HOW GERSHWIN AND JAZZ INFLUENCED AMERICAN COMPOSERS
Gershwin was an excellent musician who doubled up as a composer and proficient pianist. Gershwin is termed as a prolific musicians and composer for blending the jazz-influenced style of music with classical music. Having studied under Charles Hambitzer, and Nadia Boulanger, Gershwin was able to perfect his art of music by blending the not-so popular jazz music in that age with the popular classical music. Despite many people`s cynical sentiment towards Gershwin`s attempt to blend both popular and classical genres of music, his works proved to be a great success that have greatly influenced composers up to date in the musical world. Gershwin is best known for his popular orchestral compositions, ‘Rhapsody in Blue’ and ‘An American in Paris’. These two works by Gershwin swayed success all over the world in the hearts of music enthusiast during the 1920s. It is truly evident that Gershwin`s works left a huge impact and still influences many American composers to date.
‘Rhapsody in blue’ is one of Gershwin`s greatest piece of music to be recorded in history. Composed in 1924, this musical piece had different aspects to it that made Gershwin`s music unique from the rest of the composers. Rhapsody in Blue was designed for solo piano play, and jazz band, therefore combining the elements of classical music spiced up with jazz-effects. This piece by Gershwin turned out to be a huge success with even new styles being attached to this original piece of music. But perhaps the most successful event that rocketed Rhapsody in Blue to new levels of popularity was its premiere held by Paul Whiteman. By performing before a diverse group of enthusiasts and critics, Gershwin even added a glissando to his performance to the awe and thrill of the audience. Rhapsody in Blue was reviewed as one of America`s best musical pieces, impacting a huge influence on musicians and composers alike.
The other piece by Gershwin that held great influence on composers and musicians is ‘An American in Paris’. This musical piece was originally a poetic treatise that reflected on the experiences that Gershwin experienced during his time in France. As was Gershwin`s signature in music, An American in Paris’ performance incorporated symphony orchestra, and saxophones which marked the jazz aspect of Gershwin`s musical piece. With a full orchestral set played to it, this musical piece also brought a lot of positive influence to the music society, especially to young composers.
Through his wild experiments with jazz on classical music, Gershwin introduced the musical genre of jazz to many people from his two great pieces, ‘Rhapsody in Blue’ and ‘An American in Paris’. After Jazz was exposed to the wider world, classical composers were intrigued by its novelty in the musical world, in addition to its exotic nature. This ‘new’ concept of music inspired many composers of music who decided to venture into this unexplored genre of music which can turn out to be a huge success as was the case in Gershwin. Unlike before where jazz was associated with ‘speakeasy’ and ‘brothels’ in New Orleans and Chicago, Gershwin had exalted this genre of music. What was banned on radio before was now sung confidently and even legitimized by the white Americans. Gershwin had revolutionized jazz music to becoming one of the ‘hip’ music genres to listen to. Fletcher Henderson was one such musician who was greatly influenced by the musical works of Gershwin. Commonly known as the ‘Whiteman`s jazz’, Henderson performed many jazz songs in forms that were alluring to the whites too. Al Jolson is another musician and composer who faithfully followed in the footsteps of Gershwin in adapting his music to jazz. Jolson held numerous performances and even featured in a movie, ‘The Jazz Singer’ all in a show of the revolutionized genre of music. Benny Goodman was also another musician caught up in the popular trail of jazz music in this era.
The popular of jazz music did not spread into New York City until much later during the advent of ‘Red’ Nichols musical career in jazz. Red Nichols pioneered ‘chamber jazz’ with a group of five instrumentalists who brought more volatility to the music genre. Nichol composed quite a number of pieces, even though they did not strike the all-time high as Gershwin`s. His compositions included That`s no Bargain, Five Pennies, Hurricane, I may be wrong, They didn`t believe me, among some few other productions that did not attract popularity among the jazz lovers of the time . Of importance however, was Nichol`s efforts to change Jazz sound into ‘white’ or the to the preference that white people preferred their songs. Despite some futile attempts, Nichol`s music sold in thousands of copies rocketing him to popularity as the ‘white jazz man’. He strikes history as one of the personalities who took Jazz music to a bigger stage altogether.
Jean Goldkette is another prominent feature in the history of Jazz music. By setting up a white band, Goldkette devoted himself to producing dance-pop songs that incorporated Jazz music sounds in them. These unique blend of music earned Goldkette and his band unimaginable fame. This is a classic example of hoe Gershwin`s life had a huge influence on the life of musicians and composers in America. Just like Gershwin did, Goldkette sought his own blend through combining aspects of dance pop music to jazz music, to produce famous hits. Unfortunately, his music journey was cut short when he was absorbed by Paul Whiteman.
Paul Whiteman is another iconic figure who features prominently in the world of pop and jazz music. Formerly a violinist, Whiteman had his music preferences lying more on to the classical genre which he later blended in to other popular forms of music, jazz included, after forming a band. He included diverse instruments in most of his pieces including: trombone, saxophone, guitar, cornet, piano and a violin. These set of instruments provide what can be termed as a symphony of sorts in his exuberant performances. This also shows the influence that jazz music impacted on musicians and composers in the 20th century.
In addition to producing his own musical pieces, Whiteman also commissioned George Gershwin`s Rhapsody in Blue, which went a long way in legitimizing jazz music as a form of high-end music. This concert brought radical improvement to the concept held on jazz music. Jazz music was thereafter accepted as a credible white establishment in addition to prompting more composers to write more pieces that contained aspects of jazz music. Paul Whiteman was taken to be an iconic jazz artist during this period despite other better artists than him. Nevertheless, by utilizing his popularity in the music industry, Whiteman strived to push jazz music beyond its limits just like his predecessor, George Gershwin did.
Benny Goodman is also a key figure in the progression of jazz music throughout its journey. Being a professional clarinetist himself, he formed a jazz band that involved wind instruments only, the trombone, saxophone, and trumpets, in addition to percussion rhythm instruments. By employing former jazz star Fletcher Henderson, Goodman managed to gain high levels of popularity within the circles of jazz music, her music being aired repeatedly on radio. Other musicians also sprung up including Charlie Christian and Mel Powell, who were also involved in the progression of jazz music to higher levels.
As can be seen from the above considerations, George Gershwin`s works and jazz music had a wide impact and influence on musicians and composers in general. As we can see, after the commissioning of Gershwin`s Rhapsody in Blue, jazz music has been experiencing wider acceptance and growing popularity within different societies as a high-end popular form of music. However, this fact has been made possible through the efforts of different jazz musicians such as Bing Cosby, Paul Whiteman, among many others who have always championed the fronts in taking jazz music beyond its limits. Nevertheless, it is important to note that from Gershwin`s awakening of jazz music, the world`s curiosity developed onwards and the genre of jazz music developed and grew to be one of the world`s most popular music genres.
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