History of Jazz

Bebop

(1940's-1950's)
Previous: Postwar Big Band Next: Cool Jazz

Bebop emerged in the 1940s a as a style of jazz in great contrast to the music of the big bands. It featured a small group of musicians -- four to six players -- rather than the 10 or more associated with the big bands. The smaller size allowed more solo opportunities for the players. The music itself was characterized by more complex melodies and chord progressions, as well as more emphasis on the role the rhythm section. Furthermore, phrases within the music were often irregular in length, making bebop interesting to listen to, but in contrast to music of the big bands, unsuitable for dancing.

Charles Mingus, Roy Haynes, Thelonius Monk, Charlie ParkerThe development of bebop is attributed in large part to trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie and alto saxophonist Charlie Parker. The unique styles of Gillespie and Parker contributed to and typified the bebop sound. They experimented with unconventional chromaticism, discordant sounds, and placement of accents in melodies. In contrast to the regular phrasing of big band music, Gillespie and Parker often created irregular phrases of odd length, and combined swing and straight eighth-note rhythms within the swing style.

Other influential bebop musicians included saxophonists Sonny Stitt and Dexter Gordon, trumpeters Red Rodney and Kenny Dorham, trombonists J.J. Johnson and Bennie Green, guitarists Tal Farlow and Kenny Burrell, pianists Oscar Peterson, Bud Powell, and Thelonius Monk, drummers Kenny Clarke and Max Roach, and bassists Charles Mingus and Paul Chambers.

Did you know?

  • Monroe's Uptown House and Minton's were two nightclubs in New York where musicians would jam. The roots of bebop were planted in these clubs.
  • Scat singing uses nonsense syllables sung to an improvised melody. "Bebop" jazz is named after one of the nonsense syllables commonly used in scat.


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