Jazz at 100 Hour 36: Bebop Pioneers in the 1950s (1949 – 1960)

Jazz at Massey Hall

Bud Powell-p, Charles Mingus-b, Max Roach-d, Dizzy Gillespie-tp, Charlie Parker-as

Bebop had its roots in the big bands of the late 1930s and was nurtured in jam sessions during the war and the musician’s strike of the 1940s. By 1950, the prescient Coleman Hawkins, and the pioneers – Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Bud Powell, and Max Roach were well-established stars at risk of the music moving on and leaving them behind. Yet, they all had much more to offer in the 1950s.

Coleman Hawkins.
Coleman Hawkins never slowed down; for him there was no second act because the curtain never came down on the first act. In 1957, he recorded several sessions for Verve, including the classic, Coleman Hawkins Encounters Ben Webster, with the Oscar Peterson Trio. Of the LP, The High And Mighty Hawk, Brian Morton & Richard Cook write, “Hawkins sailed through the bebop years like an eagle who manages to sail above the smaller falcons, now barely moving his wings, held aloft by a monumental authority.”

La Rosita. Coleman Hawkins – Ben Webster Sextet
(Coleman Hawkins-ts, Ben Webster-ts, Oscar Peterson-p, Herb Ellis-g, Ray Brown-b, Alvin Stoller-d). From Coleman Hawkins Encounters Ben Webster. 10/16/1957.
Ooh-Wee, Miss GP! Coleman Hawkins Quintet
(Buck Clayton-tp, Coleman Hawkins-ts, Hank Jones-p, Ray Brown-b, Mickey Sheen-d). From The Stanley Dance Sessions (The High And Mighty Hawk). 2/18 – 2/19/1958.

Charlie Parker on Verve.
“Bird saw recording with Strings as keeping an eye on the main chance, a way into popularity. Who really can say whether the arrangements of Jimmy Carroll and Joe Lipman satisfied him? The point was that [Verve Records founder] Norman Granz was willing to organize it, Parker had the biggest seller of his short career with the 78 RPM single of the Carroll-arranged ‘Just Friends,’ and for several years the strings format allowed him to tour easily, because the music was written out and the star could improvise handily over a pickup band.” – Ben Ratliff

Just Friends. Charlie Parker Quartet with Jimmy Carroll Orchestra
(Mitch Miller-ob/ehr, Charlie Parker-as, Bronislaw Gimpel-vln, Max Hollander-vln, Milton Lomask-vln, Frank Brieff-vla, Frank Miller-vlc, Meyer Rosen-harp, Stan Freeman-p, Ray Brown-b, Buddy Rich-d). From Charlie Parker with Strings. 11/30/1949.
“Parker’s opening salvo in ‘Just Friends,’ after the pizzicato strings introduction, is his improvising at its best – as light, here, as Lee Konitz’s but with cracking speed, note stuffed but imaginative, its tonal center blurred by rapid, muscular reshuffling of patterns and lashing, wide-interval melodies.” – Ben Ratliff

“This quartet version of ’Now’s The Time’ was made toward the end of Parker’s short life, as an inspired 1953 session (one of Parker’s finest compositions, ‘Confirmation’ was recorded at the same date). Backing Parker was the elegant pianist Al Haig, who combined the light touch of swing players like Teddy Wilson with the fleet and harmonically dauntless vision of the preeminent bop pianist, Bud Powell. By this point, Parker was recording for one of Norman Granz’s class labels (Clef, which later became Verve), and the fidelity is excellent. Rhythm section nuances, dimly audible in 1940’s recordings, now take sonic precedence. As a result we can fully appreciate Max Roach’s drumming, particularly his masterly interaction with Parker – superb example of heightened musical reflexes.” – Gary Giddins & Scott DeVeaux

Now’s The Time. Charlie Parker Quartet
(Charlie Parker-as, Al Haig-p, Percy Heath-b, Max Roach-d). From Now’s The Time. 7/28/1953. (The Norton Jazz Recordings)

