Although jazz music moved in various
directions, there continued to be musicians
working within the framework of earlier
styles, such as traditional/classic (often
referred to as “Dixieland”), big band swing,
and bebop. For example, the bands of
Duke Ellington and Count Basie were
still active and continued to perform even
after those two giants died (in 1974 and
1984 respectively). The big bands of swing-era
Woody Herman and Stan Kenton were filled
with younger musicians who contributed arrangements
of music from post-swing era composers like
Thelonious Monk and John Coltrane. A
big band led by trumpeter Thad Jones and
drummer Mel Lewis found favor with the jazz
world for purveying a neo-swing approach
that included elements of bop and cool.
Trumpeter Don Ellis’ big band explored the
complex rhythms of Eastern Europe and Asia.
Drummer Art Blakey, whose career began
in the late swing era and blossomed with
bop, began his band the Jazz Messengers
in the 1950s, continuing until his death
in 1990. In between he remained firmly rooted
in the “hard bop” style, yet his band was
“school” for many up-and-coming musicians,
including trumpeter Wynton Marsalis.
Free jazz players who had made a mark
in the 1960s, such as Ornette Coleman ,
Sun Ra and the Art Ensemble of Chicago,
continued to explore jazz from a perspective
that included influences from world music.
On the other hand, crossover/fusion artists
such as guitarist George Benson and, for
a time, pianist Herbie Hancock, went at
the music from more of a pop perspective.
This style eventually led to the music now
referred to as “smooth” jazz, a simple,
easy-listening form of jazz.
The 1970s ushered in a period of academic
interest in jazz music history and performance.
Two important educational centers, the Berklee
College of Music and North Texas State University,
offered undergraduate and graduate degree
programs. Since that time many other universities
have added jazz studies to their curriculum.
In addition, there was a renewed interest
in big-band jazz (often referred to as “lab”
or “stage” bands), beginning at the high
school level, and big bands led by Stan
Woody Herman, Maynard Ferguson and others
performed and led workshops for college
and high schools students.
From the beginning of his career in the
early 1980s, Wynton Marsalis has balanced
a career in both classical music and jazz.
His early jazz playing showed influences
of bop and hard bop players, but in the
early 1990s he began a serious study of
earlier styles and especially trumpeter
Louis Armstrong, of whom he has been
a tireless advocate. In some ways he has
become the unofficial spokesman for the
music, not only as a performer but also
as an educator and as the Artistic Director
of Jazz at New York’s Lincoln Center. He
was heavily involved in the important PBS
documentary by Ken Burns,