History Of Jazz
Part 1: Elements of Jazz/New Orleans
Jazz music first appeared sometime in the 1890s, and is typically thought to have originated in New Orleans. This is not strictly true; though most of the elements that combined to create jazz were present in the city around this time and the history of music in New Orleans is fairly well documented, it is very probable that much the same thing was taking place throughout the American south, southwest, midwest, and even in California. One reason to use New Orleans as a model is precisely because of the documentation that exists about the music and its early practitioners.
Some of the elements of jazz which originated in African music include the very vocal nature of the music, particularly the use of tonal coloration, sometimes called "blue notes". These are notes which fall somewhere between two notes in the Western scale and therfore cannot be precisely notated. African languages rely on the way in which phrases or words are said as much as on the word itself, something that is not as important in English and European languages. So, it was only natural for musicians to attempt to imitate the human voice with their instruments, something which can still be heard in jazz music today. Another element that African music bequeathed to jazz is that of polyrhythm, the superimposing of one pattern of beats on top of another with each having equal importance.
The European influence on jazz includes the very instruments that have typically been used to play it. Trumpets and trombones were, of course, well-established in the symphony orchestra by this time. The saxohone, invented by Adolphe Sax in 1840, was a mainstay of the marching and military bands that were heard at this time. The harmonic structures used by European composers were also taken as a starting point for jazz, and many of the forms used in European music as well as dance rhythms were influential as well. It is important not to think that the European influences on jazz were all harmonic and the rhythmic influences were all African. The cross-pollination between these two influences was much more subtle than that.
Marching bands were very important in New Orleans and other cities for at least two reasons. The first was that many of the first jazz musicians learned how to play their instruments and, in some cases, read music while playing in such bands. The other reason for marching bands' importance is the fact that the music they played helped inspire one of the important precursers to jazz, ragtime.
Ragtime was music composed for solo piano, but it took as its inspiration marches and other European musical forms such as the polka. It also derived from dance music of the 1890s, such as the cakewalk (so named because the best dancers would win a cake-go figure) and owed its structure and "oom-pah" bass figures to European music like the mazurka and polka. Ragtime later influenced the development of the stride and boogie piano styles, but ragtime itself was not yet jazz. It didn't really swing and there was no room for improvisation, since the composition was intended to be played as notated by the composer. Even though the first instrumental ragtime, "Missisippi Rag" wasn't published until 1897, the music developed well before that. Many black performers were earning good livings playing ragtime music in bars and on vaudeville stages where they received tips for their playing. Once the music became popular, music publishers became interested in it, but many of the leading players didn't bother publishing their compositions because they didn't need the money, so great were their tips.
The best known composer of ragtime music was Scott Joplin. Joplin was born in Linden, Texas on November 24, 1868, but his family moved to Texarkana when he was around 7 years old. He learned a great deal about musical harmony, style, and structure from his teacher, Julius Weiss. By his teens he was working as a pianist, travelling and playing in saloons and brothels across the midwest, settling in St. Louis around 1890. He was already playing and composing ragtime, and three years later he relocated to Sedalia, Missouri. There he worked at the Maple Leaf Club, where he composed one of his best-known compositions, "Maple Leaf Rag", which was published in 1899. Over the next fifteen years, he composed more than sixty rags and various other pieces as well, including his grand opera, Treemonisha. Though the opera failed in its first performance, it was highly successful when staged in the 1970s, winning the Pulitzer Prize in 1976. Joplin died on April 1, 1917 in Manhattan State Hospital of syphilis which he had contracted many years earlier.
Blues is an American musical form that has no known direct ancestors in either African or European music. It is a unique blend of both musical traditions that did not exist anywhere else before its emergence in this country. alan Lomax has cited some examples of similar music found in Northwest Africa, but it is generally believed that they are not direct ancestors of the blues. Blues can be traced through the African-American oral tradition back to the 1860s. It is music that conveys the reality of human suffering but is filled with redemption and transcendence.
The influence of the blues on jazz cannot be overemphasized. Although many other influences have existed and continue to influence the development of jazz music, blues is the basis of jazz. Blues was the first music to emphasize improvisation, and its unique tonal coloration became an integral part of the jazz vocabulary. Any attempt to trace the roots of jazz music must take into account the influence of the blues.
