MUS paper


Experiencing Jazz

Experiencing Jazz, Second Edition, is an integrated textbook with online resources for jazz appreciation and history courses. Through readings, illustrations, timelines, listening guides, and a streaming audio library, it immerses the reader in a journey through the history of jazz, while placing the music within a larger cultural and historical context. Designed to introduce the novice to jazz, Experiencing Jazz describes the elements of music, and the characteristics and roles of different instruments. Prominent artists and styles from the roots of jazz to present day are relayed in a story-telling prose. This new edition features expanded coverage of women in jazz, the rise of jazz as a world music, the influence of Afro-Cuban and Latin jazz, and streaming audio.

Features: • Important musical trends are placed within a broad cultural, social, political, and economic

context • Music fundamentals are treated as integral to the understanding of jazz, and concepts are

explained easily with graphic representations and audio examples • Comprehensive treatment chronicles the roots of jazz in African music to present day • Commonly overlooked styles, such as orchestral jazz, Cubop, and third-stream jazz are

included • Expanded and up-to-date coverage of women in jazz.

The media-rich companion website presents a comprehensive streaming audio library of key jazz recordings by leading artists integrated with interactive listening guides. Illustrated musical concepts with web-based tutorials and audio interviews of prominent musicians acquaint new listeners to the sounds, styles, and figures of jazz.

Richard J. Lawn recently retired as Dean of the College of Performing Arts at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia. You can see and hear him as saxophonist, composer, and bandleader for Power of Ten, playing in local clubs and on recordings.

Experiencing Jazz Second Edition

Richard J. Lawn Professor Emeritus, College of Performing Arts at the University of the Arts

Second edition published 2013 by Routledge 711 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10017

Simultaneously published in the UK by Routledge 2 Park Square, Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon OX14 4RN

Routledge is an imprint of the Taylor & Francis Group, an informa business

© 2013 Taylor & Francis

The right of Richard J. Lawn to be identified as author of this work has been asserted by him in accordance with sections 77 and 78 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reprinted or reproduced or utilised in any form or by any electronic, mechanical, or other means, now known or hereafter invented, including photocopying and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publishers.

Trademark notice: Product or corporate names may be trademarks or registered trademarks, and are used only for identification and explanation without intent to infringe.

First edition published 2007 by The McGraw-Hill Companies

Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication Data Lawn, Richard, author.

Experiencing jazz/Richard J. Lawn.—Second edition. pages cm Includes bibliographical references, discography, and videography. 1. Jazz—History and criticism. 2. Jazz—Analysis, appreciation. I. Title. ML3506.L39 2013 781.65—dc23 2012024753

ISBN: 978-0-415-65935-2 (pbk and online access card) ISBN: 978-0-415-69960-0 (pbk) ISBN: 978-0-415-83735-4 (online access card) ISBN: 978-0-203-37981-3 (ebk and online access card) ISBN: 978-0-203-37985-1 (ebk)

Typeset in Bembo, Helvetica Neue and Kabel by Florence Production Ltd, Stoodleigh, Devon, UK

Please visit the companion website at

I am deeply indebted to my wife, Susan Lawn, for “putting her life on hold,” not once but twice, while helping immeasurably to make this book become a reality. In addition, thanks to the many students who served as its inspiration.


List of Photos xiv List of Examples xix List of Figures xxii Preface xxiii Acknowledgments xxviii


1 The Nature of Jazz 3

Experiencing Music . . . Experiencing Jazz 4 That Four-Letter Word 4 Defining Jazz 6 Chapter Summary 8 Study Questions 9

2 The Elements of Jazz 13

Rhythm 14 Meter and Tempo 15 Rhythmic Devices Important to Jazz 16 Swing as an Aspect of Jazz Rhythm 18

Melody 18 Harmony 20 Texture 21 Form 22 Improvisation 23

Something Borrowed—The European Tradition 23 Something New, Something Blue—The Jazz Tradition 24 Blues 24 Improvisation in Jazz 26

Chapter Summary 29 Key Terms 30 Study Questions 31

3 Listening to Jazz 33

Performance Practice 33 The Instruments of Jazz 34 The Drum Set and Swing 34 Orchestration and Instrumentation 36 Instrumental Techniques and Special Effects 37

Understanding the Whole Performance 39 Describing the Performance 41

Video Blues 42 Chapter Summary 43 Key Terms 43 Study Questions 44

4 The Roots of Jazz 45

Jazz in Perspective 45 The Significance of African Music to Jazz 46 African Musical Aesthetic 46 Elements of African Music 47 African Music as a Means of Communication 49

The Afro-Latin and Caribbean Tinge 49 Background 50 Early Fusions 52

Early American Vocal Music 54 The Innovators: Getting the Blues 56

Robert Johnson (1911–1938) 57 Bessie Smith (1894–1937) 59 W.C. Handy—“Father of the Blues” (1873–1958) 61

Ragtime 62 Brass and Military Bands 67 Milestones: Chronicle of Historic Events 68 Chapter Summary 70 Key Terms 70 Study Questions 71


5 Jazz Takes Root 75

Jazz in Perspective 75 The Reception of Early Jazz 78 New Orleans—The Birthplace of Jazz 80

Dixieland Jazz Band Instrumentation 81 The Innovators: Early Jazz 83

Original Dixieland Jazz Band 83 Kid Ory (1890–1973) 86 Joe “King” Oliver (1885–1938) 86 Lilian Hardin 86


Jelly Roll Morton (1890–1941) 89 Louis Armstrong (1901–1971) 91 Sidney Bechet (1897–1959) 94

Milestones: Chronicle of Historic Events 95 Chapter Summary 97 Key Terms 97 Study Questions 98

6 The Jazz Age: From Chicago to New York 99

Jazz in Perspective 99 South Side of Chicago 100 On the Other Side of Town 102 The Chicago Sound 103 The Innovators: A Few of the Many 104

New Orleans Rhythm Kings (NORK) 104 Bix Beiderbecke (1903–1931) 105 Frankie “Tram” Trumbauer (1901–1956) 106 Paul Whiteman (1890–1967) and Symphonic Jazz 108

Boogie-Woogie, Eight to the Bar 110 The Decline of the Chicago Era 111 Chicago Jazz in Retrospect 113 New York and the Harlem Renaissance 114

James P. Johnson (1891–1955) 115 Marketing Jazz 118 Milestones: Chronicle of Historic Events 120 Chapter Summary 121 Key Terms 122 Study Questions 122

7 The Swing Era: Jazz at Its Peak 125

Jazz in Perspective: The Depths of the Depression 126 The Country Recovers 127 The Anatomy of the Swing Era Jazz Band 127

Instrumentation 128 Repertoire and Arrangement 131

The Innovators: Swing on the East Coast 132 Fletcher Henderson (1897–1952) 133 Coleman Hawkins—“The Father of Jazz Tenor Saxophone” (1904–1969) 135 Duke Ellington (1899–1974): Music Was His Mistress 137 Benny Goodman—The “King of Swing” (1909–1986) 147

Popular White Swing Bands 151 Artie Shaw (Arthur Arshawsky) (1910–2005) 151

The Vocalists’ Rise to Fame 153 Ongoing Latin Influences 155 Chapter Summary 155 Key Terms 156 Study Questions 157


8 Swinging Across the Country: The Bands, Singers, and Pianists 159

Jazz in Perspective 160 The Innovators: A Unique Kaycee Style 161

Benny Moten 161 William “Count” Basie (1904–1984) 162 Lester Young (1909–1959) 164

Territory Bands 167 Mary Lou Williams (1910–1981) 168

The Innovators: A Few of the Swing Era Singers and Pianists 170 Billie Holiday (1915–1959): “Lady Day” 170 Ella Fitzgerald (1918–1996): The “First Lady of Song” 172 Art Tatum (1909–1956) 174

Traditional Jazz Revival 177 Swing Era Success 177 Milestones: Chronicle of Historic Events 181 Chapter Summary 184 Key Terms 185 Study Questions 185


9 The Bebop Revolution 189

Jazz in Perspective 189 The Lifestyle and Musical Characteristics 192 The Birth of Bebop: The First Recordings 194

Characteristics of the Style 196 Bebop Performance Practice and Instrumental Roles Redefined 197

The Innovators: Bop Stylists 199 John Birks “Dizzy” Gillespie (1917–1993) 199 Charlie Parker (1920–1955) 201 Bud Powell (1924–1966) 203 Dexter Gordon (1923–1990) 205 J.J. Johnson (1924–2001) 206

The Innovators: Bebop Rhythm-Section Players 207 Thelonious Sphere Monk (1917–1982) 207 Oscar Pettiford (1922–1960) 209 Kenny Clarke (1914–1985) 209 Max Roach (1924–2007) 210 Sarah Vaughan: “The Divine One” (1924–1990) 211

Modern Jazz Embraces the Afro-Cuban Spirit 213 Dizzy Gillespie and the Birth of Cubop 213

The Decline of Bebop 217 Milestones: Chronicle of Historic Events 217 Chapter Summary 219 Key Terms 220


Appendix 220 Study Questions 223

10 The 1950s and Early 1960s: Cool, Intellectual, and Abstract Jazz 225

Jazz in Perspective 225 Characteristics of Cool Jazz 228 The Innovators: The Cool Sound on the East and West Coasts 231

Miles Davis and Gil Evans: The Birth of the Cool 231 Modern Jazz Quartet 233 Gerry Mulligan (1927–1996) and Chet Baker (1929–1988) 233 Dave Brubeck (1920–2012) 235 Bill Evans (1929–1980) 238

The Brazilian Bossa Nova 241 Stan Getz (1927–1991) 243

Third-Stream Jazz 245 Lennie Tristano (1919–1978) 247

Who Was Popular 248 Milestones: Chronicle of Historic Events 249 Chapter Summary 250 Key Terms 251 Study Questions 252


11 Tradition Meets the Avant-Garde: Moderns and Early Postmoderns Coexist 255

Jazz in Perspective 256 The Innovators: The Characteristics and Artists of Mainstream Hard Bop 256

Art Blakey (1919–1990) Carries the Message 258 Other Hard-Bop Messengers 260

More About Funky, Soul Jazz and the 1950s and 1960s 264 Organ Trios and the Guitar 265

Wes Montgomery (1923–1968) 265 Jimmy Smith (1925–2005) 266

Everlasting Big Bands 268 Defining Postmodernism 270

Ornette Coleman (1930–) and His Disciples 271 The Innovators: Postmodern Jazz Comes of Age 276

Charles Mingus (1922–1979)—The Underdog 276 The End of Modern Jazz Heralded by the Beginning of the Postmoderns 278 Milestones: Chronicle of Historic Events 280 Chapter Summary 282 Key Terms 283 Study Questions 283


12 Miles and Miles of Miles: Miles Davis and His Sidemen Redefine Postmodern Jazz 285

Jazz in Perspective 286 The Music 287 The Early Miles 287 The First Great Quintet 289 Modal Jazz 290

Miles and Gil 294 The Second Great Quintet 296 The Electronic Jazz–Rock Fusion Period 300 Davis Sidemen Become Major Forces 305

John Coltrane (1926–1967) 306 Wayne Shorter (1933–) 312 Herbie Hancock (1940–) 313

Milestones: Chronicle of Historic Events 314 Chapter Summary 317 Key Terms 318 Study Questions 318

13 The Electric 1970s and 1980s 321

Jazz in Perspective 321 The Music 322 Jazz and Rock: The Two-Way Connection 323 The Innovators: Living Electric in the Shadow of Miles Davis 325

Weather Report 325 Herbie Hancock and the Head Hunters 329 John McLaughlin (1942–) and the Mahavishnu Orchestra 331 Chick Corea (1941–) 333

Soul and Pop Instrumental Jazz 336 David Sanborn (1945–) 336 The Brecker Brothers 336 Grover Washington, Jr. (1943–1999) 337 Chuck Mangione (1940–) 337

The Signs of the Times: New Technologies and Changing Business Models 338 Milestones: Chronicle of Historic Events 339 Chapter Summary 340 Key Terms 341 Study Questions 342

14 The Unplugged, Eclectic 1970s and 1980s 343

Long Live Acoustic Jazz 343 The ECM Sound 344 The Innovators: The Rebirth of Acoustic Jazz 345

Keith Jarrett (1945–) 345 Return of Expatriates Unleashes a Rebirth of Acoustic Jazz 349


Wynton Marsalis (1961–) and the Young Lions 350 The Freedom Fighters Take Risks 352

Cecil Taylor (1929–) 354 Old Bottles, New Wines—Long Live Big Bands 356 The Changing Jazz Landscape as the Millennium Comes to a Close 357 Milestones: Chronicle of Historic Events 358 Chapter Summary 360 Key Terms 361 Study Questions 361

15 Jazz for a New Century 363

Jazz in Perspective 364 Trends in Contemporary Jazz 365 Established Artists Offer Seasoned Jazz 367

John Scofield (1951–) and Joe Lovano (1952) 367 Michael Brecker (1949–2007) and Pat Metheny (1954–) 367

Popular Music Influences 371 Tim Hagans (1954–) 372

Vocal Renaissance 374 Esperanza Spalding (1984–) 375

Contemporary Women Emerging as Innovators 377 Maria Schneider (1960–) 378

Jazz as a Global Music 382 Afro-Cuban and Latin Jazz 382 Danilo Pérez (1965–) 382

Jazz as an International Language 384 Rudresh Mahanthappa and Vijay Iyer 387

The New Innovators: 21st-Century Emerging Artists 389 Jason Moran (1975–) 390

Closing Thoughts 391 Milestones: Chronicle of Historic Events 392 Chapter Summary 396 Key Terms 397 Study Questions 397

Appendix I: Glossary of Terms 399 Appendix II: Suggested Jazz DVDs and Videos 411

Biographical 409 Historical Documentaries 410 Performance/Instructional 410 Important Feature Films 411

Appendix III: Chapter Notes and Additional Sources 415

Index 429



August Wilson Theatre (formerly Virginia Theatre)/Neil Simon Theatre 52nd Street, Manhattan, New York City. May 2007 xxiv

American bandleader James Reese Europe (1881–1919) poses (center, with baton) with members of his Clef Club Band, New York, 1914 3

Original Dixieland Jass Band promotional photo 5

Jazz singer Joe Williams 7

The World Saxophone Quartet performing in 1992 9

“Mother of the Blues” Ma Rainey on sheet-music cover 13

Old-style mechanical metronome 15

Gertrude “Ma” Rainey (1886–1939) and her Georgia Jazz Band, Chicago, 1923 25

American jazz musician Louis Armstrong (1901–1971) smiles as he poses on stage with a band for the WMSB radio station in New Orleans, Louisiana, 1920s 26

Jazz musicians performing in a nightclub 33

The typical jazz drum set 35

April 16, 1912: The front-page New York Times newspaper headline announces the sinking of The Titanic ocean liner 45

Map tracing Christopher Columbus’s voyages, which resemble slave-trade routes 51

Slaves returning from the cotton fields in South Carolina, c.1860 54

Fisk Jubilee Singers 55

Bessie Smith, “Empress of the Blues” 59

Promotional photo, c.1930, of W.C. Handy, “Father of the Blues” 61

1899 sheet-music cover of Scott Joplin’s “Maple Leaf Rag” 65

Portrait of American ragtime composer and pianist Scott Joplin (1868–1917), c.1910 66

Player piano roll of Scott Joplin’s “Maple Leaf Rag,” patented September 13, 1904 67

An American suffragette wears a sign proclaiming “Women! Use your vote,” c.1920 75

Portrait of the Buddy Bolden Band, New Orleans, Louisiana, c.1900 81

The Original Dixieland Jass Band 84

Pianist, composer, arranger, singer, and bandleader Lilian Hardin Armstrong 86

King Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band in the early 1920s 87

Composer and pianist Jelly Roll Morton at the piano 89

Louis Armstrong and his Hot Five 92

Sidney Bechet plays clarinet for a Blue Note Records session, June 8, 1939 94

Henry Ford and his son Edsel in front of their new model in New York in 1927–1933 99

Marathon dance competitions were part of the growing phenomenon of youth culture in the 1920s, Chicago 101

Bix Beiderbecke and the Wolverines in the Gennett Recording Studios, in 1924, in New York 103

Cornetist Bix Beiderbecke (1903–1931) poses for a portrait, c.1925 105

Frankie Trumbauer and unidentified guitarist 107

Paul Whiteman and his orchestra 109

A crowd of depositors outside the American Union Bank in New York, having failed to withdraw their savings before the bank collapsed 112

Exterior of the Renaissance Casino ballroom in Harlem, New York, late 1920s 114

James P. Johnson poses for a studio portrait in 1921 115

Corner of Lennox Avenue and 147th Street in Harlem showing the exterior of the M&S Douglas Theatre and a sign for the Cotton Club a few doors down, 1927 125

Jazz pianist Teddy Wilson playing with a quartet during the set break of Benny Goodman’s band, because racially mixed bands were not the rule in New York City at the “Madhattan Room” in the Hotel Pennsylvania 131

Bandleader, pianist, composer/arranger Fletcher Henderson 133

Coleman Hawkins, “the father of jazz tenor saxophone” 135

Duke Ellington and his band performing at the legendary Cotton Club 139

Dancers performing onstage at the Cotton Club 141

Composer Duke Ellington, singer Ivie Anderson, and drummer Sonny Greer pose for a portrait with the orchestra in 1943, in Los Angeles, California 143

Bandleader and clarinetist Benny Goodman (center) performs for a large crowd at Manhattan Beach, New York, August 11, 1938 148

The Benny Goodman Sextet 149

Guitarist Charlie Christian on stage with the Benny Goodman Orchestra, in New York, c.1940 150

Big-Band Leader Artie Shaw performs in 1945, Los Angeles, California 151

December 8, 1941: The front page of the New York World Telegram announces Japanese air attack at Pearl Harbor, commencing the U.S. entry into World War II 159

The Count Basie Orchestra performs on stage in Chicago in 1940 162

Count Basie with his “All American Rhythm Section” 163


Tenor saxophonist Lester Young performs while holding his instrument in his classic sideways style 165

Pianist, composer, arranger Mary Lou Williams 168

Billie Holiday singing at a Decca recording session, c.1946 170

Ella Fitzgerald, the “First Lady of Song,” 1940 172

Art Tatum Trio 175

Special edition of Jazzmen, produced by the Armed Services and designed to fit in soldiers’ knapsacks 177

The ruins of a cinema stand stark against the rubble after the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima August 8, 1945, brought World War II to a close 189

The Onyx jazz club in New York, advertising singer Maxine Sullivan 193

The club named after Charlie Parker, located at 1678 Broadway, New York 195

Dizzy Gillespie, with characteristic puffed cheeks and upturned trumpet 200

Jay McShann Orchestra in New York, 1942 201

Charlie Parker, with Miles Davis, trumpet; Tommy Potter, bass 202

Pianist Earl “Bud” Powell 203

Tenor saxophonist Dexter Gordon in Los Angeles, 1947 205

Thelonious Monk at Minton’s Playhouse 207

Drummer Max Roach 210

Vocalist Sarah Vaughan 211

Latin jazz singer and bandleader Machito (Frank Raul Grillo) holding maracas, while leading his band 214

Saxophonist James Moody, Cuban conga player Chano Pozo, and trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie performing in 1948 215

Race riots and picketers in Birmingham, Alabama 225

Miles Davis recording in 1959 231

The Dave Brubeck Quartet, with Brubeck at the piano, Paul Desmond on saxophone, Eugene Wright on bass, and Joe Morello on drums, in 1959 236

Pianist Bill Evans 238

Stan Getz in a live performance 244

Pianist Lennie Tristano 247

American civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (1929–1968) speaks at a rally held at the Robert Taylor Houses in Chicago, Illinois, 1960s 255

Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers play at the Birdhouse, a Chicago jazz club, 1961 258

Clifford Brown at a recording session 262

Tenor saxophonist Sonny Rollins performs at the Berkshire Music Barn Jazz Festival in Lenox, MA, 1956 262

Guitarist Wes Montgomery, c.1960 266

Jimmy Smith sitting at the Hammond B3 organ 266

Contemporary bandleader Stan Kenton rehearses his jazz band in London, in preparation for a performance at the Royal Albert Hall 268


Saxophonist Ornette Coleman with trumpeter Don Cherry at the 5 Spot, New York City 272

Jazz bassist and composer Charles Mingus 276

Apollo 11, the first manned lunar-landing mission, was launched on July 16, 1969, and Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first and second men to walk on the moon 285

Miles Davis’s nonet in a recording studio for the sessions released as Birth of the Cool 288

John Coltrane, Cannonball Adderley, Miles Davis, and Bill Evans perform in the studio, New York, May 26, 1958 292

Trumpeter Miles Davis and producer/arranger Gil Evans record the album Quiet Nights in 1962 295

Miles Davis with Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter, and Wayne Shorter at the 1967 Newport Jazz Festival 297

Miles Davis performing in Copenhagen, 1973, wearing hip clothes of the day 304

John Coltrane performing on soprano saxophone with his quartet in West Germany, 1959 307

Demonstrators march up Avenue of Americas on their way to Central Park in New York as part of a rally against the Vietnam War, April 5, 1969 321

The rock band Blood, Sweat and Tears performs on stage at the Longhorn Jazz Festival, Dallas, Texas 324

Weather Report performs on stage at the Playboy Jazz Festival at the Hollywood Bowl, Los Angeles, June 1981 328

Herbie Hancock using a portable synthesizer keyboard 330

Guitarist John McLaughlin and violinist Jean-Luc Ponty from the Mahavishnu Orchestra perform in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, in 1974 332

Return To Forever performs in May 1977 335

Popular Philadelphia soulful saxophonist Grover Washington, Jr. 337

Chuck Mangione playing his signature flugelhorn 338

A demonstration outside the Whitehouse in support of the impeachment of President Nixon (1913–1994) following the watergate revelations 343

Jazz pianist Keith Jarrett, c.1975 346

Dexter Gordon and quartet performing in the UK 349

Trumpeter/composer Wynton Marsalis in 1982 351

Pianist Cecil Taylor performs at Ronnie Scott’s in London 354

Jazz pianist and composer Toshiko Akiyoshi conducts her orchestra, c.1977 357

U.S. President Bill Clinton plays a saxophone along with musician Everett Harp at the Arkansas inaugural ball 20 January 1993 363

Michael Brecker performing with the Brecker Brothers at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival 369

Contemporary guitarist Pat Metheny 369

Popular smooth-jazz artist Chris Botti 371


Trumpeter/composer Tim Hagans at the 2008 IAJE Conference in Toronto, Canada 372

Diana Krall performing in 2004 at the Mountain Winery, in Saratoga, California 374

Esperanza Spalding performs at the 4th Annual Roots Picnic at the Festival Pier, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, June 4, 2011 375

Maria Schneider conducts the Maria Schneider Orchestra on stage during the Festival Internacional de Jazz de Barcelona at Palau De La Musica, in Barcelona, Spain, 2011 379

Pianist Danilo Pérez 383

Jason Moran performs at Thelonious Monk Town Hall 50th Anniversary Celebration, 2009 390

xviii PHOTOS


2.1 Graphic representation of “Happy Birthday” 14 2.2 Illustration of a simple syncopation in measure 1 that results from handclaps on

off beats that create a tension between major beats represented by the foot tapping a steady pulse. By the second beat of the second measure, the handclaps are lined up precisely with the foot tapping on beats 2, 3, and 4, hence no syncopation and no tension 17

2.3 Using similar graphics, the following example illustrates a simple polyrhythm. In this case, the foot taps indicate a 3/4 meter and fundamental rhythm. The hand-clapping introduces a new rhythm in opposition to the foot tapping. If the foot tapping suddenly stops, the continuing handclaps give the illusion of 2/4 meter. The combined result when both are executed simultaneously is a polyrhythm 17

2.4 Two-octave C scale. Raised half-steps in between each scale note (black keys) are labeled above as sharps 19

2.5 Chord symbols in a typical progression that jazz musicians must learn to interpret 20

2.6 Visualization of monophonic texture. The light, horizontal, wavy line represents the melodic shape of a solo singer. There are no other layers present in this single-dimensional texture 21

2.7 Visualization of homophonic texture. The wavy, horizontal line represents the melodic shape of a solo singer. The vertical bars represent chords, with darker shades indicating major chords, and lighter shades representing minor chords 21

2.8 Visualization of polyphony. The light, horizontal, wavy lines represent the melodic shape of a solo singer and a second melodic voice complementing the primary vocal melody below it. The vertical bars represent chords, with darker shades indicating major chords, and lighter shades representing minor chords. Black dots represent a rising and falling bass line in counterpoint with the melody line. The entire texture, with multiple layers of activity, is described as polyphonic 21

2.9 Lowered third, fifth and seventh (E flat, G flat, B flat) are called “blue notes” and are indicated in the following keyboard example 24

2.10 Typical jazz chord progression illustrated by symbols 27 3.1 Swing ride cymbal pattern 36 3.2 Visual notations of special effects associated with jazz 38

4.1 The first line shows your foot tapping down and up, indicating 2 beats per measure. The second line adds handclaps that help to divide each beat in half, showing 1&2& 1&2&, corresponding to line 1. The third line adds handclaps to divide each measure of line 1 into triplets, or three pulses for every 2 foot taps. The last line shows handclaps dividing each beat in line 1 into groups of three, faster triplets than those line 3 47

4.2 African fundamental or ground pattern. Although many readers would likely not understand music notation, laymen can execute the following graphic representation of the pattern. The feet establish the pulse or basic beat, while the handclaps outline the specific ground rhythm pattern 48

4.3 The habanera rhythm is represented below in 4/4 meter for convenience, although it is usually found in 2/4 meter. Try to coordinate your hands and feet in a steady tempo. The handclap emphasizes the habanera rhythm, while the feet establish a basic tempo 52

4.4 Notice the close resemblance between this Charleston rhythm and the habanera at the middle of the measure 52

4.5 The clavé rhythm: The following illustrations are graphic representations of the 3–2 and 2–3 clavé patterns. The vertical line serves to delineate measures. You should try executing these rhythms with your hands and feet 53

4.6 Classic 12-bar blues. Each block represents 1 measure 57 4.7 Final rhythm from Stephen Foster’s “Camptown Races” 64 7.1 A graphic representation of 1 measure in 4/4 meter showing alternation

between a full quarter note of full value on beats 1 and 3, followed by even eighth-note divisions of beats 2 and 4. This rhythm pattern does not swing 129

7.2 A graphic representation of 1 measure in 4/4 meter showing the uneven division of beats 2 and 4, causing a feeling of anticipation of the following beats (3 and 1). This was the typical pattern played by the drummer on the cymbals, expressed below by the syllables. This rhythm helps to create the basis of the “swing” feel. Horn soloists and pianists would likely also swing in this uneven fashion 130

7.3 Contrast between arpeggiated and linear styles 136 9.1 Graphic representation of the jazz conga drum variation. Tap your left foot

in a steady tempo following the graphic while clapping the conga drum pattern 213

10.1 Eighth-note triplets 238 10.2 Quarter-note triplets 239 10.3 Samba rhythmic ostinato patterns; the foot image represents downward taps 242 10.4 Hand clapping syncopated bossa nova rhythm—syncopated tensions occur

when hand claps fall between the foot taps. There are numerous variations to the ostinato bossa nova rhythm patterns 243

11.1 Modern and postmodern jazz coexist 279 12.1 Piano with whole and chromatic half-steps indicated over two octaves,

C to C 290 12.2 By using different visual shades to represent sound, it is possible to differentiate

between modal and functional harmony as shown in the following illustrations. (A) Visual conceptualization of a modal texture. There is a sameness about this visual texture, much like there is in a modal section of music, where all notes, whether used vertically as a chord or horizontally to form melodic lines, stem from the same essential set of pitches (color, in this example).


(B) Visual conceptualization of functional harmony: Each horizontal bar represents a changing chord in a progression. Some chords are related, whereas others serve a quite different role. The black represents the strong chords that supply more variety than the above example 291

15.1 Piano keyboard based on Western music system with half-steps. Imagine 12 more keys (notes) added between C and C on this traditional Western keyboard 388



1.1 Jazz styles timeline 10 7.1 Typical big-band seating arrangement 128 7.2 Memorable Swing Era hits and associated bands 153 7.3 Important artists to emerge from Woody Herman and Stan Kenton bands 154 7.4 Popular vocalists and associated bands 154 8.1 Cost of living index, c.1940 167 8.2 Well-known territory bands and their locales 167 9.1 Comparison of swing and bebop styles 198

10.1 Comparison of bebop and cool styles 230 11.1 Jazz Messengers Sidemen 259 11.2 Horace Silver Sidemen 259 11.3 A study in contrasts: A comparison in the characteristics of free jazz and

more traditionally grounded, modern mainstream jazz styles 275 12.1 Miles Davis’s innovations 305 12.2 John Coltrane’s innovations 311 14.1 Distinguishing characteristics of Keith Jarrett’s music 347 15.1 Late 20th- and early 21st-century trends and artists in jazz 366 15.2 21st-century women in jazz 380 15.3 21st-century emerging innovators 389


I do not agree that the layman’s opinion is less of a valid judgment of music than that of a professional musician. In fact, I would often rely more on the judgment of a sensitive layman than that of a professional … —Jazz Pianist Bill Evans, from The Universal Mind of Bill Evans

Jazz is about America. It is American as apple pie and baseball, but surprisingly few people fully understand it or appreciate its wonder and appeal. Jazz represents the spirit and cultural fabric of America and has served as the basis of most popular music styles. Perhaps this is why our lives are invaded daily with jazz music – on television, in commercials selling everything from cars to banks and clothing, in films, in elevators and doctors’ offices, in restaurants and shopping malls and countless other pubic places. It is music that evokes basic human emotions and can be soothing, chilling, sensual, raucous, uplifting, thought provoking, transformational, spiritual, meditative, annoying, or even jarring. Sometimes it strikes controversy among listeners. Anyone is capable of enjoying these fundamental feelings, but the experience is enhanced beyond expectation when one knows more about how the music is produced, its roots, developments and place in American history.

Pictured on the front cover is Swing Street, 52nd Street in New York City in 1948. It was the place to hear jazz in the mid-20th Century. Miles Davis, Charlie Parker, Billie Holiday Dizzy Gillespie, and performers from the earlier “Swing Era” could be heard in clubs like the Onyx and Three Deuces that lined the street between 5th and 7th Avenue as shown in the cover photo. Jazz in the 1930s and ’40s was America’s popular music. It was embedded in American culture and was the soundtrack for American life. The jazz musician helped to tell our country’s story at nightclubs, dance halls, and on records and radio. Their music was accessible, daring and represented freedom to the outside world.

This same street shown in the 2007 photo overleaf by comparison looks quite different though still the home for aspects of the entertainment business. Jazz was associated with entertainment in its early years and considered forbidden fruit by some. Over time Jazz has gained a respect and stature shared by art music, studied and analyzed much like Western classical music. Jazz is now found in most university curricula, cultivated in high school and middle schools jazz bands, and no longer associated with underbelly of society. Jazz has become and international language recognized as an American tradition. We invite you to explore and experience this unique national treasure, listen to landmark recordings and hear the stories of the artists who changed American culture.

Experiencing Jazz, Second Edition, places the music in an historical, cultural, and social context of American society. By placing Jazz within the context of social history, students better understand

its relevance. It also helps them to relate the music to their own interest areas, and to understand why, to some extent, the music may have developed as it did. In this way, Experiencing Jazz, Second Edition, goes beyond many textbooks.


Experiencing Jazz provides clear explanations of each jazz style and how it contrasts or is similar to other styles. Each style is presented in association with its primary innovators. The material is presented in a logical chronological sequence, but art is never that clean and easy to categorize or sort out. The reader will find the occasional paradox within a single chapter created by the juxtaposition of one style against a polar opposite. This approach was chosen rather than compartmentalizing styles and artists and confining their discussions to nice, cleanly sectionalized chapters. The multiplicity of styles is precisely what was encountered at the time, particularly from about 1950 on, leaving audiences, critics and the musicians to make sense of it all. To frame the socio-cultural backdrop and keep its importance at the fore, each chapter begins with a section described as “Jazz in Perspective” and closes with a “Chronicle of Historic Events,” serving as a reminder of the larger American fabric in which the music discussed throughout the chapter is an important thread.


August Wilson Theatre (formerly Virginia Theatre)/Neil Simon Theatre 52nd Street, Manhattan, New York City. May 2007

Experiencing Jazz—the textbook and website with streamed music—provide the reader with an understanding of how jazz works, how and why it evolved, who its primary innovators were, how to listen to it, and how in some cases jazz has been informed by certain aspects of American society including the evolution of new technologies that parallel the growth of jazz. The book and website familiarize the student with the basic building blocks of music as they relate to a discussion of jazz. Without an elementary understanding of music construction and jazz performance practices, it is difficult to fully appreciate a jazz performance. It is for this reason that such topics are discussed in Chapters 2 and 3 rather than at the end of the book as appendices. Experiencing Jazz is designed to create educated listeners, not just to present facts, dates, figures, lists of tunes and performers.

Each style chapter includes a retrospective glimpse at the reception of jazz in America by providing the reader with some insight into how the music was perceived by critics, historians and fans.


Fifteen chapters in all, the text is designed exclusively for the non-musician, carefully defining basic musical concepts as they relate to an understanding of a jazz performance. Such concepts are reinforced throughout the book.

• All key terms are shown in bold with immediate definitions. A comprehensive glossary of terms is included as an appendix.

• Explanations of fundamental musical concepts are often accompanied by graphic illustrations, making such concepts easier to understand by the non-musician.

• Each historic chapter begins with a section “Jazz in Perspective” that provides a context and historic backdrop for the music being discussed.

• Each historic chapter ends with a “Chronicle of Historic Events,” once again reminding the reader of how jazz styles are woven into the fabric of American culture at the time.

• Specific references are made to the website where activities are provided to support the chapter.

• Each jazz style is carefully examined through discussion and comparison to performance characteristics of earlier jazz styles. Helpful quick reference comparative and descriptive tables are also provided to summarize salient characteristics.

• Chapters focus on the primary innovators including the bands and soloists and what made their work innovative.

• Listening guides are provided in each chapter to serve as road maps through each featured audio track. These guides focus on important points using laymen terms or terms that have been well defined and used throughout the text.

• Discussions of how jazz was received and marketed are also included. • Chapter summaries and helpful study guides including a list of key performers, bands, terms

and places along with review questions are found at the end of each chapter. Supplementary listening lists are also included at the close of each chapter.


Since jazz is in a constant state of change it stands to reason that this second edition of Experiencing Jazz has been significantly revised:


• A final chapter addresses jazz at the close of the 20th century and the first decade of this new millennium.

• New sections about the internationalization of jazz as a global language and women in jazz have been added to the final chapter along with discussions and new recordings showing contemporary trends.

• Since a book about jazz should emphasize the music, a comprehensive collection of audio tracks—to accompany any text—is provided.

• Improved discussions of fundamental musical concepts as they relate to jazz performance are provided to cater to the needs of a non-musician in grasping basic musical concepts as they relate to a better understanding of jazz.

• Discussions of Afro-Cuban and Latin jazz trends are now integrated chronologically throughout the book.

• The narrative has been streamlined, reducing the page count. • New links to historic recordings only recently made available by the Library of Congress. • A new, greatly enhanced website providing streamed audio tracks, video, and additional

supplementary materials including more listening guides for landmark recordings not provided in the companion audio collection.


Experiencing Jazz offers a web streamed, comprehensive audio collection featuring landmark recordings by leading performers that illustrate the various styles discussed throughout the text. A complete list of tracks is included inside the covers. This collection is quite comprehensive, providing expanded coverage of women in jazz, Afro-Cuban and Latin jazz styles, and often overlooked styles or artists such as African music, rural blues, ragtime, organ trios, early symphonic jazz, vocalists and third-stream jazz. Some texts appear to be biased against certain styles, but Experiencing Jazz does not take sides and presents what listeners need to know in order to formulate their own aesthetic.

Listening guides that track each recording as it is streamed from the companion website clarify the listening experience. The website also includes additional listening guides for supplementary tunes easily found in most library collections or online suppliers. These guides are designed specifically for the non-musician and draw on skills acquired through readings about the elements of jazz and jazz performance practice presented in the first three chapters. Nothing has been assumed of the reader in terms of prerequisite knowledge. It is not enough to merely read about jazz, it must be keenly listened to and Experiencing Jazz provides all the necessary guidance to engage with the recordings and live performances.

A collection of audio recordings, combined with numerous video and audio tutorials found on the website reinforce the principles and performance practices associated with jazz. Emphasis is placed on artists who made and are making significant contributions to jazz rather than confusing the reader with lengthy lists of performers who, while their contributions to the evolution of jazz should be noted, are not considered in retrospect as major trendsetters or innovators. Special attention has been paid through the text design to emphasize one or two artists in each chapter who exemplify a particular style or trend. The decision to feature one artist over another was difficult but based logically on the artists innovative impact, longevity, and their overall impact and contributions to further developing the music. A case could certainly be made to highlight others.



These are provided to most of the historically significant recordings streamed and from the companion website. The website also includes additional listening guides for supplementary study of tunes easily found in most library collections or online suppliers. These guides are designed specifically for the non-musician and draw on skills acquired through readings about the elements of jazz and jazz performance practice presented in the first three chapters. Nothing has been assumed of the reader in terms of prerequisite knowledge. It is not enough to merely read about jazz it must be keenly listened to and Experiencing Jazz provides all the necessary guidance to fully appreciate the recordings and live performance.

Not every significant recording or artist can be represented in any collection, no matter how extensive. The selection of recordings to include confronted the author with difficult choices as it does most teachers. In some cases recording companies were unwilling to license some landmark recordings, however, excellent alternatives were found and listening guides for others not included are found on the website.


