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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.

I. Bebop

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Parker Quartet

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Gillespie & Roach

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52nd Street

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Thelonious Monk

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Ella Fitzgerald

A. The Music


Bebop was at the forefront of jazz and went through its most concentrated growth and development from 1940 – 1955.1  

B. Instrumentation


Bebop was primarily played by small groups (combos).

  1. A typical Bebop combo is comprised of two horns (e.g., trumpet and saxophone) and rhythm section (piano, bass, and drums).
  2. Although usually a quintet, Bebop combos can range in size from a trio (e.g., piano, bass, and drums) to a septet (e.g., three horns, guitar, and rhythm section - piano, bass, and drums). 

C. Jam Sessions


Bebop, in large part, developed through jam sessions.

  1. 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.
  2. 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 1940's.
  3. 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 chords. 

D. Bebop vs. Big Band Swing


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

  1. Tempos are often much faster (although the Bebop style can be played at any tempo).
  2. Bebop melodies are more intricate and difficult to play than swing melodies.
  3. Bebop musicians improvise far more complex solos than those of the Swing Era.
  4. Bebop requires musical virtuosity and artistry to play it. 

E. Art Music


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.  

F. Bebop was primarily an African American invention.


Two of the most important Bebop musicians were:

  1. alto saxophonist Charlie Parker (his nickname was "Bird")
  2. trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie 

G. Scat Singing


  1. 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.
  2. One of the most important scat singers was Ella Fitzgerald.

H. Listening Examples


Listen to examples of Bebop:

  1. Charlie Parker’s "Ko-Ko" and Dizzy Gillespie’s "Shaw 'Nuff" on The Instrumental History of Jazz
  2. 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

Video Clips

videospacer Dizzy Gillespie - Manteca
videospacer Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker - Hot House
videospacer Ella Fitzgerald - How High the Moon
videospacer JJ Johnson, Howard McGee, and Sonny Stitt - Now's the Time
the Herbie Hancock institute of jazz
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