Free Jazz Age Fonts – Play Your Own Melody

Jazz fonts. So, why not? Let’s talk about it. We are almost sure that if we ask you what jazz is, you’ll answer something like this: “Oh, everybody knows what is jazz, it’s… it’s… hmm… not sure how to explain…” Are we right? If you are not a professional musical critic the question might turn out to be much more complicated than it seemed at the beginning. But, please don’t worry about the definitions and let us tell a few words about this inconceivable music genre.

“It's always fun to talk about jazz”.
Clint Eastwood

What is jazz? A deeper meaning

Yea, it’s the truth that all of us have heard jazz music. Somebody is crazy about it, somebody stays indifferent to the genre, somebody switches the radio station as soon as they hear the first jazz chords. Nevertheless, most of people, especially the ones whose professions are connected to art somehow, like jazz and know a lot of facts from its history. But it’s really difficult to word jazz as a term. Why? Because this music genre is really special. We can compare it to the changeable wind, running water or a naughty child with unstable behavior. Jazz is extremely mutable. This is the reason why it is so difficult to grasp its true spirit. Jazz should be in your soul, in your mind and lifestyle to entirely understand it.

When asked what the definition of jazz was, Louis Armstrong famously replied, "If you've got to ask, you'll never know." But TemplateMonster’s copywriters are rather stubborn and curious, so I will try to draw you a general concept of this music.

Are you ready to submerge into the wonderful world of jazz? Great! Because a nice bonus is waiting for the most attentive readers. What will it be? Free classy Jazz Age fonts or free 1920s fonts, you may call them as you like. Are you interested? Then, we will continue the narration.

Jazz is a whole music culture based on a set of conventions and common skills that allow musicians create. Create collectively, spontaneously, and with minimum preparation. I don’t know how but they get highly original, personal and complicated music with the help of this technique.

From a theoretical standpoint, jazz music tends to use more complex harmony than pop music in general. Jazz relies heavily on 7 chords, whereas pop music usually contains triads only, for example.

The multiple variations you do to a basic song structure as written in a song book. It usually involves at least three things: 'shifting' the notes of the melody, changing the chords progression, and/or playing with different beats per bar. The jazziest thing is that a real jazz musician can always do these things differently each time they play the same basic song. That is: their disposal of variations can be endless.

Here’s how Ken Burns characterizes jazz in “Jazz, a History of America's Music” (1999).

“It is America's music, born out of a million American negotiations. Between having and not having; between happy and sad; country, and city; between black and white, and men and women; between the old Africa, and the old Europe, that could have only happened in an entirely new world. It is an improvisational art, making itself up as it goes along, just like the country that gave it birth. It rewards individual expression, but demands selfless collaboration. It is forever changing, but nearly always rooted in the blues. It has a rich tradition and its own rules, but it is brand new every night. It is about just making a living, and taking terrible risks. Losing everything and finding love. Making things simple, and dressing to the nines. It has enjoyed huge popularity and survived hard times, but it has always reflected Americans - all Americans, at their best... Above all, it swings."

- Right into the bull’s eye, from our viewpoint.

You might be interested to know that the city of New Orleans calls itself "the birthplace of jazz," but there is some controversy surrounding this claim, as Kansas City and Chicago have similar claims.

Actually, the Jazz Age was the period of time between the end of World War I and the Great Depression. Jazz music was born around 1895 (the beginning of the 20th century) in the southern US, predominantly in black communities. Jazz music is a combination of Ragtime, marching band music and blues. Jazz brought dozens of new dance steps to America. The most popular dances included the Charleston, Black Bottom, Tango, Shimmies, and the Trot. People began to express themselves more during this time. Women start attending bars, drinking, smoking and wearing more seductive clothing. Women at this period also received the right to vote finally.

F. Scott Fitzgerald's book the "Great Gatsby" was based on the Jazz Age. He is the one who actually named this time in history "The Jazz Age".


Swing Jazz is considered to be popular dance music which is played from printed musical arrangements. Bebop Jazz focuses more on small groups and simple arrangements played solo or in small groups. It’s safe to say that jazz was born out of a mix of African and European music traditions. African pedigree is evident in its use of blue notes, improvisation, polyrhytms, syncopation and the swung note. From its early development until the present day jazz has also incorporated music from American pop. Gypsy Jazz is known as "Jazz Manouche" in France.

