Jazz and R&B Music

Music comes in different styles and forms, which are commonly referred to as genre. These genres are categorized according to their function, place, time and other qualities such as mode of performance. Almost every form of music evolves from one older style, and that has seen music transcend from the antiquity period to the style of music we have in the present day. At times, the mixture of two or more genres can be merged to bring about the formation or creation of a unique style of music. This evolution is what keeps music alive, fresh and exciting. This article will focus on two of the most popular genres of music which are the Rhythm and Blues, and jazz. We will be looking at the relationship between jazz and R&B by exploring the similarities and differences in their musical characteristics and features.

One of the striking similarities between jazz and R&B is the fact that they both evolved from a common older form of music which is the blues. If we go down history lane, we’ll realize that R&B came into being three generations after the emergence of jazz. Both R&B and jazz were commonly performed by Afro Americans in its early form, but it is now popular worldwide.

R&B is the name used to replace what was previously known as “race music” in the 40’s, a term used to identify colored musicians. It is a genre of music that merges several elements. At that time, musicians were not accustomed to one style of music as they combined jazz styles and blues. R&B is characterized by the use of steady rhythm only that it is not as straight and steady like that of the classical music.

Jazz is a form of music that relies heavily on improvisation and rhythm. Improvisation is used in jazz primarily to show expression and creativity on the spot, and this is done through changes in rhythm and embellishment of melodies and the use of the 12-bar blues harmonic pattern. Types of rhythm used in jazz are syncopated and swung rhythm, and this is when accent occurs on the weak beat, the use of walking bass, glissando, scat, rhythmic chordal accompaniment on the piano and the use of blues scale( flattening the 3rd, 5th, and 7th degree of the major scale). Jazz is polyrhythmic in nature too, i.e. the use of multiple contrasting rhythms at the same time.

Rhythm and blues, on the other hand, is a style of American music which emerged from the merging of jazz and blues. It is characterized by soulful, rhythmic melodies which are usually performed by artists with sonorous soulful voices that are often used to address struggles of love, and the joy in love and sex. R&B is traditionally performed by a lead vocalist who is usually accompanied by a group of singers called backups. These backups typically engage with the lyrics of the music emotionally although they are always in control.

Both Jazz and R&B share a common ancestry with an older form, which is the blues. It will therefore not be wrong for me to say blues existed before jazz and R&B which makes blues an element of jazz music.

Unlike Jazz where improvisation is the primary element, R&B improvisation is given secondary priority. Jazz provides freedom of improvisation and allows the use of syncopated rhythm. This is characterized by the use of a predetermined tune in its performance but gives performers the liberty of interpreting as they deemed fit. Hence improvisation is done based on the musicians’ mood in sync with that of the other performer. This is without leaving out responses from the audience.

Jill Scott is an artist that I have worked and performed with over the years. She would be the epitome of certain contemporary artists that have found balance between jazz and R&B music. Please check out this performance of Jill Scott in 2007 at VH1 Story Tellers to experience what it is I am talking about.

Jamar JonesComment