'Urban Jazz'

DJ DSL, 2004

The Concept of "Urban Jazz", is based on the premise, or principle that all modern (Popular) music in the Western Hemisphere, i.e. North & South America, The Caribbean and Europe evolved from Blues & Jazz.
After being forcibly uprooted from their homelands in the 17 & 1800's during the Transatlantic Slave Trade, as Africans began to arrive in the West, so too came their music, which later developed into Rural-African-Folk music, in the Southern states of America, such as Louisiana, Georgia and Alabama, where the music was able to flourish into what became known by the beginning of the 1900's as Country Blues. Powerful and pure, it expressed the hopes and dreams of an oppressed people.

It later took on various forms such as: Ragtime, Swing, Urban Blues & Black Church (Gospel) music. As the music grew in popularity, it took on new characteristics depending upon the experiences of the people, for example; during periods of hardship, the music was made predominately by men such as Robert Johnson, John Lee Hooker, Blind Lemon Jefferson & Muddy Waters, many of whose turbulent and tragic lives, mirrored that of today's Rappers, such as Tupac Shakur, DMX & Ghost Face Killer. In fact researchers have drawn many parallels between the two, labelling Hip Hop the modern day Blues, as Rapper Nas recently demonstrated with his father, Jazz musician Olu Dara on, "Bridging the Gap", there is definitely a connection between Rap & Blues. During a recent interview with the "New Nation" Newspaper, Nas mentioned the significance of the single:

"My Manager said to me, 'Nas, "Bridging the Gap" is the most dangerous record you ever made because there are certain mean people in the world who, for whatever reason, don't wanna see a black man with his father.' That made me even more happy about the song because it wasn't just about me and him, it was about all fathers and sons, all races bridging the gap from the beginning of blues to hip hop."
Nevertheless, as conditions gradually improved, with the mass migration of many African-Americans to Northern cities such as Detroit, New York & Chicago, the music took on a new form, reflecting the mood of optimism amongst blacks in the 1920's. With more females beginning to make Blues, such as Bessie Smith, it adopted more finesse, and eventually began to be known as Jazz, or what should be more accurately termed; "Popular-Urban Blues"

The music also developed according to the Cultural environment, for example the inhabitants of the Caribbean, especially the Island of Jamaica whom have always had strong ties with American blacks, leading to what can be described as a cultural exchange between the two peoples, in many areas, not only music. For example, the individual credited for kick starting the Black consciousness movement in America, was Jamaican activist The Honourable Marcus Garvey. And were it not for the efforts of Jamaican born DJ Kool Herc's introduction of Sound Systems & Toasting to African-Americans, Hip Hop would not exist today in it's present Form.
In return, many early Jamaican musicians were heavily influenced by Blues during the mid 1900's, which in turn gave birth to Ska, Rock-Steady & Blue beat, with artists like Toots & The Maytals and The Skatelites fusing Caribbean rhythms with Jazz and Blues to create early forms of Reggae, or more accurately; "Jamaican Rhythms & Blues". Robert Nestor Marley's early recordings and image reflected he's North American Blues influences. This 'Blues influence' also developed into a powerful form of Jamaican Jazz, which was spearheaded by artists like Monty Alexander, Augustus Pablo and, former Bob Marley lead Guitarist Ernest Ranglin.
The Blues has also influenced Caucasian artists such as; Bill Haley, Elvis Presley, The Beatles & The Rolling Stones, which laid the foundations for modern Western Pop, and Rock. In his book; "The Ice Opinion", Rapper Ice T, states the following:

"Everybody should know rock 'n' roll was really started by black artists like Little Richard, who raged on the piano. The music executives then stepped in and had Pat Boone remake all his records. And they decided: White people can rock and black people will do R&B. That's the biggest joke; rock is a state of mind, not a question of color"

A similar situation occurred when Jazz came into contact with Latin or South American rhythms, which had previously developed from the music of African Slaves in countries like Cuba, Brazil and Columbia, eventually evolving into what are now known as: Salsa, Samba & Latin-Jazz, represented in the music of artists like Stan Getz, Carlos Santana, Tito Puente and Gilberto Gill.
Meanwhile at home, Blues & Jazz, or "Rhythms & Blues", gradually took on more sophistication, through artists such as Billy Holiday, Nat King Cole, Ella Fitzgerald, and later Dina Washington, singing 'Soulful' ballads with Jazz musicians like Louis Armstrong. This form of Jazz, along with West coast Blues, was then fused together with another form of music, which had previously developed from the original Country Blues, and was sung in Black Churches, and would be come to be known as Gospel. What emerged out of the fusion of Blues/Jazz with Church harmonies formed a "Soulful" yet still 'Bluesy' sound, which became known as Doo-Wop. Groups like The Platters, The Coasters & The Drifters represented this harmonic sound during the 1930's & 40's.
By the 1950's, the sound further developed merging the richness of Jazz Trumpets & Saxophones together with the Powerful 'Spiritual' Gospel sound, and Soul music was born. Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin and Otis Reading were early pioneers of this new sound in the late 50's. This form of "Rhythms & Blues" was a product of the blacks that had previously migrated from the South in search of prosperity, and as they found more opportunities in employment and education their outlook changed, as did their music. By the 60's the sound took root in the city of Detroit, which was at the time the centre of the American Motor-car industry, referred to as "The Motor City" or 'Motown', which off course would later become the name of the record-label, which launched Soul music Internationally.

During the 70's, Disco, which originally came out of 'Jazz Funk', eventually gripped the imagination of the mainstream white population, with artists like Michael Jackson, Donna Summer and Chic. At its height Disco became the accepted music of Western youth or 'The new Pop music' due to the phenomenal success of the movie "Saturday Night Fever".
Nevertheless this huge commercial success', eventually signalled the death of the music, culminating with the "Disco Sucks" campaign, which witnessed thousands of Disco records destroyed publicly in New York's Yankee Stadium. Today the commercialisation of modern 'RnB', as well as the increasing Gun Violence and Derogatory lyrics commonly associated with Gangster Rap, could in turn lead to their eventual demise, and like Disco; modern RnB/Rap may one-day also become victims of their own success'.
However, as with any type of evolution, despite the many branches or offshoots there still remains an unbroken link, which can be traced all the way back to the earliest forms of Blues/Jazz, which had beginnings in the 1900's. Today's progressive genres of black music now associated with UrbanJazz, such as; Latin Jazz / Funk, Hip Hop Jazz , Neo Soul & Funky House, still contain the basic elements of the building blocks or "DNA" of the original Rhythm & Blues, at their nucleus, making them directly related to their common ancestors, Blues & Jazz.

Urbanjazz ™ Radio, is the UK's newest alternative radio network which broadcasts Music and Talk across the Globe. The purpose of which is to showcase the richness of Black music, whilst providing high quality entertainment, in the form of alternative Music and Talk to 'Cosmopolitan' audiences, and ultimately attract listeners from around the World through its online service, which broadcasts 24 hours a day on

DSL is a Journalist, DJ & Radio Broadcaster,
and Founder and Executive Director of The Urban Jazz Network.

For more information about "Urban Jazz", and some of the issues raised above,