The Evolution of Bebop: The Rise of Concert Jazz

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Bebop is a genre distinguished by it fast tempos, dissonant harmonies, and complex rhythms. The mid-1940’s was bereft with bop artists such as “Dizzy” Gillespie and Charlie Parker who were at the forefront of the movement. The transition between the swing riffs of Count Basie in the 1920’s to 1930’s to the improvisations of Thelonious Monk during post World War II is full of history. This research will explore the beginnings and evolution of Bebop as a jazz subgenre and its influence on the rise of jazz music as a concert form. During the “Swing” era of jazz in the 1920’s to the 1930’s was dominated by the big band movement. Artists such a Duke Ellington and Count Basie were popular for their great arrangements and riffs. Although these artists were successful, their white counterparts such as Benny Goodman were increasingly more popular. Out of a desire to remove themselves from the repetitive riffs and lack of solo opportunities for the young African-American musicians in swing bands under white bandleaders, many musicians began experimenting with different types of music. A story often told in the in the jazz lore is “How Bebop was born a Minton’s Playhouse.” (Rosenthal, 10) Bebop was first born without a name and was referred to as “Modern” jazz by its initial musicians. Kenny Clarke when asked about the name bebop said that the label “Bebop” was given by certain journalists, but all they called it was modern music. (Owens, 1) “Dizzy” Gillespie once said that many of their original tunes didn’t have names so when a patron asked for a song they would just say bebop. (Owens, 1) At Minton’s Playhouse on 118th Street in New York City, some of the greatest boppers such as Charlie Parker, “Dizzy” Gillespie, and Thelonious Monk (... ... middle of paper ... ...enile delinquency. (Porter, 21) After which many artists moved themselves away from the label of “Bebop” in order to still play the music but as to have it untainted by the stigma attached to the name. Duke Ellington once warned Gillespie about categorizing music, “Dizzy, the biggest mistake you made was to let them name your music be-bop, because from the time they name something, it is dated.” (Porter, 23) Bebop continued to live on under the names of different genres jazz such as the Hard Bop of Charles Mingus and the Post-Bop of Wynton Marsalis. The creation of Bebop and how it evolved changed the evolving world of jazz and pushed forward away from the big band world created for the dancing audience to a place where jazz was considered a form of cultural expression for a generation of young musicians living in a world where they decided to play their own music.

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