Who Invented Jazz Music?


Although there is no individual musician who can be directly linked to having created jazz music, a number of performers throughout the 1800s and early 1900s contributed to its ultimate creation. The majority of the influence for jazz came from the African-American culture in the United States during slavery and after Reconstruction.


African slaves in the United States adapted a number of European instruments, most notably the violin, to more traditional African music. European-Americans in turn popularized the music in minstrel shows.


One of the first major figures in the musical form was Louis Moreau Gottschalk. He adapted the African-American minstrel music into piano renditions. This became popular prior to the Civil War.


The rise of ragtime music popularized some of the African-American jazz performers themselves. In 1895, Ernest Hogan gained a major hit with "All Coons Look Alike To Me." Scott Joplin joined him in 1899 with his international hit "Maple Leaf Rag."

New Orleans

What ultimately became known as early jazz was developed in New Orleans. A number of African-American artists performed in brothels and bars using marching band instruments. They merged ragtime with funeral-procession music to create a new style.


The origin of the word "jazz" is unknown. According to the American Dialect Society, it appears to have been used as slang during the early part of the 1900s. It first appeared in print in the "San Francisco Bulletin" on March 3, 1913.


About the Author

Jason Chavis has been a professional freelance writer since 1998. He is the author of four books, two movies and a play as well as numerous articles for "Scientific American," The History Channel, City Pages and "The Onion." In 1996, Chavis won the award for "best science fiction/fantasy" from the River Valley Writer’s Conference.

Photo Credits

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