Since this book embraces and recognizes the needs of non-musicians, web-based materials were developed to enhance student’s understanding and appreciation of jazz by providing a more informed listening experience through audio, video and interactive tutorials. The companion website carefully parallels Chapters 1–3 in the text, providing audio and visual examples that bring to life the basic elements of music, jazz performance practices, improvisation styles, the instruments associated with jazz, and the concepts that help to define it. Chapters 4–15 provide suggestions for supplemental material found on the website such as interviews with innovative artists, YouTube links, and so on. A wealth of support material is included here that closely follows readings in the text. The website should therefore be considered as a closely integrated companion to the book. While it would be useful to have ready access to the website as each chapter is studied, it is not imperative or mandatory. All web-based activities are highlighted with icons throughout the text to direct students and teachers to additional information that can be found on the site.

This website provides a wide range of support for the students and teachers including:

• Interactive materials that clearly explain fundamentals of melody, rhythm, harmony, form, blues, and performance practice in jazz including improvisation

• Instructional videos to provide a keen awareness of form, the instruments associated with jazz including Latin percussion and their roles in an ensemble, solo jazz piano styles, and jazz drum-set performance techniques associated with jazz styles.

• An audio introduction to each instrument associated with jazz that also acquaints the user with special effects, performance techniques and brass mutes associated with the jazz style. There is an instrument identification quiz provided as well.

• Additional listening guides for recordings not provided in the streamed audio collection. • Photos and documents that relate to each stylistic era. • Numerous audio excerpts from interviews with noted musicians including Miles Davis, Gil

Evans, Chick Corea, Keith Jarrett, Charles Mingus, Herbie Hancock, Pat Metheny, Charlie Parker, Dexter Gordon, Bud Powell, Stan Kenton, Stan Getz, John Coltrane, Billie Holiday,


Louis Armstrong, Gerry Mulligan, Dizzy Gillespie, and others bring authenticity to the text and the total experience.

• A condensed history of disc recording and discussion of the relationship of this medium to jazz.

• A glossary of terms that is linked to the any music specific terms used on the website.

Jazz has become a universal music that has gone global, recognized worldwide and identified with the United States, but no longer “owned” by Americans. It is a unique American nationalist style representing the most significant cultural contribution that the US has made to the global arts landscape. Jazz has become synonymous with modern American thought and is a metaphor for democracy and freedom of expression. It should be studied, experienced and treasured!

Richard J. Lawn Summer 2012


I offer my sincere thanks and appreciation to the following individuals for their significant contributions and assistance during various stages in the development of this text and companion materials.

Special thanks to: Dan Morgenstern, Tad Hershorn, and the staff of the Rutgers Institute of Jazz Studies; UT-Austin College of Fine Arts Information Technology staff Jim Kerkhoff, Frank Simon, Andy Murphy, and Tyson Breaux; Paul Young, Glenda Smith, Todd Hastings, and Paul White who, as students at The University of Texas, helped in the development of a CD-ROM as a prototype of the new website; David Aaberg for his tenacious editorial suggestions and concise chapter summaries; Ben Irom and Mark “Kaz” Kazanoff, who helped to create some of the listening guides; David Fudell and the staff of the Center for Instructional Technologies at The University of Texas; The Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center at UT-Austin; Jack Cooper for his composition Video Blues; Austin, Texas musicians Greg Wilson, Randy Zimmerman, Pat Murray, Mike Koenning, Craig Biondi, Paul Haar, John Fremgen, Steve Snyder, Chris Maresh, Eric Middleton, Russell Scanlon, and John Kreger for their recorded contributions; Charlie Richard, Steve Hawk, and the Hawk–Richard Jazz Orchestra, whose Sea Breeze Jazz CD (SB-2093) The Hawk Is Out provided a source for brief audio examples; Paul DeCastro, Jeff Benedict, and members of Rhumbumba for their self-titled Sea Breeze Jazz CD (SB-3067) that provided Afro-Cuban examples; members of the Third Coast Jazz Orchestra, whose Sea Breeze Jazz CD (SB-2116) Unknown Soldiers provided a source for additional audio clips; Marc Dicciani and Marlon Simon from the University of the Arts School of Music for their Afro-Cuban demonstrations; Sara MacDonald from the UArts Library; Wesley Hall for his assistance in gaining permissions for the website; Denny Tek for her perseverant photo research; and Constance Ditzel and the staff at Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group, for believing in the lasting value of this project.

xxviii PREFACE


Understanding Jazz


C H A P T E R 1

The Nature of Jazz Jazz isn’t a noun. It’s a verb. It’s a process, a way of being, a way of thinking.1

—Pat Metheny

American bandleader James Reese Europe (1881–1919) poses (center, with baton) with members of his Clef Club Band, New York, 1914


Music is the most elusive, abstract, and in some ways most intangible of all art forms. It cannot be touched, felt, or seen. It does, however, evoke any number of emotional responses, which is why it has become such an important part of the human experience. The only way to truly understand music, like any art form, is to experience it. No art form can be genuinely appreciated without an intimate experience with it. By working with clay, one gains a new perspective on what the sculptor faces when creating a work of art. By closely examining jazz performance practice, one gains a new view and appreciation of the music-making process.

Jazz is a performance art—a spontaneous art designed for the moment. Although it can be described in words, analyzed, and placed in a historic continuum, it cannot be fully understood and appreciated without the music being experienced first hand. Yet words alone cannot do justice to the listening experience, and it is important to understand that it is the music that points to the words we use to describe it. Jazz is a work in progress, an ongoing experiment and music in constant evolution. To quote jazz guitarist Larry Coryell, “jazz is a workshop.” One of the enduring qualities of jazz, and a defining characteristic, has been its ability to change, chameleon- like in nature, while absorbing every style it encounters, resulting in a new by-product.

Like any of the other art forms, music can be divided into numerous subcategories that, over time, have been described in great detail and consequently named. Words such as swing, bebop, cool, fusion, and smooth jazz have been coined in an effort to describe and compartmentalize jazz styles. It is the naming of these styles that often tends to confuse the listener, as there are often only subtle differences between them. The naming of various styles is the result of historians and critics attempting to better explain and describe the music. To some extent, these stylistic names are also the result of commercial marketing strategies. The term “jazz,” used to describe this uniquely American music, is no less confusing than the terms “classical” or “pop” music. Each of these general headings can imply numerous substyles. What is unique about jazz compared with classical music, among other things, is the rate at which jazz styles have evolved. In a mere 100 years, this American music has been transformed to include countless innovations in performance practice. These stylistic changes are so significant that the jazz of today bears only subtle similarities to the earliest forms from 100 years ago, and yet buried beneath the surface are common threads binding all of the uniquely different styles together to form a rich tapestry. The fun lies in finding these common characteristics. The essence of jazz is its ability to absorb, trans - form, and change. Like any art form, it is periodically renewed by various influences. Throughout its development, jazz has been viewed variously as folk music, entertainment, and art music. All three views often existed simultaneously, a fact still true today. It is a music that crosses all social, economic, racial, and geographic boundaries. Centuries from now, only the unique American innovations will be recognized and remembered. These will be sports such as baseball, inventions such as the personal computer, and, no doubt, jazz. Its influence has endured, and it is a unique, original American art form that has been designated a national treasure by the U.S. government.


It wasn’t that long ago we used to hear the word “jazz” frequently in common speech. It first appeared in American vocabulary in the early 1900s. Phrases such as “jazz up your wardrobe,” “put some jazz in your savings account,” “own the jazziest car on the road,” and “quit jazzin’ me!” came into being and were commonly heard. In the hit stage and film musical, Chicago, the most popular and most performed song is “All That Jazz.” The storyline takes place in the “gangsta” days of Al Capone in the 1920s, when jazz was in the early stages of becoming America’s popular music.


Existing as a slang term before it was used to describe music, its origins have puzzled historians for many years. Theories about the origins of the word jazz are largely unsubstantiated. Some have associated the word with the red-light district of New Orleans. Garvin Bushell, a circus band musician from New Orleans, offers the following observation:

They said that the French had brought the perfume industry with them to New Orleans, and the oil of jasmine was a popular ingredient locally. To add it to perfume was called “jassing it up.” The strong scent was popular in the red light district, where a working girl might approach a perspective customer and say, “Is jazz on your mind tonight, young fellow?”2

As late as 1947, Berry’s American Dictionary of Slang cited the word under copulate. The term jazz was supposedly related to the act itself—“he’s jazzin’ her”3 (a line from the musical Chicago). The New York Times used the term in its February 2, 1917 issue, in an advertisement taken by Reisenweber’s club to promote “The First Eastern Appearance of the Famous Original Dixieland Jazz Band.”4 According to Nick LaRocca, the group’s cornetist, “jass” was changed to “jazz” to discourage people from defacing signs by erasing the letter “j.” The associations of the word jazz to vulgarity, sex, and the bordello, coupled with the many styles that the word could describe, probably explains why some jazz musicians rarely, if ever, use the word in discussing their own music.5

Others attribute the word’s origins to linguistic variations. One writer points out the word’s relationship to the French word jaser, which means “to chat,” “to chatter,” “to prattle,” or “talk


Original Dixieland Jass Band promotional photo

a lot and say nothing.” Prior to the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, the French owned the Mississippi Delta area, often referred to as the birthplace of jazz.

Creoles, a racial mix resulting from unions between French, African-Americans and sometimes Spanish, spoke a hybrid form of French. Some theorists suggest that the word “jazz” in Creole meant to speed things up. Another theory to consider is the claim that the term jazz is derived from West African languages, a natural conclusion because the Gold (west) Coast of Africa served as the point of origin for many slaves. Early jazz artists’ names such as Charles and James morphed from their formal spellings to nicknames such as Chaz and Jas or Jazz.6 A 1919 article in the Music Trade Review refers to the wild, barbaric music played by trumpeter Jasbo Brown after he’d had a few drinks. Patrons who enjoyed his musically gregarious behavior shouted, “More Jasbo,” which eventually distorted to just “more jazz.”7 Jazz historian Robert Goffin attributed the word to a black musician named Jess who played in a “jerky, halting style.” As early as 1904, James Reese Europe, a black society bandleader, believed the word was a distortion of the name of a New Orleans band known as Razz’s Band. Other historians speculate that the term “jazz” stemmed from a vaudeville expression meaning to excite, stir things up, or make things go faster.8

As jazz developed into a more sophisticated, acceptable art form, efforts were even made to rename the music and discard “jazz,” owing to its undesirable connotations. In 1949, Down Beat magazine sponsored a contest to find a new name for jazz. The publisher announced prizes and a distinguished panel of judges (including the well-known, contem porary big-band leader Stan Kenton and author S.I. Hayakawa). After months of deliberation, the winner was announced— CREWCUT. The winner collected her $1,000 first prize from the magazine and defended her entry as “simply the exact opposite of the slang name for ‘classical’ music—‘Longhair’.” Other winning selections were Amerimusic, Jarb, Syncope, Improphony, and Ragtibop. The results were announced in the magazine, but this surprising statement was added: “The judges were unanimous in the opinion, shared by the editors of Down Beat, that none of the hundreds of words submitted is adequate as a substitute for Jazz.”9

Whatever the true story is about the derivation of this uniquely American word, the music and the word quickly gained recognition worldwide. One can fully experience jazz only by exploring how it is unique, how it can be described and identified, and how to evaluate and appreciate its forms and variety.

Before reading the following section, visit the website to listen to the collage recording that traces approximately 80 years of recorded jazz. Make note of how different each excerpt is from the others, and make a list of the similar and distinctly different features. Repeat this exercise once you have read the following section.


Jazz is a direct result of West African influences on European-derived music styles and popular American music. Since its beginnings at the turn of the 19th to 20th centuries, it has shown an ability to absorb aspects of other music styles and transform them into something entirely new and different. Jazz is, therefore, both a noun and a verb, as it is a way of interpreting music. In true West African tradition, jazz is shaped by the performers’ individual musical gestures and spontaneous variations. It is a music in which the performers assume the most prominent role and bear the greatest responsibility. It features certain instruments and special effects that are synonymous with the style. Many of these instrumental affectations may have been an effort to emulate the flexibility and expressiveness of the human voice. These instrumental effects alter and color the sound in unusual ways and exerted an impact on 20th century “classical” music. Although jazz is closely associated with certain instruments, any instrument can be used to imply


the style. A wide range of instrumentalists and/or singers can present jazz, from solo performers to large orchestras. Self-proclaimed inventor of jazz Jelly Roll Morton advocated that almost any kind of music could sound like jazz, as jazz is a way of playing and interpreting music in an individualistic and spontaneous way.

Emerging in the first decades of the 1900s as an unpolished folk music, jazz reflected diverse influences. Among them are the blues, marching bands, polkas, field hollers and work songs, religious music, ragtime, and, of course, West African, Latin, and Afro-Cuban music, with an emphasis on individualistic expression through improvisation. Spontaneity, rhythmic complexity, and a close association with dance are other characteristics shared by African music and jazz. Jazz has been a chameleon even since the beginning, absorbing and reflecting the musical influences present in America at the turn of the century.

Although jazz is a distinctive style, recognizable worldwide, it has been difficult to define and has confounded many critics and historians. The difficulty of defining jazz is exacerbated because it remains in a constant state of change, influenced by popular culture, advancements in technology, and the musicians’ own desire for change and self-improvement. Therefore, like the music itself, there is no absolute set of criteria for defining it. Nonetheless, different combinations of certain traits can always be found in jazz music. Jazz is a rhythmically vibrant and complex music that often includes a rhythm section (piano, bass, and drums). It is this rhythm section that eventually inspires other popular American music styles such as R & B, blues, and various rock styles. The rhythms of jazz are richly complex, creating an element of tension. Rhythm is not the sole source of this tension, for it is also found in the sometimes-dissonant harmonies and complex improvisations associated with jazz.

Some definitions of jazz assert that swing, a certain rhythmic phenomenon, and improvisation are two absolute criteria for authentic jazz. Although these can be important features, they are not entirely unique to jazz, nor are they required for the music to be considered jazz. Much contemporary jazz post-1970 does not swing in the same way jazz was played in the 1940s. Music in a jazz style may not contain much improvisation, but can still be identified as jazz. On the other hand, some non-jazz may contain jazz characteristics. For example, does jazz saxophonist Phil Woods’s improvised solo on Billy Joel’s pop hit “Just the Way You Are” make it jazz? It is not uncommon to hear improvisation in many pop and rock performances.


Jazz singer Joe Williams


Jazz has become a truly eclectic music, embracing musical styles from around the world and transforming them into a uniquely American form of artistic expression that frequently requires the performer to improvise. The blues, in itself an individualistic and spontaneous form of expression, remains an important component of jazz and a significant contribution by black Americans. Black performers have been the primary developers of jazz and blues, although some white performers and composers contributed significantly to advancing the music and to developing it as a viable commercial product. At the dawn of the 21st century, jazz can easily be considered one of the most significant musical accomplishments of the previous century and one that shows promise for continued advancement.

In conclusion, the following elements and features characterize all jazz styles:

1. Jazz evolved in the US at the dawn of the 20th century by absorbing characteristics from African music, blues, ragtime, marching bands, polkas, field hollers and work songs, religious music, Afro-Cuban and Latin music, and American folk music.

2. Jazz is an ever-changing style of music with multiple substyles and is significantly influenced by an evolving popular culture.

3. African-American performers have been the principal innovators throughout the history of jazz.

4. Jazz is a way of performing that places emphasis on interpretation, improvisation, and individualistic expression, in the African tradition.

5. It is usually the performer who is most important to a jazz performance, not the composer. 6. Although jazz began as a folk music and became an important form of music associated with

entertainment, it gradually matured to become art music, to be taken as seriously as classical music.

7. Until rock ’n’ roll attracted younger Americans’ attention, jazz had been the soundtrack for American life.

8. Rhythmic complexity, inspired by a rhythm section of piano, bass and drums, and sometimes guitar, is a predominant feature of jazz, including the special swing feel attributed to some styles.

9. Some instruments, such as the saxophone, guitar, drum set, and mutes used to color the sound of brass instruments, originated with jazz.

10. Jazz is the most unique and indigenous American art form.

The subsection “Characterizing Jazz,” found in the corresponding chapter of the companion website, provides an excellent supplement to this section and includes excerpts of interviews with many prominent performers. These artists offer their own insights into what makes this music so special. Note: All terms in bold are defined in the glossary included in Appendix I of this book and on the website.


Jazz is a music that developed in America at the dawn of the 20th century. Many styles of music and music-making that influenced the beginnings of jazz reflect the melting pot that is America. This mix includes elements from both European and African music. A product of these diverse influences, jazz is a music containing a great variety of substyles, from early ragtime and blues-influenced jazz to free jazz and rock-influenced fusion.

Succinctly defining the word “jazz,” considering its many substyles and the fact that jazz is constantly changing, is challenging. Origins of the word itself are also murky, with no single

explanation substantiated. A change in approach to improvisation is one of the most important factors in the development of the various styles of jazz, and yet examples of jazz containing little or no improvisation exist. At one time, jazz was played exclusively in a swing feel. Approaches to playing swing evolved with each new style of jazz, and, because jazz continues to evolve and adapt, embracing music styles from around the world, jazz is no longer played exclusively in a swing feel. Certain instruments and performance techniques have become associated with jazz, which can be played or sung by any number of performers. Individuality, spontaneity, and the importance of the performer instead of the composer have always been at the core of jazz.

What can be unequivocally stated about jazz is that it was pioneered primarily by black Americans, is often improvised, is rhythmically driven, and combines European, African, American, and, sometimes, Afro-Latin elements. Further, jazz continually evolves as it is influenced by technology, current events, different cultures, and music from throughout the world.


1. What are some of the theories regarding the origins and derivation of the word “jazz”?

2. Name some of the identifying or salient characteristics of jazz, regardless of substyle.

3. Jazz was the result of what primary non-European or American influence?

4. What other styles of music, European or American, were factors in the formation of early jazz styles?

5. Is the composer or performer more important to the jazz style?


The World Saxophone Quartet performing in 1992

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6. Music from what continents or regions influenced the formation of jazz?

7. Can any piece of music that was not conceived as jazz be played in a jazz style? Explain your answer.

8. An aspect of rhythmic interpretation that is unique to jazz is called ________.

9. Define the term “Creole”.

10. What style, born in America, is undoubtedly the most important African-American contribution to jazz?

11. What are the instruments or instrument groupings that are unique to jazz?


C H A P T E R 2

The Elements of Jazz Jazz did not exist until the 20th century. It has elements that were not present either in Europe or in Africa before this century. And at any of its stages it represents . . . a relationship among rhythm, harmony, and melody that did not exist before.1

—Martin Williams

“Mother of the Blues” Ma Rainey on sheet- music cover

Ha ppy Birth day To You Ha ppy Birth day To You

Ha ppy Birth day Dear Su san.................... Ha ppy Birth

day To You....................

EXAMPLE 2.1 Graphic representation of “Happy Birthday”

Jazz can be examined and discussed in the same ways that apply to any style of music. All music is discussed in terms of rhythm, melody, harmony, form, and texture.


Rhythm is accomplished through varying lengths of notes, combined with space, all in relationship to a steady pulse. Some notes in a melody last longer than others, and some move more quickly. So, duration is an expression of rhythm and time. Without rhythm, music has no sense of motion, and melodies would be monotonous and boring. It is the rhythm of music that propels it forward and ensures that it is not static. Without using complex musical notation, consider the graphic symbols in Example 2.1 that illustrates the familiar tune “Happy Birthday.” Some notes are lower or higher in pitch (vertical scale), some are louder than others (indicated by darker images), and some are shorter or longer in duration (horizontal scale), indicating rhythm. Silence, or rests, seems to separate some of these notes. Sing the familiar tune to yourself as you move through the graphic from left to right.

Jazz, since its uncomplicated beginnings as a folk music, has evolved to become a complex and sophisticated music. Despite the many influences and changes that jazz has experienced over a century of development, and its uniqueness when compared with other music styles, jazz shares ingredients common to all forms of music.


Although brief discussions of musical terms important to your understanding of jazz are provided throughout this chapter, you should refer to the website in order to more fully understand these concepts. The section entitled the “Elements of Jazz” provides audio demonstrations and more in-depth explanations of these terms and concepts.


Meter and Tempo

Meter defines the number of primary beats, or pulses, in each measure of music, and is the organization of rhythms. Measure (or bar) is a unit that serves as a container, holding a specific number of beats as defined by the meter. A waltz emphasizes a triple meter (1–2–3), where each measure has three beats, and a march features a duple meter (1–2), with two beats per measure.

Poetry has rhythm and meter. Sonnets, rhymes, and limericks all project rhythm and meter. Think of measures as inch marks on a ruler. In 4/4 meter, each beat would be represented by 1⁄4-inch marks, as there are four quarters to each inch. The 1⁄4-inch subdivision can be further divided into smaller increments, as is the case with music note values. To continue this analogy, how fast or slowly we move across a tape measure or yardstick, progressing from one inch to the next, is a measure of the tempo. Tempo, another concept important to the understanding of how music works, is an expression of pace or speed at which the music moves. It could also be compared to the pace of someone walking or running. Some songs seem to have no regular tempo, moving slowly and described as rubato.

It is safe to say that jazz performers and composers were content for decades to deal largely with music in duple meter—primarily 2/4 and 4/4 meters. For example, most ragtime piano music was written in 2/4 meter, and nearly all the instrumental jazz literature that followed well into the 1940s was in common time or 4/4 meter. Jazz musicians were most concerned during the first three decades of the formative years with honing skills as improvisers. Attention was focused on developing performance technique. It was not until the 1950s that jazz artists began to venture outside the safe confines of duple meters. Jazz waltzes were not popular until the 1950s and 1960s.

Old-style mechanical metronome


Listen to all or a portion of the following tracks, which serve as excellent examples of different meters. “Take Five,” for example, is in 5/4 meter. Compare “Take Five” with “Every Tub,” “Summertime,” “Pent Up House” written in the more common 4/4 meter, or “La Fiesta,” played in a fast 3/4 time. Also think about their differing tempos.

Symphony orchestras and bands have conductors to control the pace of the music—jazz ensembles have rhythm sections. There is flexibility in terms of tempo associated with a “classical” music ensemble performance. In larger ensembles such as symphony orchestras, the conductor controls the tempo. In smaller ensembles, the performers control the tempo and must work carefully together to adjust the tempo or risk a poor, disorganized performance. The rate of the steady pulse, or tempo, in a jazz or pop/rock group is consistent and generally maintained throughout the piece by the rhythm section, which is comprised of piano, bass, drums, and often guitar. Within this group of instruments, there is likely to exist a hierarchy of time-keeping responsibilities that may be somewhat dependent on the particular style of jazz. The other musicians in the ensemble must then strive to rhythmically coexist within this tempo. At times, performers in a jazz band may seem to rush or drag behind the rhythm section’s steady pulse, but it is frequently by choice, not by error. The dragging sensation is described as laying back and is often associated with the sound of a particular band and helps to define its style.

The subject of rhythm as it relates to jazz is a thorny one that has provoked debate for many years. Attempts to define the special rhythmic qualities of jazz have sometimes ended in poetic metaphors and metaphysical phrases in attempts to make feelings and individual interpretations tangible. The very existence of a group of instruments described as the “rhythm section” points to the importance of this basic musical element to the jazz style. What other music ensemble, other than in related popular music styles that share similar roots with jazz (rock, R & B, pop), includes a group of instruments known as the “rhythm section”? The emphasis on steady rhythm is a distinguishing feature of this music, and, aside from the spontaneously improvised aspect of jazz, its unique rhythmic features are among the most important characteristics establishing jazz as a truly original style.

Listen to all or a portion of the following tracks from the online audio anthology, which serve as excellent examples of different tempos. Wynton Marsalis’ “Delfeayo’s Dilemma” presents the illusion of several different tempos. “Intuition” seems to have no set tempo, while “Poem for Brass” takes some time before a steady tempo is established. Compare these tracks with the slow, but steady, tempo of “Moon Dreams.”

Rhythmic Devices Important to Jazz

The rhythmic terms syncopation and swing are synonymous with jazz. Syncopation occurs when a rhythm appears on a weak, normally un-emphasized portion of a beat (when your foot moves up), interacting with a regularly occurring rhythm or major beat emphasis (when your foot pats down). The rhythm that is normally un-emphasized becomes accented and creates a syncopation or tension.

A polyrhythm results when two or more different rhythms are played simultaneously, layered one on top of the other. One fundamental rhythm usually serves as the foundation, and other layers are added. The examples that follow clarify these two important concepts.

Much has been said about the predominance of syncopation in jazz, its importance in contributing to the unique nature of jazz rhythms, and the relationship to African music. To quote Gunther Schuller, from his book Early Jazz:

By transforming his natural gift for against-the-beat accentuation into syncopation, the Negro was able to accomplish three things: he reconfirmed the supremacy of rhythm in the hierarchy of musical elements; he found a way of retaining the “democratization” of rhythmic impulses [meaning that any portion of a beat could have equal emphasis]; and by combining these two features with his need to conceive all rhythms as rhythmicized melodies, he maintained a basic, internally self-propelling momentum in his music.2

Schuller is also defining to some degree what swing is. It is this form of propulsion or forward momentum that we feel when something “swings.”

Listen to the following track, which offers excellent examples of complex rhythms happening simultaneously and syncopations. The opening section of Keith Jarrett’s “The Windup” (0:00–0:39) juxtaposes a regular rhythm played by one hand with improvised, syncopated rhythms that work against the regular rhythm and are played by the other hand. Listen to the “Bamaaya,” the African music track in the online audio anthology, to hear complex polyrhythms played by the drummers.


1 & 2 & 3 & 4 & 1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &

EXAMPLE 2.2 Illustration of a simple syncopation in measure 1 that results from handclaps on off beats that create a tension between major beats represented by the foot tapping a steady pulse. By the second beat of the second measure, the handclaps are lined up precisely with the foot tapping on beats 2, 3, and 4, hence no syncopation and no tension

1 & 2 & 3 & 1 & 2 & 3 &

EXAMPLE 2.3 Using similar graphics, the following example illustrates a simple polyrhythm. In this case, the foot taps indicate a 3/4 meter and fundamental rhythm. The hand-clapping introduces a new rhythm in opposition to the foot tapping. If the foot tapping suddenly stops, the continuing handclaps give the illusion of 2/4 meter. The combined result when both are executed simultaneously is a polyrhythm


Audio clips illustrating all of these terms used to describe various aspects of rhythm can be found in the corresponding chapter of the website. Here you can explore the subsection about rhythm.

Swing as an Aspect of Jazz Rhythm

Have you ever tried to explain how a food tastes to someone? It is almost impossible to truly appreciate the flavor of a particular food without actually tasting it. That same analogy is true for describing “swing.” It is certainly one of the most difficult characteristics to define when discussing jazz rhythm. Musicians and analysts alike have struggled to respond to the frequently posed question—what is swing? Big-band leader Count Basie, when asked to define swing, said things such as, “pat your foot” or “tap your toe.”3 Jazz pioneer Louis Armstrong is reputed to have said, “If you have to ask, you’ll never know.”4 Big-band Swing Era trumpeter Jonah Jones may have come closest when he implied that it was a feeling.5 Duke Ellington defined swing as, “the un-mechanical but hard driving and fluid rhythm over which soloists improvise.”6 None of these responses, however, provides a precise, more scientific explanation of the rhythmic phenomenon that began to be described in the 1920s as “swing.”

André Hodeir, author of the important 1956 publication Jazz: Its Evolution and Essence, said that: “jazz consists essentially of an inseparable but extremely variable mixture of relaxation and tension,”7 and that the “feelings of tension and relaxation coexist at the same moment.”8 In other words, some performers are playing things on the beat, while others are simultaneously playing syncopated accents on other portions of the beat. The combined result is a forward momentum we describe as swing, and there can be many subtle variations of swing—as many variations as there are players. Swing can be compared to skipping. When we skip, we divide our even pace unevenly, which is a characteristic of swinging in jazz. We make an otherwise even-paced walk uneven; we make it skip, even though we may get from point A to point B in the same amount of time as it would have taken had we walked with an even pace (tempo).

A sound byte is worth 1,000 words in helping to define swing. Listen to The Count Basie Band play “Every Tub.” This great band set the standard for swing, and the Basie rhythm section illustrates this concept at 0:32–0:55. You may be intrigued enough to listen to the entire track.


Melody is the result of an organization of notes that move by varying distances—by step and leap—either ascending or descending, to form a musical statement. Melody is thought of as moving in a linear, horizontal fashion. A complete musical idea or statement is often termed a phrase. The term phrase can refer to a melodic, harmonic, or rhythmic statement. Short melodic phrases are strung together to create entire tunes.

The Count Basie recording of “Every Tub” on the companion website provides an excellent example of a musical phrase. Listen to 2:02–2:17 in this track to hear the repetitive melodic phrase played by the saxophones, with brass accompaniment.

Melody is by far the easiest ingredient to understand. Melodies can stand alone, be coupled with other melodies, or be sung/played with accompaniment. Melody is the aspect of most musical styles usually remembered more easily than harmony or even rhythm. A melody is often easy to recognize and remember because it may consist of only a few notes. Most listeners identify a lyric with a melody and hear them as one ingredient. Lyrics even help to clarify the overall form or architecture of a piece. Instrumental jazz is perhaps less easily grasped because it lacks a lyric


to help listeners keep track of the various twists and turns of the melody. Remove the lyrics of a tune, and many listeners lose their way. The memorable melody of a show or pop tune that serves as the basis for an instrumental jazz treatment can become altered beyond easy recognition, as instrumentalists are not bound by lyrics. These show and pop tunes from the 1930s and 1940s were used in jazz improvisations. As jazz matured, performers discarded popular dance and show tunes from their repertoire, and the new, original jazz melodies became less easily recognized and more difficult to follow and remember.

A piano keyboard is grouped into repeating sets of 12 different white and black notes, with each group of 12 defining an octave. A melody can begin on any of the 12 different notes. Singers often practice a song in different keys, dictating they begin on a different note, until they find the one that they feel most suits the mood of the tune and best accommodates their own voice range. Have you ever tried unsuccessfully to sing the “Star Spangled Banner” or a church hymn, struggling to make the highest or lowest note? You struggled because the tune was in the wrong key for you, forcing you to start on the wrong first note. This musical key falls into one of two categories that define a tonality, usually major or minor. The major or minor tonality helps to describe the aural character of a piece of music, a melody or a single harmony. Harmony and melody work together to establish a tonality. Atonal describes a piece that lacks any specific tonality and is therefore neither major nor minor. Only some very contemporary, avant-garde jazz music lacks tonality. A song may have more than one tonality, depending upon its complexity. Tonality could be compared to a painting where many colors may be used, but one seems dominant.

Most of the music presented in the online audio anthology is considered tonal and is in either a major or minor key. Duke Ellington’s “Ko-Ko,” for example, is in a minor key. Bill Evans’s version of “Witchcraft” is an example of major key or tonality. The Ornette Coleman track “Mind and Time,” however, is a good example of atonal improvisation, as Coleman pays no real regard to key, harmony, or prescribed melody. Begin your listening either at the beginning to listen first to the composed tune or at the start of his solo at 0:23.

Go to the website section entitled “Performance Practice” found under “Listening to Jazz.” Good audio examples of homophony and polyphony can also be found as the first two excerpts on the second page of the subsection labeled, “Dissecting a Jazz Performance.”

C# D# F# G# A# C# (black keys)

D# F#


G#A# etc.

D E F G A B C etc.

EXAMPLE 2.4 Two-octave C scale. Raised half-steps in between each scale note (black keys) are labeled above as sharps


EXAMPLE 2.5 Chord symbols in a typical progression that jazz musicians must learn to interpret


Harmony is a collection of two or more notes played together and, in contrast to melody, is viewed as a vertical event, as notes are stacked one on top of another and sounded simultaneously. Chords are similarly defined. The most basic of chords is the three-note triad. Harmony is typically used to accompany a melody. A succession of chords is called a chord progression, or just progression. The harmonic rhythm defines the pace at which chords move from one to another in a progression. Most jazz tunes feature a progression of chords that creates tension followed by resolution. This practice, known as functional harmony, is based on the notion that there are certain tendencies that lead one chord logically to another. This practice serves as the basis for a high percentage of jazz tunes and American popular music. We may feel unsettled when a chord progression does not follow this principle and seems to be unresolved.

The sense of key, or center of tonal gravity, is established by the tendencies of functional harmony and helps jazz players to create logical improvisations—melodies that relate back to this center of gravity. Jazz tunes often feature only one or two key centers, depending on how many uniquely different sections there are to the tune. It is essential that jazz improvisers are thoroughly conversant in functional harmony, as it is these principles that guide the soloist to create new melodies. The best soloists can identify the chords in a progression by hearing them, without the aid of printed music.

The harmonic language of jazz is largely borrowed from light classical, popular dance, religious, and various forms of entertainment music. Aside from the blues, the earliest forms of jazz were based on marches, cakewalks, quadrilles, and polkas—all dance forms popular in the 19th century.

For a more detailed explanation of melody and keys, along with musical examples, use the website and explore the section on melody found in the corresponding chapter “Elements of Jazz.”

Use the website to gain more insight into how harmony is constructed and functions. The section about “Harmony” is found in the corresponding chapter and includes many examples that can be played, helping you to understand these concepts.

Eventually, jazz adopted a more sophisticated harmonic vocabulary, including other altered tones that were not uncommon in 20th century “classical” music by composers such as Stravinsky, Debussy, and Bartók. Chords become richer and denser as more tones are added, often creating tension.

On the website, listen to the lush, slow moving but changing harmonies (chord progression) used to support the melody of “Moon Dreams” from Miles Davis’s Birth of the Cool recording. Listen to the entire track or just the opening section at 0:00–0:25.


Music can be perceived as a mosaic or fabric where melodies and harmonies interact and intertwine, serving as the tiles or fibers in the completed work. The ways in which each musical tile or fiber interacts with one another—melody with harmony, or several melodies with one another— contribute to what is described as the music’s texture. Texture can be dense or sparse, busy or static—transparent or dark and rich. These textures are further described as monophonic, homophonic, or polyphonic. Monophonic describes a single melodic line unaccompanied by harmony—for example, you singing by yourself in the shower. Music is homophonic when a melody line is supported by chord accompaniment. Homophonic textures are therefore denser than monophonic ones, because they have two layers—melody and chord accompaniment. Polyphonic music features two or more intertwined melodic lines. The different melodic lines are


EXAMPLE 2.6 Visualization of monophonic texture. The light, horizontal, wavy line represents the melodic shape of a solo singer. There are no other layers present in this single-dimensional texture

EXAMPLE 2.7 Visualization of homophonic texture. The wavy, horizontal line represents the melodic shape of a solo singer. The vertical bars represent chords, with darker shades indicating major chords, and lighter shades representing minor chords

EXAMPLE 2.8 Visualization of polyphony. The light, horizontal, wavy lines represent the melodic shape of a solo singer and a second melodic voice complementing the primary vocal melody below it. The vertical bars represent chords, with darker shades indicating major chords, and lighter shades representing minor chords. Black dots represent a rising and falling bass line in counterpoint with the melody line. The entire texture, with multiple layers of activity, is described as polyphonic


said to be moving in counterpoint (literally, note against note) to one another. If you sang “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” as a round with staggered entrances, your friend beginning after you started, the resulting texture would be called polyphonic. The addition of chords, adding another layer to the texture, could also accompany the overlapping melodies in this round. Textures with a greater number of elements become increasingly challenging for the listener.

Excellent examples of these textural concepts can be heard on the companion website. For example, “Line For Lyons” offers an excellent example of polyphony or counterpoint at 0:00–0:45. Keith Jarrett’s unaccompanied solo in “The Windup,” beginning at 1:55–2:30, serves to further describe a monophonic texture, and “Take Five,” beginning at 0:22, provides a good illustration of a homophony. More dense textures can be heard in J.J. Johnson’s “Poem For Brass” excerpt.

Using Example 2.1, “Happy Birthday,” you can see and hear illustrations of many concepts discussed to this point. For example, the melody continues to ascend in the first three phrases. The melody begins to descend in the third phrase. The melody, which constantly changes direction, is constructed of close steps and wider leaps. Where is the climax reached, at least in terms of the highest note? How many phrases comprise this familiar tune? If you sang it by your self, unaccompanied, the texture would be described as monophonic. If you were accompanied by piano chords, the texture would be described as homophonic. If, after singing it once, you began again on a different starting pitch, you would be changing the key. If another person improvised another melodic line with you, they would be adding counterpoint, creating polyphony.


Form in music describes its overall architecture—how many different melodies are there? Do they repeat, and if so how many times? Are sections repeated exactly or with variation? Form gives music structure similar to the organization we find in other art forms, in nature, everyday life and in architecture (suspension bridge, building, etc.). It is an important musical ingredient to comprehend in order to understand what you hear. Although form, on the surface, may seem to be the easiest element to understand, without the benefit of lyrics and a singer it may be difficult for the untrained listener to discern.

Most jazz compositions have more than one clearly defined section. A letter—A, B, C, etc. —defines each large section in the overall form. Each of these sections usually features a distinctly different melody and accompanying chord progression. For example, ragtime pieces are often based on the following formal scheme: AABBACCDD. This form is derived from the rondo form, a European “classical” model also evident in the march and the polka. The rondo describes a form where one section (A) reoccurs and is juxtaposed with contrasting sections (B, C, D). The consecutive letters in such a scheme (AA or BB) indicate that there is a repeat of that particular theme before the move on to a new one. Often, a piece that follows this model changes key at the C section.

Listen to the recording of Scott Joplin’s “Maple Leaf Rag” on the companion website. It is close to resembling a rondo form, with multiple themes and changing keys. Can you determine when each new theme is introduced?

