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LJS 194: Understanding the Jazz Eras (Jazz History Made Simple)

Welcome to episode 194 of the LJS Podcast where today we take a look back in time at jazz history. We look into the different eras of jazz, the important musicians to listen to from them, and how the music evolved over time.

Listen to episode 194

The most essential thing you can do for learning how to play jazz or any style of music is simply to listen to it. And I think a lot of us understand that on a basic level.

But when it comes to jazz, there is so much to listen to. There are many different eras of jazz history and there are so many musicians to listen to.

So, in today’s episode, I want to go over the different eras of jazz history and what’s made this music what it is today and talk about some of the most important influential jazz musicians that you need to listen to and you need to discover.

In this episode:

1. The different eras of jazz

2. Early Jazz/Dixie

3. Swing Era

4. Bebop Era

5. Cool Jazz

6. Hard Bop

7. Free Jazz

8. Fusion

9. Modern Jazz

Thanks for listening to this episode of the Learn Jazz Standards Podcast. If you aren’t already, make sure you are subscribed on iTunes, Google Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you listen to podcasts.

I look forward to having you join me in the next episode!

Important Links

Here’s a series of excellent lectures on the jazz eras

Brent Vaartstra
Brent Vaartstra is a professional jazz guitarist and educator living in New York City. He is the head blogger and podcast host for which he owns and operates. He actively performs around the New York metropolitan area and is the author of the Hal Leonard publication "Visual Improvisation for Jazz Guitar." He's also the host of the music entrepreneurship podcast "Passive Income Musician."


  1. Brent,

    Thank you very much for providing this jazz history lesson. I hope you present more history in future episodes. This podcast brought lots of questions to my mind — some of them are:

    Are the soloists you featured great soloists because they follow the rules you taught us in previous podcasts — do all these soloists hit a target notes (3rd, 7th, chord tone) at the beginning of every chord change?

    Do you think the soloists follow your rule for soloing: "Play what the music demands and not what makes the soloist look or sound good" — from your recent Aimee Nolte interview?

    Is there motific or rhythmic development happening in the solos in the BeBop, Hard Bop, Free jazz eras? Or are the soloists just playing whatever comes into their minds? Are they free associating — maybe babbling?

    Do the rules for good soloing change for each jazz era?

    Would you change the way you solo depending on the version of the song you want == Dixie, Swing, BeBop, Hard Bop, Free Jazz, Modern jazz?

    I liked this podcast a lot. Thank you.for sharing this information with us.


  2. Brent, many thanks for this awesome episode! I know it’s impossible to mention all essential styles and musicians in a single podcast, but you did an excellent job.
    Jazz is American, but it has grown some branches also in other parts of the world. So I’d like to mention the European gypsy jazz in the swing era, with Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grappelli. The rich history of Latin jazz and its influences on the North American jazz music also deserve to be listened to!

  3. Too bad that as many guitarists/bebopheads you've eluded the jazz funk era, really different from Fusion, driven by Herbie Hancock (with The Headhunters) but also Jimmy Smith or Eddy Henderson to name a few, and also the latin jazz by true latin born legends, Eddie Palmieri, Ray Barreto, The Valdes father and son and more recently Michel Camilo. I know it's not fulll of guitar solos, but jazz must not be limited to swing, bebop or rock. Suggested movie for you to watch: Calle 54


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