Chapter Study Outline

  1. Bebop and Jam Sessions
    1. In the mid-1940s, bebop, or simply bop, was a turning away from jazz as a popular music, part of the mainstream of American culture, to a music that is isolated, non-danceable, played by small combos to a small audience in a virtuosic style that was difficult to grasp.
    2. There are two ways to view this change: one labels bebop as revolutionary, something apart from the jazz that preceded it; the second—that adopted here—sees bebop as evolutionary, part of the jazz tradition that made it into an art music and linked to the preceding Swing Era through the jam session.
  2. Dropping Bombs at Minton's
    1. Swing musicians started work in the evening and continued to play after their regular gig (engagement) at jam sessions, which were relaxing, on the one hand, in their informality, but, on the other hand, work-like in their competitiveness.
    2. Musicians kept inexperienced players off the bandstand by playing tunes at ridiculously fast tempos in unfamiliar keys. Standards like "I Got Rhythm" were reharmonized with difficult chord substitutions. Bebop musicians were continually tested, confronting fast tempos and complicated harmonies.
    3. Charlie Parker and other beboppers played jam sessions at Minton's Playhouse on 118th Street in Manhattan, a venue at the forefront of experimentation with this new style and its adventurous challenges.
    4. Drummer Kenny Clarke relates how he changed drumming while playing a fast tune with Teddy Hill's band in the 1930s. He couldn't play every quarter-note on the bass drum so he started keeping the beat on the ride cymbal, producing a lighter, more flexible way to play time and leaving the bass drum available for fills.
    5. When Hill's band later collapsed, Minton offered him the job of running the music at his Playhouse. Hill realized that Clarke's style of playing might be perfect for a jam session. Clarke's combinations of snare and bass drum accents were called klookmop. "Klook'" as he came to be known, played unexpected bass drum accents that became known as dropping bombs (this all took place, after all, during World War II) and became popular with the younger generation of drummers like Max Roach and Art Blakey.
    6. Soloists played unpredictable melodies (inspired by Lester Young), often ending with two eighth notes ("be-bop" or "re-bop"), which irritated older musicians.
    7. Pianists, inspired by Basie, started "comping"— putting in accompanying chords in unpredictable places that complemented the drummer. Because of the new drum technique, guitarists no longer needed to play four-to-the bar and instead comped on the newly popular electric guitar.
    8. Bassists continued to be timekeepers but raised the level of virtuosity. Oscar Pettiford could play swiftly and also take melodic solos.
  3. "Nobody Plays Those Changes"
    1. Bebop is characterized by complex, dissonant harmonies. Although disliked by many musicians, these harmonies were not new—they were simply privileged. Art Tatum, Duke Ellington, and Coleman Hawkins used complex and dissonant harmonies, orchestrations, and solo lines, respectively.
    2. The problem was how to share these harmonies so that other musicians could use them. Characterized by common use of the tritone and extended notes of a chord, this approach made improvising more difficult. Musicians had to learn to tackle this music intellectually, not just emotionally.
    3. Racial and economic forces were driving musicians out of swing. These non-musical forces form the basis of the revolutionary view of bebop. During the Swing Era, black musicians could not get lucrative jobs playing for radio orchestras, nor could they get lengthy engagements at the top New York ballrooms or dance halls, both of which offered invaluable publicity and a rest from the rigors of constant touring.
    4. Thus, most black bands were forced onto the road. Although some of the top bands could travel in their own railroad cars, most had to travel on buses and tour the Jim Crow South, where they were subject to discriminatory practices.
    5. Musicians became bitter and exhausted and increasingly left the big bands for jam sessions. Bebop provided a site where they could go and explore their music outside the system.
    6. By the early 1940s a new jazz based on chromatic harmonies and an interactive rhythm section was in place. All that was remained was the arrival of a new kind of virtuoso soloist.
