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The Bebop Revolution
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The Bebop Revolution
The early 1940’s were a time of important change
in jazz. Just as the Swing Era was in full bloom,
a musical revolution was brewing in Harlem.
The Bebop Revolution
• New ideas were coming together from a diverse cast of creative young
musicians at after-hours jam sessions.
• In an environment of experimentation and spirited camaraderie, bebop,
the first modern jazz style, was born.
• It was frenetic, difficult to play, and for many jazz fans, difficult to listen
to.
• Most the leaders were defiant, rebellious and disrespectful of authority.
• The emergence of bebop was a broad reflection of some important
changes that were beginning to surface in America.
• Some initially criticized bebop but it was too big a force to ignore.
• Bebop changed jazz from popular dance music to intellectual art music.
• By bringing an entirely new vocabulary to jazz, it washed away the
musical cliches of swing.
• It opened up jazz to new artistic interpretations that would lead to almost
limitless stylistic approaches in the future.
The Bebop Revolution
Bebop’s influence is pervasive to this day; its
melodies, rhythms, harmonies and repertoire are
still studied by jazz musicians and are
intertwined in the very fabric of nearly all
modern jazz.
The Bebop Revolution
• In the beginning, bebop was revolution
whose repercussions brought turmoil to the
jazz world; some musicians stubbornly
ignored it; others embraced it; still others
initiated a nostalgic backlash against it.
• Bebop ended up being a evolution as well as
a revolution.
The Bebop Revolution
With the arrival of bebop, the playing field was
suddenly tilted in a disorienting way. Many
musicians, like alto saxophonist Art Pepper, felt
threatened. Upon hearing his first bop recording after
returning from the war, Pepper said, “These guys
played faster……an they really played. Not only were
the fast, technically, but it all had meaning, and they
swung! They were playing notes I never heard of
before in the chords. It was more intricate, more
bluesy, more swinging, more everything….and it
scared me to death.
The American Federation of
Musicians Recording Ban
What caught many musicians off guard was the complete absence of bebop
recording during the music’s developmental stages. The American
federatioin of Musicians ban on recording by its members from August 1,
1942 until late 1944 neatly coincides with the new music’s gestation period.
Chances are if you weren’t in Harlem during this time you probably would
not have heard any beboop until the first bebop recordings were made in late
1944 and early 1945.
As author and historian Scott DeVeaux put it, “The recording ban falls like a
curtain in the middle of the most interesting part of a play; by the time the
curtain rises, the plot has taken an unexpected turn, and the characters are
speaking a new language.
The New Breed of Jazz Musician
• The radical inequities of the music business during the swing era had
allowed white dance band musicians to earn a comfortable living while
denying the same economic opportunities to black musicians.
• Black swing bands were routinely forced to play lesser paying gigs, had
to travel farther to get to them, and, particularly in the South, had to deal
with racial indignities, stereotypes, segregation and in some cases
violence.
• It was becoming increasingly clear the many young, creative blacks who
played in dance bands that they were playing a white man’s game that
was never going to recognize them for their talents. The world of swing
simply wasn’t working for them.
• The informal setting of the jam session allowed them to completely
shake the notion of being entertainers, of playing for someone else’s
amusement; here they could play only for themselves and their peers.
The Bebop Counter Culture
• As the jam session scene coalesced in the early 1940s, a counter-culture
mentality set in that was designated to keep away outside intruders.
• Beboppers started to dress differently, wearing goatess, sunglasses, and
berets.
• The invent their own hipster language.
• Man began to use narcotics.
• To gain entry into the bop counter-culture, one had to first hold your own in
the late night jam sessions that were beginning to swirl with
experimentation and musical exploration.
• Bebop insiders deliberately tried to embarrass and discourage those who sat
in with them by playing standard tunes at frantic tempos or in unusual keys.
• Also used “secret” reharmonizations and chord substitutions that took
unexpected twists and turns.
• It was ultimately trial-by-fire initiation process designed to identify who
was hip and who was square.
Minton’s, Clark Monroe’s, and “The Street”
• The most celebrated early bebop sessions took place at Minton’s Playhouse,
opened in 1938. The house band included pianist Thelonious Monk and
drummer Kenny Clarke.