The first blues composer to gain recognition was W.C. Handy, composer of "Memphis Blues" (1912) and "St. Louis Blues" (1914). Interestingly, Jelly Roll Morton met Handy in Memphis in 1908, and he later stated that the music Handy was publishing was certainly around for many years before Handy got around to putting it down. He also took exception to the fact that, many years later, Ripley's Believe it Or Not declared that Handy was the "originator of jazz, stomps, and blues", writing a letter which declared:
“It was that year I met Handy in Memphis. I learned that he had just arrived from his home town, Henderson, Ken. He was introduced to me as Professor Handy. Who ever heard of anyone wearing the name of Professor advocate ragtime, jazz, stomps, blues, etc.? Of course, Handy could not play either of these types, and I can assure you he has never learned them as yet (meaning freak tunes, plenty of finger work in the groove of harmonies, great improvisations, accurate, exciting tempos with a kick). I know Mr. Handy's ability, and it is the type of folk songs, hymns, anthems, etc. If you believe I am wrong, challenge his ability.”
Some feel that the use of blue notes (flatted thirds, fifths, and sevenths, for want of a better definition) is what defines music as blues, others argue that it is the form (traditional twelve bar) that defines it, while still others feel it is simply a philosophy or feeling. Whatever definition you give it, blues informs a great deal (though not all) jazz and was an essential ingredient in the creation of this new hybrid music.
Part 2: Traditional Jazz and The Jazz Age
Traditional Jazz is a broad term used to define a jazz style employed by musicians working in New Orleans between 1900 and 1917, and musicians from New Orleans who played and recorded in Chicago from around 1917 throughout the 1920s, a period known as "The Jazz Age." It is also used to describe the music played by revivalists from various periods who have sought to perform music in the same style as that employed by these groups of musicians. Some reserve the term to describe a variant of traditional New Orleans and classic jazz styles.
The first music that is generally referred to as jazz is that of New Orleans trumpet player Buddy Bolden and pianist Jelly Roll Morton. While Bolden is a legendary figure of the distant past, with no recordings and few photos to define his musical style, Bolden is still considered to have been the man who first blew jazz in New Orleans, and this fact is confirmed by Morton in his interviews by Alan Lomax for the Library of Congress. Morton himself is generally considered to be the first jazz composer and arranger, well-known for his many compositions as well as for the meticulous care with which he orchestrated the performances of his Red Hot Peppers. Morton's Red Hot Peppers sessions, recorded in Chicago in 1926 and 1927, are generally thought to be the best existing recorded representation of New Orleans jazz.
Joe "King" Oliver is another legendary figure in the development of New Orleans jazz, and is also known as the mentor of Louis Armstrong. Oliver, Armstrong, Morton, and a host of other musicians from the Crescent City ended up in Chicago during the 1920s. This was partly due to the closing of the legendary Storyville District in New Orleans by the U.S. Navy during the U.S. involvement in World War I, though it was not the only factor that led to the migration.
The first generally recognized jazz recording was made in 1917 by the Original Dixieland Jass Band, a white band from New Orleans who cut their record, "Livery Stable Blues" in New York. Of course, jazz was being simultaneously created by a large number of black musicians in New Orleans but these musicians were not recorded due to the lack of recording facilities in that city. Joe Oliver went to Chicago in part because of the opportunity to be recorded there. Cornetist Freddy Keppard was to have been the first recorded jazz musician, but he turned down the offer, reportedly because he was afraid other musicians would steal his ideas from the recordings.
Louis Armstrong arrived in Chicago to play in Joe Oliver's band, but he was invited to join the Fletcher Henderson band a short time later in New York. Returning to Chicago, Armstrong cut his legendary Hot Fives and Hot Sevens recordings and forever transformed jazz music. Armstrong's conception placed the soloist at the center of jazz music, a concept that was foreign to those familiar with contraputnal New Orleans groups. On numbers like "West End Blues" and "Potato Head Blues" Armstrong blew solos of such incredible force and originality that others quickly followed in his footsteps.