    7. Charlie Parker (1920-1955)
      1. Parker ("Bird") is considered among the best alto saxophonists in jazz history. He grew up in Kansas City, and he received his nickname after he provided a "Yardbird" (dinner in the form of a run-over chicken) to his band mates during a trip to a gig. But the name "Bird" also resonated with the sense of taking flight embodied by Parker's approach to playing-qualities that include speed, agility, elusiveness, and melodic beauty.
      2. Parker did not show any great gift for music at first and was humiliated by drummer Jo Jones at a jam session early on. This spurred him to start practicing seriously for a summer in the Ozarks. His model was Lester Young, whose solos he memorized. By the time he returned to Kansas City he was described as playing like Lester Young, only twice as fast.
      3. He joined the well-known territory band lead by Jay McShann. He also started using alcohol, pills, and, after a car accident, morphine. Eventually he started using heroin.
      4. His solo playing seemed to be both bluesy and modern, enlivening traditional blues progressions with modern harmonic substitutions and rapid-fire solos. At the same time, he could blend into a big-band reed section when needed.
      5. Although he could play well while on heroin, his constant movement from band to band taxed the patience of most bandleaders. In New York, Parker had a readily available drug supply and jam sessions to play. It was through these sessions that he found a network of musicians who shared his approach to "advanced" music. One such was trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie.
    8. Dizzy Gillespie (1917-1993)
      1. Dizzy was as much a virtuoso as Parker and also the intellectual force behind bebop. If Parker was the Pied Piper, Gillespie was the master craftsman.
      2. Originally from Cheraw, South Carolina, he was self-taught on the trumpet with unusual technique. He earned a music scholarship to attend Laurinburg Institute in North Carolina, where he studied trumpet and piano. He first heard jazz on the radio, including players like Roy Eldridge. He left to play jazz in Philadelphia, then in New York. He was an excellent soloist and reader.
      3. By 1939, he was at the top of the heap, playing with Cab Calloway; he also wrote arrangements and composed for the band. However, Gillespie chafed against the staid atmosphere of the band, and a misunderstanding with Calloway resulted in his termination in 1941. For the next several years he freelanced around New York, which included playing in the small-combo jam sessions that gave birth to bebop.
      4. Gillespie became the center of gravity for bebop. He was generous to other musicians, showing them the harmonic and rhythmic features of the new music.
      5. He adapted dissonant chords to his compositions such as "Salt Peanuts," which was based on a bop drum lick, thus introducing his humorous side to the music. Another of his compositions, "A Night in Tunisia," illustrates his deepening fascination with Latin music.
    9. On 52nd Street
      1. Gillespie first met Parker when they both played in the Earl Hines big band in 1942. Gillespie admired Parker's fluidity and Parker, Gillespie's sound and harmonic knowledge. In 1944 they played together again in former Hines vocalist Billy Ekstine's band. Gillespie's arrangements for this band made it the first big band to embrace bebop. Even so, bebop never became widely popular, due to the complexity of the music and the pervasive racism in America at that time, which made it impossible for a black musician to be taken seriously in the mainstream. By the end of 1944, Parker and Gillespie turned to the jam-session-style small ensemble.
      2. The words bebop and rebop were already in place by the time Gillespie brought his quintet to 52nd Street. This band played composed heads that were rhythmically disjointed and confusing to many listeners.
  4. Bird on Record
    1. The first bebop recordings date from 1945 and were made mostly by small independent labels. For record companies, this was a low-cost way to get into the business because bebop musicians regularly created new melodies over old chord progressions.
    2. "Ko-Ko"
      1. This piece is based on the chord progression of Ray Noble's 1938 piece "Cherokee," which was recorded in 1939 by Charlie Barnett and Count Basie. It has a 64-bar form (twice the 32-bar AABA form) with a difficult bridge. Parker practiced this piece as a teenager, and it became his showpiece with the Jay McShann band. When the band came to New York to play the Savoy Ballroom, which had a broadcast "wire" setup, Parker let loose with a long solo in this piece that amazed everyone who heard it.
