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6

BeBop, Cool Jazz, and Hard Bop

I.

Bebop

II.

Cool Jazz

III.

Hard Bop

footnotes

1. All styles of jazz from Dixieland to contemporary are still being performed and recorded today. All style dates given are approximations of when each respective style came to the forefront of jazz and experienced its most concentrated development; of course, styles and dates overlap.

2. In jazz terminology (slang), a change is simply a chord. Therefore playing the changes simply means playing through the chord progression (a series of chords).

3. For information on ordering The Instrumental History of Jazz 2-CD set, click here.

I. Bebop

jazz images 1

Parker Quartet

jazz images 2

Gillespie & Roach

jazz images 3

52nd Street

jazz images 4

Thelonious Monk

jazz images 5

Ella Fitzgerald


A. The Music

   

Bebop was at the forefront of jazz and went through its most concentrated growth and development from 1940 – 19551

      

1.

Bebop was primarily played by small groups (combos). 

            

a.

A typical bebop combo is comprised of two horns (e.g., trumpet and saxophone) and rhythm section (piano, bass, and drums). 

            

b.

Although usually a quintet, bebop combos can range in size from three pieces (e.g., piano, bass, and drums) to seven pieces (e.g., three horns, guitar, and three rhythm). 

      

2.

Whereas in Big Band Swing the focus is on the arrangement and the playing of the ensemble, in bebop the focus is on the soloist. 

            

a.

Bebop combo arrangements are rarely written. 

            

b.

The basic format is simply the head played in unison by the horns for the first and last chorus with a lot of improvised solos in between. The head serves as a “frame” for the most important part: the improvised solos. 

            

c.

The combo is the perfect setting for featuring soloists, i.e., no elaborate arrangements, just good, solid improvised interplay between soloist and rhythm section surrounded by the head at the beginning and the end (very little rehearsal, if any, required). 

      

3.

Jam Sessions 

            

a.

Jam sessions are informal, non-rehearsed gatherings of musicians where they play together, challenge each other (who can “outplay” whom), and learn from each other. 

            

b.

Bebop, in large part, developed through jam sessions. 

            

c.

Jam sessions can be held anywhere, e.g., someone’s house, a bar, nightclub, etc.; some of the most famous jam sessions in jazz history occurred at a nightclub called Minton’s Playhouse in Harlem in the 1940s. 

            

d.

Bebop was and still is the music most played at jazz jam sessions because all the musicians need to know are the head (the song's main melody) and changes (the song's chord progression)2

      

4.

Bebop is far more musically complex than its Big Band Swing forbearer. 

            

a.

Bebop harmonies (chords) are more complex. 

            

b.

Tempos are often much faster (although the bebop style can be played at any tempo). 

            

c.

Bebop heads are more intricate and difficult to play than regular melodies. 

            

d.

Bebop musicians improvise far more complex solos than those of the Swing Era. 

            

e.

Bebop requires musical virtuosity and artistry to play it. 

      

5.

Whereas Big Band Swing was considered entertainment (i.e., dance music), bebop was considered art music (like classical music, bebop was for listening only). Bebop musicians considered themselves artists, not merely entertainers. 

      

6.

Bebop was primarily an African American invention. 

      

7.

The two most important bebop musicians were: 

            

a.

alto saxophonist Charlie Parker (his nickname was “Bird”) 

            

b.

trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie 

      

8.

Scat Singing 

            

a.

Scat singing (AKA “scatting”) is a type of singing whereby the vocalist imitates the style of bebop jazz solos (as played by instrumentalists) using nonsense syllables; scat solos, like their instrumental counterparts, are improvised. 

            

b.

The most important scat singer was Ella Fitzgerald

      

9.

Listen to examples of bebop: 

            

a.

Charlie Parker’s “Ko-Ko” and Dizzy Gillespie’s “Shaw 'Nuff” on The Instrumental History of Jazz3 

            

b.

Thelonious Monk’s “Blue Monk” and Ella Fitzgerald’s “How High the Moon” (click below): 

Audio Snippets

speakerspacer Blue Monk - Thelonious Monk
speakerspacer How High The Moon - Ella Fitzgerald


B. Cultural Implications

      

1.

The demise of the Swing Era big bands was, in part, due to World War II: 

            

a.

the draft - many jazz musicians were called to war, leaving few at home 

            

b.

bands raided each other, that is, with so few musicians left at home, band leaders “stole” musicians from other bands, offering them a slightly better deal; bands that were intact before the war were depleted 

            

c.

transportation to reach night spots outside city limits was difficult due to gas shortages (gas rationing), tire shortages (rubber rationing), and the dismantling of urban and interurban railways 

            

d.

midnight curfews (“brown-outs”) 

            

e.

20% amusement tax - customers would have to pay 20 cents tax on the dollar in any nightclub that included dancing 

      

2.

Racism and segregation were rampant in America during the swing and bebop eras. 

      

3.

African American jazz musicians became increasingly disenchanted with swing music the more they watched European Americans capitalize on it; they wanted to create their “own” music, a music that was not for dancing but for listening: a true African American art form. 

      

4.

Bebop reflected the culture of the times; like the African American experience at the time, the music: 

            

a.

was difficult 

            

b.

alluded to the blues 

            

c.

explored new directions and uncharted territory 

            

d.

was separate from the mainstream of America 

      

5.

In the history of entertainment, many artists have been faced with alcohol and drug addiction. In the case of young jazz musicians, some, in their struggle to deal with racism, oppression, and related issues, became addicted to alcohol and drugs; some, in fact, met their demise due to alcohol abuse and drug abuse. Jazz greats who overcame their addictions have stated, contrary to popular belief, that alcohol and drugs never enhanced their musical performance. 

the thelonious monk institute of jazz
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