Many American popular songs that served as springboards for jazz improvisations followed the song form model, usually represented by ABA or AABA. One statement of the form is often called a chorus. The return to A to end the form gives one a sense of symmetry and finality. Each section (A and B) is typically 8 measures in length. Jazz musicians often refer to the B section as the bridge or channel. The blues is the simplest of all forms, as it is usually only 12 measures long, lacking a B or C theme.

Once again, “Take Five” on the companion website offers a good example of the classic song form—ABA. Each section of the form is divided up into two, 4-measure phrases. Following a brief introduction by the rhythm section, the A section begins at 0:22, with the second phrase occurring at 0:30 through repeat of the first. The first phrase of the B section begins at 0:38, with the second phrase following at 0:45. The A section returns at 0:52, and the second phrase occurs at 1:00. The improvised solo begins at 1:08.

The Billie Holiday rendition of “Body and Soul” and Stan Getz’s recording of “Só Danço Samba,” also included on the website, provide additional examples of AABA song-form structure that is easy to follow because of the lyric content. Can you identify the bridge in these two vocal pieces?

“James and Wes” is a good illustration of a 12-bar instrumental blues based on a repetitive melody and simple form.



Extemporaneous playing; spontaneous composition; creating music on the spur of the moment. These are simple phrases to describe the act of improvising. People now think of jazz at the mere mention of the term improvisation, although there are often improvised solos in pop tunes, and improvisation is often a component of Indian and other world music. Descriptions of jazz from almost any era agree that improvisation is a salient feature. Jazz historian Ostransky stated that, in jazz, “reading music is considered a lesser accomplishment than improvising it.”9 Discussing the importance of improvisation to jazz, noted jazz scholar James Lincoln Collier wrote that, “it is always the soloist that is written about, always the solo that is analyzed.”10 Earlier writings about jazz portrayed improvisation as a mysterious or divine process, adding to the music’s mystique. Recently, more thoughtful discussions have helped understanding of the true process behind this unique form of creativity. As improvisation is an important feature of jazz, the intelligent listener needs to learn about its nature in order to develop skills for identifying and appreciating it.

Something Borrowed—The European Tradition

An early tradition of improvised music is found in medieval chants and in music from the Renaissance (c.1450–1600) and Baroque (c.1600–1750) periods. Composers were expected to deviate from the original melodies, as did Baroque composer Georg Philipp Telemann when he composed the Methodical Sonatas. He provided the basic melody on one line and, on another line, suggestions for improvisations not terribly different than those used by modern jazz soloist Charlie Parker.11 In 1765, violinist and composer Karel von Dittersdorf wrote that: “A new custom developed . . . To show their improvisational creativity they [the soloists] start fantasias in which they play a simple subject which they then very artfully vary several times according to the best rules of composition.”12 Baroque composers J.S. Bach and G.F. Handel also included passages where improvisation was invited, and this practice continued until the beginning of the Romantic period (c.1820–1900). Although a fine improviser, Ludwig van Beethoven, an extraordinary composer from this period, began a new trend away from this improvisation. The increasing complexity of the music, the growth of music publishing businesses, and the increasing number

The section about form found in the corresponding chapter on the website provides a thorough explanation of form in music, with examples drawn from the jazz repertoire.



EXAMPLE 2.9 Lowered third, fifth and seventh (E flat, G flat, B flat) are called “blue notes” and are shaded in the following keyboard example

of amateur musicians caused “classical” composers such as Beethoven to seek more control over their compositions. Franz Liszt, another composer and improviser, summed up this new trend by saying, “the most absolute respect for the masterpieces of the great masters has replaced the need for novelty and individuality.”13 More attention was paid to interpretation of the musical composition as written, and, by the late 1800s, the role of improvisation was diminishing in European music. However, at the same time, in the United States new styles of music were emerging that once again placed a high value on spontaneity and individuality.

Something New, Something Blue—The Jazz Tradition

The roots of American jazz can be compared to any folk tradition—impromptu, spontaneous, and simplistic. These characteristics, as well as rhythm, lyric, and melody, were of utmost importance in early vocal styles. Perhaps the closest thing to true improvisation in the late 1800s and early 1900s in America could be found in African-American vocal styles such as work songs and field hollers improvised by slaves and chain-gang workers, and especially in the blues. This vocal style featured blue notes, slightly altered tones where a special inflection was given to the third and seventh scale tones by lowering the pitch slightly. Instrumentalists later imitated this blues vocal style.


A distinguishing aspect of many jazz melodies, improvised and composed, is the blues. Blues melodies are based on alterations of a traditional scale. Some believe that the altered thirds, fifths, and sevenths of the blues scale can be attributed to certain African singing practices. A scale is a logical progression of ascending and descending notes, arranged in half- and whole-step intervals. The piano keyboard shown in Example 2.9 makes it easy to see these two basic intervals, which serve as building blocks for all scales. Note names are labeled. The distance from C to D is a whole-step interval, and the black key in between represents a half-step interval. Scales are comprised of eight consecutive notes, following a particular key signature, and are named in accordance with the starting note. On this keyboard, the C scale would be played as C–D–E–F–G–A–B–C. The third, fifth and seventh notes of this traditional scale are altered to form the blues scale, as shown in the example. The purple- shaded notes indicate the lowered third (E flat), lowered fifth (G flat), and lowered seventh (B flat) and are referred to as blue notes. There are gradations of blue notes, as singers and instrumentalists are capable of being less precise than a pianist when lowering these pitches.

The blues scale is almost an amalgamation of pitches from the major and minor tonalities. Leroy Ostransky, author of Understanding Jazz, felt that, “early jazz players probably saw little distinction between major and minor modes [scales] and used major and minor thirds interchangeably.”14 Whatever the origins, these slightly flatted pitches (third, fifth, and seventh scale degrees) became known as blue notes and are responsible for much of the special melodic and harmonic character in jazz that distinguishes it from other forms of music. Blue notes often


help to communicate a melancholy feeling. Blues songs are sometimes associated with a depressed, downtrodden, or melancholy mood. The use of blue notes does not always, however, achieve this feeling, nor are these alterations always used to create this “blue” mood. They are merely one way to make a melodic line more personalized and expressive.

Some historians believe that the blues may have evolved as a result of African slaves attempting to reconcile their predominant five-note pentatonic scale with the Western eight-note scale and harmony they found in the US.

Gertrude “Ma” Rainey (1886–1939) and her Georgia Jazz Band, Chicago, 1923

The most unique aspect of jazz harmony for many years was introduced through the application of blue notes to chords. Those altered tones that we identify with a blues melody were eventually incorporated into the harmonies to form more colorful and dissonant chords, beyond the simple three-note triad.

The similarity between blues and pentatonic scales is illustrated by an audio example found on the website in the corresponding chapter.

Go to the corresponding section of the website (Chapter 2) and you will find audio examples further helping you to hear what the blues sounds like. The online audio anthology includes examples of blues from two different periods of jazz history—“St. Louis Blues” and “Jimmy and Wes.”


Improvisation in Jazz

As a whole, the earliest jazz instrumentalists were not known for their ability to improvise new solos each time they performed. Typically, these early musicians performed a piece nearly the same way each time, once their approach to a particular song had been refined. Their playing was largely a theme and variation style in which a melody was merely embel lished and ornamented in new ways. Thematic variation is the simplest form of improvisation and is probably what Alphonse Picou (1878–1961), a New Orleans clarinetist, referred to when he described this early form of jazz as a “style of playing without notes.”15

The study of the development of early instrumental jazz is difficult because, during this era, the music could be preserved only in a written format, or passed on aurally. No audible artifact remained for study, as recording technology had not yet been invented. As each jazz performance is an interpretation of a composition, the printed page could not totally capture the live performance and its unwritten subtleties. However, after the turn of the 20th century, jazz became perhaps the first music to be greatly influenced by the advent of sound recording, for it directly paralleled the growth of jazz. (See the brief history of recording included on the website.) Recordings provided lasting aural artifacts that faithfully reproduced the live performance other musicians could now be influenced by and could imitate. Recordings were also responsible for the very rapid changes in jazz, compared with the slower pace in previous musical history, where one style was popular for decades before a significant change occurred. Recordings, though, became both an asset and a disadvantage. On one hand, they quickly spread the music and were models for younger musicians trying to learn through imitation. On the other hand, musicians with a popular record now found that the public often wanted to hear live performances exactly

Photo of a jazz band in a radio studio, broadcasting, circa mid to late 1920s

as they remembered the record ing. The pressures of popularity, customer satisfaction, and marketing could then discourage improvisation.

As jazz matured, largely through the work of Louis Armstrong in the mid 1920s, the concept and importance of improvisation solidified. There are many levels of improvisation at work within the hierarchy of a jazz ensemble. For example, drummers and bassists probably improvise the greatest percentage of the time, though often what they play is not new to them. They rely on familiar patterns that they have played many times. There is no precise duplication, however, and what they improvise often depends on the style of the tune, the tempo, and, of course, with whom they are playing. The amount of improvisational content in a particular performance is dependent, to a great extent, on the size of the ensemble and the intent of the music. Larger ensembles usually mean a lesser amount of improvisation, whereas small ensembles, such as trios and quartets, rely a great deal more on improvisation. Jazz aimed at a dance audience usually features less improvisation, because the music assumes a more subservient role.

Improvisation inspires a musical dialogue between the soloist and rhythm section, each complementing the other, while suggesting new ideas for elaboration as the improvisation evolves. Many performers have described the jazz solo as a story with a beginning, middle, and end. To tell a good story, there are characters; in musical situations, memorable melodic phrases serve the role of characters and are often repeated with some variation to provide continuity to an improvisation. The performer’s duty is to take the listener on a journey. The more listeners are led to predict musical outcomes in this journey, the more engaged they are in the performance. But, if they can predict too much, they become bored and unchallenged. Listeners can easily tune out when a high percentage of what they hear is unpredictable or previously unexperienced.

Jazz soloists are faced with creating spontaneous, new melodies; however, they must adhere to certain guidelines. With each new style of jazz came new and often more chal lenging principles to which the soloist must adhere in order to gain the respect of peers and audiences while advancing the art form to a new level. Jazz players have learned about music theory and have developed the ability to hear harmonies. Each improvised solo, usually referred to as a chorus, should build as the musical story unfolds. The notes chosen must relate to the same progression of chords used to accompany the original melody. The only thing written out in the music for the soloist (and rhythm-section players) is a series of symbols that represent these chord structures. This form of abbreviated chord notation is shown in Example 2.10. It is the result of years of dedicated practice and inspiration that enables a jazz soloist, given only this simple, cryptic chart of information, to construct a moving, engaging, and coherent improvised solo.

To ensure that their improvisations are consonant with these harmonies, soloists use certain tools, such as scales and modes that relate to harmonies (chords), to help them negotiate a pro - gression of chords in order to construct new, melodic improvisations. Soloists also use the notes of the chords themselves in order to improvise new melodies. It is a difficult process, as choices must be made on the fly. To allow the creative side of the brain time to recover from being spontaneous and consider what to play next, soloists often rely on “licks,” or pre-learned patterns and phrases. These phrases, used throughout an improvised solo, often refer to the tradition, as they may be quotes of melodies played by another soloist years earlier. Even the great improviser


EXAMPLE 2.10 Typical jazz chord progression illustrated by symbols

Charlie Parker, in a bebop improvisation, quoted a Louis Armstrong solo recorded many years earlier. These quotes and memorized phrases can be strung together in many different ways to create new material. Phrases borrowed from the tradition could be compared to the many ways that we can express an idea in words. For example, take a phrase such as “The new-fallen snow is beautiful.” This simple idea could be expressed and embellished in many different ways. One could have said, “The new snow that fell last night is beautiful,” or “New snow like we got last night is really beautiful.” These multiple means of expression are exactly what jazz players employ when they use a pre-learned phrase and put it to use in an improvised solo. In using a pre-learned phrase, the soloist creates the illusion of pure spontaneity for the listener. Although the sequences of pre-learned ideas are assembled and reassembled in new ways from performance to performance, many of the memorized ideas can be repeated. Ostransky wrote about this phenomenon in his book The Anatomy of Jazz. He said, “They [jazz improvisers] do not compose on the spur of the moment; their significant improvisations are the result of long practice and experience.”16

Through years of listening, borrowing, assimilating, analyzing, and imitating, soloists amass a collection of jazz phrases that suit their individual style and can be recalled at any time in the course of a solo. In other words, soloists play what they enjoy playing. Therefore, not everything played during a jazz solo is spontaneously created. These solos, more frequently than not, are based on a series of recreations—bits and pieces of pre-learned material coupled with newly created ideas to form fresh, new improvisations. In the fall of 1958, the then well-known swing band leader/composer Duke Ellington traveled to England for a tour with his orchestra. He expressed his thoughts and feelings about jazz improvisation in an article entitled, “The Future of Jazz” included in the souvenir program. In this article he said:

There are still a few die-hards who believe there is such a thing as unadulterated improvisation without preparation or anticipation. It is my belief that there has never been anybody who has blown even two bars worth listening to who doesn’t have some idea about what he was going to play, before he started. If you just ramble through the scales or play around the chords, that’s nothing more than musical exercise. Improvisation really consists of picking out a device here, and connecting it with a device there; changing the rhythm here, and pausing there; there has to be some thought preceding each phrase, otherwise it is meaningless.17

Other forms of quotes used by jazz soloists include humorous ones, such as “Here Comes the Bride” (from the opera Lohengrin by Richard Wagner), which almost everyone knows, and melodies from other standard tunes that fit the particular chord progression. Quotes of this nature sometimes serve as homage to earlier players and a display of machismo, demonstrating to fellow musicians and informed listeners how much is known about the tradition. The player’s ultimate objective is to have an effective dialogue with the other musicians, while creating exciting new ideas and incorporating appropriate aspects of the tradition. To quote contemporary trumpeter Tom Harrell, “He improves on his heritage, but he also tries to invent music that has never been heard before.”18 Only the greatest soloists, the true virtuosos on their instruments, are capable of spontaneously creating a high percentage of completely new material each time they improvise. The most innovative improvisers in the history of jazz were those who dared to break from tradition and forge new pathways that relied less on what had come before.

What most jazz players strive for is to find the “zone,” which they describe as a mental state in which complete relaxation and intense concentration coexist. The late, great jazz pianist Bill Evans described his creative process to author and historian Dan Morganstern in a 1964 Down Beat magazine interview by saying that, “Everybody has to learn certain things, but when you play, the intellectual process no longer has anything to do with it . . . I am relying on intuition



then. I have no idea of what is coming next.”19 Evans is describing the “zone” that so many jazz players have referred to and strive each night to attain.

With each style, a new improvisational language is developed. A new vocabulary is created initially by the innovators, and then further developed by the followers. Each style borrows from the vocabulary of a previous style(s), although it is inappropriate to use solely the improvisational vocabulary from one era on tunes from an entirely different style period. In other words, the improvised bebop style, which came about in the mid 1940s, is inappropriate to use in an authentic rendition of a Dixieland style tune from the 1920s, because bebop is too advanced, using devices not found in traditional Dixieland. The language of jazz improvisation is in continual evolution, always borrowing devices from previous generations.

Jazz players tend to copy and borrow from exceptional innovators. The great jazz soloists, such as Louis Armstrong, Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie and John Coltrane, each created a new vocabulary and are still copied, years after their deaths. Nevertheless, there is a downside to learning from models, for originality can be sacrificed. The great Swing Era tenor saxophonist Lester Young spoke out in Down Beat magazine about the problem of “copy cats” in his 1949 interview with Pat Harris, entitled “Pres Talks About Himself, Copycats.” Young told Harris,

The trouble with most musicians today is that they are copycats. Of course you have to start out playing like someone else. You have a model or a teacher, and you learn all that he can show you. But then you start playing for yourself. Show them that you’re an individual. And I can count those who are doing that today on the fingers of one hand.20

The problem of authenticity, originality, and re-creation through imitation in improvisation has been hotly debated, and each jazz improviser must evaluate how important it is to reflect the tradition when playing jazz and how much is too much. Pianist McCoy Tyner, in a clinic for college students, suggested that: “you should become proficient at taking chances,”21 [rather than spending too much time copying other players, as that often only ends in losing your personal identity].

It will be important, as you listen to examples of the various styles of jazz presented throughout the remainder of this book, to relate what you hear and read to the musical concepts presented in this chapter. You will find that the instrumental roles and performance practices change, and the application of musical concepts may also vary from style to style, helping to identify, define, and clarify each stylistic change, while making them uniquely different by comparison.


Jazz, like all music, can be broken down into the basic elements of rhythm, melody, harmony, texture, and form. Of these elements, rhythm is significant in setting jazz apart from other styles of music. Included under the heading of rhythm are syncopation, meter, and swing. Swing refers both to a specific jazz style period and to a way of performing music. Jazz groups most often perform at steady tempos set by a rhythm section rather than by a conductor. The way in which the rhythm section plays and interacts has changed with each specific style of jazz. Tempo describes how quickly the music is played.

After reading this section, you should read and play the examples included in the sections on “Melody” and “Harmony” found in the corresponding chapter on the website. A tutorial about improvisation can also be found here.


Harmony is represented by chords. Harmony supports, and is the basis for, composed and improvised melodies. Harmonies can be sophisticated or more basic, such as many examples of the early folk and jazz repertoire.

Texture describes the density of a piece of music. Texture is further defined as monophonic, homophonic, or polyphonic.

Form in music refers to its architectural construction. A piece of music may be constructed out of multiple themes, with sections that serve as transitions, introductions, and endings.

Improvisation is simultaneous composition and performance and is an important element of jazz. Although in no way exclusive to jazz, improvisation is a key ingredient of jazz. Many feel that some level of improvised content needs to be present for music to be considered jazz. Similar to the evolution of rhythm-section styles, approaches to improvisation have changed throughout the history of jazz. Early jazz performers often did little more than ornament the previously stated melody in their improvisations, whereas performers of other jazz styles may create an entirely new idea based on the same chord structure as the melody. In some styles of jazz, it may be difficult to differentiate a melody statement from an improvised solo.

The improviser creates new melodies using only chord symbols as a basic guide to the harmony of a tune. Although one might get the impression that the performer is creating entirely new music on the spot, typically, jazz musicians often create solos by interspersing countless short figures/phrases that they have played before with new, improvised material. In listening to alternate takes of recordings done by some of the great jazz masters, one often finds, not only similarities in the solos, but sometimes identical figures occurring at the same place in the form of the tune as other recordings of the artist playing that same tune. Specific figures/phrases are often closely associated with an artist, acting as a musical signature. In most styles of jazz, improvised solos follow the same form and harmony as the melody statement. Listeners can hum the melody to themselves during an improvised solo in order to keep track of the form.

The blues is undoubtedly the most important African-American contribution to the formation of American music. Inspired in part by certain African musical practices, blues inflections are both melodic and harmonic innovations associated with jazz.

Technology has had a profound effect on the development of jazz. As much of the evolution of jazz has centered on changes in approach to improvisation, the technology to record and preserve performances provided models from which new ideas could spring. Technology has also enabled longer and longer recordings of this highly improvised music.


Most important terms emboldened.

Atonal Blue notes Blues Blues scale Bridge (or channel) Chord Chord progression

(progression) Counterpoint Form Functional harmony

Harmonic rhythm Harmony Homophonic Improvisation Key Laying back Major Measure (bar) Melody Meter Minor

Monophonic Octave Phrase Polyphony

(polyphonic) Polyrhythm

(polyrhythmic) Rhythm Rhythm section Rondo Rubato

Scale Song form Swing Syncopation Tempo Texture Tonality Triad


1. What is meant by syncopation?

2. Can you explain tempo and rubato?

3. The specific unit that serves as a container holding a specific number of beats defined by the meter is called a ________.

4. What does meter tell us?

5. What is the difference between a melody and a phrase, or is there any difference?

6. Discuss what is the significance of blues to jazz?

7. What three terms can be used in discussing the texture of a piece of music?

8. Tonality is described as ________, ________, or ________.

9. What section of the band has the responsibility of maintaining a regular pulse?

10. A group of chords is called a ________.

11. A logical progression of ascending and descending notes in whole and half-steps is called a ________.

12. In general, what is meant by functional harmony?

13. What are the most common forms used in jazz?

14. Is improvisation unique to jazz? Explain your answer.

15. Discuss the improvisational tradition in jazz.

16. In the standard song form, what term is used to describe the middle section?


Make sure that you also review material in the corresponding chapter of the website.

C H A P T E R 3

Listening to Jazz To appreciate music the listener must be actively involved. Passive listening to music does not bring about intelligent musical enjoyment, but active listening, which includes understanding and active participation with emotional responses, can foster musical enjoyment.1

Jazz musicians performing in a nightclub


People often listen passively to music because they are bombarded daily by all kinds of it in so many different environments (doctor’s office, elevator, supermarket, coffee shop, mall). Conse - quently, they become nearly oblivious to it. This book and its accompanying website are designed to enhance your ability to be a more active listener by increasing your level of appreciation and understanding of jazz, without detracting from the enjoyment of casually listening to music.

Everyone is entitled to their own opinion about music, but, in order to have a valid opinion, it is wise to have criteria to consider while listening to and evaluating a performance. Learn to

be an observant member of the audience, know what to listen to and look for, and your experience will be substantially enhanced.

As jazz is considered an art form where so much is left to the personal interpretation of the performer and arranger, an overview of the techniques employed to personalize their performance is significant to our study of jazz.

The Instruments of Jazz

Different styles of music are often associated closely with certain instruments. We frequently can make an educated guess about the style of music that a band plays by merely looking at the band. We see a violin and we think of classical music, and a saxophone reminds us of jazz. Any instrument is capable of being played in a jazz style; however, the established tradition has drawn associations to certain instruments such as the saxophone and the drum set. Neither of these instruments is typically found in symphony orchestras. On the other hand, violins, cellos, violas, bassoons, oboes, and harps are rarely heard playing in a jazz style. When we see a group that consists of a three- or four-piece rhythm section, a saxophone, and a trumpet, it is very safe to assume that the music they play is associated in some way with jazz.

Some instruments have fallen out of favor in terms of their use in jazz. For example, the tuba, a hold over from brass bands, was commonplace in jazz ensembles well into the early 1930s, but is rarely used by more contemporary jazz groups. The clarinet was a very prominent instrument especially during the early jazz periods. Sidney Bechet first made the soprano sax popular in the 1920s. Instruments such as the drum set went through radical changes, stimulated both by technological advancements and by the musicians themselves. The guitar, which eventually became amplified, is a good example of how technology has had a direct impact on the music and performance practices.

The instruments associated with jazz are considered members of the brass, woodwind, percussion, and string instrument families. Members of the brass family include the cornet, trumpet, flugelhorn, trombone, tuba, and French horn. Only the cornet, trumpet, flugelhorn, and trombone are common to jazz. Brass players often use mutes in the jazz setting. Many different kinds of mute were actually first made popular by jazz players and later adopted by modern “classical” composers. The woodwind family consists of the flute, clarinet, oboe, saxophone, and bassoon. Those woodwinds most common to jazz are the saxophone, clarinet, and flute. The bass is a member of the string family, and, of course, the drum set and various Latin instruments are con sidered members of the percussion family. The piano was actually once considered a member of the percussion family, along with the pitched, keyboard percussion instruments such as the vibraphone and marimba. With the advent of electronic organs and modern synthesizers, the piano and its relatives might now best be associated with the keyboard family.

The Drum Set and Swing

Drummers, who serve to motivate the swing feel, have incorporated aspects of the African drum ensemble. These ensembles are comprised of many drummers, all playing different rhythms on different percussive instruments. The single jazz drummer on his drum set (also known as a “kit”) is able to incorporate the rhythms played by many African drummers into one cohesive style. The fundamental or ground rhythm is maintained by the hi-hat cymbals (also known as the sock cymbal, played by a foot pedal) played on off beats 2 and 4, and sometimes by the bass drum that often defines each beat of the measure (1–2–3–4). The ride cymbal, typically played with the right-hand stick, also helps to keep steady time. The left hand is free to embellish this fundamental pulse and is expected to apply shifting accents on the other drums and cymbals as


the steady time flow is maintained by the hi-hat, ride cymbal, and bass drum. Done properly, the jazz drummer’s one-man drum ensemble produces a swinging pulse of subtle, ever-changing tensions and relaxations created by the interactions of irregular patterns played by the hands and regular patterns played by the feet. Bear in mind, too, that the bass generally maintains the steady, predictable pulse of a tempo by playing notes on each beat of the measure (1–2–3–4). To quote Count Basie’s long-time guitarist Freddie Green, in an interview with Stanley Dance, “the rhythm section is the foundation of it [swing]. If the rhythm section isn’t swinging, then you can forget about it. If it isn’t clicking, moving together . . .”2 Jazz bassist Gene Ramey suggested that the rhythm section was the motor that propelled the band.

The swing ride cymbal rhythm, which gradually evolved as an additional means of providing a regular pulse, is as impossible to notate precisely as are many African rhythms. Many West African characteristics are evident in the shifting ride cymbal rhythm, which resembles the skipping analogy presented in Chapter 2. The ride cymbal is used to create a smooth, connected flow of skipping attacks that help to propel the music forward. Only recently have computer hardware and software enabled scientific studies to determine the true mathematical subdivision of each beat in various swing jazz styles. Suffice it to say here that, in a swing phrase, notes played on downbeats are lengthened and upbeats are shortened and accented slightly as they occur as anticipations of upcoming major beats or downbeats, much like the habanera rhythm. The exercise that follows will give you the sensation of swinging by emphasizing the second half of every other beat (2 and 4) with the “ga” syllable. Try using the syllables in Example 3.1 to verbally imitate the feeling of swing. The example represents 2 measures that can be repeated multiple times.

If a piece of music is described to musicians as a particular jazz style, then they will play it in the appropriate style, even though the proper jazz interpretation cannot be accurately notated.


The typical jazz drum set

Musicians must learn how to interpret music in the jazz style. Much has been said about the oral and aural traditions that are important to the very existence of various folk-music styles, and these same traditions have had a significant impact on the formation of jazz styles. It is not possible to swing if one has never heard it and learned first to duplicate it through imitation. In this way, jazz is very different than traditional Western European classical music. One of the primary reasons why “swing” has been so difficult to define is that jazz performance practices have changed significantly about every 10 years since the beginning of instrumental jazz in the early 20th century. The music has continued to swing as styles changed, but the actual interpretation of swing has changed. Swing means different things to different people, but the rhythmic spirit of jazz characterized by the swing phenomenon is identifiable in all of its numerous styles.


1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4

Ding Ding-ga Ding Ding-ga Ding Ding-ga Ding Ding-ga

EXAMPLE 3.1 Swing ride cymbal pattern

If you haven’t already done so, examine the section in Chapter 2 on swing on the website. It can be found in the section about rhythm. The website also provides further detail about the drum set, including video clips that are found in the Performance Practice section of Chapter 3.

Orchestration and Instrumentation

Orchestration refers to which instruments are used to play the music. Orchestration, or instru- menta tion, can, and usually does, vary throughout a piece of music. Orchestration can contribute originality to a composition. A single composition can be rendered with many different orchestra - tions, although it is most often associated with the one originally conceived by the composer and/or arranger.

Compare the orchestration of tracks included in the online audio anthology: “Summertime,” arranged by Gil Evans, Stan Kenton’s “La Suerte de los Tontos,” or Charles Mingus’s “Boogie Stop Shuffle.” The differences should be striking.

The Arrangement

Although performers tend to occupy the most prominent position in jazz, the arrangers (who oftentimes are also the performers) also serve an all-important function. The arrangement refers to the way a group of musicians presents a particular piece of music when compared with the original model. The arrangement is considered an adaptation of the original. As much of the jazz repertoire during the first 50 years was based on popular songs of the day, adaptations were required to suit the needs of the jazz performer. These adaptations were, and continue to be, important in providing a unique identity for the performer or band. The “arrangement” is unique to jazz

Tap a steady tempo with your foot and imagine the irregular punches and jabs of a boxer intermingled with this steady pulse. The exercise helps to portray the approach of the more modern drummer. Listen and watch the drummer on “Video Blues” found on the website to hear and see a good example of this style particularly during trumpet and saxophone solos.

and American popular music. Although there are examples of arrangements in classical music, they are of much less significance to the history and development of the music.

As there is no standard instrumentation for jazz bands, and they can range in size from duos to large ensembles consisting of 16 or more musicians, it is necessary to organize the presenta - tion of a song according to the specific instrumentation available. Arranging a song for a quartet or quintet is a simple task compared with arranging for a big band with five saxophones, ten brass and four rhythm instruments. Arrangers often add newly composed introductions, interludes, and endings to provide a fresh, new approach to the song they are arranging. There are many examples of arrangers who have changed the meter, the style, the tempo, and overall mood of a piece, transforming it into something entirely different than the original model. Arrangers also might embellish or alter the original chord progression (reharmonization), providing a more sophisticated version than the original. In some cases, these more complex reharmonizations provide more interesting challenges for the improvising soloist. Arrangers also develop a unique musical identity by the way in which they combine instruments and use brass mutes. Although the possibilities may not be endless, there are numerous instrumental combinations available to the arranger.

Excellent examples demonstrating the concept of arranging in jazz can be found in the online audio anthology. Search on YouTube for a jazz standard such as “All the Things You Are” and you will be astounded at the number of vastly different arrangements there are. Make a list of those versions you like best, citing specific similarities and differences between them. The online audio anthology also includes three versions of “Body and Soul.” These versions are uniquely different. The vocal rendition by Billie Holiday is fairly true to the original, both harmonically and melodically. The Coleman Hawkins version, however, departs so radically from the original composition that it is barely recognizable. Esperanza Spalding’s version is based on a different meter (5/4 rather than the traditional 4/4), and sections are added between each major section of the form (AABA).

Instrumental Techniques and Special Effects

Wind instrumentalists are influenced by a swinging rhythm section and vary their attacks, articulations, phrasing, and placement of accents in relation to the rhythm section’s performance. Articulation refers to the way in which a note is attacked or initiated by the performer. It can be played harshly and with accent or without accent, or made short or long. A series of notes can be played smoothly and in a very connected, lyrical manner, or can be very separated. The way in which a melody is phrased can be compared to the way in which we read a sentence aloud, placing accents, slight emphasis, and so forth on particular words. Unlike “classical” musicians, jazz musicians are less bound by convention, and interpretive characteristics can vary drastically from player to player. By comparison, performance techniques such as articulation, phrasing, and accents are usually dictated to the “classical” musician by the composer and conductor and are played with near uniformity and precision.

It is difficult (if not impossible) for the instrumentalist or vocalist to swing if the rhythm section isn’t swinging. It is the interplay between the horn players and the rhythm section that has created the essence of the jazz feel. Many agree that the first modern concept of swing was actually formulated, not by a rhythm player, but by a wind instrumentalist. Trumpeter and vocalist Louis Armstrong was, for many reasons, the first great jazz musician who, among his many achievements, established a clear concept of swing rhythmic interpretation.



Special Effects—The Sounds of Jazz

Special instrumental techniques are associated with jazz and help musicians to establish a personal identity on their instrument. The saxophone, the trumpet, and the trombone are capable of a wide range of special effects associated with jazz performance practice. In many cases, new words were created to describe the sound of these unusual and unorthodox techniques, such as:

• fall-off • doit • shake • bend • scoop • gliss • growl • half-valve • sub-tone.

Even though you may not read music, the graphics in Example 3.2 should help to provide a visual definition of these special jazz performance effects.

EXAMPLE 3.2 Visual notations of special effects associated with jazz

Brass instruments with valves can produce a choked, squeezed sound where no precise pitch is clear. This effect is described as the “half-valve,” and soloists make use of this effect during their improvisations (trumpeter Lee Morgan does this on “Moanin’,” included in the online audio anthology). Saxophonists and brass players can also superimpose a guttural throat “growl” on a tone. Any number of mutes can be added to brass instruments and in combination with any of these special effects. It is possible for saxophonists to play high notes beyond the normal upper range limit of their instrument. These are called “altissimo” notes and are capable of being produced on any member of this instrument family. They are difficult to play with control and finesse. The saxophonist can achieve a dark, subtle, wispy tone quality in the lower register by using a special technique called “sub-tone.” Tenor saxophonists typically apply sub-tone in the lower range of this instrument, and it is a technique often used in ballads.

The best way to become acquainted with the instrumental sounds of jazz is to explore the “Instrumentation” and “Performance Practice” sections in the corresponding chapter on the website. Pictures and sound files of the instruments and mutes commonly found in jazz ensembles can be found in this section. A sound byte is worth a thousand words!

Gliss or slideShakeBendDropScoopDoitFall Off


There are common features in all jazz performances, and it can be helpful to review some aspects of the typical jazz performance, and the sequence in which they occur. Keep the following outline handy while listening to the music included in the online audio anthology. Many jazz performances adhere to the following scheme:

• introduction—often 4, 8, or 16 bars long (sometimes there is no introduction); • tune statement—blues (12 bars), extended blues (16 or 24 bars), or song form (AABA, ABA,

AAB); • improvised solo(s)—usually adhering to the form of the piece, although sometimes abbreviated; • interlude—interludes are sometimes used to link solos and are composed sections; often there

is no interlude, only additional solos; • shout chorus—newly composed material featuring the entire ensemble; this section is common

in big band arrangements but often not found in small-group jazz performances; • a return to the tune; • ending—sometimes referred to as coda (musical term for ending) or tag.

“Take Five” or “Pent Up House,” included on the audio anthology, provides a fine example of this classic small-group presentation formula.

There can be many exceptions to this scheme; however, a high percentage of performances follow this general model. Exceptions sometimes occur when the ensemble features a singer. Then, some tunes actually begin with a section identified as the “verse.” This section is often played rubato and features a lyric that establishes the story line or context for the main body of the vocal tune that follows. This section is sometimes referred to as the chorus or refrain. In jazz “lingo,” chorus also means one complete statement of the song’s chord progression and formal scheme. This latter definition of the word represents how it is used throughout this book. It is usually the melody and lyric of the vocal refrain that we remember, and frequently the verse is omitted. Following the vocal, there is often a series of improvised solos, either by the singer, instrumentalists, or both. The singer may scat during the solo. Scat singing refers to the nonsense syllables used while improvising a melody vocally. Jazz trumpeter and singer Louis Armstrong popularized scat singing when he recorded “Heebie Jeebies” in 1926. Soloists may not improvise on the entire form, improvising only on the A section of a multi-theme song. The vocalist frequently returns at the B section, following an improvised solo on the A section. Solo sections may also include trading 4- or 8-bar phrases between soloists.

Big-band performances often include more than one shout chorus section separating im- provised solos. This section is equivalent to the development section of a symphonic work and features the entire ensemble on newly composed material based on the tune’s chord pro- gression. These sections are often based on the chord progression of the original tune. There may be a section that features the saxophone, trombone, or trumpet section, described as a soli. In this case, a new melody is composed in an improvised style and then harmonized, so that each member of the section is playing a different note, while rhythmically following the lead melodic voice.


Watch the Video Blues movie provided in the corresponding chapter on the website and see if this presentation follows the prescribed format in the preceding outline.

The following guidelines will help while listening to the recordings required for this class. Don’t try to answer all of the following questions in just one listening.

1. Because music is not stationary, memory is an essential factor in listening to it. Learn to remember what has been presented before. For example, if a short phrase is played, how many times is it repeated or slightly altered? Which instruments play the phrase? Is the phrase always played exactly the same? Is the phrase varied slightly or radically when it is repeated?

2. Are you focusing your attention on large musical ideas such as the main themes or soloists? This may sound like a simple task, but it can be difficult. Listening requires your complete attention and concentration.

3. Try to identify something new about a recording each time you listen to it. Taking notes on what you hear often helps you to remember more about the music.

4. Ask yourself the following questions: What size is the ensemble? Can you pick out the various instruments and identify their specific roles? Are there any unusual instruments heard not normally associated with jazz? Are typical jazz instruments used, but in unusual roles?

5. Pay particular attention to the soloists and what instruments they play. If brass instruments are used (trumpets, trombones, French horns, tuba), do they use mutes? Can you tell what kind?

6. What meter is the piece in (usually 4/4 or 3/4)? 7. As you become more acquainted with the various styles, how would you characterize the

piece, or does the piece feature more than one style? 8. Is the tempo fast, slow, or moderate, or does the tempo change? Perhaps there is no strict

tempo, and the tune is performed rubato. 9. What dynamic shadings—loud, soft, crescendos, diminuendos—add drama?

10. Can you describe the form of the piece? In what order do things occur? Is there an introduction before the initial statement of the melody? Is the melody clearly segmented— AABA? Are the soloists separated by some kind of ensemble section?

11. Does the piece invoke any particular non-musical impression or emotional response? Does it remind you of a place, a person, a situation, a mood, or other non-musical occurrence?

12. Does the quality of the recording say something about the technology used in the recording process and therefore help to approximately date the recording?

13. Can you distinguish the improvised sections from the composed sections of the piece? 14. Does the rhythm section create a spirited, buoyant, propulsive feel, giving the music a sense

of forward motion? 15. Does the music “swing” in the traditional rhythmic sense? 16. Do the soloists make use of those characteristic sounds associated with jazz, i.e., bends, scoops,

rips, growls, varying vibrato, extreme high registers or ranges, mutes, and other such devices used by wind players to “color” the sound and provide drama? Which instrumentalists used which of these devices?

17. Did the soloist gradually build the solo, as one would develop a story, or did the solo lack any apparent continuity, pacing, or structure?

18. Do the soloists seem to demonstrate mastery of their instrument? In what ways listed below do the soloists demonstrate their prowess?

• through display of technique (ability to play notes reasonably fast); • by using the instrument’s full range; • by projecting a pleasing tone quality; • by projecting an overall quality that fits the mood of the piece.



