Big Band Bebop

With Dizzy Gillespie's big band,especially on 'Cubana Be' and 'Cubana Bop',the revolutionary nature of bebop language exploded on wider scale.

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Dizzy Gillespie's Big Band

In his quest for modernity Dizzy Gillespie chose his collaborators judiciously. Among them, Tadd Dameron created a sensation. A composer-arranger trained in the school of swing, Dameron allied himself very early with the bebop aesthetic through the daring of such tunes as 'Hot House'. He begrudged his white colleagues on the West Coast nothing.

Gladly citing French composer Maurice Ravel among his influences, he attached equal importance to the resonant beauty of the whole and to the melodic quality of each part, at a time when many others were concerned only with the lead voice.

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Tadd Dameron & Fats Navarro

Dameron's skill in preserving melody through even the most 'dissorted' harmonies was shared by one of his closet friends, trumpet player Fats Navarro. A soloist who use uncommon imagination to avoid the harmonic traps of bebop, Navarro chiseled melodic lines of such density and pertinence that they were a decisive influence on future generations.


Toward Hard Bop And Modal Jazz

While cool was gaining popularity on the West Coast, the black musicians on the East Coast were active, too. They made bop accessible to the large ensemble, enriched its forms, mastered its vocabulary and became apprentices to new rhythms. By the mid-fifties, they had developed a hardened tone, drawing from blues and gospel in order to preserve the specific characteristics of African- American music.

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Dizzy Gillespie

The trumpet player Dizzy Gillespie started his career in big bands and did not hesitate to let the first sounds of bebop be heard there, sometimes under the glare of his bandleaders. In 1946 he formed his own big band, in which some of the best-known names played, and he created  a sensation by incorporating Afro-Cuban elements into his music. Indeed, contacts between American jazz musicians and those hailing from Cuba and Puerto Rico - many of whom had been in New york since the thirties - multiplied in this decade. In this way, jazz musicians broadened their rhythmic habits and explored new ways of exploring the beat.


West Coast And Cool Jazz Are Not The Exclusive Property Of White Musicians

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Lester Young
In the Hollywood the sublime duels of the black saxophone players Dexter Gordon and Wardell Gray were recorded in June 1947. They shared the cult of Lester Young with there white colleagues, but their sound was more expressionistic, the flow of their phrases more consistent with the demands of bebop, and their intention more aggressive. When they gave themselves fully to the indolence of phrasing 'like Lester', they did so with much more sensuality.

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Dexter Gordon

On the other hand, other black musicians, on the West Coast and elsewhere, developed a taste for muffled and refined tones. When 'hard bop' which arose in the 1950s, was at its hottest, Miles Davis was continuing to cultivate a restrained cool style of playing. What he obtained, however, was not so much an effect of relaxation as impression of controlled violence that would provoke a feeling of tension in the listener.

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Wardell Gray


The West Coast And World Weariness (2)

Despite the indelible impression made by the Miles Davis nonet, West Coast music may have seemed true to the image conveyed by California beaches: sunny and carefree. But the apparent easiness hid a fundamentally disciplined innovative spirit.

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Shorty Rogers

Among the names in California jazz, the trumpet player Shorty Rogers was prominent. Combining the colours of Miles Davis with the spontaneous and 'swinging' writing of Count Basie's middle years, Shorty Rogers also borrowed from the sophisticated structure of classical music.

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Dave Brubeck

These borrowings were legal currency on the West Coast. Dave Brubeck's quartet popularized a number of processes foreign to jazz in this manner and encountered widespread success - so much so that even today he remains suspect in the eyes of purists.

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Jimmy Giuffre

The experiments of the saxophone and clarinet player Jimmy Giuffre during the fifties, however, were far more radical. With an unusual ensemble - clarinet, trumpet and drums - he anticipated the liberties taken by 'free jazz' in the sixties. His taste for the intimate atmosphere of chamber music made him the precursor of the options that bloomed in the seventies.


