluegrass, Rockabilly, and country-rap to name a few.
As far as today, nearly all styles of Jazz are still active including Dixieland, classic Jazz, bop, hard bop, post-bop, the avant-garde and various forms of fusion. The popularity of Jazz has definitely slowed down though. While old and modern Country has stayed rather on top as a popular genre of music as a whole, Jazz not so much. In my opinion Jazz has had a harder time reaching the newer generations. Mostly affected by Jazz stereotypes and cultural ideals. Unlike Country Music, I can’t vouch for what genre of Jazz is most listened to today. Furthermore, I can say that Jazz seems to have held onto its music roots. On the other hand, Country is distinctly different today than it was in the early 1900s. Jazz today is still popular but mainly for older folks and cultural ideal breaking individuals.
Country and Jazz Music have many similarities and differences. They may have different audiences, styles, and genres, however, their similarities such as era, country of origin, and inspirations tie them together.
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