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Student Handout

The Story of Jazz (Unit 8)

Now jazz has been blended with rock
And they even mixed jazz with Bach
Whether soul, rap, or hip hop
They just never will stop
Finding ways to play jazz 'round the clock.


Our final journey will take us into the world of radio and television. We have so many places to get to today that our time machine will have to work extra hard. By now, jazz has spread all over the world but in the very beginning the only way to hear jazz was if live musicians were performing for you. Therefore the only people who heard jazz were those who lived near the performance sites. When radio broadcasts of jazz began in the 1920s, jazz could then be heard all over the United States. Let’s look at where else radio can take us.


Since jazz represented freedom, authorities in Communist countries didn’t want their citizens listening to it. In spite of that, during the Cold War, more than 20 million people world-wide were hearing broadcasts by Willis Conover on a program sponsored by the Unites States government called Voice of America. Musicians in many countries learned to play jazz by listening to it on their short wave radios. One of the favorites of this time was singer Ella Fitzgerald who was featured regularly in the 1950s. Click here to listen to Ella. She is using nonsense syllables to improvise - this is called "scat singing."

Experience the Music: See if you can sing using scat syllables. Take any melody you already know and use these syllables instead of the lyrics.

During the 1960s, the invention of transistors made it possible to build radios that were very small. Also during this time radio began to broadcast in stereophonic sound. During the Civil Rights Movement, you would have heard protest songs such as Nina Simone singing "I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free" composed by Dr. Billy Taylor (click here to hear the tune). Some people called this "soul jazz" to indicate the blend of jazz, rhythm & blues and gospel music. If you watched any of the 2004 Olympics, you probably heard this song since it was played many times during one of the commercials.

A good place to find jazz in the 1980s was on National Public Radio Stations where you could hear Marian McPartland interviewing and performing with jazz musicians on her weekly program, Piano Jazz. Let’s listen to Marian play piano with trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie (click here). These broadcasts began in 1979 and are still being heard today.

A number of jazz radio stations began to webcast their programs in the 1990s so you could listen to the radio on your computer. Something you might have heard is a hip-hop-influenced remake of "Cantaloupe Island" called "Cantaloop." This recording was made by sampling part of the original recording and combining that sample with rap. Click here to listen.

Today we have a new way to listen to jazz: satellite radio. Much like cable television, you must be a subscriber to listen to commercial-free programming of the type of music you prefer. A special type of radio is required to pick up satellite radio but they are available for your car, your home or you can listen on your computer. For instance, in 2012 you might be riding in your new hybrid car, which has become popular due to the rising cost of gasoline. Suppose you were in the middle of the desert where you wouldn’t be able to pick up a normal radio signal. However, because you subscribe to satellite radio and have the proper receiver in your car, you can receive the signal from a satellite 22,000 miles away. Now, in the middle of the desert, you can hear Terence Blanchard playing music some of today’s best jazz (click here to listen to him).


When television sets first began appearing in our homes around 1946, they were huge boxes with tiny little pictures and there were only a couple of hours programs each day. The pictures were in black & white and were so weak that the room had to be dark for good viewing. By 1953 the picture was much larger and some shows were in color. One of the shows you might have seen in the 1960s was The Tonight Show which featured a jazz band led by Doc Severinsen. Listen to The Tonight Show's theme song by clicking here. One of the trumpeters in the band was Clark Terry who was the first African American musician to be employed by a major television network. The audience loved it when Clark sang his big hit, "Mumbles," which featured his special brand of scat singing (click here to listen to it). He was one of the featured performers in a 1996 television special called "A Celebration of America’s Music" produced by the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz. Check out his performance of "Blue Monk" with the great jazz singer, Joe Williams, by clicking here.

You’ve heard a lot of music on television that you might not have realized was jazz. Let’s check some of that out. Did you know that the composer of all the music for the "Peanuts/Charlie Brown" series was a fantastic jazz piano player? His name was Vince Guaraldi. "Linus and Lucy" was first played on television as part of the 1966 Peanuts cartoon "It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown."

