Ever since the beginnings of Cakewalk parties, probably the early 1800's, at the slave camps near the old southern plantation homes. Slave couples would dance an imitation and caricature of the ballroom dances performed by the white slave owners in their big houses, which were also the dances performed at balls and parties in Europe.
The dancers competed with each other to be the most outlandish imitations of the stuffy, prim, and prancing dancers. But, the dancers needed music to dance to; they needed a band. The bands' instrumentation may have consisted of Banjo, or Guitar, maybe some wind instruments like Trumpet, Trombone, or Clarinet, and various percussion instruments.
Obviously, these bands couldn't play the exact same music performed up in the big house. The musicians would have wanted to imitate the music in the same way the dance was being imitated, with a lot of imagination and humor. They would have parodied the dance music of the European tradition. But, what could they do to pull it off? Enter Jazz.
Sure, they "Jazzed" up the music. They altered the tempos. And, they loosened up the strict dotted-eighth - sixteenth note rhythms to create a swing rhythm that made it easier to dance.
It wasn't called Jazz, and all I can do is speculate that it happened that way. There was no written music of that style. But, given the way Jazz evolved from where we can recognize it; it's not hard to imagine that the practice of Jazz is older than we think.
Some of the devices used in Jazz like; Swing Rhythm, Extension and Alteration of Harmony, Solo or Collective Improvisations, may or may not all be present in a song that is considered to be Jazz.
Since Jazz is really a seasoning it can added as much or as little as needed to convey the artist's or performer's message.
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