If necessary, review the sections about the instruments, in the corresponding chapter on the companion website, and about form, found in Chapter 2—“The Elements of Music in Jazz.”


When evaluating a live performance, consider the following issues, as well as the preceding questions:

1. Experienced performers use aspects of their performance and subtle gestures to communicate with each other and the audience, in the true spirit of the African participatory tradition. Ensemble communication is essential for a good performance and, above all, to support the soloists in constructing an effective solo. Do you sense good communication during the performance?

2. Does the audience applaud? Unlike the case for soloists in a classical piece, audiences typically applaud a good jazz soloist before the end of a piece. This practice probably stemmed from the informal places in which jazz was presented for many years before entering the concert hall.

3. Is the performance spirited and does it seem sincere? Are the players involved in the performance, and do they hold your attention?

4. Did the singer improvise in a scat vocal style? 5. Do the soloists project self-confidence?

Originality and spontaneity are very important to a good jazz performance, although sometimes difficult to recognize and evaluate. The improvised nature of jazz is one area that makes it radically different from most other forms of music. Classical musicians are expected to be flawless and consistent in their presentation of a piece from performance to performance. Jazz musicians, on the other hand, are evaluated on their ability to be consistently spontaneous, uniquely different, and original. The ability to play entirely new improvisations from one performance to the next is risky, but makes a jazz musician stand out from the crowd. To do something unique, unusual, or unpredictable is often the mark of an exceptional jazz performer.

Author and jazz pianist Ted Gioia, in his book The Imperfect Art, points out that jazz, if measured against classical music performance standards, is often flawed. In jazz, the emphasis is placed on individual creativity and spontaneity, and, as a result, it is not uncommon to detect slight imper - fections in a live performance. If the performers are really “going for it” and striving for an emotion- packed performance, mistakes can occur. The most polished performers, however, are skilled at masking mistakes in their improvisations, even turning them into creative ideas.3

The corresponding chapter on the website includes a number of examples to help you identify whether a performance is out of tune, rushes, drags, or is generally sloppy. These examples will help to further clarify these concepts and aid you in assessing the quality of a performance.


Video Blues

Look at the short movie entitled Video Blues found in the corresponding chapter on the website. The following outline will help guide you through this video and enable you, after one or two viewings, to answer the list of questions that follows. Don’t try to concentrate on identifying too many details on the first viewing. This video will help to clarify a number of standard jazz performance practices discussed in this chapter.

Video Blues, composed and arranged by Jack Cooper, is not a jam session played entirely by professionals. It represents a staged, instructional performance providing insight into many aspects of a jazz blues performance. This piece is a 12-bar blues arranged for three horns and a rhythm section. As you listen and watch, try to keep track of the 12-measure form that repeats throughout this video. To assist you in following the 12-bar blues form, conduct a simple 4/4 pattern (found on the website) or count silently as you tap your foot to the tempo: 1–2–3–4 2–2–3–4 3–2–3–4 4–2–3–4 5–2–3–4, etc.

• The first chorus serves as an introduction and acquaints us with the members of the rhythm section. This introduction lasts approximately 22 seconds.

• The horn section makes the first statement of the main theme, from 0.22 to approximately 0.44. Can you explain what happens during this first chorus?

• The second statement of the tune features the trombone in call and response style with the other horns. This section lasts from approximately 0.44 to 1:05.

• The third chorus begins at 1:05 and features an ensemble “break,” followed by a trumpet solo. This chorus ends at approximately 1:27.

• The fourth chorus, which begins at 1:27, features an improvised bass solo. The chorus ends at approximately 1:49.

• The alto sax is featured from approximately1:49 to 2:11. • A drum solo begins the next chorus at approximately 2:12. The drummer exchanges solos

in a dialogue with the piano. The chorus ends at approximately 2:33. • The final chorus features the entire ensemble and begins at approximately 2:34. A final short

ending, sometimes referred to as a “tag,” is added following this last chorus. This tag begins at approximately 2:51.

After viewing this video you should be able to answer the following questions about the music:

• Did the bass player use an electric or acoustic instrument? • What instruments accompanied the bass solo? • What did the other horns do during the alto sax solo? • Did the saxophonist play alto, tenor, or both? • When did the drummer switch from sticks to brushes, and why? • How many measures long was the ensemble “break?” • What kind of mute did the trumpet soloist use? • How many measures did the trumpet soloist play during the third chorus? • Did the bass player use a bow, arco style? • Was the guitar ever used as a single-line instrument as opposed to playing only chords? • How many choruses of the blues were played, and specifically what happened during each



You should be familiar with the following terms and their use throughout this performance:

• call and response • measure • unison • break • fill • comping • pizzicato • background figure • syncopation • trading fours • phrase • bar • shout chorus • kicks • fermata.

Once you have completed this chapter, you should have a much clearer understanding of how the various elements of music work together in a jazz context, and how musicians communicate in a performance, interpret the music, and construct jazz music. This newly acquired knowledge will serve you well as you progress through this book, listen to jazz recordings, and attend live performances.


In listening to jazz, it is very important to hone one’s active listening skills. We have become a society of passive listeners, whether it is the way in which background music influences our shopping and eating habits or even the need some feel to have music in the background while doing other tasks (such as studying). Active listening involves noticing different details of a recording (the bass, the ride cymbal, the piano, etc.) during numerous listenings of the performance, as opposed to attempting to absorb all of the details of the performance simply by listening to the composite sound (everything at once).

Although it is possible for any instrument to be used in a jazz setting, some instruments (such as saxophone, flugelhorn, and drum set) are often associated with jazz, whereas others (such as violin, bassoon, and French horn) are more commonly associated with a symphony orchestra. In jazz, the way an instrument is played is much more important than the specific instrument being played. It is common for jazz artists to use techniques often foreign to the classical tradition. This may include such devices as growls, smears, and falls.


Accents Arrangement Articulation Chorus (or refrain) Coda (tag) Ground rhythm Instrumentation

Kit Orchestration Phrased (or phrasing) Reharmonization Ride cymbal Riffs Scat

Shout chorus Soli Tag Trading fours


1. Name the instruments usually found in the jazz rhythm section.

2. What wind instrument commonly associated with jazz is rarely heard in a classical music context?

3. Name the woodwind instruments commonly associated with jazz.

4. Name the brass instruments.

5. What is an arrangement, and its significance to jazz?

6. Name some of the special effects associated with jazz playing, especially wind instrument performance practice, and discuss why these affectations are important to jazz as a style. Can you find some of these special effects in recordings found in the companion collection?

7. Discuss the typical architecture that defines many jazz performances. Use letters and short musical terms to express the form and shape.

8. Describe those factors that you would attribute to an excellent jazz performance or recording.

9. When a singer scats, what are they doing?

10. What is meant by swing?

11. Discuss the roles of the rhythm-section instruments.

12. What is meant by orchestration?


C H A P T E R 4

The Roots of Jazz If you play a recording of American Jazz for an African friend . . . he may say, as he sits fidgeting in his chair, “What are we supposed to do with this?” He is expressing the most fundamental aesthetic of African music: without participation there is no meaning . . . The music of Africa invites us to participate in the making of a community.1

—John Miller Chernoff

April 16, 1912: The front-page New York Times newspaper headline announces the sinking of The Titanic ocean liner


African slaves, brought to the US largely from the western shores of the continent, provided an indentured workforce for Southern plantations. This African influence provided the most essential catalyst for creating a new American music. Also landing in the US well before the 20th century were immigrants from throughout Europe, including Scots, Irish, English, French, Spaniards,

The Significance of African Music to Jazz

Jazz would not exist without the influences exerted by African-Americans on the music styles already existing in America. These musical influences can be seen and heard in nearly every aspect of jazz, including the rhythms, melodies, harmonies, and forms. As no recordings exist to document the process that led to the creation of early instrumental jazz, certain aspects of this process are, at best, sketchy. Conclusions about this process, however, can be drawn, based on what is known about African culture and early American music of the times.

African Musical Aesthetic

The African concept of art and music is vastly different from that of the Western world. There is no special word for art in many African languages. Rather, the making of art, be it visual or performance in nature, is part of the everyday life experience. It is functional and participatory. Music exists in African society to fulfill a specific function. For example, music played an important role in the African funeral service, a custom that migrated to New Orleans and was carried on by brass bands that played somber music as mourners made their way to the cemetery to commit the deceased to the hereafter. Following the burial, they picked up the tempo in celebration of the individual’s life on earth and freedom in death.

Contrary to Western musical practices, in Africa everyone is a participant. Although there are skilled professional musicians who supply music for special occasions in African life, there is always a sense of community participation. As a result of this attitude, the African is less apt to be inhibited or concerned about the ability to contribute to a performance. Music-making in Africa is a form of socialization and, therefore, goes far beyond the Western concept of per - formance, where strong boundaries are established between audience and performers. This same aesthetic is found in the work of the earliest jazz musicians, who broke from Western tradition and performance practices that dictated how music should be played. Not encumbered by Western practices, jazz musicians appear to be uninhibited performers, more concerned with engaging their audience. This is not to say that African music lacks tradition or organization, for in many ways the music that accompanies certain rituals and ceremonies is somewhat standardized and passed down from generation to generation through the practice of oral and aural traditions. It is an ensemble art, much like early New Orleans-style jazz, where each instrument had a specific,


Germans, and Eastern Europeans, as well as Cubans, Puerto Ricans, and Asians. Seeking their fortunes, new opportunities, and freedom, each of these populations contributed to the cultural stew. America is, therefore, an ethnically and culturally diverse country, making it no surprise that a new, native music would evolve, reflecting all this diversity.

It was important for transplanted African slaves to preserve some aspects of their cultural heritage, as, in many cases, entire families were broken up at the auction block. Husbands, wives, and children were often separated. Without the comfort and security of the family and village, the preservation of social, religious, and musical customs became even more important. By maintaining these traditions, the link to a homeland they would likely never again see would not be broken. The need to preserve these cultural and aesthetic ideals stimulated the development of a new music style. Jazz has become the most universally recognized original American art form as a by-product of this cultural milieu.


well-defined role. But, within the context of this role, whether in African music or jazz, there is often room for, and an expectation of, some personal interpretation.

Elements of African Music

Music in Africa is closely linked to dance and commonly associated with numerous ceremonies and rituals, both secular and sacred in nature. Rhythm and dance are, in fact, inseparable. Jazz existed during its first several decades as an accompaniment to dance. Of the three primary ingredients in all music, rhythm is clearly most predominant and important to the music of western Africa, the source of much of the U.S. slave trade. Complex polyrhythms are abundant in traditional West African music. They are implied through various combinations of simultaneously occurring rhythm patterns. All three rhythms in Example 4.1 can be played simultaneously to the same fundamental pulse or beat established by the top line, indicating foot tapping. Try tapping your foot and clapping the second line in a duple rhythm with your foot. Then try clapping the next two lines that outline triplet patterns against your foot.

1 & 2 &

1 & 2 &

1 & 2 & 1 & 2 &

Tri pa let Tri pa let

Tri pa let Tri pa let Tri pa let Tri pa let

EXAMPLE 4.1 The first line shows your foot tapping down and up, indicating 2 beats per measure. The second line adds handclaps that help to divide each beat in half, showing 1&2& 1&2&, corresponding to line 1. The third line adds handclaps to divide each measure of line 1 into triplets, or three pulses for every 2 foot taps. The last line shows handclaps dividing each beat in line 1 into groups of three, faster triplets than those in line 3


You can find an audio example further describing polyrhythm that results from the combination of these rhythms in the corresponding chapter on the website.

Listen to Track 1 of the online audio anthology to hear a good example of multilayered, poly rhythmic African drumming and the preponderance of layered rhythms in this music. One of these rhythmic layers usually outlines a repeated rhythm pattern that serves as the basic founda - tion upon which other, more intricate and sometimes improvised, rhythms are layered. Can you distinguish the different rhythmic layers?

A common ground pattern (fundamental, reoccurring rhythm pattern) in much African music is shown in Example 4.2. This same rhythm serves as the basis for many ragtime and early jazz instrumental pieces discussed later in this chapter.

1 & 2 & 3 & 4

EXAMPLE 4.2 African fundamental or ground pattern. Although many readers would likely not understand music notation, laymen can execute the following graphic representation of the pattern. The feet establish the pulse or basic beat, while the handclaps outline the specific ground rhythm pattern

Unlike much of the European-derived music found in early Americana (such as the march, cakewalk, and polka), which has well-defined, strong beats (1 and 3) and weak beats (2 and 4), African music tends to be more variable, with less predictable accents. Listen again to the African excerpt included as Track 1 of the online audio anthology.

If necessary, review the concepts presented in the “Elements of Jazz” section that discusses rhythm and meter on the companion website. Example 4.3 can be heard on the website in the corresponding section.

Melody occupies a more secondary role in the music of western Africa. African melodies are quite simple in comparison with jazz or most styles of Western music and, in fact, often consist of only a few pitches. This collection of pitches can be called a motive. Motives are often repeated many times throughout the course of an African song.

A significant architectural feature of much African music that influenced jazz is the call and response form. This scheme involves a solo voice or small group of singers and an opposing choir of voices and/or instrumentalists. The soloist or small group makes a musical statement that evokes a musical response from the larger group. The same question–answer or call–response pattern can be found in many compositions throughout the history of jazz. Numerous arrangements were

crafted for the big bands of the Swing Era, based on this simple scheme. The classic vocal blues style also resembles this same African model, as will be illustrated later in this chapter. The idea of soloists exchanging or trading improvised phrases, a concept also discussed in Chapter 2, stems from the call–response format.

The influences of African music were widespread by 1915 and, coupled with the vocal styles, blues, ragtime, brass bands, and early jazz, set the stage for a profound musical revolution in America, serving as an emblem of democracy while affecting music worldwide. All that was necessary now was a mechanism to disseminate the music on a large scale to listeners and future generations of musicians throughout the US and abroad.

There is actually not a great deal of improvisation in traditional African music, as the performers do not deviate radically from the primary melodic or rhythmic material. There is much repetition, both melodically and rhythmically in African music. This repetition can also be found in many jazz styles that feature recurring melodic fragments, bass patterns, chord progressions, and other musical devices. Variation, sometimes achieved through the process of improvisation, is common to African music performance practice, even though these variations may be subtle. By comparison, early jazz instrumentalists also varied their statement of a melody slightly from performance to performance. The early jazz performers actually improvised very little and were bound fairly closely by their ensemble role; but, as the music matured along with its practitioners, more emphasis was placed on creativity, spontaneity, and improvisation that departed radically from the basic theme.

African Music as a Means of Communication

Some African groups have been known to use music as a means of communication. They use drums, voices, and instruments to actually express words and ideas through music. A parallel can be seen in jazz, from the standpoint that instrumentalists attempt to develop a very personalized style on their instruments that is often vocally inspired. In the eyes of many jazz performers, the best- improvised solos tell a story or convey an emotion while communicating to the listener. This jazz performance practice stems from the African tradition of communicating through music.

The first track of the online audio anthology does much to support the descriptions you have read about African music performance practice. Listen to it and describe the various layers added to form the complex polyrhythmic texture. Listen to the call–response format and other characteristics that might be found later in jazz.


The influence of Afro-Latin and Caribbean music on jazz is also undeniable. From the very beginnings in New Orleans, music from the Caribbean and Latin America has had a profound effect on jazz, as well as on American popular and dance music. Anything less than in-depth discussions about the influence this music has had on jazz would dilute its importance to the evolution of this American music.


Important supplements to this chapter are found on the website. An introduction to the percussion instruments associated with Afro-Caribbean and Afro-Latin music is included there in the corresponding chapter. All of the musical examples found in this chapter can be played from the website and will help you to recognize these instruments and rhythmic concepts.


A great number of pioneers in the jazz field are black and sought, with their music, to explore the roots of their African heritage. Previous discussions have underscored the connections between jazz and African-derived rhythms. The link between American jazz musicians of color and Afro-Latin and Caribbean music is also close, as many black immigrants and African slaves landed in Latin America and the Caribbean islands. It is understandable that jazz musicians from any era would be sympathetic and susceptible to the improvised nature of Afro-Latin and Caribbean music, with its syncopation and rhythmic complexities. The quest for knowledge about the diverse origins of black music has led jazz musicians to discover and assimilate aspects of Afro-Latin and Afro-Caribbean music styles ever since the beginnings of jazz in the Mississippi Delta region and New York. For example, the rich tradition of improvisation found in Cuban music forms a common link with jazz. Much Afro-Latin and Caribbean music is a form of folklore—music of the people. This style of music is a language based on the spontaneous expression of emotions, much like that found in African music. The emotional content of a song, which is frequently emphasized and brought about by rhythms, is of utmost importance to this music. Even the earliest jazz styles demonstrate this same quality, as jazz is a rhythmically rich music that has often been judged less on accuracy, unlike classical-music standards, and more on spontaneity, individual creativity, and raw emotional content. Jazz, like much folk music, including blues, is often assessed as much on emotional content as on sheer musicianship or virtuosity. In other words, you can be a terrific blues musician without having to be a fabulous guitarist or singer by traditional standards. Several common elements, therefore, exist between jazz and Afro-Latin music, serving as additional bonds. Such common bonds as spontaneity, rhythmic drive and complexity, improvisation, and individuality all contribute to an emotionally charged music.

Different drum styles are central to, and help define, different styles of Afro-Caribbean music, just as they contribute to identifying numerous different jazz styles, exemplifying another common bond between jazz and Afro-Caribbean music.

In terms of European influences, it was Spanish culture that most influenced Caribbean music, largely because its political influence ranged over this entire area for decades. Spanish culture is not one dimensional, but the result of the influence of many external cultures that at one time moved through this powerful European nation. These external influences included Arabic, Gypsy, Nordic, Indian, and Judaic. For example, the flamenco dance style is accompanied by music that is permeated with melodies derived from Middle Eastern and Indian scales, featuring a singing style that sounds Arabic in nature. As the Spanish explorers conquered the New World, their hybrid music found yet a new sphere of influence in South America, Central America, and the Caribbean islands. Latin American, Cuban, and other Caribbean music, therefore, is the result of influences from Spain and Africa and, much like early jazz styles, this music from the Caribbean and Latin America is derived largely from dance forms.

Since the 1500s, Cuban music demonstrated traits of European and African styles. Just as African slaves exerted their influences on American culture, they also brought music, religious ritual, and other African cultural practices to Cuba. African slaves came to Cuba from many of the same areas of the continent that supplied the slave trade to the US, namely Nigeria, Congo, Dahomey, and the Sudan. Almost exclusively, African immigrants inhabited several regions in Cuba, so that it is logical that a new music would emerge, identified as Afro-Cuban. African slaves had an impact on reshaping native Cuban music, particularly the rhythmic aspects.

Cuba became a safe haven, not only for Africans but also for Haitians in the 1700s and 1800s. Near the turn of the century (1900s) many Haitians, Cubans, and Puerto Ricans immigrated to New York City, settling in the eastern portion of the city’s Harlem district. This area became known as “El Barrio,” as it still is today. This term translates as “neighborhood” and became


synonymous for Hispanic districts in cities throughout the US. Evidence of this influx of musicians to New York is obvious when one examines the personnel in James Reese Europe’s military and society bands from the early 1900s.

In the early 1800s, nearly 10,000 Haitian refugees immigrated to New Orleans, commingling with the city’s already culturally diverse population. Many Hispanic and Creole (French influenced) names appeared on the personnel rosters of bands active in New Orleans at the turn of the century. Louisiana was a melting pot of racial diversity, but, in 1894, new legislation changed racial codes, forcing Creoles to lose the social status they had once enjoyed. Consequently, the Creoles, who were a mix of French, Spanish, or black ethnicities, could no longer enjoy the educational and cultural benefits afforded them in the past as residents of the more upscale “downtown” area of the “Crescent City.” As author Gene Santoro points out, this forced Creoles to mingle with blacks, introducing yet another multicultural flavor to an already rich gumbo in New Orleans. Public celebrations, including street dances and parades, particularly those associated with the Mardi Gras celebration in New Orleans’ French Quarter, often featured Cuban- and Mexican- derived music and dance, or European music influenced by these non-European styles.2 It should be no surprise to hear the similarity between a second line drum rhythm pattern associated with New Orleans street bands and a Latin American or Caribbean dance rhythm, as both often show a kinship with the habanera.


Map tracing Christopher Columbus’s voyages, which resemble slave-trade routes


Drawing its heritage from African rhythms, the habanera is the basis for Caribbean rhythms and numerous Latin dance styles, including the merengue and conga. The habanera is also thought to be the forefather of the popular 1920s dance known as the Charleston.

Audio files that further clarify the similarity between the early New Orleans style and African- influenced Latin and Caribbean rhythms can be found in the corresponding chapter on the website.

1 2 3 4

EXAMPLE 4.3 The habanera rhythm is represented in 4/4 meter for convenience, although it is usually found in 2/4 meter. Try to coordinate your hands and feet in a steady tempo. The handclap emphasizes the habanera rhythm, while the feet establish a basic tempo

1 & 2 &

EXAMPLE 4.4 Notice the close resemblance between this Charleston rhythm (for which an excerpt is available on the website) and the habanera at the middle of the measure

This identical rhythm and similar variations can be found in countless ragtime compositions and other early jazz and American music styles. Notice that all of these brief examples show the natural accent that occurs through anticipation created in the middle of the measure. You don’t need to read music to see the resemblance between each of these examples. Each of these rhythmic examples presents a feeling of forward motion created by the anticipation of a major beat (the handclap in the middle of the bar). Anticipations of a major beat create a natural accent that helps to propel the music forward. Try tapping your foot in a regular tempo, while you clap your hands just before your foot comes down. If you clap consecutively in this manner, then syncopation occurs. The constant feeling of forward motion created by rhythmic anticipations (syncopations) played by one group, which collide with notes placed on the beat by other ensemble players, creates tension. It is this tension that provides the buoyant, swinging, bouncy feeling associated with jazz, usually referred to as “swing” and caused by syncopation.

Early Fusions

The first wave of popular Latin music to hit the US at a time when instrumental jazz was still in its infancy was the tango. The Christian establishment’s reaction to the 1914 tango craze in the US deserves some consideration. The tango was thought to be decadent and barbaric by members of the Christian establishment. Those who participated in this dance craze, and there were many, were accused of loose sexual morals and drug and alcohol abuse. This reaction was not terribly different from reactions to jazz musicians and their music during this same time

(for that matter, rock ’n’ roll was initially received with similar mixed reviews by the more puritan community). A certain kinship existed, then, between Latin musicians and jazz performers, as both groups were victims of similar social and moral criticism. Jazz had borne the brunt of similar allegations even in the black New Orleans press.

Evidence of African, Afro-Cuban, Afro-Latin, and Afro-Caribbean music could be heard in numerous forms of popular American music in the early years of the 1900s in the US. The dancing and improvisation, key components of Afro-Cuban folk music, merged well with early jazz, also driven by these same forces. The aforementioned Charleston dance rhythm, associated with the flappers of the 1920s, is derived from the Cuban habanera and African rhythms from Ghana.

The rhythm that serves as the heart and soul of nearly all Latin- or Afro-Cuban-based jazz or dance music is the clavé rhythm, closely related to the habanera and to African bell patterns. Although the clavé pattern can be played on any percussion instrument, the instrument named after this rhythm often plays it. The clavés are two round, highly polished, hardwood sticks. Other, different rhythms are layered on top of the basic clavé pattern, which serves as a stabilizing anchor to the syncopated, complex, polyrhythmic mosaic that resembles similar concepts found in the rhythms of African music. The clavé pattern is presented as a 2-measure phrase (in 4/4 meter) arranged in subgroupings of either 3–2 or 2–3. In other words, the first measure of the pattern implies one rhythmic grouping (3 or 2), and the second, the opposite grouping. The grouping that outlines 3 provides an element of tension when played against a steady 4/4 pulse, because of the upbeat syncopation following beat 2 and the implied meter subdivisions. Once the clavé pattern begins, it never stops or changes until the song ends, and everything else through - out the song must always conform to the clavé, constructed around it and played in relationship to it. The clavé pattern is closely related to the habanera and appears as a fundamental, unifying rhythm to most Latin-jazz and folk styles. The clavé patterns are illustrated in Example 4.5. The first line shows the 3–2 grouping, with the second line illustrating the implied rhythmic sub - divisions. The third line illustrates the 2–3 clavé grouping, and the bottom line shows the relationship of this rhythm to a rhythmic subdivision.


1 2 3 4

1 2 3 4

EXAMPLE 4.5 The clavé rhythm: The following illustrations are graphic representations of the 3–2 and 2–3 clavé patterns. The vertical line serves to delineate measures. You should try executing these rhythms with your hands and feet

There are many other similarities between dance rhythms that occur in Latin American and Caribbean folk music and rhythms found in jazz. Even the classic swing-style jazz drummer’s ride cymbal rhythm (ding dinga ding dinga ding, etc.) can be traced back to origins in Afro-Latin and Caribbean rhythms.


The website includes demonstrations of the clavé rhythm. The clavé, as well as examples of numerous other indigenous Latin or Afro-Caribbean percussion instruments, can also be found in the corresponding chapter on the website.


Some forms of African music promulgated in the US by slaves had a subtle impact on the formation of early jazz. For example, the performance of work songs and field hollers by slaves had little audience outside the plantations. Aside from the white overseers supervising the slave workforce, white listeners were likely unaware of such African-based music, unless they had an occasion to visit Congo Square in New Orleans (now known as Louis Armstrong Park). The square was a park-like place where blacks were permitted to congregate and participate in various ceremonies and rituals, both secular and sacred. Such gatherings often featured music and dance, improvisational in nature. Although it is true that the improvisatory nature of some of the work songs, designed

Slaves returning from the cotton fields in South Carolina, c.1860

to rhythmically mimic a work task and take one’s mind off the drudgery of indentured slavery, may have eventually exerted some influence on American music, the influences on early jazz and blues are not obvious or well documented through recordings.

Slaves had the most contact with whites and European-derived music through their partici - pation in religious-worship services, often sponsored, or at least encouraged, by their owners. Africans, who typically worshipped many gods, were comfortable with religious ceremony and ritual, and so they adapted easily to the Christian beliefs taught to them by their white masters. It was in this context that African musical influences were gradually exerted on traditional Christian hymns. Transformed, African-influenced religious songs eventually became know as spirituals, gospels, and jubilees. Spirituals were derived from white folk hymns and camp-meeting songs. They were often based on sacred themes or Bible scripture that illiterate slaves and whites attend- ing the worship services could not read. To involve the congregation, the preacher intoned, or lined out, one phrase of text at a time. The parishioners responded by singing the line back, using some familiar folk or religious hymn tune of the day as a basis. Once again, the call–response format already familiar to Africans was put to use in the lining-out of religious text using song. As the tunes were slow, the congregation often embellished the melodies, singing them as they had remembered them or been taught by their elders, and in their own personal styles, often resulting in harmony. The themes were based on ridding themselves of the devil and returning to the Promised Land. Spirituals typically feature long, sustained melodies and communicate sadness. “Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen” and “Swing Low Sweet Chariot” are well known examples of the spiritual, which is often associated with, and influenced by, the blues. Gospels and jubilees, on the other hand, tend to be quicker in tempo, more rhythmic, and generally more high-spirited, featuring hand-clapping and other forms of rhythmic and instrumental accompaniment. The gospel, which developed some years later as an offshoot of the spiritual, was intended to be sung in harmony and without accompaniment by instruments. Blacks and


Fisk Jubilee Singers


Listen to examples of Fisk University vocal groups singing “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot,” “Roll Jordan Roll,” and “Great Camp Meeting” on the “Experiencing Jazz Playlist” at the Library of Congress Jukebox.

whites practiced spiritual and gospel styles, and, therefore, both styles were influenced by African and European musical traditions. In both cases, the bending of pitches and other, similar blues inflections were evident. Gospels might feature lyrics that are more secular in nature, or might project a message that could be interpreted with religious or secular overtones. The jubilee was a high-spirited song of praise and celebration. Most of us have heard “When the Saints Go Marching In,” which is a fine example of what began as a jubilee, before being trans- formed into a widely performed New Orleans-style Dixieland instrumental piece. The Fisk Jubilee Singers, a product of Fisk University in the late 1800s, traveled widely, performing in these various vocal styles.

Mark Twain wrote to a friend in 1897 after hearing a performance by this group, saying: “I think that in the Jubilees and their songs, America has produced the perfect flower of the ages; and I wish it were a foreign product so she would worship it and lavish money on it and go properly crazy over it.”3 At this point, Americans still looked to Europe for inspiration, guidance, and approval when it came to the arts, and Twain seems to lament the fact that Americans could not yet appreciate the beauty and originality in their own, original product.


Considering all the early black vocal styles, it is safe to say that the blues has had the most far- reaching impact. No one seems to know precisely how the characteristics of the blues came about, but it seems logical to assume that the blues was born as a consequence of the africanization of Western music.

The blues is perhaps as misunderstood a term as “jazz” or “swing.” It can imply a mood or emotional state, a chord progression, or a tonality achieved by embellishing a melodic line. To make matters worse, blues became so popular in the early years of the 20th century that the word was frequently used in song titles even though the song bore absolutely no classic blues characteristics. The poetry of a blues lyric, in the case of a vocal blues, often tells the story of lost love, persecution, or any of life’s other tribulations. The blues originated as a folk music with solo singers/songwriters who often improvised the melody and lyrics, accompanying themselves on a guitar or piano. Because these early blues songs were improvised by solo performers, there was a high degree of spontaneity, and there was no consistency in terms of length, chord pro - gression, or meter. The rhythm, accent, and meter of the lyrics dictated how many beats to a measure and how many measures long the chorus would be. Through the use of vocal inflections such as bends, shakes, scoops, shouts, and varying vibrato speed, these early blues singers delivered emotionally charged performances. Hence, it was the high level of raw emotion projected, rather than the sophistication of the music, that was of most significance. The accompaniment, rather than consisting of a series of chords, might be little more than a single drone note on the guitar or a simple reoccurring melody, perhaps derived from a pentatonic or blues scale.

There are many styles of blues—classic, country, urban, and so on. There is not universal agreement on the character of each of these blues styles, and the lines that differentiate one from the other can be quite blurred. By the early 1920s, blues singers began to exert an influence on early jazz instrumentalists. This collaboration between singers and instrumentalists led to the gradual standardization of the blues form that continues to be recognized today.


Lyric (Call) Improvisation (Response)

Lyric (Call) Improvisation (Response)

Lyric (Call) Improvisation (Response)

EXAMPLE 4.6 Classic 12-bar blues. Each block represents 1 measure

The classic blues form consists of 12 measures and essentially three primary chords—the I, IV and V chords. As jazz matured, this simple three-chord progression became only the skeletal outline for increasingly complex blues progressions, through the addition of many more chords connecting the three previously mentioned. Blues can be in a minor or major key, and the general tonality or lyric does not have to communicate melancholy. In fact, many blues pieces from the swing and bebop periods of jazz are actually quite uplifting. Some blues progressions have been extended to 16 measures, whereas others have been shortened to only 8. A bridge or middle section, usually 8 measures in length, can be added to extend the more typical 12-bar blues even further. In this case, the entire form would resemble the ABA song-form format for a total of 32 measures (each A is 12 measures in length, plus an 8-bar bridge).

The classic 12-bar blues is usually presented as three 4-measure phrases. The first line of text is usually repeated, followed by a third that acts as a contrast and summary to the first line. Each verse follows this same antecedent–consequent pattern. As the lyric typically occupies only about 2 measures, or half the length of each 4-measure phrase, an instrumentalist usually improvises during the second half of each phrase. The 2-measure improvisation serves as a “response” to the lyric, which represents the “call” in this African-derived format. Example 4.6 shows a template for this classic 12-bar-blues form.

For additional information on the blues and harmony, refer to these discussions on the website in Chapter 2—“The Elements of Jazz.” If you haven’t already done so, look at the Video Blues movie, also on the website and found in Chapter 3—“Listening to Jazz.”

Robert Johnson (1911–1938)

Robert Johnson (1911–1938) is one of the foremost examples of this rich tradition, although his recordings were issued years after the blues emerged around the turn of the century. Only 11, 78-rpm “race” records were released during his lifetime, but his work has become recognized worldwide and was influential in the commercialization of rock ’n’ roll and R & B styles years later. He lived in relative obscurity most of his life, but was canonized as an innovator in 1994, when the U.S. Postal Service issued a commemorative stamp with his portrait.

Johnson, known in some circles as “King of the Delta Blues,” was as much a blues poet as he was a solo singer/songwriter. He wrote and sang about his own experiences as a musician wandering the Mississippi Delta region in hopes of establishing a reputation that would help him to escape a life of sharecropping and migrant itinerant fieldwork. In the early stages of his career,


Robert Johnson, King of the Delta Blues Singers Vol. II

“Ramblin’ on My Mind” Take 2 (Robert Johnson) 2:33

Recorded San Antonio, Texas, 11/23/1936 for Vocalion Records

First released 1990; reissued on Columbia/Legacy CK 92579

Key and form: Blues, although not consistently 12 measures per chorus; F major (possibly E major, given inconsistencies in early 78-rpm pressings)

0:00–0:06 Introduction—solo guitar

0:07–0:36 First verse I I got ramblin’, I got ramblin’ on my mind

IV I I got ramblin’, I got ramblin’ all on my mind

V IV I Hate to leave my baby, but you treats me so unkind [Guitar ends verses with final phrase]

0:37–1:103 Second verse I And now babe, I will never forgive you anymore

IV I Little girl, little girl, I will never forgive you anymore

V IV I You know you did not want me, baby, why did you tell me so? [Guitar ends verses with final phrase]

1:04–1:28 Third verse I And I’m runnin’ down to the station, catch that first mail train I see (spoken softly: I hear her comin’ now)

IV I An’ I’m runnin’ down to the station, catch that old first mail train I see

V IV I I’ve got the blues ’bout Miss So-and-So, and the child got the blues about me [Guitar ends verses with final phrase]

1:29–1:55 Fourth verse I An’ they’s de’ilment,* she got devilment* all on her mind IV I She’s got devilment, little girl, you got devilment all on your mind V IV I Now I got to leave this mornin’, with my arm’ fold’ up and cryin’ [Guitar ends verses with final phrase]

1:56–end Fifth verse I I believe, I believe my time ain’t long IV I I believe, I believe that my time ain’t long

V IV I But I’m leavin’ this mornin’, I believe I will go back home [Guitar ends with final phrase]

*Devilment means devilish, cruel or wicked behavior

© (1978) 1990, 1991 Lehsem II, LLC/Claud L. Johnson

Administered by Music & Media International, Inc.


he performed largely at jook joints and roadhouses that catered to loggers, migrant workers, and crews building roads for the Works Progress Administration (WPA) project. He became attracted to alcohol, gambling, and women, and it was his obsession with finding the right woman that led to his untimely death, supposedly at the hand of a jealous man who laced his whiskey with poison.

Although Johnson became well known in the Delta region, especially Mississippi and Arkansas, it wasn’t until the release of his first recordings that his reputation spread, enabling him to tour outside the region, with performances in Chicago, New York, Detroit, St. Louis, and Canada. His first hit record for Vocalion Records, “Terraplane Blues,” served to advance his career and no doubt led to John Hammond’s quest to book him as an opening act for his 1938 “From Spirituals to Swing” extravaganza at Carnegie Hall. Hammond, a jazz impresario and champion of black performers, was unaware of Johnson’s untimely death.

The recording included on the online anthology demonstrates this great rustic blues tradition. Johnson’s original style marries his vocal poetry with a free-style guitar accompaniment that ranges from rhythmic chords in a boogie-woogie shuffle-like feel, to single-line, soloistic gestures that respond to his lyrics. By modern standards, his performance might be considered crude or rough around the edges, but there is an austere beauty, rhythmic savvy, and overall complexity to his emotionally charged performance that is unmistakable. Notice how he does not strictly adhere to balanced phrases, each with 4 measures of 4 beats. What comes naturally seems to be of greater importance, although one suddenly gets the sense that a beat was skipped here or there, or a measure added to the expected modern 12-bar-blues form. Johnson does adhere to the typical three-chord sequence (I–IV–V), and each chord has been noted above the lyric in the listening guide on p. 58. Each line is completed by solo guitar.

BESSIE SMITH (1894–1937)

Known as the “Empress of the Blues,” Bessie Smith (1894–1937) is another classic blues singer from the period. In contrast to Johnson, she frequently shared the stage and recordings with jazz players who accompanied her. Listen to Bessie Smith’s performance of “Lost Your Head Blues,” included on early editions of the Smithsonian Collection of Classic Jazz (SCCJ ), while following the lyrics provided below. Roman numerals and chord symbols have also been provided to help you follow the chord progression. Bessie begins singing after a brief 4-measure introduction improvised by cornetist Joe Smith. This performance follows the classic blues format outlined above, and, in this case, Joe Smith assumes the role of brilliantly improvising in a call and response format, following each lyric.


Bessie Smith, “Empress of the Blues”



Bessie Smith

“Lost Your Head Blues”

Recorded 5/4/1926

Personnel : Bessie Smith, vocal; Joe Smith, cornet; Fletcher Henderson, piano. (Roman numeral chord symbols are indicated above the lyrics of each verse.)

