Jazz at 100 Hour 23: Birth of Bebop (1939 – 1945)

Charlie Parker – Dizzy Gillespie

“By the early 1940s … a new approach to small-combo jazz playing was developing, characterized by a more flexible approach to rhythm, a more aggressive pursuit of instrumental virtuosity, and an increasingly adventurous harmonic language.” – Scott Deveaux

“Because its loose, improvisatory format offers an obvious point of contrast to the swing styles that preceded it, bebop is often represented by jazz historians as a conscious revolt against the tightly controlled commercial environment offered by the swing bands of the 1930s and 1940s. Yet it is not at all apparent that during the formative years of bebop its inventors felt alienated from the large swing bands. [Charlie] Parker, [Dizzy] Gillespie and many others continued to work with large dance orchestras during the war years; and from 1945 onward, Gillespie made it a point to present his music in a big band format whenever feasible. It makes more sense to see bebop as deriving from a musical environment that was very much a part of the musical culture of the swing era, even if largely invisible to the casual fan: the jam session.” – Scott DeVeaux

Dizzy Gillespie – Soloist, Arranger.
“Thus in the years before 1945, the musicians who would be in the forefront of bebop were known to the general public, and to their fellow musicians, as part of the up-and-coming generation of African-American swing soloists and arrangers. Dizzy Gillespie, who worked for more than a dozen different bands in the early 1940’s, could be heard on recordings … as an inventive arranger on Cab Calloway’s 1940 ‘Pickin’ the Cabbage’ … and as a blisteringly fast trumpet soloist on … Lucky Millender’s ‘Little John Special’ …” – Scott DeVeaux

Pickin The Cabbage. Cab Calloway and his Orchestra
(Mario Bauza, Lammar Wright, Dizzy Gillespie, Tyree Glenn, Keg Johnson, Quentin Jackson, Jerry Blake, Andrew Brown, Hilton Jefferson, Chu Berry, Walter Thomas, Bennie Paine, Danny Barker, Milt Hinton, Cozy Cole). 3/8/1940.
“[A] recording that combines a hip harmonic bite with a Latin groove.” – Gary Giddens & Scott DeVeaux
Little John Special. Lucky Millinder and his Orchestra
(Dizzy Gillespie, William Scott, Nelson Bryant, George Stevenson, Joe Britton, Tab Smith, Billy Bowen, Stafford Simon, Dave Young, Ernest Purce, Bill Doggett, Trevor Bacon, Nick Fenton, Panama Francis). 7/29/1942.

Hot Mallets. Lionel Hampton and his Orchestra
(Dizzy Gillespie-tp, Benny Carter-as, Coleman Hawkins-ts, Ben Webster-ts, Chu Berry-ts, Clyde Hart-p, Lionel Hampton-vib, Charlie Christian-g, Milt Hinton-b, Cozy Cole-d). 9/11/1939.
“[Gillespie’s] opportunities outside of the Calloway band also began to expand. In 1939, Gillespie was enlisted to participate in the Lionel Hampton recording of ‘When Lights Are Low’ and ’Hot Mallets,’ where he worked alongside a horn section composed of Ben Webster, Coleman Hawkins, Benny Carter, and Chu Berry.” – Ted Gioia

Charlie Parker from Kansas City.
“Charlie Parker’s fluid bluesy playing fit perfectly with the Kansas City Sound of Jay McShann’s band, as exemplified by his famous solo on the 1941 ‘Hootie Blues.’” – Scott DeVeaux

Hootie Blues. Jay McShann and his Orchestra
(Harold Bruce, Orville Minor, Buddy Anderson-tp, Taswell Baird-tb, Charlie Parker-as, John Jackson-as, Bob Mabane, Harold Ferguson-ts, Jay McShann-p, Gene Ramey-b, Gus Johnson-d, Walter Brown-voc). 4/30/1941.

Coleman Hawkins – Sponsor, Mentor.
“[Coleman] Hawkins marked the end of a two-year AFM recording ban with two sessions that teamed advanced swing thinkers and exuberant modernists, including Dizzy Gillespie and Max Roach. The premiered important pieces by Gillespie (“Woody‘n You”) and Hawkins (“Disorder At The Border”), as well as a gloriously fresh take on “Body and Soul,” called “Rainbow Mist”. Hawkins was by far the most eminent of the prebop monarchs to embrace the new jazz.” – Gary Giddens