The 1920s are generally referred to as "The Jazz Age", and the 20s are usually thought of as the first truly modern decade. Everything was seemingly done to excess. Women's fashions became scandalous, loose and scanty, with hemlines nearing the knees, which had been unthinkable only a few years previous. Josephine Baker became a society hit in Paris, while Mae West entertained audiences in the U.S. with her risque humor. Thanks to Prohibition, drinking became a sporting pasttime for both the upper and lower classes. Many became wealthy in the stock market boom of the time, and business became bigger than ever. Evangelists such as Billy Sunday and Aimee Semple Macpherson held sway. Literature in this era is generally represented by F. Scott Fitzgerald, but there were an incredible number of great writers working during this decade, including Faulkner, Hemingway, Langston Hughes, Huxley, and Dorothy Parker. Of course, it all came to an end with the stock market crash of late October, 1929, made all the more remarkable by the fact that the New York Stock Exchange had set a record in March of that same year for number of shares traded in a day.
By the end of the 1920s and the dawn of the 1930s, a new musical sound, swing, was on the horizon, and the Swing Era was eventually ushered in.
Part 3: Big Band Music and the Swing Era
Let's get one thing straight right away. Swing music is a style, just like dixieland and bebop are styles of music played by certain groups of musicians at a certain time in history. Styles can be revived, it's true, but there is always a time at which a certain style of music evolved, became popular, and eventually developed into or was replaced by something else. Big band, on the other hand, is a format, and as such is has existed in jazz music fromt he swing era right into the present. There are big bands who play swing (Count Basie, Artie Shaw), bop big bands (Dizzy Gillespie's big bands), progressive big bands (Stan Kenton, Duke Ellington), and even modern/experimental big bands (such as Carla Bley's work with big groups).
The terms "swing" and "big band" are not really interchangeable, though you will hear people use them that way. One reason for this is that many of the big bands that became most popular began and reached their peak with the swing era. Many people feel that the arrangements of these bands as well as the music they played truly constituted the "golden age" of jazz music. Another reason for the music of big bands being associated with swing music is that at about the same time swing died out (post World War II), it became almost impossible to keep a large band on the road profitably. Count Basie managed it until about 1950. Stan Kenton radically changed the style of music he was playing. Duke Ellington simply continued to write his innovative music for a large ensemble, and his prolific writing kept his group recording and touring for his entire life. Still, even the few big bands who managed to record and tour after the end of the swing era were losing money by doing so. Even Dizzy Gillespie, one of the most successful musicians of the bebop post-swing era, lost money for most of the time he kept his bebop and Latin big bands together. One of the reasons behind this is simple: jazz music has decreased in popularity and record sales since the swing era. In other words, the swing era was the last time that jazz music and American popular music were one and the same.
The early 1930s saw the formation of large bands by Fletcher Henderson and Duke Ellington. These leaders increased the size of a typical band from a high of ten members to around fourteen or so members. They also jettisoned dixieland's use of the tuba and the banjo as rhythm instruments, replacing them with the standup bass and guitar. The beat of the music also changed. The ryhthm section now emphasized the four-to-the-bar beat, rather than the two-beat emphasis that had been seen in dixieland and New Orleans style jazz. The syncopated figures that were played by the horn sections over this beat were punchier and the syncopation more surprising than it had formerly been. The bandleaders themselves had considerable prestige, often being seen as excellent instrumentalists in their own right, rather than merely conductors. Because there was a great deal of music being played, often for dancing and for long periods of time, the musicians could no longer just remember their parts, and so the importance of arrangements grew, as did the prestige of the arranger. In the height of the swing era, the bands could be quickly recognized based on factors such as the instrumental style of the leader, the sound and style of the arrangments, and the individual voices of the primary soloists within each organization. Improvisation itself, which had been fairly free-flowing at the height of the polyphonic New Orleans style, was much more restricted within the framework of big band arrangements and swing music. Solos were plotted out in the arrangement, with space left for a certain soloist's choruses, and arranged backing was written for the ensemble to provide a counterpoint and, in many cases, a springboard for the soloist to work off of.