Dizzy Gillespie on Verve.
“The Davis-Evans records helped define the period. In contrast, Gillespiana was a tribute to Gillespie, a summing up rather than a manifesto, a concerto that derives its power from provoking the soloist while suggesting the range of his historical achievement in big bands, cutting-edge harmonies, Afro-Cuban rhythms, and more. Yet it successfully avoids pastiche, sustaining genuine excitement in the dialogue of ensemble and soloists… Nor does he fail to create memorable tableaux that, absent Evans’s cloudlike chords, have an arresting quality of their own—for example, the flute and trombones and cannily altered changes of “Blues” or the elephant shrieks of “Africana.” In the latter, Gillespie begins his solo in what is for him the lower register and plots an insightful, responsive muted statement over a dramatic landscape of conga and timbale rhythms and brass tuttis, while reacting to a contrary theme played by the ensemble. His imagination never falters.” – Gary Giddins

Africana. Dizzy Gillespie and his Orchestra
(John Frosk, Dizzy Gillespie, Ernie Royal, Clark Terry, Joe Wilder-tp, Urbie Green, Frank Rehak, Britt Woodman-tb, Paul Faulise-btb, Jim Buffington, Al Richman, Gunther Schuller, Julius Watkins-frh, Don Butterfield-tu, Leo Wright-as/fl, Leo Schifrin-p, Art Davis-b, Chuck Lampkin-d, Candido-cga, Jack Del Rio-bgo, Willie Rodriguez-timbales). From Gillespiana. 11/16/1960.
Note the orchestration is for 14 brasses, 6 rhythm and a single reed.

Gillespie’s postrevolutionary years are packed with stellar recordings, but the irony of his career is that, as his fame increased, the critical regard for his current work declined—not because of a falling-off in his music, but because of the first law of cultural revolutions: The radical who doesn’t continue to fan the flames of revolt will soon be consigned to the limbo of “living legend.” At the age of thirty, Gillespie had changed jazz and was confronted with the prospect of earning a living. Had he burned himself out in his prime like Charlie Parker, he would have joined the ranks of the jazz saints. Instead, he endured. As audiences grew more enamored of younger players who, building on his foundation, pushed the music to new frontiers, Gillespie took on an ambassadorial role, doing talk shows and good-will tours. He never lost the respect of serious listeners, but he didn’t always have their full attention.” – Gary Giddens

Bud Powell.
Bud Powell’s greatest recordings were on Blue Note and various labels controlled by Norman Granz from 1949 – 1953, after which he suffered a steady decline, punctuated by moments of genius and lucidity until his death in 1966. In 1953, he recorded The Amazing Bud Powell, Vol. 2 for Blue Note. “On Polkadots and Moonbeams we hear a brooding and reflective Powell. He approaches the beautiful melody as if it were a chorale and, at an almost painfully slow tempo, turns it almost into a dirge.” – Dick Katz from the notes for Smithsonian Collection of Jazz Piano

Polkadots And Moonbeams. Bud Powell Trio
(Bud Powell-p, George Duvivier-b, Art Taylor-d). From The Amazing Bud Powell, Vol. 2. 8/14/1953.  (Smithsonian Collection of Jazz Piano)

One More Time – Live at Massey Hall.
In 1953, a Canadian promoter brought Gillespie, Parker, Powell, Mingus and Roach together for a concert in Toronto. The proceedings were recorded and the result represents a curtain call on some of the greatest collaborations in the history of jazz. “[Parker] and Gillespie are both at the peak of their powers. They may even have fed off the conflict that had developed between them, for their interchanges on the opening ‘Perdido’ crackle with controlled aggression, like two middleweights checking each other out in the first round.” – Brian Morton & Richard Cook

Perdido. The Quintet
(Dizzy Gillespie-tp, Charlie Parker-as, Bud Powell-p, Charles Mingus-b, Max Roach-d). From Jazz at Massey Hall. 5/15/1953.