      2. In 1945, "Cherokee" became "Ko-Ko," recorded for Savoy Records. The owner of the label would not tolerate a copyrighted melody, so they left the "Cherokee" melody out. The pianist was supposed to be Bud Powel but he didn't show, so for this piece it is probably Gillespie on piano except when he is playing trumpet. The other pianist was Argonne Thornton (later Sadik Hakim).
    3. "Now's the Time"
      1. Parker considered bebop to be a collision of New York progressive music with Midwest blues. Blues during the 1940s had many faces, including swing band blues and Mississippi delta blues electrified by the likes of Muddy Waters. Parker's contribution was to add the chromatic harmonies of modern jazz and a fluid sense of rhythm to the vocal nuances of blues.
      2. This piece is a Parker composition built on one riff. It was used later for a rock and roll hit called "The Huckle-Buck" and was covered by many pop musicians. Parker didn't earn royalties because the owner of Savoy Records retained the copyright.
      3. This recording was made for a major label (Verve), so the sound is much better than in other Parker recordings. Consequently, rhythm section nuances are more easily heard.
  5. Bird's Last Flight
    1. The Parker-Gillespie partnership ended in 1946 when the band went to Los Angeles and met with an indifferent response. Gillespie took the band back to New York, but Bird cashed in his ticket to get money for his heroin habit. He stayed in California for a year, taking drugs, and when the heroin supply ended he turned to alcohol and barbiturates.
    2. It was in this state, during 1947, that Parker made some recordings for Dial Records showcasing his playing at its worst. Later that night he was found in his hotel lobby wearing only his socks. He was arrested and committed to the state hospital for six months.
    3. Free from drugs, he returned to New York only to resume his habit.
    4. With the help of Norman Granz, Parker found some commercial success with Mercury Records, where he recorded with strings. But his drug addiction made him unreliable and wore him down. After his death in 1955 at just thirty-four, the coroner estimated his age to be fifty-three.
  6. The Elder Statesman
    1. Gillespie disdained drugs and showed how bebop could act as a foundation for the professional jazz musician.
    2. Upon returning from California in 1946, he started a big band using bebop arrangements. When not playing trumpet, he took his cue from his former boss, Cab Calloway, who balanced art with wit and silliness—a mix that could broaden the audience for bop.
    3. As bop declined in the 1950s, Gillespie remained drug-free and generous. He kept his big band active for years while nurturing the careers of many young jazz musicians. He traveled overseas for the U.S. government with his band while openly criticizing the state of American race relations.
    4. He eventually became a jazz celebrity even as his "chops" weakened in his later years. He continued to explore music and became an elder statesman of jazz. He died in 1993.
    5. Voices
      1. This section of the textbook contains a long quote from African American writer Amiri Baraka about the meaning of bebop to him and his generation: a new aesthetic leading to a new sense of purpose.
  7. The Bebop Generation
    1. An entire generation of young musicians started playing bop. Some, like trumpeter Fats Navarro, thought that drugs and the ability to play the music were connected, so they started to take heroin— and ultimately died from it. If they did not die from substance abuse, many were frequently jailed for drug possession, thus having their careers interrupted all the same.
    2. Other players such as Sonny Stitt would go on to equal the musical virtuosity of Parker.
    3. Tenor saxophonists, filtered through Coleman Hawkins and Lester Young, kept pace with the new music. These included Don Byas, Lucky Thompson, and Illinois Jacquet.
    4. J.J. Johnson on trombone, Serge Chaloff and Leo Parker on baritone saxophone, and Milt Jackson on vibraharp are examples of musicians applying bebop practices on other instruments.
  8. Bud Powell (1924-1966)
    1. Part of a musical family, he knew classical music but learned about jazz by hanging out at Minton's Playhouse, where Monk spotted his talent—a recognition that Powell never forgot.
    2. After dropping out of high school, Powell joined Cootie Williams's band. While touring with Ellington during this period he was badly beaten by police in Philadelphia, leaving him with crippling headaches. This started a protracted bout of psychiatric treatments, which included incarceration, medication, and electroshock treatments that affected his memory. Powell also had a weakness for alcohol.
