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An Archive for Virtual Harlem

Jessica Johnston, Author
Musician Chick Webb, page 1 of 7
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Music from the Harlem Renaissance

The music of the Harlem Renaissance has its roots in jazz. Jazz is considered a musical language of communication and was the first indigenous American style to affect music in the rest of the world. From the beat of ragtime syncopation and driving brass bands to soaring gospel choirs mixed with field hollers and the deep down growl of the blues, jazz's many roots are celebrated almost everywhere in the United States.

New York City contributed to the richness of jazz in many ways. The first piano style to be incorporated into jazz was "Harlem Stride" which was created during the Harlem Renaissance and helped to "blur the lines between the poor Negroes and socially elite Negroes." The traditional jazz band was composed primarily of brass instruments and was considered a symbol of the south, but the piano was considered an instrument of the wealthy and with its use, wealthy blacks felt that jazz music was more acceptable. During this time experimentation and improvisation created many off-shoots of music with jazz as its basis. As jazz evolved, highly arranged music became the norm. When white musicians like Benny Goodman added black arrangements for their scores, jazz began to move into the Swing or Big Band period. Large black and white jazz bands toured the United States filling the radio airwaves with swing, a term which became synonymous with jazz.

The Harlem Renaissance was full of innovation and liveliness from character like Fats Waller, Duke Ellington, Jelly Roll Morton, Willie "The Lion" Smith, Bessie Smith, Billie "Lady Day" Holiday, and Chick Webb.  During this period, the music style of blacks became more and more attractive to whites. Black musicians began to merge with white musicians in the classical world of musical composition. Its popularity soon spread throughout the country and was consequently at an all time high during the Renaissance. The musicians of the Harlem Renaissance were very talented and competitive and were considered to have laid the foundation for future musicians of their genre.

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