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Subsequent styles such as modal jazz abandoned the strict notion of a chord progression, allowing the individual musicians to improvise even more freely within the context of a given scale or mode.In many forms of jazz, a soloist is often supported by a rhythm section consisting of one or more chordal instruments (piano, guitar, etc.), double bass playing the basslines and drum kit.In contrast, jazz is often characterized as the product of group creativity, interaction, and collaboration, which places varying degrees of value on the contributions of the composer (if there is one) and performers.In jazz, the skilled performer will interpret a tune in very individual ways, never playing the same composition the same way twice; depending on the performer's mood and personal experience, interactions with other musicians, or even members of the audience, a jazz musician may alter melodies, harmonies or time signature at will.Since the 1920s Jazz Age, jazz has become recognized as a major form of musical expression.It then emerged in the form of independent traditional and popular musical styles, all linked by the common bonds of African-American and European-American musical parentage with a performance orientation.

Jazz has roots in West African cultural and musical expression, and in African-American music traditions including blues and ragtime, as well as European military band music.These were commonly structured around a repetitive call-and-response pattern, but early blues was also highly improvisational.European classical music performance is evaluated by its fidelity to the musical score, with much less discretion over interpretation, ornamentation, and accompaniment: the classical performer's primary goal is to play a composition as it was written.Attempts have been made to define jazz from the perspective of other musical traditions, such as European music history or African music.But critic Joachim-Ernst Berendt argues that its terms of reference and its definition should be broader, and arguing that it differs from European music in that jazz has a "special relationship to time defined as 'swing'", involves "a spontaneity and vitality of musical production in which improvisation plays a role" and contains a "sonority and manner of phrasing which mirror the individuality of the performing jazz musician".

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