The West Coast And World Weariness (1)

As much as New York bebop seemed to be the expression of a community struggling for survival and recognition, so West Coast jazz musicians seemed to give themselves fully to introspection and existential suffering, combined with an indifference to everything around them. Admirers and critics alike found it difficult to place these young, white, middle class people on the same level as their urban black idols.

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Art Pepper

In the fifties, as McCarthy's campaign against Communism progressed, and the United States plunged into the cold war, cultural life was at a peak. The anti establishment writers of the Beat Generation often referred to jazz in their work and participated with the California musicians in experiment combining music and literature. Preceding rock and roll, West Coast was the expression of a youth in rebellion against the middle class from which it came.

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Chet Baker

Far from being easygoing, the music of alto saxophonist Paul Desmond, for example, transmitted a quiet and embittered desperation, while Art Pepper, more unstable and intense, displayed an insatiable sensuality on the same instrument. As for Chet Baker, he was the great romantic figure of the West Coast. He played trumpet in a piano-less quarter led by Gerry Mulligan, who exemplified the spirit of the California fifties. This quartet was concerned with structure and melodic clarity, and it solos for two voices in counterpoint, sweet atmosphere, and feeling of chamber music foreshadowed many of the avenues explored in later jazz. Finally, the absence of the piano and the statement of the harmonies by the double bass alone offered wider freedom for the soloist.


Cool Crystallizes On The West Coast

In the forties Stan Kenton, originally from the West Coast, combined swing with the spirit of 20th century Europeans composers. While they may have contributed to the frequent bombast of his work, his classical leanings - he pastiches both Stravinsky and Ravel - served as crucible for West Coast jazz. 
Indeed, it was in California that the principal players - Art Pepper,Gerry Mulligan, Zoot Sims, Shorty Rogers, Shelly Manne and Frank Rosolino - met, all of them white and equally fascinated by Charlie Parker and Lester Young.

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Stan Kenton & His Orchestra, "Night Watch" in 1951

From 1947 on Woody Herman made the 'Four Brothers' famous by putting the four unrelated sax players (three tenors and a baritone) at the centre of this band. The best known of the 'brothers' will always be Stan Getz. Discovered because of his solo in ' Early Autumn' in 1948, he set him self up as the apostle of fragility and romanticism that typified the West Coast style.

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Stan Getz

Even though the majority of the West Coasters emerged from the ranks of Stan Kenton's and Woody Herman's big bands, it would be dangerous to reduce this style to a single current. Before anything else, it was a question of a geographic place where young musicians came  together, more attracted by the gentle California life-style than by the hard edges of New York. Technically able musicians, they found work in Hollywood studios and shared a taste for the subtlety and writing style that they had developed under the influence of Miles Davis' nonet.


Evans, Mulligan and Davis

Whereas in some bands there was a very clear musical separation between the trumpets, trombones and saxophones,Gil Evans preferred the density and the richness obtained by fusing their varied tones in his arrangements. His orchestrations evoke the shimmer of colors and weight of fabrics.The seduction of the sounds took precedence, and his 'Moon Dreams' stretched itself out in dramatic torpor.

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Gil Evans - Miles Davis in Studio, 1949

Among the other arrangers Miles Davis worked with for the occasion, all of them regulars at Gil Evans room, baritone sax player Gerry Mulligan was particularly innovative: he made deliberate efforts to break with the traditional eight measure form.When the harmonic structure still revered to this convention, he would shift his orchestration to the theme of 'Jeru' he called the sovereignty of the four-beat measure and rhythmic unity into question with isolated two- and three-beat measures.

Miles Davis nonet went against all the then current ideas about the lightweight quality of jazz. It seemed to demand the kind of listening one would expect Carnegie Hall, not a noisy club.

