[wpspoiler name=”Thelonious Monk performs Straight No Chaser in 1965″ open=”true” style=”aatw-video”][/wpspoiler] In the 1940s a new jazz style called “Bebop” emerged somewhat as a counter-movement to Big Band. Bebop ensembles were small–five or six musicians at most, most often featuring drums, bass, piano, trumpet and sax–and performed complicated arrangements that often featured irregular rhythms. These compositions were fascinating to hear but were not made for the dance hall.
Bepop’s virtuosic musicians communicated with each other and with audiences through fast and frenzied improvisation. Trumpeter DIZZY GILLESPIE–he of the amazingly stretchable cheeks and alto saxophone player CHARLIE “BIRD” PARKER, who first came to epitomize the intellectual/”hipster”/artist of the Beat Generation, then, sadly, the intellectual/”hipster”/artist who succumbed to substance abuse (PBS introduces you to
the life and times of Charlie Parker), pioneered bebop, taking advantage of the improvisational freedom the style afforded them as instrumentalists to bring the deep emotion of the blues back into jazz. Other jazz pioneers like idiosyncratic pianist and “High Priest of Bebop” THELONIOUS MONK advanced the genre with their unpredictable compositions. [Learn about Monk by watching the documentary “Straight, No Chaser.”|
Bebop as a jazz form came to maturity in the 1960s and then morphed and developed into other subgenres. For example, musicians like ART BLAKEY and the THE JAZZ MESSENGERS added a groovy, slightly more danceable edge to Bebop, weaving blues and gospel into their tunes. This genre became known as “Hard Bop.” Jazz heavyweights MILES DAVIS and JOHN COLTRANE, as well as trailblazing jazz guitarist WES MONTGOMERY, adopted this style and continued to harden the bop.
[Charlie Parker’s 1945 “Ko-ko” is widely considered to be the first bebop recording. (Dizzy
Gillespie joins him on trumpet.) | Watch Charlie Parker on alto sax and Dizzy Gillespie on trumpet perform “Hot House” in 1952 | Watch the Theonious Monk Quintet perform Monk’s composition, “Straight, No Chaser” in 1965 | Watch Art Blakey (on drums) and the Jazz Messengers performing Dizzy Gillespie’s “A Night in Tunisia” live in 1958 | Listen to John Coltrane’s hard bop classic, “Moment’s Notice” | Watch Miles Davis perform bebop classic, “Walkin” in 1967 | Watch Wes Montgomery’s wonderful performance of “I Love Blues“]
Bebop was primarily instrumental but every so often musicians sang their melodies, or variations on their melodies, in an improvised form of singing that mimicked their instruments. This type of singing, known as “SCAT,” uses vocables to play with and even enhance the melody. Among the conflicting accounts of the origin of the term “bebop,” is a theory posits that “be” and “bop” were common scat syllables that often appeared together. Popular band leaders like CAB CALLOWAY used scat as a way to involve the audience in the vocal part of his compositions often through call and response. Jazz vocalists like ELLA FITZGERALD developed their own version of scat singing, using the voice to imitate jazz instruments.
In class we’re going to try a little scat singing, improvising sounds, imitating instruments and calling and responding ’til the cows come home.
[Listen to Cab Calloway sing “The Scat Song” and also “Zaz Zuh Zaz,” which sounds a whole lot like the more lyrically bawdy, and more famous, “Minnie the Moocher” | Watch Ella Fitzgerald perform her scat-arific “One Note Samba” in 1969, a version of which we’ll hear in class.]