4-measure instrumental introduction

I chord, 4 bars Verse 1 I was with you baby when you did not have a dime [J. Smith improvises 2 bars]

IV chord, 2 bars I chord, 2 bars I was with you baby when you did not have a dime [J. Smith improvises] V7 chord, 2 bars Now since you got plenty money you have throw’d your good gal down [J. Smith improvises on I chord for 1 bar and V7 chord for 1 bar to end form]

I chord, 4 bars Verse 2 One things for always you ain’t worth my while [J. Smith improvises 2 bars]

IV chord, 2 bars I chord, 2 bars One things for always you ain’t worth my while [J. Smith improvises] V7 chord, 2 bars I chord, 1 bar V7 /chord, 1 bar When you get a good gal you’d better treat her nice [J. Smith improvises]

I chord, 4 bars Verse 3 When you were lonesome I’ve tried to treat you kind [J. Smith improvises 2 bars]

IV chord, 2 bars I chord, 2 bars When you were lonesome I’ve tried to treat you kind [J. Smith improvises] V7 chord, 2 bars I chord, 1 bar V7 /chord, 1 bar But since you’re got money it done change your mind [J. Smith improvises]

I chord, 4 bars Verse 4 I’m gonna leave baby ain’t gonna say goodbye [J. Smith improvises 2 bars]

IV chord, 2 bars I chord, 2 bars I’m gonna leave baby ain’t gonna say goodbye [J. Smith improvises] V7 chord, 2 bars I chord, 1 bar V7 /chord 1 bar But I’ll write you and tell you the reason why [J. Smith improvises]

I chord, 4 bars Verse 5 Days are lonesome nights are so long long [J. Smith improvises 2 bars]

IV chord, 2 bars I chord, 2 bars Days are lonesome nights are so long long [J. Smith improvises] V7 chord, 2 bars I chord, 1 bar V7/chord, 1 bar I’m a good ole gal but I just been treated wrong [J. Smith improvises]



William Christopher Handy (1873–1958), a bandsman, composer, and cornet player, is remembered as the “father of the Blues,” following the publication in 1941 of his autobiography by the same name. Although there is some debate about this prestigious title, as others claim to publishing or performing in this style before Handy’s “Memphis Blues” in 1912, history does show that it was W.C. Handy that brought the blues to widespread popularity. Handy was the son of a Methodist minister who had been freed from slavery. He readily admitted that he patterned his versions of the blues after black folk songs, with their roots in the South, though he also heard blues being sung on the streets of St. Louis well before his first publications. He heard these songs performed during his travels as a minstrel musician. Minstrel shows were early touring variety shows, popular during the mid 1800s. Traveling with small bands, actors, comedians, jugglers, and other entertainers, the shows offered humor, musical numbers, dancing, and often a parody play based on an Uncle Tom’s Cabin-like theme. Minstrel shows are significant to a discussion of jazz, for they provided a means of employment for many early jazz musicians. Handy’s travels with such shows took him all over the US and as far away as Havana, Cuba, where he initially heard the Afro-Latin rhythms that would later have a major impact on his compositions.

As early as 1914, W.C. Handy incorporated a tangana (tango or habanera) rhythm in the first and third sections of his “St. Louis Blues” and in “Memphis Blues.” It is the bass line from the “tango” section of Handy’s “St. Louis Blues” that clearly borrows from this fundamental Afro-Latin rhythm.

Handy’s first published composition was “Memphis Blues,” originally written as a campaign song for a Memphis politician and titled “A Southern Rag.” Handy and a partner formed a publishing company, one of the first black companies to enter this business. Although “Memphis Blues” enjoyed steady sales and has been recorded by numerous artists, it was Handy’s “St. Louis Blues,” published in 1914, that earned him the title “Father of the Blues.” It was first recorded in 1915 and subse quently became the most widely recorded song in America. To quote David A. Jasen and Gene Jones, who authored Spreadin’ Rhythm Around: Black Popular Song - writers, 1880–1930, “By 1930 [‘St. Louis Blues’] was the most famous blues in the world. By 1930 it was the best-selling song in any medium—sheet music, recordings, and piano rolls.”4 Not only were its lyrics innovative, but “its harmonies literally put new notes into the pop music scale, and its structure showed writers a new way to build popular songs.”5 Handy actually used the blues scale in the body of this composition, which had never

been done before in a published work. The success of this Handy original helped to pave the way for a blues sensation that swept the country in the early 1920s. Many new labels, or subsidiary labels of larger companies, were formed for the specific purpose of recording blues singers, including Bessie Smith.

In 1929, Handy’s “St. Louis Blues” became the subject of a short film starring Bessie Smith, her only appearance on film. It was very likely her poignant recording of Handy’s popular blues, also featuring Louis Armstrong, that led to her being selected for this role. This film is barely 15 minutes long but features an all black cast, including a large choir and stride pianist/composer James P. Johnson. Racial attitudes at this time prohibited mixing of blacks and whites on film, although it became increasingly common in the late 1920s to hear mixed companies of actors and/or musicians on radio, a faceless medium.

Promotional photo, c.1930, of W.C. Handy, “Father of the Blues”


Every aspect of Handy’s hit song “St. Louis Blues” was innovative, from the lyrics, which tell a frank tale of love lost, to the harmony, melody, and formal aspects of his composition. The formal structure is perhaps the most clearly innovative aspect of Handy’s presentation of the blues. Most blues of the day were only 12 measures in length, with a formal scheme of simply A that was repeated numerous times. The formal scheme found in “St. Louis Blues,” however, follows an AABA song form pattern, where each A represents a typical 12-bar-blues chord progression. The lyrics in these blues sections follow the same predictable pattern found in many blues tunes, including “Lost Your Head Blues,” previously discussed. The first 2 measures of each 4-bar phrase in the A section are dedicated to lyrics, followed by impressive 2-measure improvisations by Louis Armstrong. This A-section architecture is typical in that it represents the classic question–answer or call and response format, in this case contrasting vocalist and improvising cornet soloist. The B section in this case is 16 measures in length, deviating from the blues norm. The chord progression in the final A section following B returns to the blues form; however, it is slightly different than the chord progression found in the initial A sections that begin the chorus. The B section departs from this standard blues sequence and features a tango-influenced rhythm, although barely discernible in this version. The form is sometimes changed, however, and performers have moved sections around, putting the B section before the A. For example, Handy’s 1922 recording with his own band shows the tango B section first. Handy’s earlier travels to Cuba and the 1914 tango dance craze in the US were no doubt responsible for this obvious influence. The formal outline, harmonic scheme, and lyrics that follow will help guide you through the performance of this historic recording on the companion website.


The blues and ragtime styles actually emerged concurrently in the US, although the blues continues to exert significant influence on jazz, whereas ragtime does not. Ragtime enjoyed the limelight as a very influential style from about 1895 to 1915, although it is not considered more than an important precursor to jazz. It is considered to be the first style of American music to enjoy widespread popularity and demonstrate that a native form of American music, highly influenced by black performers and composers, could actually be the basis of commercial success. This music not only impressed many Americans, who bought sheet music versions, piano rolls, and pianos, but it also showed significant influence on classical composers of the day. In fact, one could say that this early jazz style found its greatest champions in those classical musicians of the day, who were enamored with its fresh and unique rhythmic qualities.

Racism in the US was born out of slavery, Jim Crow Laws, minstrelsy (an early form of variety show consisting of comical skits, dancing, and music, initially performed by whites in black face), and other forms of bigotry and stereotyping. Coon songs were often featured in minstrel shows. They were folk songs with lyrics that were generally derogatory of blacks and serve to exemplify racist attitudes of the time. In a sense, they were racist musical jokes that bore titles such as, “Every Race Has a Flag But the Coon,” and “You’re Just a Little Nigger, But You’re Mine All Mine.” White male and or female singers in black face often sang these songs, perhaps as minstrel-show entertainers. The same syncopated rhythms found in these early folk songs were the basis for similar syncopations and rhythmic vitality found in rags. Authors Jasen and Jones described the impact of this late 1800s coon song on ragtime as follows:

Their constant use of syncopation attuned the public ear for the ragtime that would appear around the turn of the century. And their slangy, “low-class” lyrics took a big step away from politer European operatic song models. Their commercial success introduced “black”



W.C. Handy

“St. Louis Blues” (W.C. Handy) 3:09

Bessie Smith, vocal; Louis Armstrong, cornet; Fred Longshaw, harmonium.

Recorded in New York, 1/14/1925

Columbia 14064-D

Key and form: D major; AA1 (12-bars blues repeated); BB1 (8 bars repeated in parallel key of D minor); A11

(12-bar blues back in original key of D major)

0:00–0:04 Introduction

0:04 First A section—12-bar blues I IV7 V7 I I7

I hate ta see the eve’nin sun go down [Armstrong improvises second 2 measures] IV7 bVI7* V7 I I7

I hate ta see the eve’nin sun go down [Armstrong improvises second 2 measures] V7 ii* V7 I7 series of chords leading to V7

It make me think I’m on my last go’round [Armstrong improvises second 2 measures]

0:49 Second A section—12-bar blues I IV7 V7 I I7

Feelin’ tomorrow like I feel today [Armstrong improvises second 2 bars] IV7 bVI7* V7 I I7

Feelin’ tomorrow like I feel today [Armstrong improvises second 2 bars] V7 ii V7 string of chords leading from I7 to V7

I’ll pack my grips [bags], ’n’ make my get-a-way [Armstrong improvises second 2 bars]

1:33 B section (16 bars) (often played as a tango but not in this version) I V7

St. Louis woman, with her diamond rings [Armstrong improvises second 2 bars] V7 i (minor resolution) Pulls dat man around by her apron strings [Armstrong improvises second 2 bars] i V7

Wasn’t for powder an’ the store-bought hair [Armstrong improvises second 2 bars] V7 i II7 V7

The man I love wouldn’t go nowhere, no . . . where . . . I got dem [Smith begins last verse as an anticipation of the next full chorus, Armstrong begins accompaniment]

2:29 Return to A section—12-bar blues I V7 I V7 I V7 I V7 I I7

St. Louis Blues and as blue as I can be [Armstrong improvises second 2 bars] IV7 V7 I7

He’s got a heart like a rock cast in the sea [Armstrong improvises second 2 bars] V7 bVI7* V7 I I7/F-sharp bass IV7 bVIdim D Or else he wouldn’t have gone so far from me

* Denotes typical substitute chord for usual IV7 chord

subject matter—and the work of many black songwriters—into middleclass white parlors on sheet music and cylinder records. In this time of families entertaining themselves at home around the piano, part of the fun was the naughtiness of playing at being black. Other ethnic groups took their lumps in songs but blacks got the worst of it.6

Both black and white musicians championed this piano style. Black pianist/composer Tom Turpin gained the first copyright for a rag in 1883, and white pianist/composer William Krell was the first to publish a ragtime composition in 1897, entitled the “Mississippi Rag.” It was the black composers Scott Joplin and James Scott, however, who were perhaps most responsible for advancing the style.

Much like “blues,” the term “rag” was frequently misused and often interchanged with the terms “blues,” “two-step,” and “cakewalk.” The term “rag” supposedly stemmed from a black folk-dance style of the day, referred to as clog dancing. The word ragtime is thought to be a composite of two words—rag, meaning syncopated, and time, meaning rhythm. Therefore, ragtime implies a style of playing where rhythms are syncopated. The cakewalk was an upbeat, syncopated dance style popular prior to the beginning of the 20th century. Cakewalks continued to provide rousing finales to minstrel shows and often involved the entire cast dancing to rag-like music. Ragging was also considered a way of playing or interpreting music through the use of spontaneous syncopation.

What clearly differentiates a rag from a blues is the formal structure. Ragtime compositions have little resemblance to African styles, as the formal scheme and harmonic style for rags is clearly derived from European models. The AABBACCDD rondo form, or some close facsimile, is found in many rags and is closely related to the same form found in marches, reels, coon songs, polkas, and cakewalks of the day. Each section is usually 8 measures in length, and there is typically a modulation (key change) away from the primary key at the C theme, much like the key change found in marches at the trio. The “March King” and great American Bandmaster John Philip Sousa admired this style and often featured a “rag” or a “march and two-step” in his concert band performances.


Listen to examples of Sousa’s band playing “Creole Belles” and “Chinese Blues” on the “Experiencing Jazz Playlist” at the Library of Congress Jukebox.

1 & 2 & 1 & 2 & 1

Some bo––––––––––dy bet on the bay

EXAMPLE 4.7 Final rhythm from Stephen Foster’s “Camptown Races”


1899 sheet-music cover of Scott Joplin’s “Maple Leaf Rag”

Rags also bore a remarkable similarity to tunes such as “Turkey in the Straw” (subtitled “Ragtime Fantasie”) and “Camptown Races,” composed by popular American folk songwriter Stephen Foster.

The classic rag was a strictly composed solo piano style that incorporated little or no improvisation or blues influences, at least by its early primary practitioners. Rags were composed in either 2/4 or 4/4 meter and featured a very regular, oompah-like left hand that supplied the fundamental rhythm while outlining the harmonies. The right hand added syncopated melodies to these regular, left-hand striding rhythms that served to emphasize strong beats (1 and 3). It was a percussive, mechanical style of syncopation though, and did not swing, as would be the case some years later. For example, listen to Jelly Roll Morton’s recording of “Maple Leaf Rag” included on the SCCJ (editions before 2010). Not only has it been rhythmically transformed to swing, but Morton also altered the form and significantly embellished the melody (no doubt through improvisation) compared with the original Joplin recording included in the anthology that accompanies this text.


Although the popularity of rags quickly spread from coast to coast, the geographic region that is generally considered as the epicenter of ragtime was the Midwest—specifically the cities of St. Louis and Sedalia. It was here that the major ragtime publishers began mass-producing sheet music in this style for distribution nationwide. Many of the next generation’s band leaders/composers and jazz pianists, such as Duke Ellington, Fletcher Henderson, Fats Waller, and James P. Johnson, were first introduced to the piano through rags. It is believed that Duke Ellington first learned to play the piano by mimicking the key motion on a player piano spinning piano rolls of this kind of music.

Those composers deeply committed to the ragtime style were convinced that this was the new classical music of America, and that they were destined to achieve fame and fortune as its progenitors. Joplin, and later James P. Johnson, composed large-scale concert works including operettas, symphonies, choral works, and ballets in the ragtime style, although none of these efforts was successful, may never have been published, and in some cases they were never per- formed publicly. Joplin’s operas “A Guest of Honor” and “Treemonisha” each saw only one self-produced public performance, and they were not well received. The latter was

finally reproduced in 1976, winning the Pulitzer Prize that year. Joplin never recovered from the earlier failure, however, and, despite their best efforts to transform this style into a serious

Portrait of American ragtime composer and pianist Scott Joplin (1868–1917), c.1910


Scott Joplin

“Maple Leaf Rag” (Joplin) 3:19

Piano roll made by Scott Joplin in April 1916

Recorded from piano roll 6/1/1986 (Connorized piano roll #10265)

Form: AABBACCDD (16 bars of each theme)

0:00 A theme

0:23 A theme repeated

0:45 B theme—more rhythmic and syncopated with right-hand melody in octaves

1:07 B theme repeated

1:29 A theme returns

1:51 C theme in new key of D-flat major, richer harmonically in contrast with more right-hand chords

2:12 C theme repeated

2:34 D theme returns to key of A-flat major

2:57 D theme repeated

American national style, these composers began to witness the demise of public interest in ragtime around 1914. Although the influences of the ragtime piano style can be seen in the instrumental jazz of the era and it served as the direct predecessor of the stride solo piano style, ragtime had outlived its time and was eclipsed by the onslaught of instrumental jazz, featuring the daring, exciting, and virtuosic improvising soloist as the centerpiece.

Track 2 of the online audio anthology features a modern recording of Scott Joplin’s perform - ance of “Maple Leaf Rag.” The original piano roll was made by the composer in 1916 and was re-recorded using a player piano and modern recording equipment in 1986. This record ing, therefore, is not completely accurate in representing Joplin’s performance skill. Nonethe less, it does give us a glimpse of his artistry as a composer and pianist. This popular rag follows the classic model, containing four uniquely different themes. The formal scheme is repre sented as AABBACCDD—not quite a classic rondo form. A key change occurs at the C theme. The time chart in the listening guide on p. 66 should help you follow these themes as they unfold.


Player piano roll of Scott Joplin’s “Maple Leaf Rag,” patented September 13, 1904


Brass bands were an American tradition borrowed from Europe and popular in many towns around the US well before World War I and the beginnings of jazz. Some of the early jazz musicians began their careers as members of such bands, many situated in and around New Orleans. Early jazz instrumentalists Jimmy Noone, Sidney Bechet, Buddy Bolden, Bunk Johnson, and Joe “King” Oliver were all initially members of these brass bands. Brass-band repertoires included instrumental arrangements of piano rags, blues, marches, polkas, czardaszes (Slovakian folk dance), schottisches (Bohemian or Czech folk dance), cakewalks, and coon songs. Bands such as the


Olympia and Excelsior bands included cornets, clarinets, trombones, drums, tuba, and sometimes stringed instruments such as the banjo, guitar, and violin. It is believed that the banjo was actually derived from a similarly constructed African instrument.

These bands performed indoors and outdoors for various functions, including weddings, funerals, street parades advertising a touring show, a product or a business, and special occasions sponsored by various fraternal organizations.

On the East Coast, society bands and military bands began to reflect the influences of ragtime on instrumental music in the early 1900s. Syncopation was, no doubt, what James Reese Europe, an early black military and society bandleader, was referring to in 1919 when he talked about his band members “accenting notes which originally would be without accent.”7 It was the results of these early attempts at rhythmic interpretation that led to the beginnings of jazz, swing, and those subtle ingredients that cannot be notated accurately using the Western system of notation. Just like African music, jazz rhythms cannot be precisely notated. This fact no doubt frustrated the French musicians who tried, without success, to duplicate the sound of Europe’s 1919 military band by merely reading the music he gave them. Hence, we can conclude that neither jazz nor African music can be played authentically by reading notes on the page. Traditional music notation must be translated by musicians familiar with the jazz style in order for the music to sound like jazz.

Listen to an example of Europe’s Society Orchestra performing “The Castles in Europe” on the “Experiencing Jazz Playlist” at the Library of Congress Jukebox.

Although James Reese Europe’s and Will Marion Cook’s society bands and orchestras in New York were recorded prior to the first jazz recording in 1917, no authentic recordings exist to document the sounds of these early New Orleans brass bands. There was no recording industry at the time, as the new technology for the preservation of sound had not yet been perfected. These bands served as a springboard for much smaller, more mobile ensembles that eventually became an essential ingredient of city nightlife.


Chronicle of Historic Events

The timeline that follows will put the developments of jazz discussed in this chapter into a larger historical context, providing you with a better sense of how landmark musical events may relate to others that match your personal areas of interest.

1905 • The years leading up to the beginnings of instrumental jazz saw a tremendous influx of immigrants from Europe.

• Oklahoma becomes the 46th state in 1907.

• Women are not welcome in the workforce, though many are employed by the telephone company.

• The light bulb is still being perfected by General Electric.

1908 • Long-distance radio broadcasts are still only dreamed about.


• A rebellious group of painters known as “The Eight” focuses on works depicting the coming of a new age—the industrialization and urbanization of America. Their touring show also focuses on the growing population of immigrants.

• President Theodore Roosevelt forms a commission to save natural resources.

• Competition begins between early auto manufacturers—Ford, Buick/GM.

• Jack Johnson becomes the first black boxer to win the world heavyweight championship.

• Gustav Mahler (composer) and Toscanini (conductor) make their U.S. debuts.

1909 • Admiral Peary reaches the North Pole.

• Psychologists Freud and Jung become well known for their theories and writings.

• W.C. Handy’s (“Father of the Blues”) “Memphis Blues” was composed for Edward “Boss” Crumps election campaign song. This is believed to be the first black-authored blues tune to be published.

• Architect Frank Lloyd Wright establishes his reputation.

• The first opera is broadcast live on radio from the MET by Lee de Forest, inventor of the radio vacuum tube.

1910 • The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) is founded.

• George Eastman develops the first easy-to-use portable camera.

• The Urban League is formed to help blacks migrating to northern cities from the South.

1911 • Irving Berlin’s “Alexander’s Ragtime Band” is a huge hit.

• Workers begin to unionize and strike for better wages.

1912 • A minimum-wage law is established.

• Wilson is elected president on the “New Freedom” slogan and human rights ticket.

• Jazz pianist/composer Jelly Roll Morton publishes “The Jelly Roll Blues.”

• HMS Titanic sinks, killing 1,500 passengers.

• W. C. Handy published “Memphis Blues,” the first published blues composition.

1913 • Congress passes an income-tax amendment.

• Buffalo Nickel makes its debut.

• Ford opens an assembly line to build the Model T automobile.

• A woman makes the first air flight as a passenger.

• Cecil B. DeMille produces the first full-scale Hollywood film at a cost of $47,000 for six reels.

1914–1916 • W.C. Handy publishes (1914) “St. Louis Blues,” which is first recorded in 1915.

• The tango craze hits the US.

• War spreads throughout Europe, threatening to involve the US.

• Industry booms in the US.

• AT&T sends the first wireless message across the Atlantic Ocean in 1916.

• The first birth-control clinic signals new morals and the erosion of puritan Victorian ideals.

• Scott Joplin makes a piano roll of the “Maple Leaf Rag.”



The diverse influences of West African music, early American vocal music, blues, brass bands, and ragtime all contributed to the beginnings of jazz. From West Africa the use of polyrhythms was very important in the development of syncopated ragtime melodies and, later, to the swing feel of early jazz. Work songs, field hollers, spirituals, gospels, and other aspects of American vocal music contributed many of the inflections/effects that identify jazz.

Although not immediately obvious in some jazz styles, Afro-Latin and Caribbean music has had some kind of influence on many jazz styles. Like jazz, this music involves a mixing of elements from different cultures, including African and Spanish music that developed somewhat separately from that of the rest of Europe. Trade that brought many black immigrants and slaves to the US similarly affected Latin America and the Caribbean islands. One of the first jazz pieces to obviously fall under the influence of Latin music was W.C. Handy’s “St. Louis Blues” (1914), which includes a tango section. The Argentinean tango was one of the numerous waves of dances that washed ashore from points south to excite dance-crazed Americans. The impact of Latin American dances can also be seen in the Charleston, a popular dance in the US in the 1920s that shows rhythms similar to the Cuban habanera. The clavé rhythm is also closely related to the habanera and of significant influence to developing jazz styles.

Ragtime is a composed music that flourished in the late 1890s and in the first decade and a half of the 20th century. It is a very syncopated music, written primarily for the piano. Its beginnings can be traced to the Midwest cities of St. Louis and Sedalia, MO. Although not actually jazz, ragtime bears a resemblance to the later, more improvised stride jazz piano style that featured similar left- and right-hand roles. Many jazz pianists and bandleaders had roots in ragtime, including Duke Ellington, Fletcher Henderson, Fats Waller, and James P. Johnson. In comparison with early jazz, ragtime was typically played in a stricter, more rigid manner than jazz. The best known of the ragtime composers is Scott Joplin. Other notable composers of the style include James Scott and Joseph Lamb.

Blues is a style especially dependent on vocalists and it developed at about the same time jazz emerged. The 12-bar-blues form has been used, not only by blues musicians, but also by the jazz community throughout the history of jazz. Although numerous early blues examples include a self-accompanied singer (Robert Johnson) performing often in variable/flexible tempos (rubato), other examples feature larger groups using musicians primarily associated with jazz (Bessie Smith). Portions of some of these early blues recordings are virtually indistinguishable from early jazz.


Important terms, people, ensembles, bands, and places:

Terms Blues Brass bands Cakewalk Call and response Clavé rhythm Conga Field hollers Gospels Habanera

Jubilees Merengue Minstrel show Motive Ragtime (rags) Spirituals Stride Tango Work song

People Louis Armstrong Buddy Bolden James Reese Europe W.C. Handy Scott Joplin Ma Rainey Bessie Smith

Ensembles Eagle Brass Band Olympia Brass Band

Places Congo Square


1. Discuss in brief the relationship of African music to jazz from the rhythmic standpoint.

2. Describe the form of a classic blues lyric.

3. The stride style generally refers to what instrument?

4. Who is known as the “Father of the Blues,” and why?

5. Who is considered the “Empress of the Blues?”

6. Describe the essence of the ragtime style, discussing why it was influential to early jazz.

7. When was ragtime popular?

8. Describe the similarities between early jazz and African music.

9. Explain the difference between spiritual, gospel and jubilee.

10. Describe the typical blues form.

11. What non-American influence can be heard in “St. Louis Blues”?

12. What is the significance of early black vocal styles to instrumental jazz?

13. Aside from Scott Joplin, name two ragtime composers noted for their early work.

14. Clarify the meaning of call and response and discuss the heritage of this term and practice.

15. What is the significance of the habanera to jazz? What is its derivation? Name an early jazz tune that clearly shows its influence on jazz.

16. What is the clavé?



Classic Jazz 1917–1945


C H A P T E R 5

Jazz Takes Root [Jazz] expresses our American nature—and as long as our nature is expressed by anything so simple and straightforward we will have no cause to worry.1

—Frank Paterson, in Musical Courier, 1922

An American suffragette wears a sign proclaiming “Women! Use your vote,” c.1920


Although musical seeds were sown by 1917 for a new American music style to take root, germination required a special set of circumstances to fertilize its growth. Perceived as little more than a controversial folk music, “jass,” or jazz as it was eventually called, was not taken seriously by most listeners, was neither widely recognized, exceedingly popular, nor considered an accepted musical


style. There were a number of factors that served as catalysts around 1920 that helped to change this complexion and stimulate the growth of the new music.

The 1920s mark a rebellious period, especially for America’s youth. Young Americans began to question the Victorian values that their European-bred parents tried to instill. These Victorian ideals were guided by basic principles: self-control, order, wholesomeness, and general decency. No longer was the younger generation content to adopt what they considered to be oppressive ideals regarding social behavior and other aspects of lifestyle. Young women shortened their skirts and began to show interest in those same activities that were, in earlier years, appropriate only for men’s participation. Women began to frequent late-night establishments, sometimes unaccompanied by a male escort. Only a few years earlier, this behavior was considered the mark of a “loose woman” and inappropriate for upstanding ladies. Public displays of affection, close embraces on the dance floor, public consumption of alcohol, and smoking had been frowned upon. Women and men together were now enjoying the sometimes naughty, late-night entertainment provided by dance halls, cabarets, speakeasies, and other such establishments. This growing sense of independence among women, and youth in general, would also lead to women’s fight for the right to vote. The new morality would be identified with the emergence of a new music, jazz, the ideal symbol for freedom of choice and personal expression.

Immigrants and second-generation freed slaves migrated to major American cities in droves, all seeking jobs available as a consequence of the increasing industrialization of the US. Rural populations dwindled, while the beginning of urban sprawl triggered a demand for housing, jobs, support services, and entertainment. These hard-working Americans who put in lengthy working weeks in steel mills, automobile, carpet, and clothing factories, and similar laborious jobs looked forward to enjoying their leisure time. Many peasants who had emigrated from Europe, where similar ideals and lifestyles prevailed, were used to hard work and played hard as well. This new attitude created a growing demand for various new forms of entertainment and leisure-time activities. Professional sports such as football, baseball, and boxing helped fill leisure time, giving rise to new American heroes such as the baseball legend Babe Ruth. As the number of theaters, speakeasies, cabarets, and other such establishments grew in response to Americans’ zest for the less serious side of life, so did a new entertainment industry. Minorities were welcome in the entertainment business, explaining the great number of African-Americans and Jewish Americans who found work in this new industry while unable to find work elsewhere. The entertainment industry as a line of work did not have the same appeal for more socially and economically well-established Americans; nonetheless, they enjoyed the entertainment offered by these ethnically diverse groups.

No other modern culture can lay claim to fostering an entertainment industry on a scale equal to that which emerged in the US concurrent with jazz in the 1920s. Music publishers, instrument manufacturers, booking agents and promoters, record companies, radio stations and networks, phonograph manufacturers, movie studios and theaters, performance rights organizations and unions, dance halls and ballrooms, and, of course, nightclubs, cabarets, and speakeasies complete the long list of entertainment-related businesses that sprang up in the 1920s as adjuncts to performers and composers, all satisfying the insatiable American appetite for entertainment. For example, by 1919, there were, reportedly, 295 piano-manufacturing companies, compared with the two-digit number we have today. Scott Joplin’s “Maple Leaf Rag” sold more than 1 million copies. Although music publishers opened shops in major cities such as Denver, Chicago, and St. Louis, the Mecca for music publishers was New York City. Many of these New York publishers were concentrated in one area known as Tin Pan Alley and employed pianists by day to perform their latest publications in hopes of attracting sales. As music and dance became a significant part of American life, cabarets across the country were opened in cities such as Chicago, New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Kansas City, and, of course, New Orleans.


The 1920s also marked the beginning of innovative new technologies. Radio station KDKA began the first weekly broadcasts from Pittsburgh, PA, in 1920 and broadcast the first live jazz performance by pianist Earl Hines in 1921. By 1922, there were 200 licensed radio stations throughout the country, and 3 million radios had been sold, many of them running off battery power, as rural America had not yet been wired for home electricity. By 1924, the number of radio stations had increased to 694, networks had been formed, and households around the US had purchased 10 million radios (the total population was about 114 million). Many of these radio stations employed musicians on a regular basis for live broadcasts, while also playing pre-recorded 78-rpm records. The RCA Victor Company released its first, one-sided record in 1903, and, by 1916, there were 46 independent record companies in operation, an obvious response to America’s taste for recorded music. By 1921, the recording industry reported about 100 million records sold. The Original Dixieland Jazz Band’s first recording sold 1.5 million copies the first year (1917) at 75 cents each, and Paul Whiteman’s recording of “Whispering” sold 2 million copies in 1922. Records in those days could be purchased in general stores, furniture stores, and the like. The motion-picture industry also thrived in the 1920s, and, once talkies (motion pictures with sound) were developed, musicians discovered yet another form of employment. Many early cartoon films featured soundtracks that were obviously influenced by jazz.

Other arts and literature also reflected the new, more liberal attitudes associated with the “jazz age,” the term used by author F. Scott Fitzgerald to describe the 1920s. Painters were less drawn to inanimate objects and sought to portray real-life experiences. Novelists were more apt to openly discuss sex and various aspects of the human condition that had been suppressed in earlier writings. In general, there was greater emphasis placed on freedom of expression, spontaneity, and human pleasures than ever before. Jazz soon became identified with this newfound freedom, representing a form of uninhibited personal expression. Through their writings, authors Langston Hughes and Alain Locke encouraged blacks to use education as a means to achieve political, social, and economic advancement and independence. They also urged black entertainers to capitalize on their unique brand of culture and its growing popularity.

There is no doubt that the U.S. entry into World War I in 1917 also had an impact on the American psyche. There was a new disillusionment never before experienced by this young country. Families grappled with the death or the potential death of loved ones, while democratic thinking and personal freedoms were threatened. This sense of uncertainty about the future no doubt fueled young Americans’ obsession with personal freedoms and zest for life. On the positive side, if there is one during wartimes, the U.S. war effort added to the growing new industrial economy.

Not all Americans applauded the arrival of jazz and the new morals associated with the jazz lifestyle. The conservative and self-righteous pushed for laws to regulate the sale of liquor, and, in 1920, the Prohibition law forbidding the public sale of alcohol was enacted. Prohibition was not repealed until 1933. In some ways, Prohibition hurt the entertainment industry and jazz, although private clubs and cabarets somehow survived, often supported by the growing network of mobsters trafficking in illegal liquor, gambling, and prostitution. These illegal activities by the underground mob actually supported jazz music in many of its establishments in Chicago, Kansas City, and New York. For those who attended looking for excitement and a chance to “slum” while enjoying their illegal liquor and musical spree, the illegal nature of these clubs added an element of daring. Clubs featuring black entertainers attracted white audiences seeking adventure and a glimpse of “uninhibited, barbaric” African life. These clubs were called “black and tans.” The Cotton Club in New York City was just such a nightclub, offering exotic floorshows.

The Storyville district, a 38-block area in New Orleans established through legislation passed in 1897, was lined with saloons and brothels. Until the Departments of the Army and Navy closed down Storyville in 1917, this district invited legalized prostitution, gambling, and other forms


Not everyone was receptive to this new music. For that matter, some black publications were even quick to disassociate themselves from this music. For example the New Orleans Times- Picayune, in a 1918 issue, came out strongly against the music that was attributed to its city. The writer of an article in this press disowned jazz saying that,

it has been widely suggested that this particular form of musical vice had its birth in this city . . . We do not recognize the honor of parenthood, but with such a story in circulation, it behooves us to be last to accept the atrocity in polite society, and where it has crept in we should make it a point of civic honor to suppress it. Its musical value is nil, and its possibilities of harm are great.2

Black intellectuals fighting for freedom and respectability in the 1920s sometimes shunned jazz, as it was considered by some to be a barbaric product of ghetto low life, produced by untrained and unsophisticated musicians who practiced their trade in saloons, whorehouses, and brothels. On the other hand, the Chicago Defender, another black press, applauded the music, for it provided a symbol for black pride and offered the potential for upward mobility to its successful practitioners. An article that appeared in a 1919 edition of this publication stated:

We hope the swing of Europe [referring to society orchestra leader James Reese Europe] and his band around the country will be nation wide. Europe and his band are worth more to our Race than a thousand speeches from the so-called Race orators and uplifters.3

To many, even those who were profiting from it, jazz was little more than a novelty, a fad that was often misunderstood. For example, in 1918, the Victor record catalogue issued the following statement:

A jazz band is a unique organization of which it may be said the worse it is, the better it is. If you have heard a jazz band before, and feel you already know the worst, try this record. Yet out of the mass of sounds there emerges tunes, and as the music proceeds you get order out of chaos . . . One that not merely invites you, but almost forces you to dance.4

In 1921, The Ladies’ Home Journal ran a series of articles that made it quite clear how some felt about the negative impact that jazz was having on youth and society in general. The title of


of late-night entertainment that called for music supplied by a host of early New Orleans jazz musicians. Through this association with the underworld, it is no small wonder that jazz in these early years was considered the “devil’s music” and had little respect from morally conservative, “upstanding” citizens.

As modes of transportation improved through trains and the growing automobile industry, musicians found travel from city to city less difficult. Musicians also traveled the Mississippi River on paddle-wheel steam ships, with regular runs from New Orleans to ports throughout the Midwest, and so, what may have begun as a regional folk music became more widespread and universally practiced.

one article in this series tells it all—“Unspeakable Jazz Must Go—It is worse than the saloon and scarlet vice.”5 Another, entitled “Does Jazz Put the Sin in Syncopation,”6 attacked the music and its effect on young people’s morals. The author Anne Shaw Faulkner wrote, “that never in the history of our land have there been such immoral conditions among our young people . . . and the blame is laid on jazz music and its evil influence on the young people of today.”7 The article attacked jazz that stimulated unwholesome dancing. She went on in this article to provide a misinformed definition of jazz and characterized it as “the accompaniment of the voodoo dancer, stimulating the half-crazed barbarian to the vilest deeds.” She further described the music as symptomatic of a post-war culture and an “expression of protest against law and order.”8

Jazz was clearly a controversial music right from the outset, creating a subject of great debate among intellectuals, conservatives, socialites, and young people. It seems that jazz received the most support from intellectuals and the classical music community, both in the US and abroad. Etude magazine, targeted largely at music teachers, conducted a survey among professionals from various aspects of the field to determine if there were any commonly agreed upon perceptions about jazz. The responses were mixed. The editors, although careful not to take sides, did depict jazz as a music that “has been an accursed annoyance for years,”9 while applauding the efforts of songwriters George Gershwin and Irving Berlin. John Alden Carpenter, a distinguished American composer, contributed his own thoughts about jazz to this article, saying that:

I am convinced that our contemporary popular music (please note that I avoid labeling it “jazz”) is by far the most spontaneous, the most personal, the most characteristic, and by virtue of these qualities, the most important musical expression that America has achieved. I am strongly inclined to believe that the musical historian of the year two thousand will find the birthday of American music and that of Irving Berlin to have been the same.10

(Berlin did compose a number of popular tunes that served as springboards for jazz renditions, but much of his work could not be considered jazz.) Other contributors to this survey labeled jazz a fad that exhibited the restless nature of wartimes and that, “the problem would take care of itself through natural evolution.” On the other hand, the “March King,” John Philip Sousa, felt that there was “no reason, with its exhilarating rhythm, its melodic ingenuities, why it should not become one of the accepted forms of composition,”11 and Leopold Stokowski, conductor of the Philadelphia Orchestra, stated that,

Jazz has come to stay. It is an expression of the times, of breathless, energetic, super- active times in which we are living. The Negro musicians of America are playing a great part in this change. They have an open mind, and unbiased outlook. They are not hampered by traditions or conventions, and with their new ideas, their constant experiments, they are causing new blood to flow in the veins of music.12

By 1919 the Music Trade Review proclaimed that: “jazz music and jazz dancing are not novelties; they are accepted by the public at large. Their apostles run into the thousands.”13 Frank Peterson’s 1922 article in the highly respected Musical Courier pointed out that,

[Jazz] expresses our American nature—and as long as our nature is expressed by anything so simple and straightforward we will have no cause to worry. When our nature becomes so complex that we need the high art of Europe, or something similar to express it, it will then be time to realize that we are getting old and effete.14


As you can see and might expect, the reception of jazz in its earliest phase was very mixed, although, according to jazz historian James Lincoln Collier, American magazines ran over 100 articles about jazz between 1917 and 1929 (still only about eight a year), and “only a small minority of them” were hostile.15 There were those that loudly applauded this new music and its creators, lauding these jazzmen as explorers of a new style of music that accurately represented contemporary society and could serve as an American emblem. Others just wanted it to go away, much as parents in the 1960s hoped that rock ’n’ roll and the Beatles would be a passing fancy. Fortunately the naysayers were wrong about jazz, and at this point nothing could stop its progress.


