"Jazz is America's classical music," according to Dr. Billy Taylor, and while still rooted in the African-American experience, it is truly an international phenomenon. Jazz is a kind of music in which improvisation is typically an important part. In most jazz performances, players play solos which they make up on the spot, which requires a considerable amount of skill. There is tremendous variety in jazz, but most jazz is very rhythmic, has a forward momentum called "swing," and uses "bent" or "blue" notes. You can often hear "call -- and -- response" patterns in jazz, in which one instrument, voice, or part of the band answers another.

Jazz can express many different emotions, from pain to pure joy. In jazz, you may even hear the sounds of freedom. In the past jazz music has been a powerful voice for people who were suffering unfair or even un human treatment, or because they lived under a cruel ruler or type of government The roots of jazz can be found in the sounds of West African drums and singing. Arising from their homelands by the slave industry, forbidden to play the drums or to speak their native languages the first African-Americans nonetheless kept and preserved a common idea from the establishment of African music. These ideas expressed themselves in America as field hollers, the blues, gospel music, and eventually jazz music. Today, the circle has been completed as American jazz musicians have traveled to Africa to share their music, in many cases finding new inspiration in the vitality of today's African music.

While the roots of jazz are firmly rooted in Africa, the culture of America is largely rooted in Europe. Jazz musicians used the musical instruments available in America, which were largely of European origin. Jazz musicians heard European music and many were familiar with the musical theories of European classical music. But they adapted these tools to express their own feelings and brought their own, African influenced, musical standards to bear in creating a uniquely American phenomenon. Perhaps owing to a greater emphasis on arts education in Europe, many jazz musicians have found opportunities for artistic growth and career advancement in Europe more attractive than in America. Jazz developed in the United States in the very early part of the 20 th century.

New Orleans played a key role in this development. The city's population was more diverse than anywhere else in the South, and people of African, French, Caribbean, Italian, German, Mexican, and American Indian, as well as English, descent interacted with one another. African-American musical traditions mixed with others and gradually jazz emerged from a blend of ragtime, marches, ragtime, blues, and other kinds of music. At first jazz was mostly for dancing. Then In later years people would just sit and listen to it.

After the first recordings of jazz were made in 1917, the music spread widely and developed rapidly. The evolution of jazz was led by a series of masterful musicians such as Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Charlie Parker, and Miles Davis. Jazz developed a series of different styles including traditional jazz, swing, bebop, cool jazz, and jazz rock, among others. "Traditional jazz" is mainly used to describe "early and influential styles as ragtime, boogie woogie, and Harlem stride piano." Bebop was basically the first modern swing style to emerge in jazz. Jazz musicians place a high value on finding their own sound and style, and that means, for example, that trumpeter Miles Davis sounds very different than trumpeter Louis Armstrong. Jazz musicians like to play their songs in their own distinct styles, and so you might listen to a dozen different jazz recordings of the same song, but each will sound different.

The musicians' playing styles make each version different, and so do the improvised solos. Jazz is basically about making something familiar into something new. And about making something shared into something on a personal level. Originality is the key factor for the masterful jazz musician.

Those are just some of the reasons that jazz is a great art form, and why some people consider it "America's classical music." Louis Armstrong said, "Jazz is music that's never played the same way once." Ralph Ellison said, "Jazz is an art of individual assertion within and against the group... ." What Mr. Armstrong and Mr. Ellison are trying to point out here by saying this is that Jazz is something free. Jazz has no boundaries and does no limit the musician's skill. That is what makes jazz such a beautiful form of art.

Improvisation and using your instrument as another form of communication is what jazz musicians do when playing. Jazz is still alive and well. There are many artists who still follow the tradition left to them by great jazz musicians such as Louis Armstrong, Charlie Parker, Lester Young, and John Coltrane. At the same time, jazz spread from the United States to many parts of the world, and today jazz musicians -- and jazz festivals -- can be found in dozens of nations. Jazz is one of the United State's greatest exports to the world.