The immigration of Europeans and the importation of West African slaves to America resulted in a convergence of cultures, traditions, and art forms, including music. Jazz, first played in New Orleans in the early 1900s, borrowed heavily from the European musical scale and harmonic system. Jazz ensembles were built predominantly on European instruments, such as the trumpet, trombone, saxophone, and piano. The West African influence on jazz was manifested primarily in its performance. Scatting, a technique used by jazz vocalists to mimic the sounds of instruments, had its origin in West African vocal traditions. The emphasis on improvisation in jazz music, in addition to group participation, also came from West African music.
Some musicologists argue that jazz is a purely American form of music. Others, however, contend that jazz is rooted in a history similar to that of America itself, a history of confluence. Proponents of the argument that jazz is purely American often point to its genesis in New Orleans as evidence for this perspective. The irony, however, is that the essence of America lies in the plurality of its roots. To deny the rich and complex history of jazz, and the true origins of the art form, is to deny the very aspects of the art form that make it undeniably American.