• Although Minton’s became the place for the bebop crowd, other Harlem
clubs like Clark Monroe’s Uptown House and The Heatwave also held jam
sessions on a regular basis.
• Racial tension in Harlem were compounded, The Savoy Ballroom was shut
down for six months because servicemen were supposedly picking up
venereal diseases there. “The Street” as it became known, was home to a
cluster of clubs situated in the tiny, narrow basements of the brownstones
that lined both sides of the street.
• On “The Street,” these clubs had been speakeasies during Prohibition, and
as the 1930’s gave way to the 1940s, more and more of them converted to
jazz venues.
“The Street” - a list of some of the clubs
• The Onyx - were Dizzy Gillespie and Oscar Pettiford led the
first bebop group to play outside of Harlem in November 1943.
• The Downbeat - were Coleman Hawkins had a memorable sty
in 1944.
• The Famous Door - where Count Basie appeared in the
summer of 1938.
• Kelly’s Stables, actually located on 51st street, where Billie
holiday held a long residency in the mid 1940s.
• Jimmy Ryans - noted for programming Dixieland
• The Yacht Club, the Spotlight, the Tree Deuces and the
Flamingo Club.
By design , bebop is dramatically different
than swing.
• One of the most obvious differences is the size of the
ensemble; the standard group is five pieces, with the trumpet,
sax, piano, bass, and drums.
• Another important difference is in the arrangements; bebop
charts usually are nothing more than the melody played in
unison by the horns, followed by the usual succession of solos.
• Tempos were purposely undanceable; usually extremely fast,
but also occasionally very slow as well.
• Despite the disaffected demeanor of the players, most bebop is
generally high spirited and joyous music.
Radical elements of bebop become apparent.
• Bebop Rhythm - much more syncopated and rhythmically
unpredictable than previous jazz styles. Bebop drummers used
the bass drum for syncopated accents called dropping bombs.
• Bebop Harmony - Reharmonization or chord substitution
• Bebop Melody - bebop melodies are more complex and
challenging to play. Even tunes based on riffs tend to repeat
themselves in unpredictable ways.
• Bebop Repertoire - By creating their own publishing
companies and making their artists record only original
compositions, the label was able to keep all the royalties to
themselves. Because f this, many bop original compositions
are merely jazz standards with new melodies slapped onto the
existing chord changes.
Characteristics of Bebop
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
Usually high-spirited, positive and joyful music
Small combo, usually five pieces.
Simple arrangements; horns play melody in unison
Emphasis on lengthy, improvised solos
Extreme tempos - fast or slow
Reharmonization and chord substitution common
Unpredictable melodies, flatted 5th common
New repertoire created from jazz standards using new
melodies.
Dizzy, Bird, and Monk
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Dizzy, Bird, and Monk
The most import and influential architect of bebop were Dizzy
Gillespie, Charlie Parker and Thelonious Monk. Born within
thre years of each other (1917-20) in North Carolina (Gillespie
and Monk) and Kansas City (Parker), the three shared
similarities, yet were radically different in temperament, career
path and talents. As there exploratory musical paths led them to
each other, they became friends and worked together, but
utimately they went their own separate ways. In the retrospect
of history we now think of them as icons: Gillespie, the
schoolmaster who hid behind a clown’s mask; Parker, the
tormented genius who represented everything right and wrong
about bebop; and Monk, the mysterious and misunderstood high
priest. These three men were at the forefront of a new
revolutionary spirit of innovation and creativity that forever
changed jazz from dance music into an art form.
John Birks “Dizzy Gillespie”
• 1917-1993
• First to make an impression on
the New York scene.
• Heard Roy Eldridge on radio
broadcasts and began to
emulate his style.
• 1937 replace Eldridge in the
Teddy Hill band.
• 1939 he became one of the
featured soloists in Cab
Calloway Orchestra.
• Began to break away from
Eldridge style - Calloway
called it “Chinese music.”
• Calloway years helped Gillespie
develop his arranging skills, he met his
musical soul mate Charlie Parker, and
he began to develop a lifelong interest
in Cuban music and Latin rhythms
after meeting Cuban arranger Mario
Bauza.