Swing music is generally recognized to have "taken off" around 1935 with the arrival of Benny Goodman. Though Henderson, Ellington, Bennie Moten, and Count Basie laid the groundwork for the music that became swing, Goodman did much to popularize it and make it the music of the young people of the day. His appearance at the Palomar Ballroom in Los Angeles is thought to have been one of the defining events in the history of jazz and of swing music in particular. Young people flocked to hear Goodman's exciting band, engaging in energetic new dances such as the Lindy Hop, Jitterbug, and Shim Sham. There's no question that the athletic dancing that became part of swing culture was part of the attraction to young people, even though Goodman himself felt that the dancing detracted from the musical quality of the band's performance. Swing music, and not rock & roll, was one of the first defining elements of mass youth culture, and one of the first to be commercially exploited, albeit many years after it originated.
Swing is also generally seen as a highly democratic form of music and one that did much to relax the racial divisions of the country. People from all walks of life embraced the music, including young and old listeners, male and female, black and white. Indeed, some of the venues where swing music was played were racially mixed (though clearly the minority) and Benny Goodman hired and recorded with black musicians. Still, there were plenty of divisions and it would be a long time before the country would even attempt to become truly integrated. This was probably one of many factors that led to swing music's eventual downfall--the hypocrisy of blacks who had helped American win World War II not being free in their home country.
By the time that World War II came around, bands such as Tommy Dorsey, Artie Shaw, and Glenn Miller had become quite popular playing a more commercialized version of swing music. Even though black musicians such as Ellington and Basie were well known and had become revered as important cultural icons, there were many bands led by black musicians who were not given the acclaim they deserved. These included Chick Webb, Jimmie Lunceford, and Earl Hines.
The commercialization of swing music, World War II, and the 1942 Musicians' Union recording ban were all elements leading to the demise of the swing era and the rise of a new style of jazz called bebop.
Part 4: The Bebop Revolution
Bebop arrived on the scene, to hear the tale, a fully formed grotesque of music, a deranged Athena fully sprung from the head of the Zeus-like swing era. It caused some musicians, such as Cab Calloway and Tommy Dorsey, to have violent reactions. Many audiences weren't ready for the new sound either. This is what we commonly hear about one of the most important musical developments of the 20th century. As usual, there is some truth to the stories but there is also a lot of overstatement. The fact is, Bop was more evolutionary than revolutionary, and might not have been seen as anything but the next logical progression were it not for a couple of historic events that kept the incubating music under wraps, as well as the incendiary personalities of some of its leading musicians.
There can be no question that the style of big band music originated in Kansas City by performers such as Count Basie and Bennie Moten had largely been appropriated by a white, middle-class audience in the period just prior to and including World War II. In addition, the term "Swing" was commercialized and used as a marketing buzzword. Degan Pener points out in The Swing Book that the recording industry went from gross revenue of $2.5 million in 1932 to $36 million in 1939, largely on the popularity of swing music. This type of thing has been common throughout American history; artistic, cultural, and lifestyle statements that are seen as threatening or perhaps a form of rebellion are incorporated into the mainstream through the commercialization of their iconography. Think of the sudden popularity of leather, vinyl, or "bondage" clothing, or the commercialization of teen "grunge" music and fashion in the 1990s. Clearly the pioneers of bebop were originals, not just musically but also original personalities who could not be appropriated or imitated at the time because they placed themselves well outside the mainstream. If society would not recognize black people's artistic achievements, seeking instead to sanitize and assimilate the music that was born of the original African-Americans' experiences in this country, then why should black musicians continue to function within the mainstream?
