While musicians continually strive to transcend stylistic boundaries, the terminology of style is useful in studying jazz. Knowledge of general stylistic categories provides an informative overview of the art. The musicians listed in each category played far beyond these narrow definitions.

Brazilian Jazz/Bossa Nova

(Antontio-Carlos Jobim, Astrud Gilberto, Hermeto Pascual)

Bossa Nova is jazz infused with soft, flowing, Brazilian rhythms and melodies accompanied by rich, soulful harmonies--laid back and sensuous.

Afro-Cuban Jazz/CuBop

(Dizzy Gillespie "A Night in Tunisia", Chano Pozo "Manteca", George Russell)

Cubop is jazz infused with the exciting, danceable rhythms of Cuba.  Mambo, Rhumba, Songo, and other irresistible Afro-Cuban, clave based grooves.

Jazz-rock, Jazz-funk Fusion, Hip-hop Jazz

(Herbie Hancock and the Head Hunters, Miles Davis, Chick Corea, Medeski, Martin and Wood, The Roots)

Fusion is characterized by the replacement of the 4/4 swing feel with rock and funk rhythms.  Harmonies and progressions are simplified, and electric instruments are more common.

Modal Jazz

(Miles Davis "Kind Of Blue", John Coltrane's classic quartet (1960-64))

Modal jazz is characterized by slow moving harmonic rhythm, in which single chords are extended and shift at a slower pace, creating soothing, sweeping  moods and emotions.  "Kind Of Blue" is an essential part of any music library.

Hard Bop and Funky/Soul Jazz

(Art Blakey, Charles Mingus, Clifford Brown, Max Roach, Sonny Rollins)

Hard Bop arose as a response to the cerebral, concert hall aesthetic of cool jazz and third-stream music.  Hard Bop is hot, hard driving, and strong--considered by some a "re-ignition" of the fire.  Funky/Soul Jazz brings jazz back to the dance floor.


(Gunther Shuller, George Russell, Bill Evans, George Shearing)

Third-stream is the synthesis of jazz and classical music.  In third-stream music, there is an emphasis on compositional structures and counterpoint, the understatement of the rhythm section, and the inclusion of instruments more common to European classical music than jazz.

Cool/West Coast

(Miles Davis, Dave Brubeck, Stan Getz, Gerry Mulligan and Chet Baker)

The cool jazz style, associated with the West Coast, came as a response to bebop's aggressive approach.  Cool jazz emphasizes restraint, lyricism, musical space, counterpoint and a quieter dynamic range.


(Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Thelonious Monk, Jonh Coltrane, Miles Davis)

Bebop is a "listener's music," characterized by a less articulated, up-tempo rhythmic pulse and a greater emphasis on improvisation and solo playing.


(Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Benny Goodman and Ella Fitzgerald)

Swing was the popular dance music of the 1930's through the 1940's.  Swing is characterized by smooth, danceable rhythms, lyrical flowing melodies and improvisations.  The swing aesthetic is grounded in melody, popular song, and arrangement.

Early Jazz/Dixieland/New Orleans/Hot Jazz

(Louis Armstrong/Joe “King” Oliver/Sidney Bechet)

Originating in New Orleans and thriving in the 1910s and 1920s early American jazz expresses the spirit of collective improvisation, combining brass band marches, blues, ragtime and French Quadrilles in a sound that evokes a sense of tradition, history and celebration.