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Overview

Jazz blues (or blues jazz) can be any musical style that combines jazz and blues. However, since jazz is considered to have some of its roots in the blues,[1] it almost always contains blues elements such as blue notes, blues-like phrasing of melodies, and blues riffs. Therefore the terms are generally used to refer to bands or musicians that have a distinctly blues style or feel, while also making use of other harmonic or melodic devices commonly associated with jazz.

The term jazz blues is also commonly used by jazz musicians to refer specifically to a tune that follows the standard Twelve-bar blues chord progression, while altering the chord progression and improvisation to fit a jazz style. Such tunes are extremely common in the jazz repertoire.

Twelve-bar jazz blues

A twelve-bar jazz blues will usually feature a more sophisticated — or at any rate a different — treatment of the harmony than a traditional blues would, but the underlying features of the standard 12-bar blues progression remain discernible. One of the main ways the jazz musician accomplishes this is through the use of chord substitutions - a chord in the original progression is replaced by one or more chords which have the same general "sense" or function; in this case occurring especially in the turnaround (i.e. the last four bars). One well-known artist that sang this form of jazz was Billie Holiday, and almost all well known instrumental jazz musicians will have recorded at least one variation on this theme.

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Examples

The 12-bar blues form, in the commonly played key of B, often becomes:

B7 / E7 / B7 / B7 /
E7 / Edim7 / B7 / Dm7 - G7 /
Cm7 / F7 / Dm7 - G7 / Cm7 - F7

Transposed to the key of C:

C7 / F7 / C7 / C7 /
F7 / Gdim7 / C7 / Em7 - A7 /
Dm7 / G7 / Em7 - A7 / Dm7 - G7

where each slash represents a new measure, in the jazz-blues. The significant changes include the Edim7, which creates movement, and the III-VI-II-V or I-VI-II-V turnaround, a jazz staple.

There is however no standard form of jazz blues, and many variations are played. The diminished chord in bar 6 is often emitted, and many turnarounds are possible. An example turnaround using chromatic chord movement could be:

Dm7 / G7 / C7 - E7 / D7 - D7

Another example, finishing on the dominant chord as in a standard blues, to create tension and propel the song into another cycle could be:

C7 - A7 / Dm7 - G7

Notes

  1. ^ Alyn Shipton, A New History of Jazz, 2nd. ed., Continuum, 2007, pp. 4–5

Simple English

Jazz blues is a musical style that combines jazz and blues.


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