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New Orleans Jazz Culture, African Pedagogical Retentions in

Jazz, in the period when New Orleans, Louisiana, constituted the principal center of its development, was defined by three characteristics essential to proper performance of this style of music. Improvisation played an essential role, as did the presence of the contrametric, syncopated rhythms collectively termed swing. Musicians were expected to project these distinctive qualities through a uniquely individual tone color, known locally as one’s “tonation.” During the first three decades of the 20th century, though they mastered their instruments through study based upon European pedagogies, New Orleans musicians acquired these essential performance skills by means of a pedagogy derived from West African practices. It required active participation by aspiring musicians over a long period of time. The student’s primary task was to learn to ...

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