    3. Stylistically, he laid the foundation for all bebop pianists to follow. His left hand played chords while his right hand improvised lines rivaling those of Parker and Gillespie. Sometimes he would play block-chord style where the melody is supported by rich chords; at other times he might play a stride-piano style scattered with Tatum-like runs. He also pioneered the piano trio format.
    4. "Tempus Fugue-It"
      1. Recorded in 1949. Powell had just emerged from a sanitarium and would return shortly after this recording. He seems surprisingly in control given the circumstances. This side was recorded by a young Norman Granz for his Clef Records.
      2. Accompanied by Ray Brown (bass) and Max Roach (drums), he recorded at a variety of tempos. This piece suggests Powell's familiarity with baroque music. It is a 32-bar AABA form with the bridge more active harmonically than the relatively static A sections. This recording illustrates the intensity of Powell's playing.
  9. Jazz in Los Angeles: Central Avenue
    1. Bebop was played on the West Coast as well. The West Coast had a long history of jazz. New Orleans musicians recorded there as early as 1922.
    2. Rivaling New York's own 52nd Street, Central Avenue was the center for African American life in Los Angeles. It was also the hub of local entertainment, which included modern jazz by around 1945, with Coleman Hawkins, Dizzy Gillespie, Howard McGhee, and the Charlie Parker quintet. Soon, young Californians like Dexter Gordon were playing bebop.
  10. Dexter Gordon (1923-1990)
    1. He came from a middle-class home with a jazzloving father who was a doctor to jazz musicians such as Lionel Hampton and Duke Ellington. Dr. Gordon took Dexter to big-band shows on a regular basis.
    2. Dexter studied clarinet and then saxophone in high school. He saw Coleman Hawkins as a master, but he was initially inspired by Lester Young. He studied music theory with Gillespie, and a later encounter with Parker molded him into a young disciple of bebop. His style combined relaxed mode (after Young) with rhythmically intricacies (after Parker).
    3. "Long Tall Dexter"
      1. This song features many of the so-called bebop generation's most talented figures: it is built off of a singular riff and strategically introduces a bit of unexpected dissonance. Interaction of the group typifies the atmosphere of a jam session as Dexter methodically builds to climax over seven choruses in an intense virtuosic display.
    4. During the 1950s, Gordon alternated playing and prison, but the 1960s saw him return to form recording for Blue Note. He spent much of his time in Europe, where black musicians felt less prejudice.
    5. He returned to New York and a successful career in 1976. He recorded for Columbia, acted in films, and took on the role of elder statesman.
  11. Aftermath: Bebop and Pop
    1. For a brief time in the 1940s bebop was marketed as a popular music, while swing began to fade. It was represented as both modern and as a comic novelty. Dizzy Gillespie reinforced this latter image through language and look, as did other jazz musicians.
    2. It failed as pop music, but musicians saw it as a musical system that became the foundation of the jazz musicians' identity—a model that remains central to this day.
    3. To build an audience for the music, it was presented as a jam session, only in public. Norman Granz was central to this transformation.
  12. Jazz at the Philharmonic (JATP)
    1. Norman Granz (1918-2001) grew up in Los Angeles. Like John Hammond, his interest in jazz was both musical and political. His first concerts were interracial and were held at a classical music venue, Philharmonic Hall in Los Angeles. They were soon banned because, according to management, there was a threat of violence. According to Granz, the ban stemmed from the interracial audiences. Though he soon took the concerts on the road, he kept the location-specific name of the group.
    2. Granz featured performers from various styles including swing, bop, and nascent rhythm and blues.
    3. He encouraged the competitive nature of the jam session, which critics hated but audiences loved: the young audience hollered and stomped their feet during concerts.
    4. He profited greatly from these concerts. He insisted that his bands and the audience be integrated and took a special interest in Ella Fitzgerald and Oscar Peterson.
  13. Though musicians continued to learn the bebop style, many new stylistic directions based on different aesthetics and racial politics were already starting to appear after the 1940s.

Chapter 11 Jukebox