The city of New Orleans and the surrounding Mississippi Delta reflect a rich cultural heritage. This area, one of the most active seaports for the transportation of goods to the nation’s heartland via the Mississippi River, has been owned and inhabited by several nationalities, including the French, Spanish, and British. Although this situation presented numerous political problems, lasting through the first two decades of the 1800s, the cultural diversity provided by this mixture of residents and seafarers provided an environment that aided the creation of the earliest jazz styles. Many of the early jazz musicians, who were Creoles of color, born of French and black parents, benefited from social and economic privileges not afforded to black descendants of slaves. As a result, many enjoyed some musical training and, as adolescents, likely attended concerts and operas in the New Orleans theaters. The surnames of many early jazz musicians, such as Sidney Bechet, Kid Ory, Honrey Dutry, Johnny St. Cyr, and Ferdinand Joseph LaMothe, reflect their French Creole backgrounds. Others, such as the legendary cornetists Buddy Bolden, Bunk Johnson, Freddie Keppard, and Joe “King” Oliver, were descendants of African slaves. They found that work as musicians, playing in traveling minstrel-show bands, local New Orleans brass bands, brothels, and saloons in the Storyville district, provided an easier source of income than laboring at the docks or other menial forms of work open to non-whites. In the early 1900s, New Orleans supported as many as 18 prominent bands, sponsored by the fire department, police department, the Army, the Navy, and various fraternal lodges. Some bands were professional, whereas others were part-time organizations whose members practiced music as a sideline.

Among legendary New Orleans musicians, cornetist Buddy Bolden was never recorded and is remembered as somewhat of a mythological or Paul Bunyan-like character in the history of early jazz. Numerous tall tales about his amazing prowess as a musician have been told. Louis Armstrong, Sidney Bechet, and other early jazz artists have recalled Bolden in their memoirs as a powerful cornetist with a clear tone, who was of great influence on the creation of early jazz. Bolden, who paraded the streets of New Orleans in various bands and performed in the Storyville district, was committed to a mental institution in 1907 for a brain disorder and he died there in 1931. His band, which later became known as the Eagle Band, became the training ground for many early jazz musicians, including the well-known clarinetist Sidney Bechet, who remembered the Eagle Band as “much more of a barrelhouse band, a real gutbucket band, a low down band which really played the blues.”16

Bunk Johnson (1889–1949), another early New Orleans cornetist, was undiscovered until historians began to try and piece together a history of early jazz. Johnson was not recorded until 1942, when he became a focal point of the Dixieland revival movement in the 1940s. Johnson apparently spun some rather tall tales, and it was difficult for interviewers to separate the truth from the fiction invented by Johnson. There is, however, no doubt that, in his prime, Johnson was an active musician performing in minstrel shows, theater orchestras, and circus and brass bands, in and around New Orleans.



Freddie Keppard (1889–1933), Joe “King” Oliver, and of course Louis Armstrong remain the only early New Orleans jazz cornetists whose careers eventually led to recordings that help to document this first early jazz style. Keppard led the Olympia Brass Band and performed in the Eagle Band, earning the reputation as the most direct descendant of Buddy Bolden cornetists. He traveled to California with the Original Creole Orchestra from 1912 to 1918, before settling in Chicago. It was in this city that his Jazz Cardinals band made its first recordings, but not until 1926. By this time though, his rough New Orleans Dixieland style had become eclipsed by that of more polished bands in Chicago at this time, whose personnel included the likes of extraordinary improviser Louis Armstrong. Keppard played in Chicago and New York before the Original Dixieland Jazz Band’s successful first recordings, and some say that Keppard turned down earlier offers to record because of his fear of being copied. His most representative recording is “Stock Yard Strut” (available at

Dixieland Jazz Band Instrumentation

The classic New Orleans jazz band, many of which migrated to other cities, such as Chicago and New York, and to the West Coast, was by no means standardized, as photographs from the period testify. There were, however, some common instrumental configurations. The “front line,” as it was called, typically consisted of a cornet, a clarinet, sometimes a violin, and a trombone. The term originates from the New Orleans street-parade bands, where the wind instruments

Portrait of the Buddy Bolden Band, New Orleans, Louisiana, c.1900. L–R: Bassist J. Johnson, cornetist Bolden, guitarist B. Mumford, trombonist W. Cornish, clarinetists F. Lewis and W. Warner


marched in the front line, and the percussion followed in the “second line.” The rhythm section in these early jazz bands might consist of some combination of guitar or banjo, string bass or tuba, and drums. The banjo, eventually replaced by the piano and/or guitar, and a bass instrument were optional in the early rhythm sections, but became standard members of the jazz band by the mid 1920s. The bass instrument could be a tuba (sometimes called the “iron” or “brass” bass, which again was a remnant of the brass marching bands), bass saxophone, or a string bass. There is much recorded evidence from as late as the early 1930s to indicate that the transition from tuba to string bass was very slow, as was the abandonment of the banjo.

This instrumentation, as well as the roles these instruments played, is well exemplified by the recordings discussed throughout this chapter. The cornetist was often the star of the show, playing the syncopated main themes in brassy fashion. Gradually, the more brilliant trumpet replaced the cornet when jazz bands increased in size. The cornet, which came from the military and marching-band traditions, does not produce as much volume as the trumpet. The clarinetist provided more rhythmically active embellishments and filigree, elaborately ornamenting the cornet melodies. These clarinet passages, often played as rapid, scale-like patterns and arpeggios (chords outlined one note at a time), required technical mastery of the instrument. The trombone, which sounds below the cornet and clarinet, was used to outline the harmony by embellishing fundamental chord tones. The New Orleans Dixieland-style trombonist perfected the “tailgate” technique by using the slide to smear, or gliss (short for glissando, meaning to slide from note to note in a very smooth, legato fashion), from one pitch to the next. Early New Orleans bands often paraded through the streets on a horse-drawn wagon advertising a minstrel show or the opening of a new shop or saloon, or participating in a funeral procession. The trombonist required sufficient room to move his slide, which required that he sit on the tailgate of these wagons, hence the term “tailgate” trombone to describe this slippery style. As many early jazz bands did not have a banjo, guitar, or bass, the pianist was required to maintain the harmony and rhythm of the piece. Early drummers had discovered ways to emulate the marching-parade drum “second line,” which typically included more than one player. By mounting a cymbal on a floor stand and creating a pedal arrangement to beat the bass drum with the foot, drummers were able to modify the marching configuration for indoor use by one player. Early drummers did little more than mimic the rudimentary techniques used by parade drummers and often employed gimmicky techniques and devices such as temple blocks, spoons, and other novelty instruments. Early drummers did very little that resembles our contemporary impressions of jazz drumming, and much of their performance consisted of antics such as twirling and throwing their sticks in the air. In their defense, we have no accurate evidence of how drummers performed live, as recording technology was still in its infancy in the early 1920s. Many tradeoffs were made during the early recording process, especially by drummers, as early acoustic recordings, prior to the advent of microphones and amplification, were unable to capture the same natural balance the bands achieved in live performance. One drummer or one loud cornetist could obliterate the sound of the other instruments and ruin a recording. These recording circumstances may also explain why early jazz cornet and trumpet players often used various mutes. We therefore do not know much about the performance practice of these early jazz drummers, who often were relegated to playing temple blocks and other quiet accessories for recording sessions.

It may be helpful to review the section about “Instrumentation” included in Chapter 3, “Listening to Jazz,” on the website. This section contains recorded examples of the various instruments and mutes, along with discussions about their construction and roles in a jazz band.


Original Dixieland Jazz Band

Despite the pioneering efforts made by black musicians in New Orleans and other parts of the South, the public’s first widespread exposure to this new music would be through recordings made in New York by a white band calling themselves the Original Dixieland Jazz Band (ODJB). This band left New Orleans for Chicago in 1916, under the name Johnny Stein’s Band from New Orleans, and enjoyed a successful engagement at Schillers Café. The group was billed as “Stein’s Dixie Jass Band.” The band broke up because of a disagreement among its members, and cornetist Nick LaRocca organized a new spin-off band he called the Original Dixieland Jasz [sic] Band. The success of Stein’s band helped to encourage a gradual migration of New Orleans musicians to Chicago. LaRocca took his new band to New York in 1917, where they were booked to perform one week at Reisenwebers for $1000. They were an overnight sensation and changed the spelling of their name from “jass” to “jazz” to avoid having their advertisements defaced by the letter “j” being erased. Columbia Records, which had been accustomed to recording light classical music and opera, rushed to record them. The company was ill equipped to deal with the raucous new sounds produced by this group and consequently made inferior recordings that went unissued until after the very successful recordings made this same year by the Victor label. The ODJB recorded its first successful sides for the Victor label on March 7, 1917, which subsequently sold over 1 million copies, breaking all previous sales records. Consequently, this band, which played its own version of New Orleans black-inspired jazz, made the first case for the commercial potential of recorded instrumental jazz. At this time, the band consisted of a cornet, clarinet, trombone, piano, and drums. Their music was not written down, but boasted little or no improvisation. Some of their numbers, such as “Livery Stable Blues” and “Barnyard Blues,” were novelty numbers, featuring animal sounds imitated by the wind instruments. Some referred to this style as “nut” music. The balance of their repertoire consisted of rag- and blues- based numbers, such as the popular “Tiger Rag,” which bears a resemblance to the “National Emblem” march. The ODJB’s repertoire and style were created for dancing and entertainment and were often misunderstood by those who attempted to write about it. For example, the New York American tried to describe the ODJB style in a November 1917 article that read: “The peculiar, somewhat discordant melody is said to be produced by tuning each of the instruments at a different pitch; and to end some of the strains they occasionally play what we have termed a crazy cadenza.”17

On the strength of their success in New York, the ODJB traveled to England in 1918 and performed at the ball celebrating the signing of the Treaty of Versailles, which ended World War I. Cornetist Nick LaRocca was interviewed by the Palais Dancing News in England, where he claimed that,

jazz is the assassination, the murdering, the slaying of syncopation. In fact it is a revolution in this kind of music [syncopated dance music] . . . I even go so far as to confess we are musical anarchists . . . our prodigious outbursts are seldom consistent, every number played by us eclipsing in originality and effect our previous performance.18

The band returned to New York, earning as much as $1,800 per week. It continued to perform and record and served as a model for many society dance bands that emerged in the 1920s. Like so many bands, the ODJB suffered from numerous squabbles, leading to various changes in personnel before it finally disbanded in 1938. In some ways, the ODJB’s success at proving the commercial value of jazz became its own downfall, as emerging bands quickly showed that the style could be performed far better.



The track included here for discussion is an example of the work produced by the ODJB when this group first shocked New Yorkers with their new brand of music. It was billed by Victor as “a jass band, the newest thing in cabarets . . . it has sufficient power and penetration to inject new life into a mummy, and will keep ordinary human dancers on their feet till breakfast time.”19 While there is no real spontaneously improvised music, or at least any that is obviously improvised, the performance does feature a buoyant, swing rhythmic quality unlike any other recorded music of the time. Undoubtedly, the band reached this point through an improvisatory approach to developing the tune sometime prior to this recording. Their understanding of swing interpretation is proof that this aspect of jazz performance style was in practice in cities such as New Orleans and Chicago well before this recording was made. The ODJB was merely the first to capitalize on the new craze through the success of their early recordings.

The arrangement shows the typical New Orleans polyphonic style, popular during this period. The multisectional, rondo-like thematic structure reflects the strong influence that the ragtime style exerted on early instrumental jazz. The 4-measure introduction that is repeated during the statement of the initial A section is very similar to the beginning of many marches, and the 2-measure solo breaks by clarinetist Larry Shields were also typical of most jazz band arrangements of the day. It was often during these solo breaks that most, if any, of the real improvisation took place. In this case, it appears as though Shields is merely playing the same material he has probably played many times before, but it may have originated through the process of improvisation. The outline and timeline that follow will help you to navigate through this historic recording and understand more clearly how the song is constructed.

The Original Dixieland Jass Band

It is obvious in this 1917 recording by the ODJB that the New Orleans street bands, which played in a style similar to a marching parade band, left an impact on these white players who came from the same delta city. The initial march-like introduction reoccurs numerous times throughout the piece. Many of the other characteristics associated with the early New Orleans Dixieland style are heard throughout this seminal recording, including:

• sliding, tailgate trombone; • dense polyphonic style featuring all three wind instruments playing simultaneously; • florid clarinet obligato (prominent accompanying melody secondary to primary melody and

often improvised) passages; • drummer playing in a march-like style, including characteristic cymbal crashes and bass-drum

hits; • drummer’s use of wood blocks, which were less distracting and invasive during this period

of early recording technology; • clarinet solo breaks (a point in a piece of music, lasting usually 2–4 measures, when everyone

in the ensemble stops playing except the soloist); • classic New Orleans instrumentation, although lacking any bass instrument such as tuba or

string bass.



Original Dixieland Jass Band

“Dixie Jass Band One-Step” (ODJB) 2:35

Recorded 2/26/1917, New York

(RCA Special Products)

Personnel: Nick LaRocca, cornet; Larry Shields, clarinet; Eddie Edwards, trombone; Henry Ragas, piano; Tony Spargo, drums.

Form: AABBAABB (8 bars of each theme)/Theme C (6 choruses of 16 bars each)

Keys: Theme A: B-flat major; theme B: E-flat major; theme C: A-flat major

0:00–0:08 A theme

0:00–0:16 A theme repeated

0:16–0:23 B theme (change of key)

0:24–0:31 B theme repeated

0:31–0:38 A theme (return to first key)

0:39–0:46 A theme repeated

0:47–0:54 B theme (change of key)

0:54–1:02 B theme repeated

1:02 C theme (change of key again) “That Teasin’ Rag” by Joe Jordan

1:17 C1 theme varied slightly at second 4-measure phrase

1:32 C theme

1:48 C1 theme

2:03 C theme

2:19–2:35 Final C theme that includes a 1-measure tag ending


Kid Ory (1890–1973) Although the ODJB may have been the first jazz band to record, they certainly were not the only band performing New Orleans-style jazz during the late teens and early 1920s. Many black bands were performing music that historians consider far more authentic, original, and representative of the real jazz of the times. For example, Edward “Kid” Ory, a black New Orleans trombonist, had taken a band featuring his brand of New Orleans jazz to California in 1919. Ory’s Sunshine Orchestra became the first black jazz band from New Orleans to record. They recorded in Los Angeles in 1922. These recordings feature Ory’s band alone and as accompanists to blues singers from the vaudeville circuit. Ory left California and moved to Chicago in 1925, where he participated in an early jazz radio broadcast in 1923. He later took part in some of the most historically significant recordings ever made as a member of Louis Armstrong’s recording bands. Ory is considered to be the first important jazz trombonist in the long lineage of this instrument.

Joe “King” Oliver (1885–1938)

Perhaps the true “King” of New Orleans cornetists was Joe “King” Oliver (1885–1938). He became Louis Armstrong’s mentor while playing in New Orleans brass bands around 1908. The closing of Storyville in 1917 was no doubt a factor in his choice to move to Chicago a year later, although many of the clubs that were closed in Storyville set up shop in other parts of the city. After establishing himself as a first rate cornetist in various Chicago bands, Oliver formed his own Creole Jazz Band in 1920, eventually taking up residency at the Lincoln Gardens, located at 459 East 31st Street. As the popularity of his band grew, he sent for Louis Armstrong, his young New Orleans protégé, to play second cornet. The recordings made by Joe Oliver’s band in 1923 have become landmarks in the history of jazz, for they not only displayed Oliver’s prowess as an improvising soloist, but they also served to introduce Armstrong, who would soon revolutionize jazz by changing it from an ensemble style to a virtuosic solo art form. Perhaps the most famous recording made by this

band was “Dippermouth Blues,” also known as “Sugar Foot Stomp.” Oliver’s solo on this recording became a model for many trumpet players to follow and was often quoted by other trumpet players who later recorded arrangements of this piece. Armstrong is barely identifiable in this recording; however, there are other significant works recorded by Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band that do feature him in a more prominent way and deserve mention. Armstrong cites “Chimes Blues” as a recording he was quite proud of, for it features his first recorded solo. “Tears,” a work co-composed by Armstrong and Creole Jazz Band pianist Lilian Hardin, was also recorded by the band in 1923 and presents a glimmer of the great Armstrong’s solo style, not yet fully developed, but showing that he was already far more advanced than most of his contemporaries.

Lilian Hardin (1898–1971)

Lilian Hardin deserves special mention, as she was an excep - tional pianist, composer, and arranger. She was also the most prominent woman to excel as a jazz instrumentalist at a time when this business was almost exclusively a man’s world. A few women had become successful singers at this point, but it was rare to find a woman appearing as an instrumentalist in

Pianist, composer, arranger, singer, and bandleader Lilian Hardin Armstrong

male-dominated jazz bands. The lifestyle of a jazz musician was considered inappropriate for women and remained so for many years. She played with bands led by Joe Oliver and Louis Armstrong, recording with the finest New Orleans and Chicago musicians of the day. Armstrong, who first met her when he joined Joe Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band, was taken with her instantly and commented that, “it was startling to find a woman who had been valedictorian in her class at Fisk University [she never actually graduated] fall in line and play such good jazz.”20 She told the following story about her audition with Oliver:

When I sat down to play I asked for the music and were they surprised! They politely told me they didn’t have any music and furthermore never used any. I then asked what key the first number would be in. I must have been speaking another language because the leader said, “When you hear two knocks, just start playing.” It all seemed very strange to me, but I got all set, and when I heard those two knocks I hit the piano so loud and hard they all turned around to look at me. It took only a second for me to feel what they were playing and I was off. The New Orleans Creole Jazz Band hired me, and I never got back to the music store—never got back to Fisk University.21

She married Louis Armstrong, a union that lasted until their separation and eventual divorce in 1938, and she was instrumental in encouraging him to strike out on his own and not remain a sideman in the shadow of other musicians.


King Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band in the early 1920s. L–R: Honore Dutrey, Baby Dodds, King Oliver, Louis Armstrong (kneeling in foreground with trombone), Lil Hardin, Bill Johnson, and Johnny Dodds



King Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band

“Dippermouth Blues” (Oliver) 2:32

Recorded 4/6/1923, Richmond, IN

(Gennett 5132)

Personnel: King Oliver, Louis Armstrong: cornet; Honoré Dutrey, trombone; Johnny Dodds, clarinet; Lilian Hardin, piano; Bill Johnson, banjo, vocal break; Baby Dodds, drums

Form: 12-bar blues

0:00–0:04 4-measure intro featuring Oliver and Armstrong in harmonized duet

0:05–0:20 First chorus—opening theme stated in polyphonic Dixieland style

0:21–0:35 Second chorus—full ensemble continues in polyphonic style

0:36–0:50 Third chorus—stop-time clarinet solo

0:51–1:06 Fourth chorus—clarinet solo continues

1:07–1:22 Fifth chorus—full ensemble in polyphonic Dixieland style

1:23–1:37 Sixth chorus—Oliver plays muted cornet solo while other instruments play simple, quiet background parts

1:38–1:52 Seventh chorus—cornet solo continues with background figures

1:53–2:06 Eighth chorus—last cornet chorus ends with 2-bar vocal break

2:08–end Final chorus—full ensemble in polyphonic style with extra 2-bar tag

To quote historian Martin Williams, “Dippermouth Blues” “[is a] sample of the dense poly - phonic style of the New Orleans ensemble.”22 Unlike many songs from this period that erroneously used the term “blues” in the title, but didn’t follow this harmonic form, “Dippermouth Blues” is an authentic blues and follows the same I–IV–V chord scheme we found in Bessie Smith’s “Lost Your Head Blues” and the first section of W.C. Handy’s “St. Louis Blues.” King Oliver’s version of “Dippermouth Blues,” also known as “Sugar Foot Stomp,” served as an inspiration and model for many other versions by other bands that followed. (Compare this version with Fletcher Henderson’s larger band version also found in the anthology.) Armstrong plays the lead cornet part during the ensemble section between the two solo choruses. The two-chorus solo played by Oliver, using a wah-wah style mute, was imitated by many trumpet players who followed. The listening guide above will help your listening experience.

Oliver used a mute on this solo and many other recordings, and he is given much credit for introducing various brass mutes to add special color and dampen the brash sound of the cornet. It may have been out of necessity that Oliver often used mutes in his recordings, in an effort to accommodate the limitations of the early acoustic recordings, which were easily overloaded by loud sounds. Whatever the reason, the use of mutes by brass players in jazz became common- place. Much like the ODJB recording included in the anthology, this drummer uses wood blocks instead of the overpowering drums, which were difficult for early recording technology to handle. The short vocal break is merely an interlude to precede the final full ensemble chorus and 2-measure tag.


Jelly Roll Morton (1890–1941) As recordings testify, the 1920s mark a period of tremendous growth and innovation in jazz and technology. Still a new music, jazz remained largely misunderstood and a con - troversial subject for hot debate. One of the reasons that jazz remained a mystery, shrouded in myth and misunder - standing, was that the musicians themselves were unwilling or unable to offer any meaningful explanations of it. The analysis was often left to literary and classically trained writers, who knew very little about it and were the least qualified to discuss it. This was largely the case until the 1930s, when scholars began to take greater interest in the music and its creators. World-famous anthropologist and folklorist Alan Lomax, working for the Library of Congress in 1938, took just such an interest in Jelly Roll Morton, who thought of himself as the inventor of jazz.

Jelly Roll Morton, born Ferdinand Joseph LaMothe (1890–1941) (mistakenly referred to for many years as Lementhe), was one of the earliest pioneers of this new music, enjoying his success as a composer/arranger, pianist, and bandleader in the mid 1920s. Growing up in New Orleans, Morton was a Creole and took advantage of this status. He studied piano with Tony Jackson, one of the very few musicians he ever praised, other than himself. Jelly Roll often lied about his birth date to substantiate his tales about inventing jazz, a bogus claim, as jazz is the by- product of a collective spirit. To his credit, however, his recorded music does justify his claims to be an innovator and early jazz stylist. He traveled the country, performing on the West Coast, in Mexico, in the Midwest, and of course in New Orleans, often as a solo pianist, and sometimes making a living as a pool shark, gambler, pimp, and hustler. His piano and composition style bears a remarkable resemblance to ragtime, but his own brand of invention labeled him as a transitional figure between the rag and stride-piano styles. Ragtime and the blues served as his primary influences. His first published solo composition was entitled “The Jelly Roll Blues” and appeared in print in 1912. Many of his later compositions have become staples in the jazz repertoire. His unique piano style, which often resembled an entire band condensed to 10 fingers, led him to compose for a recording band that produced a series of recordings considered his most historically significant works. His Red Hot Peppers recording band did not perform outside of Chicago, probably because all of the musicians featured on these recordings were the most prominent and in-demand musicians at the time in Chicago and did not need to travel to work steadily. Many were transplanted New Orleans residents, such as trombonist Kid Ory. The arrangements recorded by this band earned Morton the reputation as the “first jazz composer/arranger.” In these ensemble works, Morton demonstrated an unparalleled understanding (at least among early jazz musicians) of orchestration, form, balance, variety, and the importance of the soloists within the confines of a large group arrangement. Rather than follow the cluttered, polyphonic New Orleans style, he organized his material much more carefully by crafting composed duets and trios, interludes connecting main themes, key changes, and full ensemble choruses.

Jelly Roll Morton spoke of the “Spanish tinge” in his music. A good example of what he meant by this is the habanera rhythm (displaced by one beat) found in the stop-time section of “Black Bottom Stomp,” included in the online audio anthology. This ensemble rhythm is found at 1:31–1:33 and again, extensively, from 1:49 to 2:08, where it is used as an accompaniment figure to the cornet solo.

Composer and pianist Jelly Roll Morton at the piano



Jelly Roll Morton’s Red Hot Peppers

“Black Bottom Stomp” (Morton) 3:09

Recorded 9/15/1926, Chicago

(Victor 20221)

Personnel: Jelly Roll Morton, piano; George Mitchell, trumpet; Edward (“Kid”) Ory, trombone; Omer Simeon, clarinet; Johnny St. Cyr, banjo; John Lindsay, bass; Andrew Hilaire, drums

Form: Theme A (16 bars); theme B (20 bars in new key)

0:00–0:07 8-measure intro (4 measures repeated) by full ensemble

0:08–0:21 A1—8-measure section featuring call and response style; bass implies predominant 2-beat style with occasional 4-beat walking

0:22–0:36 A2—trumpet alternates 4-measure phrases with full ensemble question–answer style

0:37–0:51 A3—clarinet solo with banjo accompaniment

0:52–0:55 4-measure interlude and key change

0:56–1:14 B1—6-measure ensemble phrase followed by short trumpet and trombone breaks; 12 measures of full ensemble follow for a total of 20 measures

1:15–1:32 B2—clarinet solo with 2-measure break and rhythm section accompaniment; another 20- measure section is unusual

1:33–1:50 B3—piano solo in stride-like style; section ends with full ensemble break that leads to next section

1:51–2:09 B4—trumpet solo in stop-time; rhythmic break figures resemble displaced habanera rhythm

2:10–2:28 B5—banjo solo includes 2-measure break; bass occasionally shows more modern 4-beat walking style

2:29–2:47 B6—full ensemble returns to 2-beat style; 2-measure drum break followed by Dixieland ensemble style

2:48–end B7—final chorus features strong drum back-beat accents on 2 and 2-measure drum break before final 12-measure ensemble section and 2-measure coda or tag

Morton’s music, daringly advanced for its day in demonstrating sophisticated orchestration and arranging techniques, was actually outmoded almost the day it was recorded. His style, largely based on ragtime, was quickly becoming eclipsed in the mid 1920s by a newer style of jazz that spotlighted the soloist as much as the ensemble. Ragtime, the basis for much of his work, was also becoming passé, and he found himself competing with younger musicians playing in a newer style. Although his music swung more, his ragtime-derived syncopated rhythmic style was not enough to sustain his reputation. Some of his later works, only recently discovered, seem to

You will find on the website several recorded excerpts of trombone, trumpet, and clarinet parts extracted from this composition and re-recorded. Try to find where these excerpts appear in the original recording. The website also contains a brief excerpt of the historic interview with Morton conducted by Alan Lomax.


reflect the work of big-band composers such as Duke Ellington, an ironic development as Morton never embraced the style and outwardly condemned the big-band swing movement. Like so many early jazz performers, Morton was largely forgotten at the time of his death and found it difficult to earn a living in the field he helped to create.

The recording of “Black Bottom Stomp” included in the companion anthology is considered to be the most seminal work by Morton and his Red Hot Peppers. Although the work itself could have been better rehearsed, it nevertheless not only demonstrates the high level of his artistry as a composer/pianist, but also features excellent solos for the day by Mitchell, Simeon, St. Cyr, and Ory. This track uncommonly uses a trumpet instead of the typical cornet, but of even more interest is the inclusion of a string bass, which at times actually plays quarter-note walking lines. More typical for this period would have been a tuba or bass saxophone, and so it is even more unusual to hear a walking bass line (ascending and descending scale-like bass lines, where one note is played on each beat of the measure), not a common practice until many years later in the Swing Era. Also recognizable is the call–response format featured in the first repeated A section of Morton’s original. This recording also showcases numerous solo breaks and riffs, two ingredients that Morton was adamant about when he discussed the qualities of good jazz with Alan Lomax. The outline and timeline in the listening guide on p. 90 will help you to navigate through this historic recording and understand more clearly how the song is constructed.


You will find no argument in describing Louis Armstrong as the first truly exceptional virtuoso jazz soloist. Even those early recordings with Joe Oliver show that there was something special, not only about his rhythmic phrasing, but also about his choice of notes while improvising. His first encounter with the cornet came as a member of a band in a boys’ school in New Orleans.

Growing up, he worked menial jobs at the New Orleans docks and played in local bands. His first significant employment as a musician was with Fate Marable’s orchestra in 1919. Marable’s small orchestra traveled up and down the Mississippi River on the SS St. Paul, a riverboat steam ship that carried passengers and goods between New Orleans and midwestern ports. This band included several of the musicians that would later team with him in Chicago to record his most influential early works. Armstrong stayed with Marable about two years before moving to Tom Anderson’s cabaret band on Rampart St. in New Orleans. Soon after, he received word from his mentor Joe Oliver, now finding success in Chicago, to join his band as second cornet. It was Armstrong’s first recordings with Joe “King” Oliver that introduced him to the world and, just like his mentor, he became widely known by several nicknames, including “Satchmo” and “Pops.” His success with Oliver led to a short stint as featured soloist with Fletcher Henderson’s New York band, which was pioneering the big-band sound, featuring more sophisticated arrangements for his larger band. Armstrong returned to Chicago in 1925 to form his most famous recording bands with his wife, pianist Lillian Hardin. These Hot Five and Hot Seven recordings are the most significant recordings made in the first 20 years of jazz history. These performances not only introduce a new way to structure jazz, in order to highlight the improvising soloist instead of the collective ensemble, but they also mark a distinct change in the interpretation of eighth notes. Armstrong’s style moved away from the stiff syncopations associated with earlier ragtime-based performances toward a smoother, buoyant, driving swing style. Armstrong’s solos swing

See the website for excerpts of Armstrong discussing Buddy Bolden, Joe Oliver, and the early New Orleans traditions.


like no other from this period and serve to instruct, not only future generations of wind players, but also drummers, in the art of swing-style playing. The following is a brief listing of those many aspects of Armstrong’s style that characterize him as a true innovator:

• Armstrong demonstrated an ability to play higher notes than had previously been accomplished by other cornet players. He was one of the first musicians to discard the cornet in favor of the trumpet.

• Armstrong was a brilliant technician, who demonstrated his dexterity and flexibility by playing double-time solo breaks (playing notes twice as fast, three or four per beat instead of just two).

• Armstrong’s choice of notes was also unique for the time, including altered tones that strayed from basic chord tones.

• Armstrong’s rhythmic style swung harder than that of any musicians of the day, and, consequently, he influenced all instrumentalists—not just trumpet players.

• Armstrong’s rhythmic phrasing was unique. He demonstrated the ability to treat a steady tempo in a more elastic manner by occasionally rushing, laying back slightly behind the beat, as well as implying polyrhythmic phrases (rhythmic groups of three against a 4/4 meter).

• His tone quality was brilliant, immediately captivating the listener as he soared above the rest of the band. • Armstrong used various embellishments to his advantage. Inflections such as rips up to high notes and varying

vibrato speeds were used to full advantage to add special emotional quality. (Vibrato colors a note by adding a vocal-like fluctuation to vary the pitch of a straight, pure tone.)

• Armstrong popularized vocal improvisation using nonsense syllables—a style later described as “scat” singing.

Louis Armstrong and his Hot Five. Left to right: Johnny Dodds, Louis Armstrong, Johnny St. Cyr, Kid Ory, Lilian Hardin Armstrong


He first demonstrated his scat vocal technique in his 1926 recording of “Heebie Jeebies.” Armstrong’s producer spread the rumor that he dropped the sheet music during the recording, while others claimed he just forgot the lyrics, forcing him to vocally improvise using nonsense syllables instead of words. Whatever the case, this recording launched an entirely new style of vocal jazz that has influenced jazz singers ever since.

Armstrong’s popularity grew, not only in the US but also abroad, prompting him to tour worldwide. His ability as a charismatic entertainer, jazz trumpeter, and vocalist gave him the star power necessary for a minority to achieve the status and success that he enjoyed throughout his lengthy career. Although he became involved at various times in his career with more commercial music ventures and movies, he remained true to the art of jazz improvising, which he advanced further than anyone else had in this early jazz period.

There are so many outstanding recordings by Armstrong’s Hot Five and Hot Seven bands that the inclusion of just one selection in the online audio anthology is difficult. “West End Blues” was chosen because it not only displays Armstrong’s accomplishments as a trumpet and vocal soloist, but also displays the artistry of innovative pianist Earl Hines. Hines moved from his hometown of Pittsburgh to Chicago and became the first pianist to begin to discard the busy, two-hand ragtime and stride styles, in favor of a more single-line approach similar to that of wind players. Count Basie during the Swing Era and the many bebop pianists in the mid to late 1940s further honed this style. In this recording, Armstrong displays his clarion high-register ability, technical command in executing double-time solo breaks, and sense of rhythmic balance while playing streams of triplets, yet at times purposefully lagging behind the beat. His vocal solo here is far from an example of his best work as a scat singer, but it does show how similar his vocal and instrumental styles were. The outline and timeline that follow will help you to navigate through this historic recording and understand more clearly how the song is constructed.

“West End Blues” has often been described as the perfect example of Armstrong’s virtuosic trumpet style. A more detailed description of this performance follows. Timings are approximate but will be helpful in delineating each section of this 12-measure blues.


Louis Armstrong and His Hot Five

“West End Blues” (Oliver/Williams)

Recorded 6/28/1928

(Okeh 8597)

Personnel: Louis Armstrong, trumpet, vocals; Fred Robinson, trombone; Jimmy Strong, clarinet; Earl Hines, piano; Mancy Carr, banjo; Zutty Singleton, drums

Form: 12-bar blues

0:00–0:15 Introduction—Armstrong plays a rubato cadenza (solo without accompaniment and sometimes without strict tempo), followed by a brief sustained chord played by the ensemble of accompanying instruments. This introduction is followed immediately by Armstrong’s entrance, which establishes the regular tempo and introduces the theme. These pick-up notes (notes that anticipate the actual beginning of a phrase of music) establish a symmetrical trend that is followed throughout the entire piece, as each new section begins as an anticipation using pick-up notes to begin each new chorus

0:15 Main theme—the main 12-measure theme is played by Armstrong with accompaniment by clarinet, trombone, and rhythm section. Pianist and banjo player place strong chords on each beat

0:50 Second chorus—this second 12-bar blues chorus features trombonist Robinson. It begins with a 1-beat anticipation at the end of the first chorus. Rhythmic accompaniment is provided by the drummer playing what sounds like spoons!


1:24 Third chorus—clarinetist trades phrases, in call and response style, with Armstrong in his scat vocal style. This chorus also begins with an anticipation at the end of the previous chorus

1:58 Fourth chorus—pianist Earl Hines is featured here in an unaccompanied solo, demonstrating why he is remembered as one of the most important pianists from this early period. His single-line right-hand melodies are reminiscent of those played by horn players. This more linear, horn-like style is in stark contrast to the busy, two-hand ragtime and stride-piano styles reflected by most pianists from this period. His left-hand style in this solo, however, does reflect the stride influence

2:32 Fifth chorus—Armstrong returns to the spotlight for the first 8 measures of this last chorus with a long, sustained high note followed by repetitive triplets, which he rushes and drags to provide a dramatic climax to the close of this piece. The piece concludes with a short, rubato-style ending featuring solo piano followed by the entire ensemble. The drummer adds the final touch with his spoons!

Sidney Bechet plays clarinet for a Blue Note Records session, June 8, 1939

Sidney Bechet (1897–1959)

Although Sidney Bechet made significant contributions to jazz in the early years of its development, he remains a somewhat less prominent figure in its history. A New Orleans-born clarinetist, Bechet was largely self-taught, could not read music, and was known all his life as a somewhat discontented, migrant musician, constantly moving from one band and city to another. He never settled down with one band for any great length of time, and, consequently, there are many diverse recordings available. After moving to Chicago, where he performed with Freddie Keppard and King Oliver around 1918, he traveled to Europe with a large society orchestra led by Will Marion Cook. He stayed less than a year with Cook’s Southern Syncopated Orchestra, but his travels to Europe with this group left an indelible mark on his career, for it was there that he discovered the soprano saxophone. He soon favored this instrument over the clarinet, and he is now not only remembered as the first woodwind doubler (one who plays several different woodwind instruments proficiently), but also is given credit for helping to popularize the soprano sax. Bechet’s travels to Europe were also rewarded by his gaining recognition on both continents—no small claim for an early black jazz musician. Bechet’s recordings with Clarence Williams’s Blue 7 and the Red Onions bands, both of which also featured Louis Armstrong, are seminal and best show his blues- and ragtime-derived style.

The impact that Oliver, Armstrong, Morton, and Bechet had on developing this new music called “jazz” is inestimable. They changed the course of history and the direction music would take, not just in America, but also worldwide. Their music became the soundtrack for American life, an emblem for freedom, and has changed forever the way we think about music-making.


Chronicle of Historic Events

The timeline that follows will put the developments of jazz discussed in this chapter into a larger historical context, providing you with a better sense of how landmark musical events may relate to others that match your personal areas of interest.

1917 • The US enters World War I.

• The ODJB issues the first 78-rpm recording, which sells 1.5 million copies. Victor Records and the New York press call it “jass.”

1918 • Ironically, a New Orleans paper, the Times-Picayune, declares jazz “a musical vice,” urging people of New Orleans to “be the last to accept the atrocity in polite society . . . and make it a point of civic honor to repress it.”24

• War ends in Europe.

1919 • The signing of the Versailles Treaty officially ends World War I, and the ODJB plays at the signing party.

• Race riots mark the “Red Summer” in Chicago.

1920 • The census shows a growing urban population, with rural figures dropping to only 30% of the total. Illiteracy falls to 6%, and life expectancy increases to age 54.

• Prohibition begins, making the production, sale, and transportation of alcoholic beverages illegal.

• The negro baseball league is formed.

• The Women’s Suffrage Constitutional Amendment takes effect, wining them the right to vote.

• Radio station KDKA begins regular weekly broadcasts from Pittsburgh, PA.

1921 • The jazz pianist Earl Hines makes the first live broadcast on KDKA radio.

• James P. Johnson records “Carolina Shout.”

• The town of Zion, IL, bans public performance of jazz.

• America experiences the worst economic depression since 1914.

1922 • The flapper marks the end of the Victorian age for U.S. women, who now smoke and drink in public places, often wearing flashy clothing.

• Paul Whiteman’s recording of “Whispering” sells 2 million copies.

• Kid Ory’s Sunshine Orchestra becomes the first black jazz band to make a recording.

• Significant publications by authors James Joyce (Ulysses) and T.S. Eliot (The Waste Land ) are issued.

