This introduction to the midcentury jazz style bebop features 25 essential tracks from Thelonious Monk, Dizzie Gillespie, Charlie Parker, and more, curated by friend of the store, Nick Urban.
On a crisp June night in the summer of 1945, soon-to-be saxophone sovereigns John Coltrane and Benny Golson took their seats at Philadelphia’s Academy of Music to take in jazz’s newest and most inspiring group: Dizzy Gillespie and His Quintet. Gillespie, a jazz superstar in his own right, had recently added a new sideman to his group, none other than alto saxophonist Charlie Parker, bynamed “Bird.” Little did Coltrane and Golson know that their entire earth was going to be shattered that evening. So, what was so special about what Bird and Diz were doing on the bandstand that night?
The answer is Bebop, a style of jazz that Gillespie (Diz) and Parker (Bird) spearheaded in the Mid-1940s. Before Bebop, the jazz world was dominated by swing and big band music, music meant to be danced to by large crowds. Bebop could not have been more juxtaposing of swing music if it tried, both in musical and receptive regards.
Characterized by breakneck tempos, complex harmony, and virtuosic improvisation consisting of double-time playing and intermittent allusions to the tune’s melody, Bebop, and specifically Diz and Bird’s playing, was absolutely revolutionary. Bird and Diz helped to usher in the modern conception of a jazz combo, three to seven players playing in a group as opposed to the standard fourteen of a big band, allowing for faster tempos and longer, more complex solos. Not only did Gillespie and Parker pursue the further truth of Bebop’s extended harmony, but pianists Thelonious Monk and Bud Powell, trumpeters Fats Navarro and Clifford Brown, and drummer Max Roach did too.
Along with permanently penetrating the soundscape of Manhattan and the world at large, Bebop was incredibly influential outside of the music world. Beat poets, primarily Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg, often wrote about Bebop’s chaotic & exciting energy within their work, even citing the genre as influencing the cadence of their poetry. Coinciding with the Beats, Expressionists, such as Jackson Pollock and Jean Michel-Basquiat, cited Bird and others as highly impressionable forces upon their own work.