Timeline of African American Music
Secular Instrumental

Traditional Jazz

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Carnegie Hall Jazz Band: Eastwood After Hours - A Night of Jazz

Photo by Steve J. Sherman
Carnegie Hall Jazz Band: Eastwood After Hours - A Night of Jazz
Christian McBride
Gettin’ to It
Christian McBride
Wynton Marsalis
Wynton Marsalis
Terence Blanchard
Simply Stated
Terence Blanchard
Branford Marsalis
Royal Garden Blues
Branford Marsalis
Jeff "Tain" Watts
Black Nile
Jeff "Tain" Watts
Marcus Roberts Trio
New Orleans Blues
Marcus Roberts Trio
Roy Hargrove
Whisper Not
Roy Hargrove
Roy Hargrove
The Vibe
Roy Hargrove

Key Attributes of Traditional Jazz

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  • Entertainment
  • Black Power/Pride

Musical Features

  • Rhythms
  • Riffs
  • Instrumentals
  • Vocals


  • Bass
  • Drums
  • Electric Guitar
  • Guitar
  • Horn
  • Other Percussion
  • Piano
  • Saxophone
  • Strings
  • Trumpet
  • Woodwinds

In the early 1980s, hard bop inspired the artistic directions of a new group of young musicians who opposed the new developments—fusion and avant-garde—of the 1960s and 1970s. Wynton and Branford Marsalis, Billy Pierce, Charles Fambrough, and Mulgrew Miller advocated a return to hard bop and joined forces with Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers in “Falling in Love With Love.”

"Snake Hip Waltz" - Branford Marsalis

Context and History

“We [Jazz at Lincoln Center] attempt to embrace both the legacy and the future of jazz so the history of jazz is present in what is currently being played.”
Wynton MarsalisJazz Trumpeter and Artistic Director, Jazz at Lincoln Center

Another group of young musicians known as “Young Lions” or “New Traditionalists” continued to draw inspiration from former traditions, merging concepts from bebop, cool, and hard bop with their own innovations. Roy Hargrove in “Proclamation” (1989), along with Terence Blanchard, Marcus Roberts, Jeff Watts, and Christian McBride, are a part of this group. With yet other aspirations, Wynton Marsalis continued his mission to preserve the nation’s jazz heritage through his work with Jazz at Lincoln Center, which he co-founded in 1987. In 1991, he became the artistic director of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, organized in 1988. His focus on the classic repertoire from the pre-1960s eras and the exclusion of avant-garde, free jazz styles, and more contemporary expressions has generated some criticism.

"Round, Back Round Again" - Christian McBride, Joshua Redman, Brad Mehldau, Brian Blade

Musical Features/Performance Style

This music returns to the style and features associated with the pre-1960s tradition.


  1. Gourse, Leslie. Wynton Marsalis: Skain’s Domain: A Biography. New York: Schirmer Books, 1999.
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The Timeline of African American Music by Portia K. Maultsby, Ph.D. presents the remarkable diversity of African American music, revealing the unique characteristics of each genre and style, from the earliest folk traditions to present-day popular music.

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Jessye Norman

Carnegie Hall’s interactive Timeline of African American Music is dedicated to the loving memory of the late soprano and recitalist Jessye Norman.

© 2008 Richard Termine

Special thanks to Dr. Portia K. Maultsby and to the Advisory Scholars for their commitment and thought-provoking contributions to this resource.

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The Timeline of African American Music has been made possible in part by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities: Democracy demands wisdom. The project is also supported in part by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.

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