In short, Jazz is an original American musical art form originating around the start of the 20th century in New Orleans, rooted in Western music technique and theory, and is marked by the profound cultural contributions of African Americans. It is characterized by blue notes, syncopation, swing, call and response, polyrhythms, and improvisation. Jazz has been described as "America's Classical Music", and started in saloons throughout the nation.
In long, the word ''jazz'' itself is rooted in American slang, probably of sexual origin, although various alternative derivations have been suggested. According to University of Southern California film professor Todd Boyd, the term was originally slang for sexual intercourse as its earliest musicians found employment in New Orleans brothel parlors, with the word deriving from the term 'jass'.
The term "jass" was rude sexual slang, related either to the term "jism" or to the jasmine perfume popular among urban prostitutes. Lacking an attentive audience, the musicians began to play for each other and their performances achieved aesthetic complexity not evident in ragtime. The musicians would typically play songs of the time, including gospel, and "jass it up" by playing around notes, changing timings, and generally change the overall feel of the song.
Jazz has roots in the combination of Western and African music traditions, including spirituals, blues and ragtime, stemming ultimately from West Africa, western Sahel, and New England's religious hymns and hillbilly music, as well as in European military band music. After originating in African American communities near the beginning of the 20th century, jazz gained international popularity by the 1920s. Since then, jazz has had a pervasive influence on other musical styles worldwide including rock, pop and latin music.