Max Roach with Clifford Brown
A year after Massey Hall, Max Roach debuted his new ensemble – the last great bebop band … or perhaps the first great hard bop band. The inaugural offering of the Clifford Brown – Max Roach Quintet “… is one of the strongest studio-made albums up to that time in the nascent LP era. It includes four of Brown’s great performances in ‘Parisian Thoroughfare,’ ‘Jordu,’ ‘Daahoud,’ and ‘Joy Spring’; and the last two are Brown’s greatest compositions. The ‘Jordu’ solo, in particular, is masterly, crafted in discrete parts, never at a loss for ideas about how to expand on the tune’s chords or its melody. Roach’s solo in the same song, too, is a perfect example of his development; it uses African-sounding repetition to an unnerving degree, but there’s a lid on his projection” – Ben Ratliff

Jordu. Clifford Brown – Max Roach Quintet
(Clifford Brown-tp, Harold Land-ts, Richie Powell-p, George Morrow-b, Max Roach-d). From Clifford Brown and Max Roach. 8/3/1954.

In 1956, Clifford Brown died at 25 in a car accident that also took the life of Bud Powell’s brother Richie. The two-year flash that was the Brown-Roach Quintet was over as quickly as it had begun.

Bandleader Woody Herman created a distinctive sound around The Four Brothers – the three tenor plus baritone sax front line of Stan Getz, Zoot Sims, Herbie Stewart (later Al Cohn) and Serge Chaloff – and the writing of clarinetist Jimmy Giuffre. In time, Getz, Sims, Chaloff, Cohn and Giuffre would all become distinctive soloists and all had a role in defining West Coast Jazz in the 1950s. West Coast Jazz in the 1950s in the next hour on Jazz at 100.

Smithsonian Collection of Jazz Piano. Smithsonian Folkways Recordings 0391.
The Norton Jazz Recordings – 4 Compact Discs for use with JAZZ by Scott DeVeaux and Gary Giddins. W.W. Norton 933796.
Coleman Hawkins Encounters Ben Webster. Verve MGV 8327.
Coleman Hawkins – The High & Mighty Hawk (The Stanley Dance Sessions). Felsted SJA 2005.
Charlie Parker With Strings. Clef MGC 675.
Charlie Parker – Now’s The Time. Verve MGV 8005 (Clef MGC 157)
Dizzy Gillespie – Gillespiana. Verve MGV 8394.
The Amazing Bud Powell, Vol. 2. Blue Note BLP 1504.
Jazz at Massey Hall. Debut DLP 2.
Clifford Brown and Max Roach. EmArcy MG 36036.

Giddins, Gary & DeVeaux, Scott. 2009. JAZZ. New York, NY. WW Norton & Company.
Chapter 12 – The 1950s: Cool Jazz and Hard Bop.
Giddins, Gary. 1998. Visions of Jazz: The First Century. New York. Oxford University Press.
Chapter 31. Dizzy Gillespie (The Coup and After)
Gioia, Ted. 2011. The History of Jazz. New York. Oxford University Press.
Chapter 7. The Fragmentation of Jazz Styles
Morton, Brian & Cook, Richard. 2011. Penguin Jazz Guide, the History of the Music in the 1001 Best Albums. New York, NY. Penguin Books.
Coleman Hawkins – The Stanley Dance Sessions.
Charlie Parker with Strings.
The Quintet – Jazz at Massey Hall.
Ratliff, Ben. 2002. The New York Times Essential Library of Jazz. New York. Times Books.
Chapter 28. Charlie Parker: Charlie Parker with Strings: The Master Takes (1947-1952)
Chapter 34. Clifford Brown and Max Roach: Clifford Brown and Max Roach (1954-1955)

Annotated playlists and streaming links for all the Jazz at 100 broadcasts: Jazz at 100

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