Ska jazz  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Ska jazz is a music genre derived by fusing the melodic content of jazz with the rhythmic and harmonic content of early Jamaican Music introduced by the "Fathers of Ska" in the late 1950s. The ska-jazz movement that began in New York during the 1990s by pioneering avant-garde jazz musicians that pushed the boundaries of reggae music, combining traditions with modern tendencies, using the reggae beat along with high improvisation and jazz harmonies, primarily by horns and percussion.

The ancient origin of jazz is West African music, although the instruments used; guitar, bass, saxophone, trombone, drums, clarinet and piano, all come from the African and European worlds. It predates rocksteady and was the harbinger of Jamaican reggae and English Two-tone movement. Ska is characterized by the staccato rhythm played on the guitar and its history can be classified into three periods— Jamaican reggae, also known as First Wave, the English Two-Tone era, commonly called Second Wave, the punk-infused Third Wave.


Ska jazz is sometimes considered a subgenre of third wave ska, but early artists such as Tommy McCook considered themselves jazz musicians foremost. Unlike third wave, however, it lacks the punk rock influence and jazz improvisation is commonly used. Ska jazz bands usually contain one or two electric guitars, a bass guitar, keyboards, a drum kit and a horn section (composed of any combination of the following: trumpet, trombone, alto saxophone, tenor saxophone, and baritone saxophone). Occasionally there may be one or more vocalists, but the genre is primarily focused on instrumental tunes. The brass instruments usually carry the melody, and there are occasional improvised solos. The rhythm section places accents on the off beats, thus giving the music a different feel than straight jazz.

Ever since its birth in the late 1950s, ska has been a genre marked by physical and cultural diasporas and an openness to borrowing from outside its origins. The history of ska and jazz combined travels across national borders and integrates with other musical styles, making it one of the most hybrid, transnational forms of postwar popular music.

Early artists

Notable artists

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