Section Three: Reading Comprehension (3)
Jazz has been called “the art of expression set to music”, and “America’s great
contribution to music”. It has functioned as popular art and enjoyed periods of fairly
widespread public response, in the “jazz age” of the 1920s, in the “swing era” of the late
1930s and in the peak popularity of modern jazz in the late 1950s. The standard legend
about Jazz is that it originated around the end of the 19
century in New Orleans and
moved up the Mississippi River to Memphis, St. Louis, and finally to Chicago. It welded
together the elements of Ragtime, marching band music, and the Blues. However, the
influences of what led to those early sounds goes back to tribal African drum beats and
European musical structures. Buddy Bolden, a New Orleans barber and cornet player, is
generally considered to have been the first real Jazz musician, around 1891.
What made Jazz significantly different from the other earlier forms of music was the
use of improvisation. Jazz displayed a break from traditional music where a composer
wrote an entire piece of music on paper, leaving the musicians to break their backs
playing exactly what was written on the score. In a Jazz piece, however, the song is
simply a starting point, or sort of skeletal guide for the Jazz musicians to improvise
around. Actually, many of the early Jazz musicians were bad sight readers and some
couldn’t even read music at all.
Generally speaking, these early musicians couldn’t make
very much money and were stuck working menial jobs to make a living. The second
wave of New Orleans Jazz musicians included such memorable players as Joe Oliver,
Kid Ory, and Jelly Roll Morton. These men formed small bands and took the music of
earlier musicians, improved its complexity, and gained greater success. This music is
known as “hot Jazz” due to the enormously fast speeds and rhythmic drive.
A young cornet player by the name of Louis Armstrong was discovered by Joe Oliver
in New Orleans. He soon grew up to become one of the greatest and most successful
musicians of all time, and later one of the biggest stars in the world. The impact of
Armstrong and other talented early Jazz musicians changed the way we look at music.
The Passage answers which of the following questions?
(a) Why did Ragtime, marching band music, and the Blues lose popularity
after about 1900?
(b) What were the origins of Jazz and how did it differ from other forms of
(c) What has been the greatest contribution of cornet players to music in the
(d) Which early Jazz musicians most influenced the development of Blues
According to the passage, Jazz originated in
(b) St. Louis
(c) along the Mississippi river
(d) New Orleans