Still, the musicians who would finally usher the new sound of bop into being had their training in the bands and music of the swing era. Louis Armstrong had already begun to establish jazz as the music of the soloist, and the best swing soloists, like Lester Young, were continuing to experiment with ways to push the boundaries imposed on the soloist further. Young became adept at gliding forward with lengthy phrases that took no notice of the natural division of the bar line, which had been a problem for some earlier jazz soloists. Charlie Parker certainly listened to and was influenced by Young, who, though he played within the idiom of the time, was himself outcast because he didn't play tenor sax in the prevailing Coleman Hawkins style. Dizzy Gillespie cut his teeth in Cab Calloway's band until his explosive solos caused Calloway to admonish him not to play "that Chinese music" in his presence. Between 1941 and 1945, a number of bands had become incubators for the future "bop revolution", none more auspicious than the group led by Earl "Fatha" Hines. Hines was a pioneering jazz pianist, well known as one of the fathers of the stride piano style, but he never ceased to be interested in the further development of jazz music, and was capable of playing vital and even innovative piano solos into the 1970s and 80s. In 1943, Hines' group included vocalists Billy Eckstine and Sarah Vaughn as well as horn players Charlie Parker and Dizzie Gillespie, and tenor man Wardell Gray. Unfortunately, this group did not record due to a strike by the American Federation of Musicians that prohibited recording by its members. Those fortunate enough to have heard this group play live heard, in all probability, the chrysalis of swing into what was becoming bebop, but that was really only a handful of people. What has been lost to history are recordings of Parker and Gillespie, in particular, honing the identities that would burst upon the jazz scene a short time later. The strike lasted more than a year, and when it was over Parker and Gillespie (along with Eckstine and Vaughn) had moved on, though Gray did remain with the Hines band through 1946. Ironically, the same musicians' strike and ban on recording is also pointed to by many as a contributing factor in the demise of swing. By the time World War II ended for the United States, those returning from overseas had little reason to anticipate the complete change in the musical scene that confronted them. Bebop was now widely, though by no means universally, accepted and the predominant form of jazz being performed and discussed with any degree of seriousness.
Early jazz and swing musicians looked upon themselves largely as entertainers. There was no comprehension that jazz music might be or develop into an art form. Even later, in the 1950s and 60s, those jazzmen who survived from this era were often embarrassed or pretended not to understand when the music was discussed or written about in a serious way. The bebop musicians did not feel this way at all. They refused to be relegated to the role of entertainer, often behaving in temperamental or "difficult" ways, often refusing to discuss their music with non-musicians, and sometimes even turning their backs on the audience. The entire attitude of bebop seemed to be "I am playing for myself and for the other musicians who are playing with me. Your listening is purely coincidental."
Of course, most of these musicians did want their music heard and enjoyed. Charlie Parker grew depressed during a series of dates in California when the group's music was greeted with outright hostility. It was 1945 and Parker was 25 years old; he would be dead within 10 years. His drug habit had become tellingly problematic by this time, and Parker decided to stay in Los Angeles and do some recordings for the small Dial label over a twenty-month period in order to earn some cash. These recordings are among the treasures of the Parker canon, demonstrating his endless inventiveness as we hear several versions of each tune with solos that never seem to repeat themselves, tread overly familiar waters, or become rote. In fact, there is probably no better way to either introduce yourself to Parker's genius or to dig deeper into it than to check out The Complete Savoy and Dial Studio Recordings 1944-48. Not only will you hear Parker at the height of his inventiveness and power, you will also experience bop musicians such as Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, Max Roach, Bud Powell, Tommy Potter, and John Lewis providing some truly transcendent moments of their own. What is truly amazing about the Dial sessions, especially in light of bebop's well-deserved reputation as a music of complex and labyrinthine chord changes, is that many of the tunes here are based on 12 or 32-bar blues. Parker seems to always find something new to say even within the familiar blues changes. Physically and emotionally Parker was hardly at his best when most of these sides were recorded, yet you'd never know it from the performances. These were indeed the golden years of bebop, when the music and its chief proponents were mature, yet fresh and still full of ideas and excitement over what they had accomplished and would still do in the future.
From our vantagepoint it may be difficult to imagine that this music created so much controversy or that its creators were not instantly hailed as geniuses by one and all. In many ways bebop did create a break from jazz's past, a dividing line that made it impossible to go back. But it is hard to imagine that bebop, or something like it, wasn't inevitable as the next stage in the development of this music. There was simply too much talent, too much of the history of oppression, and too much personality in these young men for it not to have happened.
