American jazz is a trove of sounds borrowed from such varied sources as American and African folk music, European classical music, and Christian gospel songs. One of the recognizable traits of jazz is its use of improvisation: certain parts of the music are written out and played the same way by various performers, and other improvised parts are created spontaneously during a performance and vary widely from performer to performer.
The root form of jazz was ragtime, lively songs or rags performed on the piano, and the best-known of the ragtime performers and composers was Scott Joplin. Born in the 1868 to former slaves, Scott Joplin earned his living from a very early age playing the piano in bars around the Mississippi. One of these regular jobs was in the Maple Leaf Club in Sedalia, Missouri. It was there that he began writing the more than 500 compositions that he was to produce, the most famous of which was “The Maple Leaf Rag”.
(Longman Preparation Course for the TOEFL, Deborah Philips Adapted.)