1923 • The first jazz is broadcast live on the radio from Chicago.

• A Russian inventor predicts television.

• Joe “King” Oliver records “Dippermouth Blues” with his Creole Jazz Band, featuring Louis Armstrong.

• The New Orleans Rhythm Kings become the first white jazz band to record with a musician of color.


• Officials around the country express concerns over teen dance marathons.

1924 • Paul Whiteman’s “Experiment in Modern Music” features George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue.”

• IBM is founded.

• The Teapot Dome Scandal occurs.

1925 • Composer/conductor Igor Stravinsky makes his American debut conducting the New York Philharmonic in a program of his own music.

• Sinclair Lewis’s Arrowsmith is published, and F. Scott Fitzgerald releases The Great Gatsby.

• The Florida State legislature requires daily Bible readings in all public schools.

• Tennessee passes a law forbidding the teaching of any evolutionary theories that deny creationism.

• Attorneys William Jennings Bryan and Clarence Darrow fight a court battle over the legality of teaching evolution.

1926 • The first liquid-fuel rocket, pioneered by Robert Goddard, is launched.

• Hemingway authors his first novel, The Sun Also Rises.

• Langston Hughes publishes The Weary Blues.

• Jelly Roll Morton records “Black Bottom Stomp.”

• NBC is incorporated.

• Movies are becoming the most popular form of American entertainment, making Douglas Fairbanks, Greta Garbo, John Barrymore, and Charlie Chaplin national figures. A new era of pictures with sound begins.

1927 • Director Alfred Hitchcock releases his first film, The Pleasure Garden, in England.

• President Coolidge creates the Federal Radio Commission (FCC).

• The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences is formed.

• Henry Ford stops producing the Model T car; the first Model A Fords are sold for $385.

• The 18-station CBS radio network begins.

• Babe Ruth hits a record-setting 60th home run and becomes the highest paid athlete at $70,000 a year.

• The Jazz Singer, the first movie with a soundtrack, premieres in New York City.

• Duke Ellington opens at the Cotton Club in Harlem.

1928 • Louis Armstrong records “West End Blues.”

• “Amos & Andy” debuts on the NBC radio network.

• The first transatlantic flight from Europe to US takes place; other aviation milestones are set.

• The Pulitzer Prize is awarded to Thornton Wilder for Bridge of San Luis Rey.

• General Electric opens the first TV station in Schenectady, NY.

• Amelia Earhart becomes the first female to fly across the Atlantic Ocean.

• The first all-talking motion picture is shown in New York.

• Herbert Hoover is elected U.S. president.



The 1920s represented a time of social, technological, and economic change in America that greatly influenced the growth of early jazz. The newly established recording industry, the advent of radio, a quickly growing music-publishing industry, and improvements in transportation enabled this new music to spread quickly. Those rebelling against Victorian values embraced the freedom expressed by improvised music. Prohibition was a conservative reaction to this freedom and, as jazz musicians often played in clubs illegally selling alcohol, they became linked in the minds of conservatives to organized crime and general moral decay.

Early jazz groups were composed of a front line (most typically cornet, clarinet, and trombone) and a second line (the early rhythm section), as they evolved from street-parade and funeral bands. The instrumentation of the second line varied considerably, but generally included a bass instrument (tuba, bass sax, or string bass), a chording instrument (banjo or guitar, with or without piano), and drums. Because of limitations in the recording technology of the day, the drummer would often play wood blocks and other softer sounds, to avoid distortion and balance problems. The groups tended to play in a very contrapuntal style (more than one important musical line played simultaneously).

The ODJB, a group of white musicians originally from New Orleans, made the earliest- known instrumental jazz recording in New York in 1917. Their music featured very little improvisation, but they enjoyed tremendous popularity. Cornetist Joe “King” Oliver, on the other hand, led an important early jazz band (Creole Jazz Band) that placed emphasis on improvisation. Jelly Roll Morton (Ferdinand LaMothe) was an early jazz pianist/bandleader and the first notable arranger, who may be best known for his claim to be the inventor of jazz.

Louis Armstrong is universally acknowledged to be the first great jazz soloist. His tech- nique, range, and rhythmic feel on cornet (later trumpet) were far beyond those of any of his contemporaries. More importantly, Louis Armstrong’s improvisations showed an understand- ing of harmony and rhythm without peer. He also is recognized as the father of scat singing (improvising vocally using nonsense syllables). Having performed around the world, Louis Armstrong became an international star.



Important terms, people, places, and bands:

Terms Arpeggio Creole Diatonic Double-time Gliss (abbreviation for

glissando) Legato Obligato Prohibition act Scat Solo break Tailgate

Vibrato Walking bass Woodwind doubler

People Louis Armstrong Sidney Bechet Buddy Bolden F. Scott Fitzgerald Lilian Hardin Earl Hines Langston Hughes Jelly Roll Morton

Joe “King” Oliver Kid Ory

Places Cotton Club Storyville Tin Pan Alley

Bands Creole Jazz Band Hot Five and Hot Seven Original Dixieland Jazz Band Red Hot Peppers


1. How was jazz perceived and received in the 1920s? Make sure that both opinions are presented.

2. New businesses and technologies in the 1920s supported the growth, dissemination, and rapid spread of jazz. Discuss these innovations and how jazz was closely intertwined with them.

3. Describe the social mood of the “jazz age.”

4. Why was New Orleans such an ethnic, cultural melting pot?

5. What evidence supports the notion that many early New Orleans jazz musicians were Creoles, or at least had French ancestry?

6. What is meant by the second line?

7. What cities other than New Orleans supported the early growth of jazz?

8. What instruments might have filled out the rhythm section in an early New Orleans jazz band?

9. What were the usual wind instruments heard in an early New Orleans jazz band and what were their musical roles?

10. What is the significance of the Original Dixieland Jazz Band? Describe the band’s style.

11. Where and when was the first instrumental jazz recording made?

12. Who was one of the first successful woman instrumentalists in jazz?

13. “Dippermouth Blues” bears some of the characteristics associated with many pieces from the period. What are they?

14. Who is considered the first important jazz composer/arranger?

15. What aspects of Jelly Roll Morton’s music made it unique and original for the times?

16. Who is considered to be the first great jazz soloist?

17. What characteristics made Louis Armstrong a true innovator?


C H A P T E R 6

The Jazz Age From Chicago to New York

The first World War had been fought, and in the back-wash conventions had tumbled. There was rebellion then, against the accepted, and the proper and the old. . . . The shooting war was over but the rebellion was just getting started. And for us jazz articulated . . . what we wanted to say.1

—Hoagy Carmichael

Henry Ford and his son Edsel in front of their new model in New York in 1927–1933


Although New Orleans was the epicenter of jazz, the aftershock was felt far and wide. Other cities that did most to support this new wave in American music were Chicago and New York. Both of these northern cities supported a tremendous influx of African-Americans between 1916 and 1930. About 500,000 sought a better way of life and moved from southern locations to northern cities between 1916 and 1919. More than 1 million more left the South in the decade that followed. Chicago and New York had become ethnic melting pots, with a more diverse collection of European immigrants, blacks, and whites than any other place in the world.


The south side of Chicago, known as the “vice district” or the “Levee,” became the new home for many enterprising blacks during the 1920s. They launched business ventures catering to leisure- time activities. Many of these establishments supported black entertainers and fostered a sense of racial pride in the south side. The cabarets and saloons were often referred to as black and tans, as they catered to a mixed black and white clientele. In a 20-block area of Chicago’s vice district, one could find a staggering number of saloons, variety theaters, gambling houses, pool rooms, and bordellos.2 It is no small wonder that the south side of Chicago in the 1920s was a magnet for black entertainers, who found plentiful well-paying jobs. Many transplanted New Orleans jazz musicians practiced their trade in the Levee district, such as Freddie Keppard, Kid Ory, Joe Oliver, Louis Armstrong, Jelly Roll Morton, Lilian Hardin, Earl Hines, and Jimmy Noone, among others.

There was always a threat of police raids in the Levee district, which, as author William Kenney points out, “seemed to contribute just the right note of excitement to Chicago’s jazz scene, mixing the new styles of personal liberation . . . [and] adding drama to the new music.”3

If it wasn’t the police, it was the Juvenile Protective Association (JPA) that was making life difficult for those who frequented the vice district. Essentially a temperance society, the JPA had made it its mission to curb the sins of Chicago’s youth, whom it perceived as negatively influenced by the lure of the Levee district. The south-side black and tans were in the business of selling “suggestive African-American musical entertainment which helped customers to create an atmosphere of inter-racial sensuality,” according to Kenney.4 This atmosphere did draw a good deal of negative press from right-wing groups with conservative ideologies. For example, the New York-published American issued the following warnings in its January 22, 1922 article entitled “Jazz Ruining Girls, Declares Reformer: Degrading Music Even Common in ‘Society Circles,’ Says Vigilance Association Head.”

Moral disaster is coming to hundreds of young American girls through pathological, nerve- irritating, sex-exciting music of jazz orchestras, according to the Illinois Vigilance Association. In Chicago alone the association’s representatives have traced the fall of 1,000 girls in the last two years to jazz music. Girls in small towns, as well as the big cities, in poor homes and rich homes, are victims of the weird, insidious, neurotic music that accompanies modern dancing.

“The degrading music is common not only to disorderly places, but often to high school affairs, to expensive hotels and so-called society circles,” declares Rev. Phillip Yarrow, superintendent of the Vigilance Association. The report says that the vigilance society has no desire to abolish dancing, but seeks to awaken the public conscience to the present danger and future consequences of jazz music.5

This New York press was not alone, as many other articles appeared in newspapers and music- trade magazines that denigrated the increasingly popular new music. They often carried similar vigilante themes and rarely offered any real analysis or specific criticism of the music. Etude ran an article in the January 1925 edition entitled, “Is Jazz the Pilot of Disaster?”, and Metronome printed the following in a 1923 article:

I can say from my knowledge that about 50% of our young boys and girls from the age 16 to 25 that land in the insane asylum these days are jazz-crazy dope fiends and public dance hall patrons. Jazz combinations—dope fiends and public dance halls—are all the same. Where you find one you will find the other.6



Although jazz was not without its critics in the 1920s, it also had its champions. Some writers about jazz made an effort to discriminate between “high-brow” and “low-brow” jazz. In other words, they differentiated between good and bad jazz. The Musical Quarterly published an article in 1926 by Edwin J. Stringham in which he attempts to set the record straight about good and bad jazz. He says that:

there are two sides to the Jazz question. This form of music . . . has been denounced far and wide as being of immoral character. I have in mind only the better type of jazz; that which is composed by understanding musicians, that which is well conceived and written according to ordinary esthetical and technical standards.7

Like so many early writers on the subject of jazz, Stringham failed to see that this music could not be judged and held to the same standards and practices associated with traditional European classical music, and that it must be assessed by different criteria. His appreciation of jazz was obviously directed at the more symphonic style associated with Paul Whiteman. Regardless of the growing press and public debates inspired by jazz, the appeal and lure of the music were far too great for a few negative articles to abate its attraction to young Americans.

Marathon dance competitions were part of the growing phenomenon of youth culture in the 1920s, Chicago. First prize was $500


The north and west side of Chicago, inhabited by middle- and upper-class whites, offered dance halls and cabarets. A few bands even employed black performers, although they were far from fully integrated. Many of these nightspots featured dance bands that included some jazz-like numbers as part of their repertoire, as this was the music that many young whites wanted to hear. Social dancing was a driving force of the entertainment industry in the 1920s and was a primary form of entertainment for upwardly mobile white audiences. By the 1920s, there was already a distinction between the ensembles that included orchestral instruments such as strings and those that did not. Those ensembles featuring orchestral instrumentation and a largely dance-oriented repertoire were categorized as “sweet” bands, and the black south-side bands were termed “hot” jazz bands. The sometimes-bitter debates that continue to rage among fans and critics advocating for one of these two sides actually began at the advent of instrumental jazz. Some gave little credence to those white bands that largely played sweet dance music with little improvisation but billed themselves as jazz bands. In order to appease both sides of this debate, many bandleaders, such as Isham Jones, who played popular dance halls in Chicago frequented by white clientele, employed a few jazz soloists so that they could respond to the growing request for hot jazz by the younger generation. These younger white patrons demanded music similar to what they had heard in the south-side cabarets.

School dances, fraternity parties and the like became major venues for jazz and dance bands in the late 1920s. Many of the major college campuses gave birth to their own bands organized by students with or without the sanction of school officials. For example, Princeton, Harvard, Yale, Texas University and the University of Chicago all spawned jazz bands during the late 1920s.8

The JPA and other urban reform groups actively monitored many of the Chicago dance halls. They actually urged dance-hall managers to speed up the tempos in order to encourage respectable dancing at arm’s length. There was a demand for fast-paced dance music that was morally sterile. “Cooperation between dance hall entrepreneurs and urban reformers shaped the commercialization of the dance craze and created a demand for fast paced ‘peppy,’ but morally sanitary, jazz age social dance music.”9 Some say that these sanctions are largely responsible for the faster tempos that are generally agreed upon to be an identifying characteristic of Chicago jazz. According to New Orleans banjoist Johnny St Cyr, “the fastest numbers played by old New Orleans bands were slower than . . . the Chicago tempo.”10 Organizations such as the JPA considered a night of dancing for their young people less harmful than a bout with liquor or associations with “people of color” on the south side.

Dance orchestras led by Paul Whiteman, known eventually as the “King of Jazz” thanks to his publicists, Guy Lombardo (Royal Canadians), Vincent Lopez, and Art Hickman, who frequented Chicago hotel ballrooms and north-side dance halls were paid thousands of dollars for a week-long engagement. This was no small sum, considering the fact that an automobile could be purchased for well under $1,000! Those few “hot” jazz players who were hired to add spice to the dance repertoire played by these “sweet” bands often used this opportunity to refine their basic music-reading skills and put good money in their pockets, as they were often paid some of the highest salaries.

Young, white Chicago musicians idolized the black New Orleans musicians for their free spirit and ability to play unencumbered, “real” jazz. To many of these young north- and west- side Chicago youth, jazz represented freedom and a breaking away from the authoritarian demands of their elders. “Jazz seemed to express artistic alienation from middle-class materialism,”11



according to William Kenney. Some of these young, white musicians, such as clarinetist Mez Mezzrow, strove to emulate their black idols in every way—adopting their speech patterns and general life styles. Many young, white Chicago musicians, such as Benny Goodman, the son of immigrant parents, and Bud Freeman, had a distinct advantage over the black New Orleans musicians. Being schooled musicians, able to read and execute difficult music as well as play jazz, their background opened up numerous opportunities that were unavailable to some black musicians who may have lacked formal training. These young, white players nevertheless did everything they could to emulate the best of black jazz they had heard in the south-side establishments, especially influenced by transplanted New Orleans musicians such as Joe “King” Oliver, Jimmie Noone, Freddie Keppard, and Kid Ory.


Bud Freeman, Jimmy McPartland, Frankie Teschemacher, and Dave Tough were all members of Chicago’s white middle class and became known as the Austin High Gang. For some reason, much has been made in the jazz history annals about the Austin High Gang, when in fact many of the musicians actually responsible for what became identified as the Chicago jazz sound had no relationship to this middle-class, suburban high school. Many came to Chicago from elsewhere, and many others actually became known only after leaving Chicago to perform and record elsewhere. It is these white musicians, regardless of their origins, who created the Chicago sound. As you will see in the following pages, the Chicago style serves as a transition to the big-band Swing Era that follows and, in some ways, serves as a distant prelude to the “cool” jazz sounds of the 1950s. The following list of characteristics helps to define the Chicago jazz style.

Bix Beiderbecke and the Wolverines in the Gennett Recording Studios, in 1924, in New York

• Although there is some debate, there is evidence to support that the average tempo increased during the Chicago period, as compared with the earlier New Orleans style.

• The saxophone appeared as a regular, new member of the bands. • Most Chicago bands featured some New Orleans-style polyphony, but the soloist begins to

emerge, relegating other band members to more background roles during a solo. • Chicago bands reflected a refinement of style and instrumental polish not associated with

many early New Orleans bands. • Individual musicianship appeared to be on the rise in terms of technique, tone production,

and the ability to read music. • The ensembles seemed less haphazard, with a greater emphasis placed on the arrangement

and well-rehearsed ensemble performance. • Rhythm sections were significantly more advanced, and playing techniques improved. The

tuba was gradually replaced by the string bass, and the guitar began to emerge as a solo voice. This transition, however, was slow, and the banjo and tuba could still be found in early 1930s big bands.

• The earlier New Orleans 2-beat rhythm-section style, reminiscent of the marches and rags, was transformed by featuring walking bass lines and accents that imply 4/4 meter, instead of the earlier 2/4 meter common to rags.

• The cornet was gradually phased out in favor of the trumpet. • Chicago bands began to expand in size and instrumentation.


New Orleans Rhythm Kings (NORK)

Perhaps the most influential group of white musicians to emerge in the early 1920s that helped define a new Chicago sound was the New Orleans Rhythm Kings (NORK). The NORK based their sound in part on the black New Orleans style of polyphonic jazz, but their arrangements tended to favor a more sophisticated and organized sound. The group’s cornetist, Paul Mares, is quoted as saying, “we did our best to copy the colored music we’d heard at home [New Orleans]. We did the best we could, but naturally we couldn’t play real colored style.”12 Their influence was widespread, and they made significant improvements in playing a smoother, more legato- phrased style of jazz; however, as a group, they did not make a major impact at the time.

Their repertoire was an amalgamation of blues, rag-based and dance tunes. Some feel that many of the white bands, such as the NORK, that emerged during the Chicago period were little more than dressed-up, more-polished, and, in some cases, watered-down versions of the New Orleans black style. Others viewed the new sound as a natural progression in refining what had gone before.

The NORK, in 1923, became the first white band to record with a musician of color, when it invited Jelly Roll Morton to record several sides with the group, including his own “Mr. Jelly Lord” and “London Blues.” Black and white musicians may have associated with one another in the black and tans of Chicago’s south side or, for that matter, in the Harlem district of New York, but it had been largely forbidden for people of color to mix publicly on the bandstand until Benny Goodman broke the unwritten ban on racially mixed bands in the late 1930s.

The NORK, first known as the Friars Society Club Orchestra, made its first recording in 1922, becoming the first Chicago-based jazz band to record. Isham Jones’s society, “sweet” dance band actually recorded a few months earlier, but its repertoire was more for dancing and not




Cornetist Leon Bix Beiderbecke and saxophonist Frankie Trumbauer are undoubtedly the most well-known Chicago-era musicians. Ironically, neither Beiderbecke nor Trumbauer was a native Chicagoan. Beiderbecke was a transplanted Iowan, whose parents had sent him to a private academy in Chicago in hopes of bringing some discipline to their son and curbing his “unnatural obsession” with music. Beiderbecke had been a truant child in Iowa, where he studied piano and became infatuated with jazz. Chicago was certainly the wrong city for him to learn about discipline and take his education seriously, as the vibrant jazz atmosphere on the south side was a distraction and only encouraged him to further pursue his musical obsessions.

Although Beiderbecke had access to formal music training, he largely rejected it in favor of his own, unorthodox style that was in part responsible for his unique tone quality and identity on the cornet. For example, he often used the wrong fingerings to produce certain notes on his cornet. He played both piano and cornet largely by ear and only learned to read music later in his career, when the demands of reading written-out arrangements in large ensembles required it.

His first school band was the Rhythm Jugglers, but he was not heard around town until he joined the Wolverines. The Wolverines played at school dances and parties, imitating the sounds of black bands they had heard in the south-side cabarets, and white bands such as the NORK. Beiderbecke was actually never recorded in Chicago, and, in 1925, he left the Wolverines, moving to Detroit to take a job with the Jean Goldkette Orchestra. Goldkette commanded a large stable of society bands that performed throughout the Midwest and was based in Detroit. At one time, he controlled as many as 20 bands, and his primary ensemble was known to have squarely beaten the great Fletcher Henderson’s New York band in a battle of the bands. Beiderbecke’s position with the Goldkette orchestra was merely a steppingstone before he moved on to record with saxophonist Frankie Trumbauer’s small group. The two had become acquainted in Goldkette’s Orchestra and both joined the popular Paul Whiteman Orchestra, along with a number of other renegades from the Goldkette outfit.

By the time Beiderbecke made the move to the Whiteman Orchestra, he had become known for his unique style that was in stark contrast to the hot players of the day such as Louis Armstrong. Beiderbecke had a more lyrical sound that projected a sense of “subdued passion.” In contrast to the

Cornetist Bix Beiderbecke (1903–1931) poses for a portrait, c.1925

considered jazz. With cornet, trombone, clarinet, saxophone, piano, banjo, bass, and drums, the NORK was a fairly large band, sporting eight musicians.

The first NORK recordings predated those made by Joe “King” Oliver by seven months, but there is no doubt that he, along with other New Orleans musicians who had moved to Chicago, provided the primary inspiration for the formation of the Chicago jazz sound. The recordings made by Louis Armstrong’s Hot Five and Hot Seven bands in the mid 1920s embodied both the spirit of earlier New Orleans bands and the new trend to spotlight the soloist more than had been the case in the earlier New Orleans groups.


flashy, double-timing Armstrong, his solo breaks might consist of only one note, repeated with slight shadings or inflections. Most consider Beiderbecke to be the first in a long line of “cool” style musicians that represented a departure from the “hot” school of playing associated with Armstrong. His long-time friend and popular songwriter Hoagy Carmichael (who composed “Stardust” and often booked Beiderbecke at Indiana University) described his sound as “pure, resembling a chime struck by a mallet.”13 You would never hear him adding a buzzing growl or thick, wide vibrato to his sound, as was the case with most black players of the day.

He had an obvious knowledge, or at least a keen natural sense of harmony, that he demonstrated in several piano compositions that reflect the popular 1920s French Im pressionistic, classical style of composition. His composi tion “In a Mist,” notated for publication by Whiteman arranger Bill Challis, as Beiderbecke was unskilled at such things, serves as an excellent example of this sophisticated, almost classical piano style, which was never evident in his jazz cornet playing.

Ironically, it is the recordings that Beiderbecke made with Frankie Trumbauer, and a few with Whiteman, that made him famous, but not until long after his untimely death in 1931 at age 28. Tuberculosis, alcoholism, and a generally reckless, bohemian lifestyle contributed to his poor health during the last several years of his life. Although he was greatly admired by black and white musicians, he was not particularly well known by the general public during his lifetime. This obscurity may seem undeserved, as his recordings, although not made in Chicago, have ultimately surfaced as those that help to signify and define the Chicago jazz sound.

Listen to Wiedoeft’s “Saxophobia” and the Brown Brothers’ “Down Home Rag” on the “Experiencing Jazz Playlist” at the Library of Congress Jukebox.


Whereas Beiderbecke lives on in the annals of jazz history as the first great white performer, his bandmate Frankie Trumbauer enjoyed a less illustrious career, even though his contributions were significant. Frankie “Tram” Trumbauer (1901–1956) played the alto and C-melody saxophones. The C-melody, which was considered by many the black sheep of the saxophone family, sounds between the E-flat alto and the B-flat tenor, although its size more closely resembles the tenor sax. It was known for its unique tone quality, somewhere in between the alto and tenor. The C-melody was popular among amateurs because it did not require any music transposition. It was pitched in the key of C, enabling the performer to read from piano music and making it a good choice for at-home, family-parlor sing-a-longs. Another saxophonist of note was Rudy Wiedoeft, who, along with the Brown Brothers saxo phone ensemble, popularized the saxophone in the US from about 1917 to 1927. Wiedoeft was a popular radio and vaudeville performer who, along with the Brown Brothers, was the first to record a section of saxophones. Wiedoeft’s technique and articulation were impressive, as were the flashy showpieces that he composed to showcase the instrument and his facility. Saxophone historian Ted Hegvik wrote that Wiedoeft “took the saxophone—an instrument without a style, a literature, or an artistic example—and, in supplying it with all of these, created the ‘saxophone craze’ of the 1920s.”14 It is only recently that historians have begun to realize the great influence that Wiedoeft, who was not a jazz saxophonist, exerted on early jazz players such as Trumbauer.

Trumbauer recorded his first important solo in 1923 and, through this recording, had an immediate influence on black and white saxophonists. Like Beiderbecke, Trumbauer’s sound was smooth, lyrical, and cool, and his


rhythmic phrasing rarely demonstrated much syncopation or thick, wide vibrato. He was a brilliant technician, following the path that Wiedoeft so deftly cleared. His solos were so well crafted they appeared premeditated and had a gracefulness that served as an antithesis to the hot school of jazz playing. Richard Sudhalter, author of Lost Chords, described his playing as “elegant and debonair.”15 He was of great influence on a future generation of jazz saxophonists such as Lester Young, who carefully studied and memorized his recorded solo on “Singin’ the Blues,” included in the online audio anthology. This single solo turned the saxophone world on its ear and became the subject of future arrangements where the entire solo was quoted note for note. Every saxophonist, black or white, learned this solo and frequently quoted from it in their solos. Most historians believe that Trumbauer’s best work occurred during his 4-year association with Bix Beiderbecke as members of the Goldkette and Whiteman Orchestras. The small group recordings that stemmed from these associations showed a unique musical kinship that Beiderbecke and Trumbauer shared. They not only complemented each other, but also seemed to feed off of the contrasts that they created.

A number of features are apparent in the classic Trumbauer–Beiderbecke recording “Singin’ the Blues,” namely the prominent use of the saxophone, greater solo space with less reliance on Dixieland-style full ensemble, a clear 4-beat emphasis that begins with Beiderbecke’s solo, and the elevated role of the guitar, as compared with the earlier use of banjo.

Trumbauer left the Whiteman Orchestra in 1936 to strike out on his own, following Beiderbecke’s early death. He performed and recorded briefly with the Three T’s, a group of Whiteman sidemen consisting of the Texas trombone sensation Jack Teagarden and his brother Charlie Teagarden, who played trumpet. Trumbauer’s contributions to jazz, however, waned after Beiderbecke’s death, and he retired from the music business in 1940 for a career in aviation.

Eddie Lang (1902–1933), who is remembered as the “father of jazz guitar,” also recorded with Trumbauer and Beiderbecke. He was born in Philadelphia, PA, and also performed in Chicago, New York, and London. His recording of “For No Reason At All in C” is legendary and unusual, in that it features a trio of Beiderbecke on piano, Trumbauer on saxophone, and Lang on guitar. Trumbauer ignores the theme in favor of improvising on the chord scheme of this old standard tune. Although it is certainly not bebop, one could consider this recording an early predecessor of this style, which was years away from blossoming, and deserves to be considered as supplementary listening.

Frankie Trumbauer and unidentified guitarist


Frankie Trumbauer and His Orchestra

“Singin’ the Blues” (McHugh–Fields) 2:59

Recorded 2/4/1927

(Okeh 40772)


Personnel: Frankie Trumbauer, C-melody saxophone; Bix Beiderbecke, cornet; Bill Rank, trombone; Jimmy Dorsey, clarinet, alto saxophone; Paul Mertz, piano; Eddie Lang, guitar; Chauncey Morehouse, drums

Key and form: E-flat major; 32-bar theme divided into four 8-bar sections (ABA1C)

0:00–0:06 4-bar instrumental intro without rhythm section

First chorus

0:07–0:20 Trumbauer solos on C-melody sax, accompanied by piano and guitar (8 measures total)

0:21–0:34 Second section—Trumbauer continues his solo, ending the section with 2-bar solo break (8 measures total)

0:35–1:02 Final section—Trumbauer continues in improvised style solo (notice how guitarist mimics fast sax triplet passage moments later); 2-bar break ends first chorus (16 measures total)

Second chorus

1:03–1:16 Beiderbecke solos on cornet for 8 measures

1:17–1:31 Beiderbecke continues solo, ending the section with 2-bar break, which begins with a double-time phrase and ends with an Armstrong-like rip to anticipate the last phrase of the chorus

1:32 Beiderbecke continues to solo for the final 16 measures of the form

Final chorus

2:00–2:13 Dixieland polyphonic-style full ensemble section

2:14–2:28 Dorsey plays clarinet solo quoting Hoagy Carmichael’s famous “Stardust” at 2:22–2:24

2:29–2:42 Full ensemble, Dixieland style

2:43–end Full ensemble with a 1-measure guitar solo break

Paul Whiteman (1890–1967) and Symphonic Jazz

In the words of jazz historian Marshall Stearns, “If the ODJB [Original Dixieland Jazz Band] made jazz a household word in 1917, Paul Whiteman made it semi-respectable in 1924.”16 When Paul Whiteman founded his orchestra in 1919, he wisely employed Ferde Grofé, stealing him away from Art Hickman’s West-Coast band. Pianist and arranger for Whiteman, Grofé is credited as a pioneer in developing concepts in arranging and composing for the large dance and symphonic orchestras. Both Whiteman and Grofé had similar backgrounds, having been schooled in the European classical tradition, and so it is no surprise that this training became the basis of their style. Grofé’s arrangements for Whiteman of “Whispering,” “Japanese Sandman,” “Avalon,” and scores of other songs became enormous sellers in 1920 and the years just after, and they made Whiteman the most celebrated bandleader of the period. Numerous examples of Whiteman’s recordings, including “Whispering,” can be found at

Perhaps the most acclaimed performance by the Whiteman Orchestra was his 1924 “Experi - ment in American Music,” at which he premiered Grofé’s orchestration of George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue.” In this concert, Whiteman dressed jazz in more respectable clothes, making it more appealing to the masses by shedding the barroom atmosphere and ragged musicianship that had been associated with some jazz of the times. Henry Osgood, who penned one of the first books about jazz in 1926, suggested that it was safer and less risky for the public to enjoy Whiteman’s brand of jazz, and, with his “experimental” concert, he had taken “the very first step toward the elevation of jazz to something more than accompaniment for dancing.”17


Paul Whiteman and his orchestra

The overwhelming press that surrounded the premier of “Rhapsody in Blue” and Whiteman’s syndicated book served to add some credence to the title “King of Jazz,” coined by his publicist. Whiteman’s orchestra, and others that followed his model, reported weekly payrolls in excess of $5,000 per week, a great deal of money in the twenties. (See the Whiteman payroll sheet found in the companion website.)

Historians have not always been kind to Whiteman, and he has often borne the brunt of criticism from jazz purists. For example, Robert Goffin described Whiteman’s recordings as “essentially banal music, but played beautifully by first-rate musicians.”18 According to jazz scholar James Lincoln Collier, these criticisms are unfounded and unfair, as about half of Whiteman’s recordings featured jazz solos. Had it not been for Whiteman, Chicago-school artists such as Beiderbecke, Jimmy Dorsey, Eddie Lang, Jack Teagarden, and Frankie Trumbauer, to mention a few, might never have received the widespread exposure that eventually proved to be important to the ongoing development of jazz. Collier also points out that it was Whiteman who introduced the idea of featuring vocalists along with symphonic, jazz-style arrangements, a concept that was capitalized on some years later during the peak of the big-band Swing Era.19 The idea of using both singers and strings in the dance-band context became a model, laying the groundwork for the success of jazz-informed singers such as Frank Sinatra, who enjoyed great acclaim years later. Whiteman and his arrangers also demonstrated that jazz improvisation could coexist within the tightly arranged framework designed for the large, symphonic-style ensemble. Although conservative compared with the authentic jazz combo, the Whiteman symphonic prototype has had a lasting impact on the history of jazz since the 1920s.

“Mississippi Mud” serves as an excellent example of the Whiteman style, demonstrating an amalgamation of African-American jazz, popular music, and a European style of orchestration. This particular tune also illustrates many of the classic devices discussed previously and associated with this orchestra—the vocal solo and group, “scat” singing, the improvised “hot” jazz solo, and orchestrations inspired by the large, European classical-like ensemble.



Paul Whiteman and His Orchestra

“Mississippi Mud” (Barris–Cavanaugh, arr. Satterfield) 3:22

Recorded 2/18/1928, New York


Personnel: Bix Beiderbecke, cornet; Charlie Margulis, trumpet; Bill Rank, trombone; Irving “Izzy” Friedman, clarinet; Chester Hazlett and Charles Strickfaden, alto saxophones; Frankie Trumbauer, C-melody saxophone; Nye Mayhew, tenor saxophone; Mike Trafficante or Minton Leibrook, tuba; Tom Satterfield, piano; Mike Pingitore, banjo, guitar; Steve Brown, bass; Harold McDonald, drums; Irene Taylor, Bing Crosby, Al Rinker, Harry Barris, Jack Fulton, Charles Gaylor, and Austin Young, vocals

Key and form: A theme—E-flat major (A—10 bars, A1—12 bars); B theme—C minor (4 bars)/E-flat major (4 bars)

0:00–0:07 6-bar vocal introduction based on second B theme, with Crosby scat singing final phrase

0:08–0:020 Beiderbecke paraphrases A theme for an unusual 10-measure section

0:21–0:35 Beiderbecke continues his variation of the A theme, this time for a more logical 12 measures

0:36–0:45 B section features low brass playing stop time phrases in call and response with full ensemble played Dixieland style with cornet lead (8 measures)

0:46–0:57 B repeats

0:57–1:08 Friedman plays clarinet solo with rhythm-section accompaniment. Tuba switches to string bass and occasionally walks. A clarinet solo break in measures 7–10 (A section 10 measures)

1:09–1:23 A1 clarinet solo continues for 12 measures

1:24–1:28 4-measure instrumental break serves as an interlude leading to vocal that follows

1:29–1:41 Taylor sings A section with vocal chorus as background (10 measures)

1:42–1:57 Taylor vocal continues for second A—12 measures long

1:58–2:07 Crosby sings B section with alternating scat phrases

2:08–2:17 Same scheme is repeated for second B section

2:18–2:32 Taylor sings A theme with vocal choir as backdrop

2:33–2:46 Beiderbecke leads orchestra in Dixieland-style polyphonic arrangement with fills and a saxophone solo break at the end of the phrase by Jimmy Dorsey. Notice the ascending rip à la Armstrong played by Beiderbecke

2:47–3:06 Ensemble style continues with an additional 4-measure phrase, making the entire section 16 measures long

3:07–end Final coda sung by Taylor in rubato style, with male-choir accompaniment leading to splash cymbal abrupt ending


Solo pianists learned how marketable they could be in the 1920s, as they had the advantage of being employable in almost any venue. The stride style, discussed in more detail in the preceding chapter, was the basis for much of the piano jazz, solo and ensemble, heard throughout the 1920s. Prior to the advent of talking motion pictures, many jazz pianists found employment in movie theaters, where they improvised accompaniments to silent films.


Boogie-woogie was a rhythmically charged, blues-inspired solo piano style that initially surfaced, to no great attention, in the mid-to-late 1920s. This gregarious, highly improvised style was spawned in roadhouses, barrooms, honky-tonks and at rent parties. The style utilizes the basic 12-bar-blues harmonic scheme and features a strong, repetitive left-hand motive that can resemble a walking bass line. This left-hand pattern usually consists of four pairs of eighth notes—hence the “eight to the bar” description often used (8 eighth-notes complete one 4/4 measure or bar). Pianists added elaborate right-hand melodies to this left-hand accompaniment pattern. As one hand might employ a different meter than the other, this style requires much independence between right and left hands, as is the case with the stride style.

Pine Top Smith, who recorded “Pine Top’s Boogie Woogie” in 1928, helped to popularize this style, which enjoyed a revival in 1938 and flourished well into the early 1940s. Chicago gave birth to several important second-generation contributors to this style—namely Albert Ammons, Meade “Lux” Lewis, and Jimmy Yancey. Along with work by Pete Johnson and Joe Turner, the Lewis and Ammons recordings were successful enough to encourage the later adoption of this style by the big bands of Count Basie, Tommy Dorsey, and Charlie Barnet, among others. The style was diluted during these years, although it was absorbed into the lasting Chicago blues tradition. Even today, the blues tradition, including boogie-woogie, is maintained in clubs throughout this northern city.


There are many factors that led to the steady decline of jazz in Chicago at the close of the 1920s. The most catastrophic economic event, sending a shock wave through the entire nation, was the stock-market crash on “Black Thursday,” October 29, 1929, marking the beginning of the Great Depression. No single event has eclipsed this economic disaster in the history of the United States. The tremendous losses, which effectively crippled Wall Street, led to a run on banks, with millions of Americans withdrawing their life savings for fear of losing them all. For many, it was too late, as banks and businesses across the country failed, leaving record numbers of Americans unemployed and concerned about the well-being of their families. A tremendous new industry had developed around the steady growth in popularity of jazz, and much of it came tumbling down. Record and publishing companies, radio manufacturers and networks, cabarets, dance halls and speakeasies, theaters, booking agents, and of course musicians all suffered—no one was insulated from this American economic tragedy. For example, the Gannett record label, which at one time had under contract many of the top performers, totally collapsed in 1929, as did a number of other labels.

But the Depression was not the only factor responsible for dimming the lights on Chicago’s nightlife. By the late 1920s, musicians had begun to steadily migrate to New York, where more opportunities existed, especially for recording, and recordings were perceived as a musician’s ticket to mass popularity. For many musicians, New York was perceived as the place to be. There certainly were numerous opportunities for employment in dance orchestras that were taking advantage of the widespread dance craze. Some jazz musicians flocked to dance bands, such as those led by Paul Whiteman, among others.

A short video demonstration of boogie-woogie can be found in the corresponding chapter on the website.