• Became a regular at Minton’s, where
he would often share the stage with
Monk and Parker.
• Accomplished pianist. Taught chord
substitutions and reharmonizations to
band members.
• On many occasions, musicians ended
up at Gillespie’s apartment on 7th with
Diz at the piano and his wife Lorraine,
in the kitchen cooking meals.
• In the developmental years, he was the
“professor.”
John Birks “Dizzy Gillespie”
• Between 1942-44, both Gillespie and
Parker played in the Earl Hines and
Billy Eckstine big bands.
• 1943 at the Onyx club, Dizzy and
bassist Oscar Pettiford put together the
first bebop combo to appear outside
Harlem. It was this group that
established the two-horn-lay-the-headin-unison format that subsequent bop
groups would us.
• February 1944 - Dizzy participated in
what is often called the first bebop
recording session with Coleman
Hawkins, recording his composition
“Woody’n You.”
• In April 1944 , Gillespie and Parker
captivated the jazz world when they
co-led a combo at the Three Deuces.
•
•
•
•
•
1945 Gillespie began spending less time with
Parker and focusing his attention on his first
love, big band music.
1947 he co-led a band with percussionist Chano
Pozo that introduced a new jazz style
incorporating Latin rhythms and percussion
called AFRO CUBAN. At their first gig in
Carnegie Hall in September, Gillespie not only
introduced Pozo to the world, but the innovative
George Russell composition “Cubana BeCubana Bop.” Although Gillespie had
combined Latin music and jazz prior to this with
his famous 1942 composition “A Night In
Tunisia.”
December 1947 - Together with Gil Fuller,
Gillespie and Pozo wrote and recorded
“Manteca” and it is arguably his most famous
Afro-Cuban composition
By 1950’s universally regarded as the top
trumpeter in jazz
He went on to become the most commercially
successful of the original bebop musicians and
spent much of his later years involved in Music
Education.
Charlie Parker - Alto Sax (1920-1955)
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Charlie Parker
• Born in Kansas City on August
29th, 1920.
• His father deserted the family and
his mother worked nights.
• Young Parker was free to roam
Kansas City of the Pendergast era
and began to sneak into the Reno
and other clubs to hear Lester
Young and other great tenor
players.
• Started playing alto saxophone as a
freshman in high school and
started gigging by age 15.
• Those who played with him often
said he was the worst musician in
the band.
• One night in the Spring of 1937, 17year-old Parker went to a jam session at
the Reno Club where Count Basie
drummer Jo Jones was playing. As
Charlie began to play, Jones was so
appalled that he stopped playing and
threw a cymbal across the dance floor.
The deafening crash left Charlie
humiliated, but determined to improve.
That summer, playing the George E.
Lee band in Ozarks, Charlie spent all
his free time “wood-shedding” (a term
used for intense practice) and learning
about harmony. When he returned to
Kansas City that fall, he was musically
a new man, showing phenomenal
development and musical growth. By
this time (17), Parker had already been
married, fathered a son, and divorced.
Charlie Parker
•
•
•
•
He had now been introduced to heroin,
an addiction that would cause him to
become a loner for much of his life.
1938 - began working with bandleader
Jay McShann.
One day on the way to a gig at the
University of Nebraska, the car
Charlie Parker was in, struck and
killed a chicken in the road. Charlie
stopped the car, retrieved the bird, and
had it cooked for McShann when the
band arrived. Amused fellow band
members started calling him Bird (or
Yardbird), a nickname that stuck for
life.
1938 - Quits McShann band and heads
his way east, first to Chicago and then
to New York.
•
•
When he arrived in New York, he took a
job as a dishwasher at Jimmy’s Chicken
Shack, where Art Tatum played the piano
nightly. While listening to the pianist every
night for three months, Bird absorbed
Tatum’s astonishing harmonic restructuring,
virtuoso phrasing, and breakneck tempos.
Challenging himself to adopt these
innovations into his own playing, Bird
worked tirelessly, finally achieving a
breakthrough while working on the song
“Cherokee” at a Harlem jam session.