The modern drum set was invented namely by jazz musicians.

Jazz continues to evolve and as the music has developed and spread around the world it has drawn on many different national, regional and local musical cultures giving rise to many distinctive styles.

Historically different regions have been identified with different styles of Jazz. For example, Chicago and New Orleans Jazz dates from the early 1910s, Kansas City Jazz, Gypsy Jazz, and big band style swing from the 1930s and 1940s, and more recently bebop, Afro-Cuban Jazz, Brazilian Jazz, Jazz-Rock Fusion, and even Acid Jazz.

Louis Armstrong, a trumpeter, band leader and singer, contributed greatly to the popularization of jazz and became known as the Ambassador of Jazz.

The first jazz player to play with a full orchestra was Mary Lou Williams.

The oldest remaining jazz club is "The Village Vanguard" in New York City. It was opened in 1935.

Did you know? Or Interesting facts about jazz

  • The word 'jazz' doesn't exactly have the deepest meanings or origins. In its earlier days, 'to jazz' meant to fornicate, 'jazzing' meant 'having sex,' a 'jazzbo' was a lover of ladies while a jazz baby was an easy woman. A rather dirty implication, isn’t it?
  • According to the grapevine, Clarence Williams saved the jazz face. He was the first songwriter to use the word in a song and somehow, it just got stuck in the lingo of that time, going on to be the name of one of the world's greatest genres of music.
  • Jazz is the most hybrid form of music in the world. It has drawn from the largest number of influences, including everything from African rhythms, to European Chamber Music to modern day pop elements.
  • Most jazz musicians will concur that Louisiana has out the greatest volume of jazz musicians and instrumentalists in the world. This makes it just as famous for its jazz unease as it is for its crawfish, gumbo and crooked politics. This is probably why the quote "New Orleans is the only place I know of where you ask a little kid what he wants to be and instead of saying "I want to be a policeman," or "I want to be a fireman," he says, I want to be a musician" by Alan Jaffe became so famous.
  • The Saxophone is quite easily one of the most distinct jazz instruments around but it never found a place in the genre until 1920. Previously cited as a Belgian instrument reserved for chambers and orchestral performances, it was America's 6 Brown Brothers who brought it to the limelight in jazz as recording stars and since then, at the risk of sounding trite, there's been no looking back.
  • Jazz portrays an unusual duality as far as music genres go. While today most people consider it a genre of the elite and well-established, its roots are quite the opposite. It truly evolved from the oppressed lifestyle of the Black community in America and plenty of vulgarities as can be noted by the origin of the word itself.
  • Miles Davis, often hailed as one of Jazz's premier artists, had a nickname that not many people knew of. He was called 'The Prince of Darkness.' He earned this reputation especially amongst music critics and media people due to the impossible task of breaking the ice with this maestro in interviews. His album ‘Kind of Blue’ is regarded as the gold standard of all jazz albums and it was only later in his immaculate career that Davis began to show signs of his 'darkness,' because he began to move in a direction few critics could understand. And his refusal to talk to media people only made him that much more elusive and mysterious.
  • John Coltrane, another legendary jazz musician, actually has a church named after him in San Francsico's Western Addition District. Many believe this is because of his single ‘A Love Supreme’, which is apparently a prayer inspired by a man's dedication to his faith, post overcoming addiction. As such, the church has a mural of Coltrane above its altar and uses his musical exploration as an explanation for, and an inspiration to, their faith in the divine.
  • Though we've named several other geniuses of jazz, it was W.C. Handy to be considered the true 'Father of the Blues' since he laid the foundation for both blues and jazz. Scott Joplin became the pioneer for ragtime and Dett. We know him as the premier face for classical piano jazz.

Free Jazz fonts Collection

Do you think it’s possible to combine jazz and web design? Easily! Creative designers also improvise all the time and each next project differs from its ancestor. If you have imbued with jazz style and are in the proper mood now, we are ready to give you a powerful instrument to play on. You don’t need to be a musician to use it, just stay who you are as there is some space for jazz in the soul of every artist. What about a bit of jazz style typography? Improvise with free jazz fonts featured for you below to bring more of this genre to the web.

Would you like to know how the fonts evolved during the “Jazz Age”? We had a nice chat above, but it was more about music, feelings and emotions, than about fonts. (Cheer up; we will come back to that later, at the end of our blog post). However, it’s easy to restore the justice by talking about fonts of the 20th century right now. What happened to them that time?

