The Bebop and Cool Jazz Eras of the 40’s and 50’s

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Jazz music of the 1940’s and 1950’s was defined by a history of change since its beginning at the dawn of the 20th century. Almost every decade brought a new flavor to the movement, and by the 1940’s jazz had developed into a mature, complex form of music, with many nuances and avenues for continued change. It is important to trace the early movements in jazz to better understand the innovations of the Bebop and Cool jazz eras of the 40’s and 50’s.

The first appearance of jazz was at the turn of the century in New Orleans and is called “Dixieland Jazz,” or “Classic Jazz.” It developed out of music for street parades in the black community. It also had deeper roots in a style of music called “Blues,” which was used to express the daily experiences of the community (History). Other influences include the combination of West African folk music with the popular classical music of Europe, developing into syncopated rhythms and chord variations on classical pieces (Passion).

The popularity of jazz grew in the twenties, and its center changed from New Orleans to Chicago. From there it spread to Kansas City and New York. The end of WWI ushered in the Jazz Age in New York, and it came to be associated with the parties and wild behavior of the 1920’s (Verve). Music from this era is also sometimes called “The Chicago Style,” and includes artists such as Bix Beiderbecke on trumpet and Pee Wee Russel, Mezz Mezzrow, and Benny Goodman on clarinet.

By the 1930’s the movement had shifted yet again and began to incorporate larger bands in what came to be known as “swing.” Broadcast radio was also an important factor by this time, giving swing music a far-reaching national influence. The size of the bands had a standardizing ...

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