1939 - returns to Kansas City to rejoin
McShann until 1942. It was during 1940
and 1941 (regarding his first recording and
national broadcasts with the McShann
band) that the jazz world outside New York
got its first glimpse of Parkers genius.
Charlie Parker
•
•
•
•
1942 - quits McShann band to stay in New
York and started to make regular
appearances at the Minton’s sessions with
Dizzy Gillespie (by then a close friend) and
Thelonious Monk. Everyone was
experimenting by then.
Parker played lightening fast runs that,
despite being filled with all kinds of
unexpected twists and harmonic
complexity, made perfect sense. His tone
was cutting and dry, unlike the creamy
sound of the swing saxophonists. And his
imagination never ran out of musical ideas.
1942-1944 - Bird and Diz both played in
the Earl Hines and Billy Eckstine big band.
1944 - Parker and Diz co-led a quintet that
opened at the Three Deuces on 52nd Street.
The landmark recordings that this group
made in November 1945 made a stunning
and profound impression on the jazz world
- the bop revolution was finally unveiled on
vinyl for all to hear.
•
•
•
•
•
1945 - Drug problem gets worse.
1946 - plays with Diz at Billy’s Berg in Los
Angeles. This was the first time anyone on the
West Coast had heard bebop, and the reaction to
the new music was mixed. Parker was depressed
that the music was not well received and started
drinking heavily.
1947 - Parker returned to New York recovered
(he had a total break down in LA and was
committed to six-month at Camarillo State
Hospital for his heroin addiction).
1947 - Lead a quintet that included Miles Davis
on trumpet and Max Roach on drums. By then
he was the leading figure of the bebop
movement. The jazz world became a sort of
house of mirrors for Bird, as alto saxophonist
everywhere were trying to copy everything he
played.
Many young jazz musicians looked at him as a
role model and began to experiment with heroin.
Charlie Parker
• 1949 (December) - a live radio
broadcast and Parker himself
performing, BIRDLAND, the
“Jazz Corner of the World” opened
at the corner of 53rd and
Broadway. Never before had a
club been named after a jazz
musician, living or dead. It was an
unmistakable sign of Charlie
Parker’s status as a living legend.
• 1950 - release of Charlie Parker
with Strings, Bird became the first
jazz artist to make a recording with
orchestral accompaniment.
• 1950 - so ill from drug
complications that he has to cut
back on his playing and recording.
• 1953 - at a concert at Massey Hall in
Toronto that was to feature the greats of
the bebop period, he had to borrow a
plastic saxophone - he had pawned his
own to pay off a drug debt.
• 1954 - attempted suicide
• 1955 - March 12 - he died while
watching Tommy Dorsey’s TV show at
the 5th Avenue apartment of Baroness
Pannonica de Koenigswarter, a wealthy
jazz patron.
• After viewing Parkers broken down
body the coroner estimated Parkers age
to be 55. Charlie Parker was 34.
Charlie Parkers Legacy
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Bird’s legacy continues to shape jazz today, and it is
almost impossible to escape his influence. Young jazz
musicians routinely learn to play bebop by learning
Parkers transcribed solos. His virtuosity and technique
are still standards of achievement that are matched by few.
His compositions have become the repertoire of modern
jazz. Like Louis Armstrong, Parker redefined how jazz
was to be played and installed a new jazz vocabulary.
And, like Armstrong, in the process he exerted a
tremendous influence on American music and culture.
Thelonious Sphere Monk (1917-1982)
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Thelonious Monk
• When around 6 years old moved
with his family from North Carolina
to New York.
• Self taught at piano, by the time he
was sixteen he was playing at
church and professionally at parties.
• His early influences were the
Harlem stride players and especially
Duke Ellington, who was himself a
fine stride player.
• 1940 - Monk became the pianist in
the house band at Minton’s
Playhouse. By this time, he had
already developed a completely
unorthodox style and was
experimenting with chord
substitutions and reharmonization.
• His influence in the formative years
of bebop was powerful, but is one
that cannot be realistically
documented because of the
reclusive nature of his personality.
• Dizzy Gillespie was one who
credited Monk with inventing many
of the harmonic principles of
bebop.
• Monks playing was misunderstood
by so many. Jazz fans were
accustomed to hearing nimble
fingered pianists such as Art Tatum
and Teddy Wilson.
