Jazz band

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The West Point Band's Jazz Knights perform in West Point's Eisenhower Hall (2011) West Point Band Jazz Knights.jpg
The West Point Band's Jazz Knights perform in West Point's Eisenhower Hall (2011)
The Magna Jazz Band performs at The Queens Park (1988) Jazz Band in Queens Park - geograph.org.uk - 729107.jpg
The Magna Jazz Band performs at The Queens Park (1988)

A jazz band (jazz ensemble or jazz combo) is a musical ensemble that plays jazz music. Jazz bands vary in the quantity of its members and the style of jazz that they play but it is common to find a jazz band made up of a rhythm section and a horn section.


The size of a jazz band is closely related to the style of jazz they play as well as the type of venues in which they play. Smaller jazz bands, also known as combos, are common in night clubs and other small venues and will be made up of three to seven musicians; whereas big bands are found in dance halls and other larger venues. [1]

Jazz bands can vary in size from a big band, to a smaller trio or quartet. Some bands use vocalists, while others are purely instrumental groups.

Jazz bands and their composition have changed many times throughout the years, just as the music itself changes with personal interpretation and improvisation of its performers. [1]

Ensemble types

Count Basie and band, with vocalist Ethel Waters, from the film Stage Door Canteen (1943) CountBasieEthelWatersStageDoorCanteen.jpg
Count Basie and band, with vocalist Ethel Waters, from the film Stage Door Canteen (1943)


It is common for musicians in a combo to perform their music from memory. The improvisational nature of these performances make every show unique. [1]


Jazz Band, by Israeli artist David Gerstein PikiWiki Israel 28590 Jazz band.JPG
Jazz Band, by Israeli artist David Gerstein

The rhythm section consists of the percussion, double bass or bass guitar, and usually at least one instrument capable of playing chords, such as a piano, guitar, Hammond organ or vibraphone; most will usually have more than one of these. The standard rhythm section is piano, bass, and drums. [2]

The horn section consists of a woodwind section and a brass section, which play the melody. [2]

Rhythm section

A rhythm section, with bass and drums Satchmofest 12 Leroy Jones Rhythm Section.JPG
A rhythm section, with bass and drums


The banjo has been used in jazz since the earliest jazz bands. [3] The earliest use of the banjo in a jazz band was by Frank Duson in 1917, however Laurence Marrero claims it became popular in 1915. [4]

There are three common types of banjo, the plectrum banjo, tenor banjo, and cello banjo. Over time, the four-stringed tenor banjo became the most common banjo used in jazz. [3] The drum-like sound box on the banjo made it louder than the acoustic guitars that were common with early jazz bands, and banjos were popular for recording. [4]



Woodwind section


Saxophone section

String section



The definition of a jazz vocalist can be unclear because jazz has shared a great deal with blues and pop music since the 1920s. [16] In their book Essential Jazz, Henry Martin and Keith Waters identify five main characteristics that identify jazz singing, three of which are: "Loose phrasing [...], use of blue notes [...], [and] free melodic embellishment." [17] Often the human voice can act in place of a brass section in playing melodies, both written and improvised. [2]

Scat singing is vocal improvisation with wordless vocables, nonsense syllables or without words at all. Though scat singing is improvised, the melodic lines are often variations on scale and arpeggio fragments, stock patterns and riffs, as is the case with instrumental improvisers. The deliberate choice of scat syllables is also a key element in vocal jazz improvisation. Syllable choice influences the pitch articulation, coloration, and resonance of the performance. [18]


Another important aspect of jazz is improvisation ("jams"). Bands playing in this fashion fall under the category of jam bands. [19] A common way to incorporate improvisation is to feature solo performances from band members made up on the spot, allowing them to showcase their skill. [20]

See also

Related Research Articles

Clarinet Single-reed woodwind instrument

The clarinet is a type of single-reed woodwind instrument. Like many wind instruments, clarinets are made in several different sizes, each having its own range of pitches. All have a nearly-cylindrical bore and a flared bell, and utilize a mouthpiece with a single reed. A person who plays a clarinet is called a clarinetist.