Part 5: Cool Jazz
Ted Gioia, one of the writers who has given significant attention to cool jazz, writes "The cool aesthetic has always found a few lonely champions in the jazz arena--fascinating individuals who have provided an alternative to the dominant hot stylists. As such, the stand as double outsiders in the already counterculture world of jazz." The very term "cool jazz" conjures up images of martinis, bachelor pads outfitted with the latest stereo equipment, and sophisticated, detached chicks dressed in the latest fashions. The word cool denotes a detachment, a less emotional approach to the music. In short, cool jazz is something of a college-educated form of jazz, often influenced by other musical forms such as classical music. Cool jazz features arrangements that are generally more complex than those found in bop, where the head is played, followed by solos, then played again. Often complex harmonies were played behind the solos in cool jazz--it was much more a style that emphasized the composer and arranger.
The first cool jazz recordings were by a nonet (or nine piece) group led by Miles Davis and recorded on a group of sides that came to be known as The Birth of the Cool (a title that was applied after the fact, by the way). The Davis group was more collaborative and marked some of the first influences of composer/arranger Gil Evans, who later worked with Davis on a groundbreaking group of albums that sought to combine delicate, complex arrangements with improvisation. In addition, baritone saxophonist Gerry Mulligan, who later became a major player in cool jazz on the West Coast, also played on the Birth of the Cool sessions, as did John Lewis, a pianist whose approach was certainly cerebral in nature. The instrumental voices in the Davis nonet were fused in such a way as to make them all equals rather than competing sections like those of a big band. More tonal colors worked their way into the palette as well, with French Horns and tuba being added. These were musicians who were well grounded in bebop, having come up playing this style, so it is not a question of their possessing virtuosity. Rather, they chose to express themselves in a way that left the technical virtuosity that was obvious in bebop behind. The Birth of the Cool nonet was not commercially successful and their recorded sides were few. Recent CD releases have combined the total studio output of the group with a live radio broadcast from the Royal Roost to collect virtually all of the group's recorded music under the "Birth of the Cool" title, but at the time there was no real sense that the group had recorded a large or even unified body of work. Nonetheless, their music became highly influential as the various members who had contributed to the nonet spread out and began to lead their own ensembles.
Gerry Mulligan's piano-less quartet, featuring trumpet player Chet Baker, certainly did much to increase the profile and popularity of cool jazz. Mulligan and Baker played counterpoint around and against each other's lines, sounding more like a relaxed version of a Bach fugue than contrapuntal New Orleans jazz. The space opened up by the lack of piano or guitar not only helped further define the cool sound as a basically minimalist style, it also left considerable room for Mulligan and Baker to solo in a relaxed, unhurried style. The group recorded many well-regarded sides. When Baker left the group, Mulligan brought in trumpeter Art Farmer, a supremely lyrical improvisor who also played off well against Mulligan's baritone sax. Baker continued to play the cool style right up until his death in 1988, sometimes offering world-weary vocals that seemed like extensions of his trumpet sound.
The Lighthouse, a club located in Hermosa Beach, CA, became the focus of the cool school in California, with musicians such as Shorty Rogers, Shelly Manne, Bud Shank, and Jimmy Giuffre holding forth almost nightly. The music they created still sounds relatively new and innovational, which is quite an accomplishment considering most of it was created in the mid-50s.
Very little cool jazz produced through the end of the '50s and into the 1960s is strictly cool, but it all has recognizable elements that link the different practioners of the sound together. For example, Dave Brubeck's work, while retaining many elements of the cool movement, is often very agitated, searching, and experimental. His quartet's work with "odd" time signatures opened the door for late-'60s experimenters like Don Ellis and Brubeck's piano work has sometimes been described as "bombastic" by jazz critics.But the quartet also featured alto saxophonist Paul Desmond, who played every bit as lyrically as Chet Baker or Lee Konitz and had a gorgeous, thin sound that went against what any alto player has done before or since. An intellectual and talented wordsmith, Desmond became, in many ways, the perfect example of a cool jazz artist--cerebral, clever, humorous, and with a penchant for good scotch and dating models. Brubeck, too, came across as an intellectual and something of an avant-gardist because of the fact that he had studied with composer Darius Milhaud. The group's music is anything but an exercise in intellectualism, though--with drummer Joe Morello and bassist Eugene Wright, the group could swing fiercely in any time signature.