Thelonious Monk
• Instead of the cool demeanor of
most bebop players, Monk was
agitated when he played, appearing
to be in a wrestling match with the
piano.
• In spite of criticism, Monk
stubbornly did not change his
playing or his stage presence,
believing that the world would
someday meet him on his own
terms. (And we did and he was
right).
• 1947 - finally signs a recording
contract. It was upstart Blue Note
label, whose publicity department
labeled him the “High Priest.”
• Among the recordings from the
first wo Blue Note albums,
Thelonious Monk - Genius of
Modern Music Vols. 1 and 2 were
his compositions that he had
written years earlier, “Straight, No
Chaser,” “Epistrophy,” “Off
Minor,” “Round Midnight” and
others that have since become jazz
standards.
• Monks tunes were uniquely original
in his rhythmic phrasing, off-beat
sparseness, and dissonance.
• Monk, the eccentric genius, is
considered to be one of the greatest
composers in jazz history.
Thelonious Monk
• Monks Blue Note albums didn’t do well as first and he was dropped from the
label. He then lost his cabaret card for 5 years when he took the rap for his
mentor Bud Powell (Powell had drugs on him in the car and Monk claimed
they were his to protect him from the police).
• 1957 - triumphant return at the Five Spot, a Greenwich Village nightspot
with a new quartet that included the young, experimental tenor saxophonist
John Coltrane. Their six-month engagement, along with a new critically
acclaimed album release Brilliant Corners finally put Monk in a position to
attain the fame and respect that had eluded him for so long.
• Monk performed most often in a quartet setting with drums, bass, and tenor
sax. He was known to be very animated onstage, often leaving the
bandstand during sax solos and working through the audience, waving his
arms as he shuffled around. He also had a fetish for exotic hats. Monk’s
offbeat personality and music made him a favorite among young hip
audiences in the 60’s, and was even featured in a 1964 story in Time
magazine.
Other Important Bebop Figure
• Bud Powell - influence nearly all jazz pianist that followed him. He was
among the first of the jazz pianist to incorporate a minimal use of the left hand
while concentrating on hornlike lines in the right hand.
• Kenny Clarke - Founder of modern jazz drumming. Was the founding member
of the Modern Jazz Quartet from 1952 until 1956, when he moved to Paris.
• Charlie Christian - was the first great electric guitarist and the first to exploit
the melodic potential of single-note runs on the electric guitar, which took it
past its role as a purely rhythm instrument. Died at 25 of tuberculosis.
• Max Roach - is considered to be the greatest bebop drummer. Made drumming
more melodic and more polyrhythmic. Co-led the Clifford Brown/Max Roach
quintet, one of the first and foremost hard bop groups of the decade that
included Sonny Rollins on tenor and Sunny Stitt on alto.
• Dexter Gordan - his playing was a unique blend of the laid-back rhythmic style
of Lester Young and the dark, biting tone of Coleman Hawkins. Much of the
bebop history and language can be heard very clearly in Dexter Gordan.
Other Important Bebop Figure
• Theodore “Fats” Navarro - was another major trumpet stylist of the bebop
era, with a more lyrical style than Gillespie. He became a heroin addict, which
prevented him from reaching his full potential and contributed to his early death
at age 26.
• Todd Dameron - Prolific composer of many bebop standards. Was one of the
first arrangers in the bebop style and was also a fine pianist. His life was also
beset by constant drug-related problems.
• Oscar Peterson - One of the most technically virtuostic pianists in jazz history
with incredible technique that is often compared to that of Art Tatum. Peterson
has been active in jazz since his teens in his hometown of Montreal. His style is
somewhat transitional, falling between stride, swing, and bebop.
• J.J. Johnson - was the one of the first trombonists to adapt the unwieldy nature
of the instrument to bebop.
The Backlash of Bebop
• A new emerging sound, Rhythm and Blues
gained popularity and jazz slipped into the
corners.
• The New Orleans Revival. Musicians from
the 1920’s who had ended their music
careers suddenly found they were in
demand for concerts and club appearances.

The Bebop Revolution - College of Fine Arts