By Larry Starr, Christopher Waterman

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In subsequent decades, genres from rock to country to hip-hop mostly supplanted jazz in this role. But jazz continued to influence other forms of American music, even as it branched out in new directions. Bee-bop, acid, fusion, and other styles appealed to smaller and more specialized — but equally enthusiastic — audiences. The photographs here portray a number of postswing jazz giants, artists of unsurpassed creativity, sophistication, and talent. 44 Grammy-Award winning jazz singer Cassandra Wilson at the Avo Session in Basel, Switzerland, in 2006.

62 T he advent of rock ’n’ roll music in the mid-1950s brought enormous changes to American popular music, changes whose impact is still being felt. Styles that had remained on the margins of pop music began to infiltrate and eventually dominate the center. Rhythm & blues and country music recordings were no longer directed to specialized and regionalized markets; they began to be heard on mainstream pop radio, and many could be purchased in music stores nationwide. The emergence of rock ’n’ roll was an event of great cultural significance.

Its regular “member” artists were widely acknowledged as the genre’s elite. Since 1974 it has been broadcast from the Grand Ole Opry House, a 4,400 seat venue outside Nashville, Tennessee). A third major direction in postwar country and western music is represented by honky-tonk — sometimes called “hard country” — a style that conveyed the sound and ethos of the roadside bar or juke joint. During the Great Depression the oil fields of Texas and Oklahoma provided a lucrative (and rare) source of steady, well-paid work, attracting thousands of men from the American Southwest and farther afield.

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