Which musicians were bebop jazz pioneers


"Today, jazz, simply freely associated, is a very elitist sport that clever minds indulge in in smoky pubs. Bebop is an important step towards this image" (elixic.de).

Clichés such as those used in the introductory quote often get to the heart of things. Jazz's reputation for being music for red wine-drinking intellectuals is actually rooted in bebop. The most striking feature of the bebop is probably its spectacularly fast way of walking on the instruments. If the focus in the preceding swing is on the big band and the arrangements, in bebop the soloist is at the center of the action.

The triumphant advance of bebop is tantamount to a musical revolution, because with it jazz succeeds in making the step from mere light music to art! Time of this quake: approx. 1943 - mid-1950s.

Minton's Playhouse is mentioned again and again as the birthplace of bebop - a bar in New York where a couple of jazz musicians meet on Monday evenings to play the frustration off each other in jam sessions. The musicians who later became the bebop pioneers also meet there: Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, Thelonious Monk and Max Roach.

It is not entirely clear where the term bebop comes from. The theory that it is an onomatopoeic setting of a typical jazz ending is probably the most common. Scientists also suspect that the cheering call "Arriba" is its source. Speculation or not, the fantasy word has to do with "cheer" in any case, and the popularity of the word increases with the popularity of the new sound.

The previous era of swing, in which big big bands play in chic ballrooms for a number of dance enthusiasts, has already passed its heyday. Swing became very commercial and unprofitable in the early forties. Big bands break up and a number of musicians are called up for war purposes. The remaining ones either have no jobs or are bored in bands whose music they are getting tired of because of the lack of challenge. Recordings were not made between 1942 and 1944 because of a dispute between the musicians' union and the record companies.

The development to bebop doesn't happen overnight - echoes of the new style can already be recognized in part during the swing era. Nevertheless, with the appearance of the first records in 1944, this unusually unique style suddenly hit a broad audience. A number of musicians, including Louis Armstrong and Tommy Dorsey, are shocked, do not win anything from the (Be) Bop and criticize him for turning away from dance music.

Others, on the other hand, find their idols in the bebop musicians and their new ideas and quickly begin to emulate them. Dizzy Gillespie, with a French cap, fat glasses and a goatee, is the ideal representative Bop figure to market for the press. Charlie Parker's success, on the other hand, is mostly limited to New York. There, however, his initial lick of "Parker's Mood" is whistled in the scene as a sign of recognition.

From a musical point of view, Bebop differs from earlier jazz styles primarily through its absolute concentration on solo virtuosity. So-called "head arrangements" are played in combos with 4-7 people. The sequence is only briefly discussed, the order of the solos - then everyone rushes through the topic in unison at the beginning and at the end of the piece, in between everyone has their place to show what they can do. Frequently, well-known standards are improvised with a few additional, extended harmonies.

One of the most popular forms of beboppers, the "rhythm changes", is not called that because it involves rhythm changes. Rather, they are based on the harmonies of George Gershwin's song "I've Got Rhythm". The bebopper simply give it a new look by inventing a new melody, a new theme using the same chord structure - also a good way of avoiding censorship when stealing songs. A well-known example of this is Charlie Parker's "Anthropology".

Bebop themes and improvisations are complex structures that are played at breakneck speed. This is why bebop is (almost) exclusively instrumental music and its musicians play tones that have not been used in jazz up to now. A lot of chromaticism is consumed and a third blue note, the "Flatted Fifth", appears. Their use becomes a cliché of bebop. The drive, the breakneck thing about bebop comes from the fact that amazing changes take place in the rhythm section - not to mention new tempo ideas. The bass beats almost exclusively in fast quarters - the drummer gains more freedom and fires hammer syncopes, so-called "dropping bombs", on the cymbals and bass drum.

The high phase of bebop ended around the mid-1950s when Miles Davis, also a child of bebop, popularized an "alternative style" - cool jazz. Nevertheless, bebop is still ubiquitous in jazz today. You will find very typical bebop characteristics at every jazz session without any problems, because even 50 years later jazz musicians do not seem to be in the mood to ban the innovative ideas of bebop from their repertoire.