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Charlie Parker Essay

Jazz Music: Bebop Essay

1151 Words5 Pages

Bebop is one of the most artistic styles of jazz music. Bebop gradually developed during the 1940’s. Bebop focused more on the freedom of creativity rather than rhythmic aspects. According to The Bop Era, it also gave soloists more room for “innovative improvisation” (Glass). Through the works of Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Thelonious Monk, and other players we will discover how Bebop became such a prominent style during this era. Bebop is a “genre of American music originated in New Orleans around the 1900’s (The Definition of Jazz).” Bebop is a very unique style of music that comes from inspired passions of the mind. It’s free style brought out some of the greatest talents during this era. Bebop had some very unique qualities to…show more content…

Another historic perspective that caused issues was the industry itself. Many industries during that time made it difficult for black musicians to succeed. Due to the demographics whites would make more money than black musicians. There were also racial regulations at music venues that held blacks back. In Dizzy Gillespie’s “The Cult of Bebop.” states two theories; the theory of evolution and the theory of revolution. According to the theory of evolution Bebop maintained certain elements of swing music and it also reemphasized the elements of early jazz, blues music. On the other hand, the theory of revolution talks about how disconnected Bebop seemed to be. Seeing that it brought in a new form of style it “rejected the status quo (The Cult of Bebop).” I believe this style of jazz music contained both new and old pieces. The only difference, to me, was the way it was projected. It reduced the complexity of the polyphony and increased the importance of style. If you listen to Bebop you will notice how driving the music is. Compared to swing music Bebop is very recognizable because you can’t repeat the melody after you hear it and the drums drive really hard, especially when they’re keeping time on the symbols. You also hear lots of slurring. There aren’t many musical pieces of Bebop on YouTube but the few that they have are indescribable. The melodies are so fast you

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When Charlie Parker died in 1955, graffiti artists scrawled the words "Bird Lives!" on New York's walls. Parker had been the most gifted creator of bebop, the jazz soundtrack to 1940s existentialism and hipster bohemianism. The Kansas City alto saxophonist's impassioned attack, bluesy tone, and dazzling melodic inventiveness seemed like the quintessential celebration of the intense but fleeting moment.

Charlie Parker was born in Kansas City on 29 August, 1920. His father, who left home when Parker was 11, was a vaudeville performer. His mother Addie doted on her son, and bought him his first saxophone. When Charlie was 14, and Addie was out all night working as a cleaner, he took the opportunity to hang around the Kansas jazz clubs, where he heard the leading saxophonists of the 30s, including the great Lester Young.

Fascinated by Young's melodic conception and narrative strengths, the teenage Parker taught himself to play alto sax. He didn't realise that most jazz music was only played in a few favourite keys, so he learned them all - an accidental skill that later became a trademark feature of his improvising, namely the ability to move away from a tune's "home" key and back without losing the thread. But the progress toward a jazz revolution wasn't without its pitfalls. Sitting in with swing legends including Count Basie's drummer Jo Jones one night at Kansas City's Reno Club, Parker lost his place attempting such a risky modulation on a fast I Got Rhythm. Jones gonged him off by unscrewing a cymbal and tossing it at the humiliated teenager's feet.

But by 1939, when Charlie Parker joined the big-time swing band of pianist Jay McShann, he was overcoming new technical hurdles by the day. He began stacking swing's relatively simple chords with extra notes on top, using these, instead of the usual constituent notes, as the basis for fresh improvisations. "I came alive," Parker said, when he cracked this problem while dissecting the structure of the swing tune Cherokee.

But bebop wasn't born simply out of Parker's genius. It was waiting to happen, bubbling up out of the boredom of the younger musicians playing commercial swing, a desire among many African-Americans to increase respect for jazz as art-music amid the pressures and disruptions of the second world war. In New York, Charlie Parker soon met kindred spirits such as drummer Kenny Clarke, pianist Thelonious Monk, guitarist Charlie Christian and trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie. Late at night, after the swing shows they played for a living, the young experimenters would get together at Minton's Playhouse in Harlem and other after-hours haunts. In 1944, Parker began recording under his own name. By the following year, he was in his astonishing prime, beginning to produce the sessions that would come to be seen as landmarks in jazz history, as significant as Louis Armstrong's Hot Fives and Sevens two decades earlier.

Here's Parker in 1946 on Dial Records's account of his classic bop composition Cherokee. An unsteady-sounding 19 year-old Miles Davis is on trumpet and Dodo Marmarosa is on piano. It's fascinating to compare the construction of Charlie Parker's alto sax improvisation - he's the first sax soloist - with a still swing-sounding Lucky Thompson on tenor. Jazz is on the cusp, about to be transformed forever.