Experience the Music: Play "Linus and Lucy" by clicking here. Can you tell if this is Swing style jazz or jazz rock?

Black Entertainment Television launched a cable TV channel in 1980. Today they produce the BET channel as well as BET JAZZ (a cable TV channel programming only jazz) and BET.com, an Internet site where you can listen to jazz. Let’s look in on a 2001 BET JAZZ program featuring Herbie Hancock and drummer Terri Lyne Carrington. Many more women are full time jazz musicians today than in the past. Listen to the call and response between the piano and drums. [Media #10/Video #2 The Jazz Channel Presents Herbie Hancock: Cotton Tail]

That’s it for today but now you know that jazz is everywhere. Why don’t you make a list of your favorite jazz and send it to us by clicking here. It would be difficult to go 24 hours without hearing jazz these days. Keep listening and enjoying jazz. Hope to see you at a jazz concert or jazz festival some time.


The Impact of the Cold War on Jazz

The Cold War is a term used to describe the rivalry between groups of Communist and non-Communist nations. The United States and its democratic allies are usually referred to as the Western bloc while the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (U.S.S.R. or Soviet Union) and other Communist allies are often referred to as the Eastern bloc. In 1991 the U.S.S.R. broke up and became a number of independent states. Use of the term "Cold War" indicated there was no actual combat taking place.

Jazz and the freedom represented by it was considered a threat by many of the leaders of the Communist countries. Since performing or listening to jazz was often forbidden by these governments, it became a symbol of freedom and resistance. Musicians in Communist countries wanted to learn to play jazz. They often accomplished this by listening to recordings and to radio broadcasts. Saxophones which were primarily jazz instruments were often confiscated by the Soviets.

Many people living in Communist countries first heard jazz on Voice of America radio broadcasts hosted by Willis Conover. These broadcasts, which were rarely heard in the United States, introduced jazz to listeners all over the globe beginning in 1954. During the Cold War these programs paved the way for visits by American jazz artists to these countries in later years. Voice of America began worldwide broadcasting in 1942 in order to present accurate information and news about the United States as well as to reflect the values, institutions, and way of life of the United States and its people.


Black Entertainment Television: A cable television network that programs to appeal to African American Audiences. In addition to the BET channel, they also produce BET.COM and BET JAZZ.

Civil Rights Act of 1964: A United States law that bans discrimination because of a person’s race, color, national origin, religion or gender. The rights protected include seeking employment, voting and the use of hotels, restaurants, parks and other public places.

Cold War: A power struggle between nations or groups of nations, conducted primarily by diplomatic, economic, and psychological means rather than by extensive and direct military action.

communist: A person who believes in communism, which is a system of government in which most or all property is owned by the government to be shared by all.

hip hop: Music with a rap beat that is usually good for dancing.

hybrid car: An automobile designed to run on gasoline and electric power in order to decrease the amount of gasoline consumed.

National Public Radio (NPR): A not-for profit radio network that produces and distributes noncommercial news, talk and entertainment programming.

rap: A style of music with a strong beat plus vocal chanting.

sampling: In music, lifting a small portion of a recording to be modified and used in another recording.

satellite radio: Subscription radio service requiring special radio receivers.

scat singing: The use of nonsense syllables for vocal improvisation.

stereophonic sound: A process of reproducing sounds coming from more than one direction to produce more life-like recordings.

Soul Jazz: A blend of jazz, rhythm and blues, and gospel music.

Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz: A non-profit education organization, founded in 1986 by the Monk family along with the late Maria Fisher, an opera singer and lifelong devotee of music. Its mission is to offer the world's most promising young musicians college level training by America's jazz masters and to present public school-based jazz education programs for young people around the world.

Voice of America: A broadcasting service of the United States government, used to give listeners in foreign countries an idea about American life, culture, music and ideals.

webcast: Media broadcast over the Internet.
the thelonious monk institute of jazz
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