Jazz dictionary

Base - (In English, a foundation or seat, support) - the ensemble, or part of an ensemble, which supports a soloist.

Ballad - (From the Latin ballo, which means 'I dance') - a musical genre rooted in song and dance which has long traditions in the folk music of many different countries. It typically features the lyrical rendition of an epic story, often in couplet form, at a slow or medium tempo and drawing on a broad range of subject matter and musical influences. A form grew out of American negro folk music which resembled blues but which preserved African traditions. This style of vocal and instrumental music is both widespread and popular in jazz.

Banjo - A stringed musical instrument with African roots, similar to the mandolin and guitar. Popular within American negro folk music as both a solo and accompanying instrument the banjo helped establish the specific early forms of jazz and ragtime.

Barbershop Harmony - A type of harmonic melody based on the parallel, chromatic interaction of sound when a range of voices combine. This harmonic sound can be compared to the range and technique used on the banjo, it seems this specific style may have developed out of practice on this instrument. Another opinion is that its root lies in American city-dwellers' use of barbershops as places of rest and entertainment and the emergence there of amateur, quasi folk-based ensembles. Barbershop ensembles had a direct influence on the development of ragtime and American minstrel theatre.

Barrelhouse Style, Barrelhouse Piano - (Barrelhouse - tavern, saloon) - This archaic, negro style of jazz piano music appeared in the second half of the 19th century and grew rapidly in the early part of the 20th century. Barrelhouse piano is a heavily syncopated style played without pedals; there are prescribed limits on the functions of the hands (the right hand plays a free, syncopated melody; the left hand maintains a strict metrical rhythm of bass chord accompaniment). Barrelhouse style is also used in small ensembles, usually also containing banjo, guitar, mandolin, harmonica, bass and drums alongside more basic folk instruments (such as kazoo, jug, musical saw, washboard, comb and paper etc).
Bounce - 1. A kind of swing, an elastic, rhythmic playing action at slow tempo, adding a particular emphasis to each musical measure. With a slow swung beat, it is the opposite of the up-tempo 'jump'. 2. Similar to a slow foxtrot in a slow, 4/4 time, a dance very popular in North America.

Beguine - A dance with Latin American roots at slow tempo in 4/4 time (it is thought that it originated in Martinique). It has similar features to the tango and rumba and became widespread in the 1930s. The melody "Begin the Beguine" from Cole Porter's musical "Jubilee" (1935) became one of the most popular jazz themes.

Bebop - see: Bop

Big Band - A specific musical playing unit (mainly wind instruments) with particular instrumental sections, a type of jazz orchestra with its own playing techniques (a conjunction of solo improvisations with group arrangements to an orchestral backing, featuring a mixture of timbres etc). A Big Band may consist of 10 - 20 musicians. A typical band could have: 4 trumpets, 4 trombones, 5 saxophones and a rhythm section (piano, guitar, bass and drums) other variations are possible. There should be a saxophone section (reeds) a brass wind section and a rhythm section. There may also be a woodwind section and a string section. Big Bands emerged in the 1920s and, in the 1930s, one of the principal jazz styles, Swing, was established.

Beat - A measured, rhythmic pulse in music. In jazz, different beats (ground-beat, off-beat, on-beat, two-beat, four-beat etc) offer musical interpretations via their different metrical structures, phrasing, accents and interaction. A strict beat is often overlaid with a quicker and freer rhythm. Within a musical measure the play of accents strengthens the pulse, internal counterpoint and intensity of the music.

Block-Chords - A technique used in jazz piano based upon the hands playing parallel, mono-rhythmic chords, otherwise known as 'tied hands'. Established in the early 1940s, it was adopted in performance by small combos and Big Bands.