Woody’n You. Coleman Hawkins & His Orchestra
(Dizzy Gillespie-tp, Vic Coulson-tp, Ed Vandever-tp, Leo Parker-as, Leonard Lowry-as, Coleman Hawkins-ts, Don Byas-ts, Ray Abrams-ts, Budd Johnson-bs, Clyde Hart-p, Oscar Pettiford-b, Max Roach-d). 2/16/1944.
Disorder At The Border. Coleman Hawkins & His Orchestra
(Dizzy Gillespie-tp, Vic Coulson-tp, Ed Vandever-tp, Leo Parker-as, Leonard Lowry-as, Coleman Hawkins-ts, Don Byas-ts, Ray Abrams-ts, Budd Johnson-ts, Clyde Hart-p, Oscar Pettiford-b, Max Roach-d). 2/22/1944.
Rainbow Mist. Coleman Hawkins & His Orchestra
(Dizzy Gillespie-tp, Vic Coulson-tp, Ed Vandever-tp, Leo Parker-as, Leonard Lowry-as, Coleman Hawkins-ts, Don Byas-ts, Ray Abrams-ts, Budd Johnson-ts, Clyde Hart-p, Oscar Pettiford-b, Max Roach-d). 2/22/1944.
This has been described as the first modern jazz record date!

With an all-star recording unit Coleman Hawkins recorded the first of many versions of Dizzy Gillespie’s perennial favorite “Salt Peanuts”

Salt Peanuts. Auld – Hawkins – Webster Sextet
(Charlie Shavers-tp, Coleman Hawkins-ts, Ben Webster-ts, Georgie Auld-ts, Bill Rowland-p, Hy White-g, Israel Crosby-b, Specs Powell-d). 5/17/1944.

“I think the majority of rising colored bandleaders would be smart to concentrate on smaller outfits. The number of places where big Negro bands can go on location is becoming limited but there are any number of spots open to jumpy small bands – such as the Café Society and Famous Door in New York, for instance” – Coleman Hawkins, 1942.

Coleman Hawkins Introduces Thelonious Monk.
In 1944, Coleman Hawkins introduced pianist Thelonious Monk to the jazz audience outside of New York. “In his 1944 sides with Coleman Hawkins, Monk revealed his zeal for experimentation to a wider audience, although he balanced his dissonances here with a judicious dose of more circumspect sounds. Hear, for example, his solo on ‘Flyin’ Hawk,’ where the first sixteen bars hew close to bebop, but the closing sixteen bars sound the way jazz might be played in another galaxy.” – Ted Gioia

Flyin’ Hawk. Coleman Hawkins Quartet
(Coleman Hawkins-ts, Thelonious Monk-p, Edward “Bass” Robinson-b, Denzil Best-d). 10/19/1944.
Drifting On A Reed. Coleman Hawkins Quartet
(Coleman Hawkins-ts, Thelonious Monk-p, Edward “Bass” Robinson-b, Denzil Best-d). 10/19/1944.
Scott DeVeaux describes Hawkins’s choice of Monk as his pianist as “startling”. “At the time Thelonious Monk was scarcely known outside the circles at [after-hours jam clubs] Minton’s and Monroe’s. Musician and audiences alike were used to judging pianist by their facility and virtuosity, with Art Tatum the nearly impossible standard. By this measure, Monk’s style seemed at best merely adequate and at worst distractingly peculiar. He carries the additional burden of a reputation as an unreliable eccentric.” – Scott DeVeaux

Charlie Parker – First Small Group Recording.
Charlie Parker’s contributions to his first small group session with guitarist Tiny Grimes sets the stage for the explosion of music to follow.

Tiny’s Tempo. Tiny Grimes Quintette
(Charlie Parker-as, Clyde Hart-p, Tiny Grimes-g, Jimmy Butts-b, Harold “Doc” West-d). 9/15/1944.

Dizzy Gillespie’s First Recordings Under His Name.
In 1945, Gillespie had his first opportunity to record with a group of his own. Bringing a collection of well-adapted swing players and new bebop players, Gillespie recorded Tadd Dameron’s “Good Bait” and the standard “I Can’t Get Started.”

Good Bait. Dizzy Gillespie Sextet
(Dizzy Gillespie-tp/voc, Trummy Young-tb, Don Byas-ts, Clyde Hart-p, Oscar Pettiford-b, Shelly Manne-d). 1/9/1945.
I Can’t Get Started. Dizzy Gillespie All Stars
(Dizzy Gillespie-tp, Trummy White-tb, Don Byas-ts, Clyde Hart-p, Oscar Pettiford-b, Shelly Manne-d). 1/9/1945. (Smithsonian Collection of Classic Jazz)

Diz and Bird.
On February 28, 1945, “…Parker and Gillespie recorded several historic sides, including ‘Dizzy Atmosphere’ and ‘Groovin’ High.’ On ‘Dizzy Atmosphere,’ Parker floats over the changes, flirting with polytonality during the second eight bars and executing a stunning rhythmic displacement in the bridge; Gillespie follows with a virtuoso’s bag of tricks: dancing leaps into the high register, intricate repeated passages, odd intervals, and choppy change-up phrases. ‘Groovin’ High’ … [was] more subdued, with Parker contributing supple solos somewhat reminiscent of his Lester Young roots.”” – Ted Gioia

