The Roots Of Jazz: The Harlem Great Migration
The roots and story of Jazz are inseparable from the story of Harlem.
After the abolition of Slavery, the welfare of most former Slaves didnt automatically improve as the majority could only find work as Sharecroppers on their former Master’s Plantations.
In addition, hostility and discrimination towards former Slaves continued, especially in the South where the conditions became intolerable for most.
The result is what NAACP Founder, WEB Dubois, called The Great Migration of former Slaves from the South to Cities in the North in search of the American dream.
A significant number of former Slaves migrated to New York, and settled in Harlem.
Jazz & The Harlem Renaissance
Growing out of the community of aspirational free Blacks influenced by the black Power movement and the ideas of Booker T Washington and WEB Du Bois encouraging them to lift themselves out of poverty was a cultural landmark in Black Film, Literature, Music and Art known as the Harlem Renaissance exemplified by Poets like Langston Hughes.
From about 1910 onwards, Harlem came to define what was avant garde not only for Black America, but White America as well, with leading hotspots like the Cotton Club showcasing Black culture especially Jazz to a broad audience, and gaining entry into the mainstream.Since the heyday of the Harlem Renaissance Jazz has become a universal Global language as people around the world have interpreted it through their own Cultural lens, and today we have Afro-Jazz, Latin Jazz etc.
Ultimately, these are all individual expressions of the same genre and they bear witness to the power and influence of Jazz on the Human Spirit.
Its safe to say, besides Hollywood, Jazz is probably America’s biggest contribution to World Culture.
Below is a list of my favourite Jazz albums:
1.Miles Davis: Kind Of Blue
The 1959 Masterpiece regarded as the best Jazz album ever made, if not the best album in the history of recorded music…Its elegance and influence is unparalleled, affecting anyone who gives it a spin.
2. John Coltrane: A Love Supreme
An unmatched expression of universal Human Spirituality through Music that continues to resonate.
3. Sade: Diamond Life
Sade’s classic debut that reinvented vintage Jazz for a modern audience.
4.Kwani Experience: Birth Of The Mudaland Funk
Probably one of the most underrated albums in modern African music…A majestic and ambitious melting pot of sounds that bears testament to the unchained Spirit of Africa’s youth.
5. Nat King Cole: Unforgettable
The name speaks for itself.
These albums are an indispensable part of my music collection, although everyone has their personal favourites, and they are not necessarily the ‘definitive’ Jazz albums.
Nevertheless, you wont regret giving any of them a spin.
For more on the History of Jazz and its roots in the Harlem Renaissance, peep the classic documentary on the Artists of the Harlem Renaissance…Enjoy the vibes.