Jazz in the 1920s

Jazz in the 1920s exploded in popular culture, so much so that the sound came to represent an entire decade. During this time, artists like Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington entertained people who were facing tremendous societal changes after World War I.

The Jazz Mood
For many people, the lighthearted, improvisational sounds of jazz were like nothing they had ever heard, which made jazz a perfect backdrop for social change. Also, the music set the mood for a party, and the successful economy and resulting boost in disposable income and leisure time certainly gave many people a reason to be happy.

A Musical And Technological Revolution
Jazz epicenters included New Orleans, New York City and Chicago, but technological innovations like radio brought the music into many homes and gathering places across the United States. With more money changing hands and the rise of the middle class, Americans could buy radios and record players, and then they could go out, dance and listen to live acts.

Jazz Performers
Some of the biggest artists of the Jazz Age weren't soloists but bands like King Oliver's Creole Jazz Band. However, major solo stars eventually emerged from the groups, such as Louis Armstrong, who played cornet for the Creole Jazz Band. Pianist Jelly Roll Morton, along with the Red Hot Peppers, fired up the scene even more. Duke Ellington also launched his career with the Washingtonians and the Duke Ellington Orchestra, who was the house band at New York City's Cotton Club.

The Limits Of Jazz
Yet the popularity of the music didn't translate into acceptance for African Americans. Although several performers were embraced by the public and African Americans fought for the United States in World War I, that didn't make life for them any easier. As more African Americans moved out of the South and into cities, they still faced discrimination, violence and even death.

Some Americans considered the music and those who played it to be a threat because jazz represented so much more than a series of notes. It meant a dramatic shift in society, one in which African Americans had more power, women voted and people had extra time to perform, listen and experiment with new sounds.

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