Pianist John Lewis, who had also played on the Birth of the Cool sessions, formed The Modern Jazz Quartet (or MJQ) with vibraphonist Milt Jackson, bassist Percy Heath, and drummer Connie Kay (who replaced original drummer Kenny Clarke). Lewis was clearly interested in exploring new forms with the group, frustrated by the bop format of theme (head), followed by improvisation (solos), and a final repeat of the head. He was interested in composing music that utilized more elaborate (and frequently classical) structures--the sonata, for example--within which bop-style improvisation would remain an important ingredient. This led many purists to complain that he had fallen under the sway of European (read: white) influences and that what the group was playing was not, essentially, jazz. Nonetheless, many of Lewis' compositions, such as Django have become part of the standard jazz repertoire, performed by a variety of artists. In 1953, Lewis earned a Master's degree in Music Theory from the Manhattan School of Music, and led the MJQ as pianist and musical director until they disbanded in 1974.
Lee Konitz, another Birth of the Cool graduate, is the other major player in the cool school of jazz, along with his cohorts pianist Lenny Tristano and tenor man Warne Marsh. While their music was highly complex and often beautiful, it never really caught on with the public at large the way that the Mulligan and Brubeck Quartets and the MJQ did. They recorded some very interesting and significant albums for Atlantic Records in the '50s, but their music has generally been judged as too cold and distant, too abstract and lacking in emotion even for most cool jazz fans.
Though some would class the Brazilian-influenced recordings of Stan Getz as cool jazz, they really belong to a completely different class of music, although they do share some of the characteristics associated with the cool school. Nonetheless, by the time these recordings were being made, cool jazz was, in effect, already dead. It certainly didn't disappear as an inspiration, and the recordings of the Davis nonet, the Brubeck Quartet, the Mulligan groups, and the Modern Jazz Quartet have remained among the best selling jazz works of all time. The meditative sound of cool jazz certainly inspired many later musicians, both inside and outside of jazz, including many artists who record for ECM Records and Miles Davis' own In A Silent Way.
Part 6: Hard Bop
In some ways the history of the hard bop genre is the history of all modern post-bop jazz. The strains of blues, gospel, and R&B that figured in the music of many hard bop musicians led to the development of soul jazz, which eventually led to the development of fusion and electric experiments in jazz. There were also developments such as the organ/tenor sax combo, which brought bluesy Hammond B-3 organ sounds and the open sounds of a variety of hard-driving R&B tenor sax players. Bebop had set jazz and R&B on divergent paths, and cool jazz further solidified jazz music’s status as an art music, but hard bop seemed designed to reconcile the two and to incorporate newly-developing elements of black music into the jazz genre.
Hard bop truly began as a genre with a series of recordings made and released in 1954. Art Blakey led a group that played at Birdland and featured pianist Horace Silver, bassist Curley Russell, trumpet player Clifford Brown, and saxophonist Lou Donaldson. The two-volume recording A Night at Birdland With the Art Blakey Quintet was groundbreaking and pointed to future developments. That same year, a newly clean Miles Davis, who had conquered his heroin addiction, recorded the album Walkin’ for Prestige with an all-star group that included Silver, Kenny Clarke, Percy Heath, J.J. Johnson, and Lucky Thompson. The track “Walkin’” heralded the arrival of a new paradigm in jazz with its relaxed tempo and straightforward, bluesy melody. Davis’s soloing, emphasizing the use of space, was particularly effective in this setting, and the album, along with subsequent live performances, heralded Miles’s comeback. It is interesting to note that Miles was important in the development of the hard bop sound and sensibility, which stood in direct opposition to the ethos of the cool sound that Miles had also pioneered.
