Our guide to jazz and blues
Kristina K

Our guide to jazz and blues

First published date December 03 2013 Amended date December 03 2013

The blues, literally meaning depressed mood, began shortly before jazz in the 19th century and the music, similar to jazz, originated from black communities in the Deep South. The idea behind blues was rooted in the hardships and tribulations of slaves during the 19th century. The blues influenced jazz and jazz now influences blues, moulding these two genres with one another. If you’re curious about how they started and would love to understand the hardships they’ve encountered through gospels and tales to today’s more modern notes, then study jazz and blues.


Play at the next Jazz/Blues Festival

Do you enjoy listening to Charlie Parker, Herbie Hancock and Wes Montgomery? If you’re a jazz enthusiast, start off on a beginner course to learn some tunes. You’ll learn the melody and chords of songs that are great for beginners like Satin Doll, Blue Bossa, Misty or even Autumn Leaves. You’ll study the licks of master jazz musicians, get to know the essence of each piece of your jazz vocabulary and learn to use them as a springboard to come up with your own licks. Whether you’re interested in piano, guitar, drums, saxophone, harmonica or the keyboard, your knowledge on chord qualities and modifications will see you embracing the jazz and blues language and you’ll soon be developing your own distinctive voice.


It don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing!

Famous words from Duke Ellington, playing good jazz music is not about just playing the notes, but rhythmically playing them so that they take on a greater significance with rhythm and articulation. Of course to help you do that, you’ll need to gain tips on note choices, articulation, placement of rhythm, beat placements and accents. Before you know it, you’ll be putting your own jazz and blues spin on some of your favourite songs!


Jazz hands and feet

The Charleston dance became popular in the 1920s, during the era of jazz music and Flappers. Usually danced to ragtime jazz music in a quick-paced rhythm accompanied with uninhibited quirky fun expressions, the Charleston dance has evolved to many variations. Other familiar jazz dances that include loads of leg kicking and arm swinging include swing jive and recently, the more modern jazz dance, which showcases slow, dreamlike, fantastic leaps and great physical flexibility. Jazz dancers are in high demand for Broadway productions and dance performances all over the world. Enrol on our jazz dance courses to bring out the graceful dancer in you. 


Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday – who’s your favourite?

‘Come fly with me, let’s fly, let’s fly away... if you can use some exotic booze, there’s a bar in far Bombay. Come fly with me, let’s fly, let’s fly away...’ If you recognise these lyrics, you’re clearly a fan of Frank Sinatra. Or if you’re into warm, silky soft, velvety voices that envelope you like smooth caresses, Nat King Cole’s your man. These legends have great recording careers and if you wish to follow in their footsteps, why not train with professional jazz vocal coaches with singing lessons? Develop your jazz conception, solo performance and expand your repertoire. For those who are already accustomed to singing in the jazz idiom, learn some approaches to improvise over jazz tunes. Alternatively, join a jazz and blues choir and sing non-standard choral works and understand jazz styles as a collective experience.


Tips to becoming a great jazz/blues musician


·         Listen to jazz every day. Enjoy it and feel a true passion for the music.

·         Learn and study tunes straight from recordings rather than reading them from sheet music.

·         Transcribe and learn language from recordings.

·         Understand how chords are built and why each chord exists in a tune. Learn why each chord progresses to the next in a progression.


We recommend...


·         Ronnie Scotts

The legendary Ronnie Scotts has been well-known in the international jazz community since 1959. It first started out as a place for musicians to jam, but soon attracted interest from the US and became the place for performances of every kind of jazz music. This is a landmark in the London music scene!


·         606 Club

This jazz club will appeal to people looking for an authentic jazz experience. It serves up live music from some of the best jazz musicians playing today like Jamie Cullum, Claire Teal and Hamish Stuart. Musicians perform directly in front of the audience rather than on the stage and occasionally, patrons jump on the stage to jam with the band!


·         WZ Jazz

WM Jazz hosts live music with an impressive line-up performers from the worlds of jazz, soul, jazz funk and blues. This intimate venue offers dinner, jazz and some of the most popular musicians like the Miller Jazz Quartet and the talented tenor saxophonist Brandon Allen.


·         The Vortex Jazz Club

Located in Dalston, The Vortex is the epitome of an underground jazz bar, with a crowd even more eccentric than the musicians on stage and an atmosphere that is thoroughly welcoming – as long as you’re there for the music!


·         Round Midnight Jazz and Blues Bar

Offering a range of live jazz and blue acts seven days a week, the bar has a loyal base of patrons flocking to hear good music in a cosy and intimate atmosphere. Jazz lovers can enjoy decent cocktails, simple food and real ales served in tankards whilst listening to their favourite bands.


·         Jazz @ Pizza Express

This is a flagship pizza and jazz venue. Well chosen traditional jazz with occasional appearances by big names, patrons will have to pay for admission which is usually a little bit more expensive, but once inside, it’s all worth it. 

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