Though mostly improvisational, in its natural form is influenced by both the European harmonic structure and African rhythm. Varying degrees of improvisation, often deliberate deviations of pitch – developed by African Americans partially from blues and ragtime. Categorised by syncopated rhythms (when rhythms are played off-beat in an unexpected way) and polyphonic ensemble playing (orchestral instrument synthesizers where each key has a separate oscillator, which allows detuning between notes to thicken sound).
Jazz has definitely been, from the very beginning, an ever-evolving and constantly expanding, changing music that goes through vast distinctive phases and stages of development in its own form; a definition that may only be applied to one phase. It is close to impossible and ineffective to try have one true meaning to the word. This can be seen in the musical genre’s fluid form and continuous flow in shaping styles and characteristic arrangements.
Attempts were made early on in order to have a narrower understanding to the definition of the word; however, it was through the definition of jazz as a music whose chief and sole characteristic was improvisation, in turn, made out to be widely untrue and too restrictive, this is due to the fact that composition, arrangement and ensemble have also been essential and crucial, key components of jazz for majority of its history. Likely, syncopation and swing, which is usually taken as essential and unique to jazz, are in fact lacking in much authentic jazz, whether of the 1920’s or of later decades.
Whilst in classical music, the performer typically expresses and interprets the composition of somebody else, an important aspect of jazz clearly does distinguish it from other more traditional and classical musical areas, especially from classical music, the jazz performer is primarily and wholly a creative improvising composer- his own composer. The unusual effects and inflections of jazz playing such as, (brass mutes, glissandos, scoops, bends and stingless ensembles), its own syncopations, the sounds that jazz musicians make on their instruments- the way they attack, release, embellish and colour notes – can characterize jazz playing to such an extent, that a classical piece performed by a jazz musician with all its phrasings, would also in turn be, jazz.