Blakey and Silver made another recording at the end of 1954 entitled Horace Silver and the Jazz Messengers. The album featured bassist Doug Watkins, trumpet player Kenny Dorham, and tenor sax player Hank Mobley, and featured the distinctive, simple, blues-based melodies that would become Silver’s calling card as well as the aggressive rhythms that became associated with Blakey. Clifford Brown, who had recorded several Blue Note albums including the live set with Blakey, joined drummer Max Roach on Mercury Records’ Emarcy label to form the Clifford Brown/Max Roach Quintet, which featured Richie Powell on piano, George Morrow on bass, and Harold Land, a West Coast tenor saxophonist who was a top-notch bebop player. This band also laid down elements of what came to be considered the hard bop style, with Sonny Rollins replacing Land near the time of the group’s final recordings. Unfortunately, Brown was killed in a car crash in June of 1956. Meantime, Blakey began to hatch what would become known as The Jazz Messengers, a cooperative that became a breeding ground for the best jazz talent from the mid-fifties right into the 1980s. Blakey kept the name Jazz Messengers when the original group went in different directions. Subsequent versions included Jackie McLean, Bill Hardman, and Donald Byrd (1956), Lee Morgan, Benny Golson, Bobby Timmons, and Jymie Merritt (1958). It was this 1958 version of the band that recorded the classic album Moanin’, with Timmons coming to the fore as a composer and arranger. The tune “Moanin’” follows a typical blues pattern, and demonstrates clearly that hard bop was about a certain melodic simplicity even though soloists still used this basic backdrop as a base for virtuosic solo adventures. The interplay between Lee Morgan and Benny Golson also provided a strong blueprint for later editions of the band.
Golson was later replaced by Wayne Shorter, who became the band’s musical director and composed numerous songs for the group. His playing also fit well with the group’s overall dynamic, and this version of the Messengers distinguished itself on a variety of recordings including The Big Beat and A Night In Tunisia. When Morgan left, Freddie Hubbard was brought in to fill the trumpet chair, and other alumni of this band include pianist Cedar Walton and trombonist Curtis Fuller. Shorter eventually left this consummate small group to join another, the “Second Great Quintet” of Miles Davis, which included Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter, and Tony Williams, the band that further expanded the reaches of small group jazz and carried Miles all the way to his first experiments with electronic instruments and rock beats.
Meanwhile Horace Silver, graduate of the first Jazz Messengers sessions, was continuing to pursue a path that led through the blues, R&B, and gospel. Compositions like “Sister Sadie” demonstrated his compositional aesthetic, and he recorded a string of albums that explore similar areas, including Song For My Father and The Jody Grind. Other musicians were also exploring some of the same thematic components and producing music that was as much a part of popular black music of the ‘60s as the music of leading R&B and soul recording artists of the day. These included guitarist Wes Montgomery, whose use of unison octaves became a trademark sound, organist Jimmy Smith, who was influenced by blues organists and whose funky organ sound became an influence in the burgeoning acid jazz movement of the 1980s, and saxophonist Julian “Cannonball” Adderley, who fused the exquisite harmonic conception of Charlie Parker with the funky blues-based sensibilities of artists like Ray Charles. The music of these artists was sometimes called “soul jazz” because of its mixture of jazz’s improvisation and harmonic conception with the blues-based melodies of R&B.
Smith proved to be a major inspiration to later jazz organists, including Jack McDuff, Jimmy McGriff, and Richard “Groove” Holmes. Many jazz purists deride the Hammond B-3 players, judging them to be playing blues or soul music and outside the parameters of jazz, but there’s no doubt that these organists were bona fide jazz players. McDuff led a quartet with tenor sax player Red Holloway, drummer Joe Dukes, and a very young guitarist named George Benson, a group that absolutely sizzled. Organist Jimmy “Hammond” Smith and saxophonist Houston Person played together in one of the premiere organ/tenor bands of the 1960s and ‘70s; Person later hooked up with Richard “Groove” Holmes as well. Saxophonist Illinois Jacquet worked with organists Milt Buckner and Wild Bill Davis, and Jimmy McGriff continues to be a force, releasing the recent album McGriff Avenue.
Soul Jazz may be seen as a further outgrowth of hard bop, but it should be noted that many hard bop players remained very clearly within the confines of mainstream jazz even while mining components of blues and R&B. Others, like Jackie McLean, Dexter Gordon, and Sonny Rollins, to name but three, were influenced by hard bop, but continued to mine the more harmonically complex areas of bebop itself. =>>>>>>>>>>>
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