Musical ensemble Instrumental and/or vocal music group

A musical ensemble, also known as a music group or musical group, is a group of people who perform instrumental or vocal music, with the ensemble typically known by a distinct name. Some music ensembles consist solely of instrumentalists, such as the jazz quartet or the orchestra. Other music ensembles consist solely of singers, such as choirs and doo wop groups. In both popular music and classical music, there are ensembles in which both instrumentalists and singers perform, such as the rock band or the Baroque chamber group for basso continuo and one or more singers. In classical music, trios or quartets either blend the sounds of musical instrument families or group together instruments from the same instrument family, such as string ensembles or wind ensembles. Some ensembles blend the sounds of a variety of instrument families, such as the orchestra, which uses a string section, brass instruments, woodwinds and percussion instruments, or the concert band, which uses brass, woodwinds and percussion.

Saxophone Single-reed woodwind instrument

The saxophone is a type of single-reed woodwind instrument with a conical body, usually made of brass. As with all single-reed instruments, sound is produced when a reed on a mouthpiece vibrates to produce a sound wave inside the instrument's body. The pitch is controlled by opening and closing holes in the body to change the effective length of the tube. The holes are closed by leather pads attached to keys operated by the player. Saxophones are made in various sizes and are almost always treated as transposing instruments. Saxophone players are called saxophonists.

Scat singing Vocal improvisation with wordless vocables, nonsense syllables or without words at all

In vocal jazz, scat singing is vocal improvisation with wordless vocables, nonsense syllables or without words at all. In scat singing, the singer improvises melodies and rhythms using the voice as an instrument rather than a speaking medium. This is different from vocalese, which uses recognizable lyrics that are sung to pre-existing instrumental solos.

Big band Music ensemble associated with jazz music

A big band or jazz orchestra is a type of musical ensemble of jazz music that usually consists of ten or more musicians with four sections: saxophones, trumpets, trombones, and a rhythm section. Big bands originated during the early 1910s and dominated jazz in the early 1940s when swing was most popular. The term "big band" is also used to describe a genre of music, although this was not the only style of music played by big bands.

Jimmie Noone Musical artist

Jimmie Noone was an American jazz clarinetist and bandleader. After beginning his career in New Orleans, he led Jimmie Noone's Apex Club Orchestra, a Chicago band that recorded for Vocalion and Decca. Classical composer Maurice Ravel acknowledged basing his Boléro on an improvisation by Noone. At the time of his death Noone was leading a quartet in Los Angeles and was part of an all-star band that was reviving interest in traditional New Orleans jazz in the 1940s.

New Orleans Rhythm Kings

The New Orleans Rhythm Kings (NORK) were one of the most influential jazz bands of the early to mid-1920s. The band included New Orleans and Chicago musicians who helped shape Chicago jazz and influenced many younger jazz musicians.

The Hot Five was Louis Armstrong's first jazz recording band led under his own name.

The swing era was the period (1933–1947) when big band swing music was the most popular music in the United States. Though this was its most popular period, the music had actually been around since the late 1920s and early 1930s, being played by black bands led by such artists as Duke Ellington, Jimmie Lunceford, Bennie Moten, Cab Calloway, Earl Hines, and Fletcher Henderson, and white bands from the 1920s led by the likes of Jean Goldkette, Russ Morgan and Isham Jones. An early milestone in the era was from "the King of Swing" Benny Goodman's performance at the Palomar Ballroom in Los Angeles on August 21, 1935, bringing the music to the rest of the country. The 1930s also became the era of other great soloists: the tenor saxophonists Coleman Hawkins, Ben Webster and Lester Young; the alto saxophonists Benny Carter and Johnny Hodges; the drummers Chick Webb, Gene Krupa, Jo Jones and Sid Catlett; the pianists Fats Waller and Teddy Wilson; the trumpeters Louis Armstrong, Roy Eldridge, Bunny Berigan, and Rex Stewart.