The alto sax player Lee Konitz, one of the principal soloists Miles Davis invited to the 1949 Capitol Records sessions, seemed an unlikely candidate for major role. He was to the bebop saxophone what Woody Allen is to American cinema: he had the pallor of an absentminded student, in sharp contrast to the exuberant faces of bebop. The same was true of his playing. He softened the aggressive virtuosity of Charlie Parker through the influence of the floating phrases of Lester Young and the pianist Lennie Tristano.

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Gerry Mulligan in Live Performance 1940s

Tristano contributed a theoretical foundation to bop musicians discoveries and spread their ideas through his teaching. Emphasizing melody, harmony and rhythm, he streamlined bop's expressionistic aspects. The coterie of young white musicians he assembles, particularly sax players Lee Konitz and Warne Marsh, tempered bop's dazzling language by adopting airy resonances and vibratoless tones. Referring to the fugue and counterpoints of Johann Sebastian Bach, these musicians loved to do two part improvisations and, with Lennie Tristano, were responsible for the first free improvisations (without any written theme or even any agreed upon harmonic pattern).


And The Cool is Born

Cool mean fresh and refreshing but also, of course, relaxed. To someone who is getting upset, you say, 'Keep Cool'. In the late 1940s white jazz musicians began to interpret Charlie Parker's jazz in a new, 'cool' way - and the name stuck. But, paradoxically, the beginnings of cool are attributed to the boldest of the black musicians, Miles Davis.
Indeed, his 1949 recordings for Capitol Records are so significant in this regard that later reissues were grouped under the title Birth Of The Cool.

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Miles Davis in a 1940s Recording Session

Compared to Dizzy Gillespie, the other all-star trumpet player of the period, Miles Davis lacked both virtuosity and a brilliant tone. Yes he created a sober, airy, reflective style all his own, featuring a quiet resonance, avoiding high notes and favouring the medium register. 'Keep cool!' he seemed to say to Dizzy Gillespie's velocity, mimicking the message Lester Young seemed to convey to the impetuous Coleman Hawkins. But he was not satisfied with the rapid unison phrases and the unbridled solos that characterized bebop.

In 1948, when Davis formed an ensemble, he tried something new, instead of the usual bebop quintet, he formed a nine-piece band, a nonet.

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Miles Davis Nine Piece band (nonet) in a 1940s Recording Session

And there he called on arrangers Gil Evans and Gerry Mulligan. The band featured Davis' trumpet - along with two saxophones, a trombone, a rhythm section, and two instruments rarely used in jazz until then, a French horn and a tuba. (The tuba had been used in rhythm section of the first jazz ensembles in New Orleans, but had been largely replaced by the string bass by this time.)


How It Become Bebop (opening)

Evolved in part from spirituals sung by slaves, jazz is the only truly American musical form. It was created by blacks, for blacks. For years, it was considered to be mere entertainment, but with the advent of bebop in the 1940s, young jazz musicians joined the avant-garde: bop opened the door to modern jazz, the privileged expression of a growing number of artists, strangers to its origins.

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Manhattan 52nd Street Sign

In the small clubs of Manhattan's 52nd Street, small experimental bebop groups revolutionized jazz. At the time, New York was the capital of the artistic avant-garde , of intellectual excitement. Literature, theater and painting were being enthusiastically discussed in the city's living rooms.

However, the arranger Gil Evans, recently arrived in New York to rally for the cause of bebop, did not have a living room. One simple room near 52nd Street was enough for him, and it attached a crowd, day and night. The leaders of black music gathered around a turntable there, playing recordings of sax players Lester young and Charlie Parker as well as such European composers as Alban Berg and Maurice Ravel. They met in that room to listen and to talk with each other - and with young white musicians as well.

By the 1940s jazz was no longer the exclusive property of the African-American community. Bop made jazz into a language accessible to all musicians and music lovers in search of a well-informed mode of expression that was free and more physical than Western classical music.

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Manhattan's 52nd Street Night View of 1949