Author Insights


Once bebop refused to go away, how did "jazz" emerge as a unifying term for several styles?

Download this video for playback on your computer or iPod

Right-click (Ctrl-click for Mac users) the above link and select "Save Link As...". Take this lecture to go!


Once bebop refused to go away, how did jazz emerge as a unifying term for several styles?

It's an important issue when we talk about semantics. A lot of people have hated the word jazz and jazz is actually - in some ways it's an older and more recent term than we think. It certainly existed in the 1920s but then it was sort of forsaken in the 1930s for swing. And then there were other kinds of styles like boogie-woogie. People didn't say, "Well boogie- woogie is a kind of jazz," they just said it was boogie-woogie, so they were playing eight to the bar. Bebop came along and everybody called it bop or bebop or modern jazz, um, but by the early 1950s people are, serious people who are looking back at the history of this music are beginning to see that there is a chronology. That there is a series of begats, that King Oliver does begat Louis Armstrong who does begat Roy Eldridge who does begat Dizzy Gillespie who does begat Miles Davis - just to talk about the trumpet players.

So there are all these styles and suddenly jazz becomes the umbrella term to describe them all. Now even as that's happening there are new terms coming into the mix; people are talking about West Coast jazz or cool jazz - Jerry Mulligan and Chet Baker and those cats out there. And the response on the East Coast is hard bop, Art Blakey and Horace Silver, the black musicians in New York. And then there's the avant-garde. But all of them for the most part when they're written about, it's jazz. Jazz becomes the big umbrella term in the '50s and '60s for the first time and it's remained that ever since.

Chapter 12 Jukebox