Rhythm section Group of musicians within a music ensemble or band

A rhythm section is a group of musicians within a music ensemble or band that provides the underlying rhythm, harmony and pulse of the accompaniment, providing a rhythmic and harmonic reference and "beat" for the rest of the band. The rhythm section is often contrasted with the roles of other musicians in the band, such as the lead guitarist or lead vocals whose primary job is to carry the melody.

Louis Nelson Delisle Musical artist

"Big Eye" Louis Nelson Delisle was an American early twentieth-century Dixieland jazz clarinetist in New Orleans, Louisiana, United States. He also played double bass, banjo, and accordion.

Multi-instrumentalist Musician who plays multiple musical instruments

A multi-instrumentalist is a musician who plays two or more musical instruments at a professional level of proficiency.

A string band is an old-time music or jazz ensemble made up mainly or solely of string instruments. String bands were popular in the 1920s and 1930s, and are among the forerunners of modern country music and bluegrass. While being active countrywide, in Philadelphia and its surrounding suburbs they are a huge part of its musical culture and traditions, appearing, among others, in the yearly Mummers Parade.

The Klezmorim, founded in Berkeley, California, in 1975, was the world's first klezmer revival band, widely credited with spearheading the global renaissance of klezmer in the 1970s and 1980s. Initially featuring flute and strings—notably the exotic fiddling of co-founder David Skuse—the ensemble reorganized into a "loose, roaring, funky" brass/reed/percussion band fronted by co-founder Lev Liberman's saxophones and founding member David Julian Gray's clarinets. As a professional performing and recording ensemble focused on recreating the lost sounds of early 20th century klezmer bands, The Klezmorim achieved crossover success, garnering a Grammy nomination in 1982 for their album Metropolis and selling out major concert venues across North America and Europe, including Carnegie Hall and L'Olympia in Paris. The band performed steadily until 1993, regrouping in 2004 for a European tour.

Russell Procope Musical artist

Russell Keith Procope was an American clarinetist and alto saxophonist who was a member of the Duke Ellington orchestra.

Jazz improvisation

Jazz improvisation is the spontaneous invention of melodic solo lines or accompaniment parts in a performance of jazz music. It is one of the defining elements of jazz. Improvisation is composing on the spot, when a singer or instrumentalist invents melodies and lines over a chord progression played by rhythm section instruments and accompanied by drums. Although blues, rock, and other genres use improvisation, it is done over relatively simple chord progressions which often remain in one key.

Orchestral jazz is a form of jazz that developed in New York City in the 1920s. Early innovators of the genre, such as Fletcher Henderson and Duke Ellington, include some of the most highly regarded musicians, composers, and arrangers in all of jazz history. The fusion of jazz's rhythmic and instrumental characteristics with the scale and structure of an orchestra, made orchestral jazz distinct from the musical genres that preceded its emergence. Its development contributed both to the popularization of jazz, as well as the critical legitimization of jazz as an art form.

Red Hot Peppers was a recording jazz band led by Jelly Roll Morton from 1926–1930. It was a seven- or eight-piece band formed in Chicago that recorded for Victor and featured the best New Orleans-style freelance musicians available, including cornetist George Mitchell, trombonist Kid Ory, clarinetists Omer Simeon and Johnny Dodds, banjoists Johnny St. Cyr and Bud Scott, double bass player John Lindsay, and drummers Andrew Hilaire and Baby Dodds.

Dixieland, sometimes referred to as hot jazz or traditional jazz, is a style of jazz based on the music that developed in New Orleans at the start of the 20th century. The 1917 recordings by the Original Dixieland Jass Band, fostered awareness of this new style of music.

Outline of jazz Overview of and topical guide to jazz

Jazz – musical style that originated at the beginning of the 20th century in African American communities in the Southern United States, mixing African music and European classical music traditions.


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Works cited