Dizzy Atmosphere. Dizzy Gillespie Sextet
(Dizzy Gillespie-tp, Charlie Parker-as, Clyde Hart-p, Remo Palmieri-g, Slam Stewart-b, Cozy Cole-d). 2/28/1945.
Groovin’ High. Dizzy Gillespie Sextet
(Dizzy Gillespie-tp, Charlie Parker-as, Clyde Hart-p, Remo Palmieri-g, Slam Stewart-b, Cozy Cole-d). 2/28/1945.

“I’ve come close to matching the feeling of that night in 1944 in music, when I first heard Diz and Bird, but I’ve never quite got there. I’m always looking for it, listening and feeling for it, though, trying to always feel it in and through the music I play every day” – Miles Davis

“From the longer perspective that only history can afford – the equivalent of a cinematic long shot – the thrust of all this activity seems clear: to establish a small-combo jazz idiom as the alternative to the commercial entertainments of the swing dance orchestras, and in the process to reassert the spontaneity and complex dialogic rhythms of the jam session as the essence of jazz.” – Scott DeVeaux

As bebop rose, what was becoming of the big bands?

“By late 1946, it was apparent that the band business was getting worse and worse. The reason was obvious: the supply of bands far exceeded the demand. All at once this simple economic fact seemed to dawn on eight top bandleaders at one time, for in the single month of December 1946, eight of them announced they were calling it quits – Woody Herman, Benny Goodman, Harry James, Les Brown, Jack Teagarden, Benny Carter, Ina Ray Hutton and Tommy Dorsey! For all intents and purposes, this was the official end of the big band era.” – George Simon

Some of the same forces that launched Bebop also fueled the birth of Rhythm and Blues. Bebop and R&B were small combo-driven innovations that shared the big bands as a common pool of musicians who explored the harmonically-rich alternative to swing in bebop and the rhythmically propelled alternative in R&B. In the next hour, we will explore the music of Bebop’s twin – Rhythm & Blues, and the mid-1940s contributions of Jimmy Forrest, Jimmy Liggins, Roy Milton and the giant of early R&B – Louis Jordan.

The Norton Jazz Recordings – 4 Compact Discs for use with JAZZ by Scott DeVeaux and Gary Giddens. W.W. Norton 933796.
The Smithsonian Collection of Classic Jazz. Columbia P6 11891.
Charlie Parker – The Complete Savoy and Dial Master Takes. Savoy 92911-2 8CD
Tiny Grimes – 1944 – 1949. Classics 5048
Cab Calloway – The Chu & Dizzy Years. Hep 1079
Lucky Millinder – Apollo Jump. Proper PVCD 115
Dizzy Gillespie – The Complete RCA Victor Recordings. Bluebird 66528-2 2CD
Bebop Story: Vol. 005, The Early Years Vol. 5 – Charlie Parker (1940-42). World’s Greatest Jazz Collection
Bebop Story: Vol. 011, Dizzy Gillespie & Charlie Parker Vol. 1 (1945). World’s Greatest Jazz Collection
Bebop Story: Vol. 016, Dizzy Gillespie Vol. 1 (1945). World’s Greatest Jazz Collection
Swing Time: Vol. 035, Coleman Hawkins (1944-45). World’s Greatest Jazz Collection
Coleman Hawkins – Rainbow Mist. Delmark DD 459

DeVeaux, Scott. 1997. The Birth of Bebop: A Social and Musical History. Berkely, CA, University of California Press.
Kirchner, Bill (editor). 2000. The Oxford Companion To Jazz. New York, NY. The Oxford University Press
“The Advent of Bebop” by Scott DeVeaux
Giddens, Gary & DeVeaux, Scott. 2009. JAZZ. New York, NY. WW Norton & Company.
Chapter 11. Modern Jazz: Bebop
Giddens, 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 6. Modern Jazz
Morton, Brian & Cook, Richard. 2011. Penguin Jazz Guide, the History of the Music in the 1001 Best Albums. New York, NY. Penguin Books.
Charlie Parker – The Complete Savoy and Dial Master Takes
Tiny Grimes – 1944 – 1949.
Ratliff, Ben. 2002. The New York Times Essential Library of Jazz. New York. Times Books.
Chapter 13. Dizzy Gillespie, The Complete RCA Victor Recordings (1937-1949)
Chapter 20. Coleman Hawkins, 1943-1944
Simon, George T. 1981. The Big Bands. New York. Schirmer Books.

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