"In typography, the last decade of the Twentieth Century was a period of great expectations, significant technological progress, many experiments and controversial results," – Peter Bilak.

The first digital type foundries were created in the mid-80s, and early 90s. The pioneers of the industry were Emigre (1984), then FontShop (1991), and smaller firms like T26, House Industries, Garage Fronts, Thirstype etc. To tell you the truth, the work of these firms was quite similar and we’ve got a simple explanation for that. Question at issue is that technological aspects of type have taken control over the profession, whereas before fonts were really unique creations.

In 1985, Adobe Systems introduced PostScript, which was a real breakthrough. For those who are not sure what PostScript is we will specify that this is a language for defining graphical pages, which means that for the first time ever, designers got total control over the entire creative process. TrueType also came out around this time by Apple Computers as a kind of competition to Adobe.

Within a few years, designers had made the same amount of new typefaces as they had created during the entire 500–year history of typography. The accessibility and prices reduction in the field of computer technology resulted in the so-called ‘democratization’ of the type design profession. The evolution of digital technology meant that typeface design was no longer the area of narrow field specialists. Some people viewed the democratization of typography as a threat to the professional designers’ existence. They thought that with the democratization, anyone could simply buy the means to create comparable work. It would become difficult to sell a font and typographers would have hard times trying to explain the difference between the work of a professional and that of an amateur. Since graphic design and typography were not classified as 'professions', an explanation like this would be quite difficult to make. Many self-confident experts found themselves making obscure attempts to emphasize these unclear differences that time.

In 1990, Matthew Carter, a British typographer, finally concluded:

“As part of the democratization of industry, the creation of type has been demystified.”

Key players on 20th century font design field

  • Edward Johnston (1872-1944). He is considered the 'father' of the 20th century revival of formal lettering. His most well-known design is the block letter for London Underground, which is based on Classical Roman proportions.
  • Otto Eckmann (1865 -1902). He created the Eckmann script. Otto Eckmann designed a script of his own, which matched the Jugendstil ideal of form. Influenced by neither antiqua nor Fraktur, it is what is known as a bastard script, freely constructed by the script designer, which would exert enormous influence on developments in typography.
  • William Morris, an English artist, writer, and craftsman. He was unable to find types, paper, or printing that satisfied his high standards. So, he decided to learn the art of printing. In 1891 he founded the Kelmscott Press. He designed special types with the aid of his friend Emery Walker. Morris' books, printed by hand on the handmade paper, were considered the finest of the early books.
  • Frederic William Goudy, the American type designer. He created more than 100 faces during his long career of a printer, editor, and typographer. In 1908 he began a long association with the Lanston Monotype Corporation, for which he did much of his best work. Among his types were Forum and Trajan, which were based on the roman capital letters inscribed on Trajan's Column; Goudy Modern, his most successful text face; and a number of black-letter and display faces. Many of these were intended for the Monotype.
  • Alfred A. Knopf. Designed a number of typefaces for the Linotype, two of which (Electra and Calaedonia) have had wide use in American bookmaking.
  • Eric Gill (1882-1940). He is well known as a British typographer, sculptor and engraver. Common fonts he designed are Gill Sans and Perpitua.
  • Sol Hess (1886-1902). Was an extremely influential designer of the 20th century mostly appreciated for his development of complete font families, like Twentieth Century and his role in Century Gothic.

That’s all for now. It’s time to return from our historical excursus. But, please, make no mistake. The 20th century fonts didn’t sink into oblivion. They are still willingly used by contemporary designers. So, the circle of “Jazz Age” fonts is still closed and who knows when it will break. Nothing can last forever, but jazz music as well as jazz fonts convince us otherwise.

Jazz FontsA copy

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25.

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Did you like the 20th century fonts free collection and our short story about jazz? Maybe you know some more unknown facts about the genre and are ready to share them with us? We will read all your comments with greatest pleasure.

All these talks about jazz tuned us to the romantic mood. And we would like to finish this entry with a beautiful love song. Listen to it and get to know ‘How Deep is Your Love… Meet a sensual music piece - the Smooth Jazz All Stars style! We hope you’ll find the song as lovable as the author of this post did.

Helga Moreno

Experienced writer passionate about highlighting all the topics related to web, design, marketing, SEO, and more. Follow Helga on Quora.

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