Prohibition, politics, urban reform groups, movies with soundtracks, the closing of some cabarets, and police raids on mob-run speakeasies all contributed to musicians’ desires to look for greener pastures. Although the Chicago mob, with bosses such as Al Capone, helped to provide an environment in the clubs that encouraged the music, their illegal activities also brought unending attention to many establishments that were raided on a regular basis. Some musicians found that the underworld could be your best friend one minute and turn into your worst enemy the next. Pianist Fats Waller was supposedly escorted at gunpoint from his dinner table to a waiting car, driven to Al Capone’s headquarters in East Cicero, and ordered to play at a surprise birthday party for the gangster. He was tipped handsomely for his trouble, but the money may not have outweighed the mental anguish. Joe Glaser, who eventually became Louis Armstrong’s manager, had ties to the Chicago mob. The club that he managed was, in reality, run by the mob. It was raided so frequently that Armstrong’s pianist Earl Hines claimed that he ran for the police paddy wagon at the first sign of a raid so that he could get a good seat!20 The government and the courts had closed many of the cabarets by 1928, and, as a result, many of the musicians were forced to look for work in larger dance bands or other cities. By 1928, “250 cabaret entertainers and 200 musicians had lost their jobs.”21

A crowd of depositors outside the American Union Bank in New York, having failed to withdraw their savings before the bank collapsed

The attraction to New York and the appeal of Kansas City, fast becoming a wild town in the image of Chicago, lured many away from the windy city. Larger dance-oriented bands and symphonic jazz-style orchestras began to win the battle for public attention in the mid-to-late 1920s. There was still an audience for smaller, New Orleans- and Chicago-style groups, but the public’s interest was the larger dance bands. The country was primed for the big-band Swing Era, but Prohibition would have to be repealed, and the nation would need to recover from the economic ravages of the Depression, before the climate would be right to encourage the most popular and lucrative times ever enjoyed by the jazz musician.


Since the mid 1930s, there has been a plethora of books written about jazz, each author with an individual take on the history of jazz. There is no doubt that the “longer view” offers a better perspective to historians and critics. The following viewpoints about F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “Jazz Age” will provide some insight into the significance of this period.

Wilder Hobson published American Jazz Music in 1939. He offered the following opinions about the Chicago period:

The Chicago jazz players, Negro and white, of the twenties were for the most part still, in

effect, in a folk-musical environment, playing spontaneous music in obscure dance halls

and moving on later for impromptu sessions in still more obscure speakeasies. Their music

had a very limited white audience and little or no commercial value or publicity. By the late

twenties fine jazz playing emerged somewhat into the commercial spotlight. But there was

nothing which might have been called a public demand for, or recognition of, the jazz


Hobson went on to describe Chicago jazz as “a blend of the negros’ personal intensity and a linear economy suggestive of Bix Beiderbecke.”23 Although some of Hobson’s comments about the 1920s are valid, many of his observations serve to show that he was out of touch with the reality of the 1920s and what it meant to the advancement of jazz. Hobson’s book is, nevertheless, considered the first jazz criticism book of real value to be published by an American. French author Hugues Panassié first published Hot Jazz in America in 1934. The French author insisted that Chicago jazz was a “white appropriation”24 of music created by black musicians. It is important to mention that Panassié never traveled to the US to witness jazz first hand, prior to the writing of his first book on the subject. Author Rudi Blesh agreed with Panassié and referred to Chicago jazz as “white imitations of Negro jazz, sincere but not profound.”25 Blesh also felt that many good “negro” musicians had been tainted and spoiled by the commercial influences of white jazz. Last, contemporary jazz scholar, composer, and conductor Gunther Schuller, author of Early Jazz, classified the Chicago style as “commercial performances geared to a thriving mass market requiring a consumer’s product.”26

Looking back at jazz criticism is interesting, as it provides a glimpse and perspective on the music’s reception at the time. We often find in such writings shortsighted perspectives from authors who lacked hindsight and the advantage of the longer view. Every new trend, regardless of its long-term effects, is valid and contributes to the ongoing evolution of an art form, adding to the continuum. No one has the foresight to know where it may be going, but history has shown that we must let it go there along its own natural course, unencumbered by criticism, and enjoy the ride—wherever it takes us.




While Chicago had its south side, New York City had Harlem, an area that served as a hot house for the germination of black intellectualism, cultural development, and community pride during the 1920s. On one hand, Harlem was the center of a growing sense of black pride, and yet, at the same time, conditions continued to deteriorate, as more and more blacks fled the south to this northern city in search of work and a better life. The influx of newcomers into this con - centrated area gradually caused conditions that led to the creation of slums and ghettos.

While some black intellectual leaders, such as writer Langston Hughes, were champions of jazz and reflected this attitude in their writings, other church-going black community leaders looked down on the music and its practitioners. This group considered the music to be “low brow,” representing a part of black heritage that should be repressed and forgotten, rather than encouraged. Despite these conflicts within the community, Harlem produced some of the finest jazz musicians of the day.

The ragtime style served as a springboard for the creation of a looser, more swinging style that developed initially in the Harlem section of Manhattan. James P. Johnson, who was also a highly skilled ragtime pianist and composer, is considered to be the “father” of this new “stride” piano solo style. There were other pianists associated with this style, and together they are remembered as the “Harlem Pianists.” This group included Eubie Blake, Willie “The Lion” Smith, Duke Ellington, Fats Waller, and Art Tatum, among others. The left-hand technique associated with this style is clearly related to the oompah, 2-beat style of ragtime, providing a

Exterior of the Renaissance Casino ballroom in Harlem, New York, late 1920s

steady, regular rhythm. The left hand leaps in large “strides” across the keyboard, stating chord roots on strong beats and basic chord tones above the root on the weak beats. In counterpoint to the regularity of the left hand, the right hand creates single-line melodies and interacts with the regularity of the left hand in most unusual and irregular ways, setting up syncopations and polyrhythms. Rhythmically, the stride style is more sophisticated, with more intricate rhythms and a smoother sense of swing than the rather rigid, predictable syncopations associated with rags. There is a greater tendency toward improvisation, application of blues inflections, and generally faster tempos than in most classic rags, which called for no improvisation and were not informed by the blues. (Chapter 3, “Listening to Jazz,” on the website provides a video example of stride piano found in the “Instruments–Piano” section.)

Many of these Harlem Pianists earned their living supplying accompaniment for silent films and blues singers, such as Bessie Smith. They also performed at cabarets, rent parties, and for Tin Pan Alley publisher shops to help market new music. Informal competitions, sometimes referred to as “cutting contests,” were staged at a musician’s home. A modest admission fee was charged, and this income was used to help the tenant pay his rent. These rent parties became fairly commonplace, not only in Harlem, but also in Kansas City and Chicago.

James P. Johnson (1891–1955)

The “father of stride piano,” educated in the classical tradition and trained by Eubie Blake, James P. Johnson served as musical director for the black film “St. Louis Blues” and arranged some 16 musical reviews for Broadway. Despite his reputation among musicians as a superior pianist, composer, and accompanist, Johnson never enjoyed great commercial success. His popular tunes such as “The Charleston” became standards, but were in sharp contrast to his love for more serious works in the stride style. These works include an opera, a symphony, a concerto, and a symphonic suite. Each of these major, multi-movement works was designed “to tell a story, the story of America’s ethnic heritage, especially the distinctive role of his race.”27

Unfortunately, the white world of serious music was not ready to accept semi-serious, orchestral music by a black composer; consequently, much of his work in this vein was rejected by publishers. Ironically, in 1935, George Gershwin, a white, Jewish composer, created Porgy and Bess, a successful and more lasting American opera based on similar themes. Johnson’s work as a stride pianist nevertheless was of great influence on Fats Waller, Duke Ellington, and the bebop-era pianist/composer Thelonious Monk.

Johnson’s “Carolina Shout” is included in the online audio anthology. It is truly one of the most inspired stride-piano performances on record and shows a radical departure from ragtime. As the title implies, it is based on an old New Orleans ceremonial ring-shout, featuring contrasting themes. The piano roll of this piece supposedly served to instruct a young Duke Ellington, who placed his fingers on the player piano keyboard to follow the piece note by note. This particular


James P. Johnson poses for a studio portrait in 1921


recording demonstrates Johnson’s artistry regarding complete independence between left and right hand. The left hand creates shifting accents by deviating from the predictable, reoccurring oompah pattern. Instead of always placing the harmonic emphasis on strong beats 1 and 3, as was usually the case in earlier rag styles, he occasionally shifts these strong beat accents to 2 and 4, giving the false impression of a meter change. As you listen to this recording from the anthology, conduct a simple 4/4 pattern or count 1–2–3–4, 1–2–3–4, 1–2–3–4, etc., as this will help you to spot these tension-ridden passages and give you a frame of reference (a sample conducting pattern can be found in Chapter 2 on the website under the section on “Rhythm”). These shifting accents in the left hand and absence of repetitive oompah rhythms contribute an element of surprise and originality to this amazing performance. The shifting accents are most noticeable in the initial A sections and the D section of the form. Although the multiple sections of this overall form seem to resemble a classic rag formula, they never repeat exactly, which is the case in most rag compositions. For example, the second A section in “Carolina Shout,” unlike most rags, does not feature exact repetition, but shows variation when compared with the initial statement of the A theme. A call–response between the right and left hands is evident during the C sections. Although there are similarities between sections, there are also significant differences, making it challenging to be precise about the form. Rhythm, rather than melody, seems to be the more predominant aspect of this classic recording. The listening guide that follows will help you to navigate through this historic recording and understand more clearly how the performance is constructed.


James P. Johnson

“Carolina Shout” (Johnson) 2:45

Recorded 10/18/1921

(Okeh 4495)

Personnel: James P. Johnson: piano

Form: AABCCDED (16 bars of each theme)

Keys: Themes A, B, and C: G major; themes D and E: C major

0:00 4-bar introduction that closely resembles a rag

0:05 A1—initial theme

0:25 A2—variation of first theme, with irregular and unpredictable left-hand pattern making this section more syncopated than the first

0:45 B theme, which never again occurs intact

1:05 C1—question–answer format between right and left hands

1:24 C2—variation on C1

1:43 C3—another variation on C section

2:02 D section seems to come out of nowhere

2:20 C4—a return with further variation to the C-section material

2:39 4-bar coda

Aside from the “Harlem pianists,” this area became the laboratory for early hot big bands, led by Fletcher Henderson and Duke Ellington among others. More dance-oriented white bands worked downtown and found ways to fuse elements of hot jazz with a more subdued, marketable dance style. Other white musicians, operating outside of Harlem, did a great deal to redirect the music away from the earlier, loose, polyphonic New Orleans style toward a more mass-marketable style centered around dance.

Although it is not within the scope of this chapter to discuss in detail the careers of Henderson and Ellington, it should be pointed out that both leaders moved their music away from the older New Orleans tradition. Both men developed new concepts in arranging for larger bands, and Henderson in particular paid heed to the popular dance craze that was sweeping the city. However, he, like Ellington, was devoted first and foremost to “hot” jazz and sought out the best jazz soloists to power his bands. Henderson, with the aid of saxophonist/arranger Don Redman, pioneered new ways to assemble written music for large bands consisting of sections of trumpets, saxophones, trombones, and rhythm. Louis Armstrong and tenor saxophonist Coleman Hawkins, as members of this band, had an inestimable impact on the creation of this new big-band sound evolving in New York’s Harlem.

Duke Ellington brought his “Washingtonians” band to New York from Washington, DC, in 1923, in hopes of realizing his dream of achieving notoriety. Although this first trip was not rewarding, his second engagement at the Kentucky Club, which lasted 4 years, proved to be his ticket to even more widespread recognition and exposure at the hottest spot in Harlem—the Cotton Club. The Cotton Club featured black entertainers and hired help catering to a white, high-class clientele. It was at this high-class club that Ellington honed his unique style, capitalizing on his sidemen’s special skills.

As had been the case in Chicago, ballrooms became popular haunts in New York for the young, dance-crazed crowds. The popular Savoy Ballroom in Harlem opened its doors in 1926 and provided yet another opportunity for whites to partake of African-American culture. The Savoy employed both black and white bands, and working there, as well as at the Apollo Theater, was a goal for many of the new, young bands. This ballroom was integrated, much like the black and tans in Chicago, making it even more enticing to many whites.

The mob infiltrated New York nightlife, just as it had done in Chicago. The Cotton Club had close mob connections and, during Prohibition, provided bootlegged alcohol to its white patrons. (Ironically, marijuana was legal until 1937, whereas Prohibition laws banned alcohol from 1920 to 1933.) White aristocrats ventured into Harlem to get a glimpse of “barbaric, talented Negroes” who provided hints of deepest, darkest Africa, portrayed by exotic dancers and scenic design. In some ways, the Cotton Club was an African-American sideshow, the success of which was based on upper-class, white patrons’ curiosity and desire for black entertainment. Black entertainers and their managers (who were often white and of Jewish heritage) learned to capitalize on this white curiosity.

The Cotton Club kept Ellington and his men employed even through the dark Depression years, a benefit not enjoyed by many of the struggling, emerging black or white big bands, whose only recourse was to travel to find work where they could.

Harlem itself gradually deteriorated, with clubs such as the Cotton Club closing, driving the musicians and patrons downtown to seek a new nightlife. Harlem became overcrowded with poor, unemployed blacks and was left to the slumlords, only a shell of its former self.



The 1920s mark the first period of significant growth in the entertainment industry. The advances made in technology including the radio and record industries served to stimulate the popularization of jazz nearly overnight. There were many outlets for musicians in Chicago and New York. Musicians were paid well for their time and talents and typically earned $45–75 per week for a cabaret or dance-hall engagement. Those more fortunate musicians who could read music, such as Benny Goodman, supplemented this income with recording, radio, and theater work. Goodman, in fact, was one of the most in-demand musicians in Chicago at the time, well before his rise to fame as a big-band leader. School dances, fraternity parties, and the like were also major sources of employment.

The OKEH recording label was the first to capitalize on race records, recording black blues singer Mamie Smith in 1920. These records were specifically targeted at the black audience, selling for $1–2 a piece. Not only did they do as well as those other ethnically flavored recordings, designed to capture the Irish, Polish, Yiddish, German, French, and Mexican immigrant markets, but they also attracted many white buyers, which surprised the record companies specializing in these race records. Race records usually featured black, female blues singers, who were often accompanied by jazz instrumentalists.

Warner Brothers produced the first Vitaphone talking picture in 1926. The end of the silent- film era did some harm to jazz musicians, who had previously provided music for silent films. Some live theater music still existed after the introduction of “talkies,” because musicians were hired to provide music between feature films or newsreels. A very few, fortunate musicians were either the subject of film or found work recording soundtracks for feature films, shorts, and cartoons, but these opportunities were few and far between in the 1920s.

The Amplivox, which was the predecessor of the jukebox, was released in 1926, providing yet another opportunity for this music to be heard in public places that did not support live music.

A few of the most fortunate bands enjoyed the opportunity of regular exposure via weekly radio broadcasts, sponsored by companies with products ranging from cigarettes to soap. Old Gold Cigarettes sponsored a weekly broadcast by Paul Whiteman’s orchestra, and Camel Cigarettes sponsored the Caravan of Stars, featuring Glen Gray’s Casa Loma Band and later Benny Goodman’s orchestra. One of the first live radio broadcasts was made from Chicago in 1923, and the number of radio stations grew nationwide from 200 in 1922 to 694 in just 4 years. Etude magazine published an editorial in 1924 declaring “Listen on the radio any night. Tap into America anywhere in the air and nine times out of ten Jazz will burst forth.”28 The expansion of radio networks represented both an advantage and a disadvantage to the jazz community. Radio stations that were controlled by white owners often overlooked black musicians, and the best engagements often went to white bands. The exception was black pianist/bandleader Earl Hines, who did enjoy network coverage during his Chicago radio days. Dance and symphonic jazz became the lure and the most desirable outlet for many jazz musicians by the late 1920s. Radio networks took advantage of the dance craze and ran a wire to sites such as New York’s Savoy and Roseland Ballrooms, so that they could broadcast live the performances of name bands. These broadcasts, of course, helped to publicize the bands and their latest recordings. According to a 1925 study by Maria Lambin and Larry Bowman:

The number of licensed dance halls in New York City grew rapidly in the early twenties,

from almost 500 in 1920 to almost 800 in 1925. Approximately 10 percent of the female

and 14 percent of the male population of New York attended once a week or oftener.29


Bear in mind that the population of New York City in 1920 was approximately 5.6 million, with 2.3 million living in Manhattan, according to census polls. Given the growth in population that occurred between 1920 and 1925, it is conceivable that about 500,000 people attended one of these dances at least once a week. The dance-hall and dance-band business was clearly very lucrative while it lasted, which was nearly until the U.S. entry into World War II. Billboard magazine reported, in 1925, that there were 600 jazz orchestras in New York. It went on to say that, “Any fellow in this line today who has the ability will not be able to accept all the work offered to him.”30 Jazz was quickly being elevated to America’s popular music, and it is no small wonder, given these statistics, that musicians were flocking to New York and other major cities in great numbers.

Despite the negative press leveled at jazz by some, as cited earlier, the 1920s marked the beginnings of a new print industry devoted to the discussion of jazz. Although stories about jazz, both for and against, had circulated prior to 1926, no book on the subject had been published. It had taken nearly a decade for the music to become more than just a passing fancy and for authors to take the subject more seriously. Perhaps it was the growing acceptance of the music by whites, or the enthusiasm that Europeans had shown for jazz, that motivated Henry Osgood to publish the first book about jazz in 1926. For the most part, Osgood’s scholarship was weak, and he made misguided comparisons with, and analogies to, classical music. He championed Paul Whiteman and the symphonic jazz movement, and yet never mentioned the black creators of the art form. Armstrong, Morton, Bechet, Oliver—none of these jazz pioneers can be found in the pages of this early book about jazz. It was essentially a book selling white jazz. Osgood, who was a critic and associate editor of Musical Courier, openly opposed real jazz and championed the “polished” jazz that Whiteman and similar bandleaders produced.

Paul Whiteman’s book Jazz was published, with help from co-author Mary McBride, that same year. The Whiteman book is essentially an autobiography and discussion of his highly acclaimed 1924 Aeolian Hall concert, billed as an “Experiment in Modern Music.” The Saturday Evening Post serialized the book, which added to Whiteman’s growing popularity. In this book, the authors make several bold and, in retrospect, accurate predictions. For example, they predicted that, one day, academia would embrace jazz, where it would be taught, studied, and analyzed, much like European music. They also stated that:

Jazz is the spirit of a new country. It catches up the underlying life motif of a continent and

period, molding it into a form which expresses the fundamental emotion of the people, the

place and time so authentically that it is immediately recognizable.31

Whiteman and his band were also the subject of a full-length film (King of Jazz) produced in 1930, a movie shoot that, unfortunately, Beiderbecke failed to make because of ill health. Although the music and banter throughout are rather trite, the film does give us a glimpse into Whiteman’s world of music circa 1930.

It would not be until the 1930s that more serious efforts to write about jazz would be pursued, in the form of books and periodicals, and until then the music remained much more engaging than the scholarship.


To learn more about the early technologies that helped to promote jazz in the 1920s, find the section about the history of recording included in the Gallery on the companion website. Here, you can listen to a 78-rpm jazz recording on a 1925 radio and phonograph in much the same way, and with the same quality, that it was experienced in the 1920s.


Chronicle of Historic Events

The timeline that follows will put the developments of jazz discussed in this chapter into a larger historical context, providing you with a better sense of how landmark musical events may relate to others that match your personal areas of interest.

1922 • The flapper marks the end of the Victorian age for U.S. women, who now smoke and drink in public places, often wearing flashy clothing.

• Paul Whiteman’s recording of “Whispering” sells 2 million copies.32

• Kid Ory’s Sunshine Orchestra becomes first black jazz band to record

1923 • The first jazz is broadcast on radio live from Chicago.

• A Russian inventor predicts television.

• Joe “King” Oliver records “Dippermouth Blues” with his Creole Jazz Band, featuring Louis Armstrong.

• The New Orleans Rhythm Kings become the first white jazz band to record with a musician of color.

1924 • Paul Whiteman’s “Experiment in Modern Music” features George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue.”

• IBM is founded.

1925 • Composer/conductor Igor Stravinsky makes his American debut conducting the New York Philharmonic in a program of his own music.

• Sinclair Lewis’s Arrowsmith is published.

• The Florida State legislature requires daily Bible readings in all public schools.

• Tennessee passes a law forbidding the teaching of any evolutionary theories that deny creationism.

• “The Prisoner’s Song” and “The Wreck of the Old ’97,” recorded by Vernon Dalhart, become the first million-selling country-music recording.

1926 • The first liquid-fuel rocket, pioneered by Robert Goddard, is launched.

• Hemingway authors his first novel, The Sun Also Rises.

• NBC is incorporated.

• Movies become the most popular form of American entertainment, making Douglas Fairbanks, Greta Garbo, John Barrynore, and Charlie Chaplin national figures. A new era in pictures with sound begins.

1927 • The first public demo of TV takes place.

• CBS is founded.

• Lindbergh makes the first flight across the Atlantic, from New York to Paris.

• Al Capone makes millions from illegal rackets in Chicago.

• Babe Ruth hits his 60th home run, breaking previous baseball records. His salary is $20,000.

• Ford launches the Model A car.

• Bix Beiderbecke and Frankie Trumbauer record “Singin’ the Blues (Till Daddy Comes Home).”

• Work begins at Mt. Rushmore of a sculpture of four presidents.

1928 • Louis Armstrong records “West End Blues,” which sells for 75 cents.

• There is a rise of negro intelligentsia during the Harlem Renaissance (Langston Hughes and Alain Locke).



• Duke Ellington enjoys success at the Cotton Club.

• Pianist Pine Top Smith records “Pine Tops Boogie Woogie.”

• ”King of Jazz” Paul Whiteman records “Mississippi Mud.”

1929 • The Museum of Modern Art opens.

• The Valentine’s Day mob battle takes place in Chicago.

• Commercial passenger air travel begins.

• Black Tuesday—the Wall Street Stock Market crash marks the beginning of the Great Depression.

• Author William Faulkner publishes The Sound and the Fury.


With plentiful jobs available, including good paying jobs for musicians, Chicago became a destination for many black Americans migrating from the south in the 1920s. Many important New Orleans musicians, including Freddie Keppard, Joe Oliver, Louis Armstrong, and Kid Ory, made the move to Chicago. The Prohibition Act imposed by the government made the sale and manufacture of alcoholic beverages illegal. During Prohibition, nightclubs known as speakeasies illegally sold alcohol and were run by racketeers. Some conservative groups, notably the JPA, sought to lessen the impact on youth of what they felt was sexually provocative music.

Jazz in Chicago in the 1920s served as a transition from the New Orleans jazz style to the swing of the 1930s. In addition to the transplanted black New Orleans musicians, a generation of primarily white, Chicago-based musicians became important contributors. One such group, the NORK, helped to define the Chicago sound by adding a saxophone and playing more sophisticated arrangements, in a smoother, more connected style. In 1923, the NORK recorded with Jelly Roll Morton, becoming the first white group to record with a musician of color. Probably the most significant musicians of this new generation were Frankie Trumbauer and Bix Beiderbecke. Frankie Trumbauer was a stellar technician on the C-melody sax. Beiderbecke was accomplished as a pianist, but is best known as a cornetist. He is generally considered the first great, white soloist of jazz, whose subdued approach served to foreshadow the cool jazz of the 1950s. Sadly, an unhealthy lifestyle led to Beiderbecke’s early death at age 28.

The jazz of Chicago tended to place more focus on the individual soloist, compared with the collective improvisation of New Orleans jazz. The saxophone was much more commonly used, as was the string bass. Many of the white musicians were associated with “sweet” bands, which included strings and played primarily dance music. Some sweet groups, such as the Paul Whiteman Orchestra, were immensely popular, sometimes selling in excess of 1 million copies of a single recording.

Around the same time, New York City’s Harlem was becoming an important center of black culture. The Cotton Club, Savoy Ballroom, and Apollo Theater featured performers who would help shape the next style of jazz. It also became known as the neighborhood of the “Harlem Pianists,” with James P. Johnson remembered as the “father of stride piano,” the direct successor of the earlier ragtime style.

Boogie-woogie, a style of piano playing that was different from stride, developed, not in Chicago, but initially in the more rural areas in the mid 1920s. A key ingredient of this blues- inspired style was the repetitive rhythm in the left hand, often referred to as “eight to the bar.” It became popularized in later years.


1. What characteristics distinguish “hot” bands from “sweet” bands? Can you name some representative bandleaders in each style?

2. What features distinguish Chicago-style jazz from its earlier New Orleans Dixieland predecessor?

3. Of what significance was the JPA to jazz in Chicago?

4. What was the first Chicago-style white jazz band to record?

5. Bix Beiderbecke played which two instruments proficiently?

6. Which Chicago-style musician is often considered an early pioneer of the “cool” jazz sound?

7. Why was Frankie Trumbauer influential, and which instrument did he play?

8. Who was the first important guitarist to emerge during the Chicago period?

9. What instrumentation changes or additions occurred in the Chicago jazz band?

10. Which symphonic-jazz bandleader introduced the notion of using vocalists with the jazz ensemble?

11. Describe the boogie-woogie style and name two premier artists associated with the style.

12. When and where was the first live jazz radio broadcast made?

13. Was Paul Whiteman’s book at all accurate in its predictions about the future of jazz?

14. By the mid 1920s, what cities were considered to be the centers for jazz activity? Specifically, what areas within these two cities?



Important terms, places, people and bands:

Terms Black and tans Boogie-woogie Great Depression Race records Stride piano

Places Cotton Club Harlem Levee district Roseland Savoy

People Albert Ammons Bix Beiderbecke Duke Ellington Benny Goodman Harlem Pianists Fletcher Henderson Earl Hines Langston Hughes James P. Johnson Pete Johnson Eddie Lang Meade “Lux” Lewis

Pine Top Smith Frankie Trumbauer Paul Whiteman Rudy Wiedoeft

Bands New Orleans Rhythm Kings Paul Whiteman Wolverines


15. Jazz was widely criticized during this period. Why and what specifically were the stated objections?

16. Which white band became the first jazz group to record with a person of color, and who was he?

17. Name some of the well-known “Harlem pianists.”

18. What are the primary differences between the ragtime and stride styles?

19. Who is remembered as the “father of stride piano”?

20. What effect did Prohibition, the Depression, new technologies, and the underworld have on jazz in the mid-to-late 1920s?

21. In what ways was jazz marketed during this period, helping to spread its popularity and serving to create a new industry?

22. What led to the decline of the Chicago jazz era?

C H A P T E R 7

The Swing Era Jazz at Its Peak

It is not very difficult to understand the evolution of Jazz into Swing. Ten years ago this type of music was flourishing, albeit amidst adverse conditions and surrounded by hearty indifference.1

—Duke Ellington, 1939

Corner of Lennox Avenue and 147th Street in Harlem showing the exterior of the M&S Douglas Theatre and a sign for the Cotton Club a few doors down, 1927



The Depths of the Depression

By 1930, jazz had established itself as more than just a passing fancy, but the effects of the

Depression were nearly devastating. Had it not been for the resilient spirit of the American people,

there is little doubt that the musicians and their music would not have survived. By 1932, the

Depression had left 15 million Americans unemployed—one-quarter of the workforce. This depressed

economic environment nearly eradicated the jazz and popular music movement, even though there

was an increasing demand for inexpensive entertainment. Entertainment provided relief from stress

and a chance to forget troubled times. The movie industry boomed during the 1930s, and, for only

pennies, patrons were treated to live entertainment that could include singers, dancers, comedians,

jugglers, and magicians, in addition to a newsreel about current events, a serial (the predecessor

of the TV series), and the feature film. The movie house was the logical successor to vaudeville,

providing good entertainment for little money. According to author Burton Peretti, record production,

which had soared in the 1920s, fell 96% in the early 1930s. By 1932, even major labels such as

RCA Victor, and Warner Brothers were close to bankruptcy.2

Americans’ leisure time was occupied by inexpensive activities that they could afford—listening

to the radio, parlor sing-a-longs, movies, board games such as Monopoly, and, of course, inexpensive

dance halls. Ballroom dancing was the craze, and, without this popular social ritual in the 1930s

and early 1940s, there would not have been a big-band Swing Era. The larger dance halls demanded

larger bands, capable of filling the room with the dynamic sounds dancers craved. The small groups

of the 1920s would have been incapable of projecting enough volume to entertain dancers in the

large dance halls and hotel ballrooms. Although the move toward larger jazz bands began in

the 1920s, it took a complete economic recovery before the halcyon days of the big bands would

be fully realized.

The Depression affected blacks more than whites, and racial unrest escalated in the decaying

ghetto communities of major cities throughout the US. Civil rights grievances increased, and the

first major race riot occurred in Harlem in 1935. It is no wonder that a job in the entertainment

industry, even with its drawbacks, was an attractive alternative to more traditional employment,

where few opportunities were available, especially for blacks.

For big-band musicians who were fortunate enough to continue to work through the Depression

years, there were numerous hardships. The lives of traveling black musicians were especially arduous.

They played successive one-nighters, traveling hundreds of miles between engagements, eating

meals irregularly, and often encountering prejudices that required them to sleep in cars, busses,

and local homes rather than the hotels at which they might have been performing. Even long after

the Depression had subsided, popular white bands enjoyed plush accommodations at hotels where

they were booked for extended engagements, while black bands continued to tour. Popular black

bandleader Jimmy Lunceford is reported to have said that, in 1942, his band logged “a couple of

hundred one-nighters a year, 15–20 weeks of theaters [typically a week in each theater], maybe

one four week location, and two weeks of vacation.”3 Needless to say, many of these musicians

never enjoyed a normal home life, but it was something they were willing to sacrifice.



Prohibition was repealed in 1933, and, by 1935, thanks to the efforts of President Franklin D. Roosevelt and his “New Deal,” the country saw economic recovery and began to experience a new sense of optimism about its future. Roosevelt’s comprehensive New Deal provided numerous federal relief programs, created public-works jobs, and offered farm credits and housing assistance —all designed to relieve the country from the effects of the economic Depression. His WPA (Works Projects Administration) even offered programs to help the arts by providing assistance for musicians, writers, and theater projects. The First Lady recognized the growing problems of racial inequality and publicly endorsed equal rights. This civil rights movement would continue to escalate once the US entered World War II.

The “common man,” according to author Burton Peretti, became a central theme, and, spon - taneously, the country became focused on developing a new sense of nationalism. Classical composers such as Aaron Copland (who composed “Fanfare For The Common Man”), Virgil Thompson, and Roy Harris created pieces that incorporated American folk songs, and authors such as John Steinbeck contributed books such as The Grapes of Wrath, which underscored the “common man” theme.4

The Prohibition Act that prohibited the sale and consumption of alcohol until 1933 actually added some impetus in the early years to what eventually became known as the Swing Era. Teens and young adults, until the repeal of Prohibition, freely attended dance halls across the “dry” American midland. It was the teenage and college crowds that created the first demand for swing music and were largely responsible for big-band jazz becoming a lasting symbol of American society and culture. Even during the Depression years, bands maintained a working schedule by booking dances at high schools and college campuses. During this period, alcohol was not a factor in determining if young people could or couldn’t attend popular venues. The music could, therefore, thrive in this benign environment, contrary to its beginnings in brothels, roadhouses, nightclubs, and cabarets, where drinking was commonplace.


By 1934, the groundwork for the success of big-band swing style had been laid by the likes of Paul Whiteman, Glen Gray, Ben Pollack, Fletcher Henderson, Don Redman, and Duke Ellington. These early masters cultivated the jazz arrangement for larger bands, building on the accom plish - ments of Jelly Roll Morton and those arrangers in the employment of sweet or symphonic bandleaders, such as Paul Whiteman.

Armstrong’s Hot Five and Hot Seven recordings, as well as his brief stay in New York with the Henderson band, revolutionized the way musicians began to think, not only about improvisation, but also about the swing rhythmic feel. Musicians followed Armstrong’s lead during the Swing Era, smoothing out their articulation and producing less choppy, clipped phrases. Slurred passages became more practiced, rather than the earlier staccato-tongued approach.

Although establishing categories can be misleading in the clarification of any art form, as exceptions always exist, and artists frequently cross lines, it is safe to say that most of the many big bands could be generally categorized as follows:

• Sweet bands that made few attempts to play real jazz and focused on society dance repertoire: Guy Lombardo’s Royal Canadians fits well into this category.

• Swing-style dance bands featured a well-rehearsed repertoire performed by exceptional musicians, playing arrangements informed by the swing style, but geared largely for the dance


audience. These bands were often the most popular but featured little improvisation. Glenn Miller’s band fits this description.

• “Hot jazz dance bands” were successful at compromising by performing music that clearly captured the essence of hot jazz by featuring stellar soloists, while appeasing the dance crowd by including a more tempered, danceable repertoire and vocalists. The great Benny Goodman and Artie Shaw bands are included in this group.

• “Hot” jazz big bands based their repertoires largely on pure hot, swing jazz, with ample room for improvising soloists. Some of the arrangements grew out of an improvised process rather than stemming from a concerted effort by composers/arrangers. Jimmy Lunceford, Jay McShann, and Count Basie led this type of band.

Although a few bands, such as Duke Ellington’s, defied categorization, for the most part the bands could be placed in one of these four categories.


The big bands all sported the same basic instrumentation as those early jazz bands that had preceded them—just more of them. Now, instead of just one of each of the wind instruments, there were sections of them. By the mid 1930s, the average big band had grown in size to include three or four saxophones, two or three trumpets, two or three trombones, and a three- or four-piece rhythm section. The saxophone, which first emerged in the mid 1920s, became the instrument of choice in most big bands. Gradually, the saxophone eclipsed the clarinet in popularity, although many of the saxophonists were called upon to play both instruments and may have started their careers as clarinetists. They were called woodwind doublers, or simply “doublers.” The cornet players gradually converted to trumpet, a transition that started during the Chicago period. The trumpet delivered a more brilliant, powerful sound. The trumpet, therefore, lent itself more readily to the demands of the dynamic music performed by the powerful big bands. The single trombone, common to most New Orleans and Chicago jazz bands, was reinforced with the addition of one or more. The modern big band usually includes five saxophones, four

2 1 3 4

T1 A2 A1 T2 B






Guitar 2 1 3 4

Pi an


FIGURE 7.1 Typical big-band seating arrangement

or five trumpets, and between three and five trombones. Most bands set up in three parallel rows, with the saxophonists seated in the front row, closest to the audience, as they have the least ability to project. The trombones sit behind the saxophones, and the trumpets are in the back row. The brass section, the term often used to describe the collective trumpet and trombone sections, was often placed on tiered risers. The rhythm section is usually situated on the right side of the band (the audience’s left). There are alternatives to this traditional seating arrangement, but often they were used to accommodate special circumstances.

Many of the big-band leaders also fronted small groups, which became a necessity during World War II, when it was difficult to staff a full big band. Goodman, Shaw, and Basie, among others, had small groups as well as big bands. In some ways, the small group could be an enticement for the best soloists in the big band, as it provided much more room for extended solos and additional recording opportunities. Most big-band arrangements, particularly those by the popular white dance bands, included only short improvised solos, and the best soloists often felt this to be a confining, creatively stifling atmosphere. This limitation was particularly true if the band recorded a hit that included an instrumental solo. In this case, audiences expected the soloist to duplicate the recorded solo in live performances, defeating any sense of spontaneity or creativity. Even today, over a half a century after the popular big-band hit “In the Mood” was recorded, audiences still expect to hear exactly the same original solo, even though it was initially an improvisation.

The rhythm section, which always seemed to be at the heart of major stylistic changes in jazz performance practice, was most responsible for the swing feeling associated with this style. It has always been somewhat confusing, as the term “swing” in this case has a double meaning— it describes a certain rhythmic phenomenon associated with jazz interpretation, and it is also a term used to describe this particular period in the history of jazz. When compared with the Chicago or New Orleans styles, the swing rhythm sections manifested several radical departures from earlier practices. First and foremost were the changes in instrumentation. Gradually, rhythm sections embraced the string bass, moving away from using wind instruments such as the tuba or bass saxophone. Although the string bass was much quieter than its early counterparts, it was significantly more agile and capable of playing smooth, “walking” lines on all four beats and at fast tempos. The “walking” bass line is a performance practice still used today and was first associated with the Swing Era. Amplification, a Swing Era innovation, later helped the acoustic bass to balance properly with the rest of the band.

The transition from tuba to bass was slow. As late as the early 1930s, it was not uncommon to see rhythm sections in swing bands still using the tuba and banjo in their rhythm sections. The guitar was largely used as a rhythm and time-keeping instrument, with chords strummed on the unamplified instrument on every beat of the measure.


1 2 and 3 4 and


EXAMPLE 7.1 A graphic representation of 1 measure in 4/4 meter showing alternation between a full quarter note of full value on beats 1 and 3, followed by even eighth-note divisions of beats 2 and 4. This rhythm pattern does not swing


By the 1930s, drum-set design and construction had significantly improved, as had recording techniques that allowed Swing Era drummers to play for recordings much as they did in live performances. As they developed more technique, dexterity, and independence of limbs, they began to create an approach to time keeping and rhythmic embellishment that more closely resembles what we hear today. Armstrong’s rhythmic style did much to influence how drummers during this period played, as they eventually adopted his rhythmic style, transferring it first to the hi-hat and later to the “ride cymbal” to create what we now identify as the classic swing-style pattern.

The bass drum was used on all beats to reinforce the bass line. The snare drum and tom toms were used to embellish and decorate the arrangement, highlighting certain rhythms played by the horns. A good drummer would play a brief improvised rhythmic figure described as a fill to set up a response played by the horns, or to underscore a particular high point in the arrangement (often termed chart).

1 2 3 4 1 Ding Ding ga Ding Ding ga Ding etc.


EXAMPLE 7.2 A graphic representation of 1 measure in 4/4 meter showing the uneven division of beats 2 and 4, causing a feeling of anticipation of the following beats (3 and 1). This was the typical pattern played by the drummer on the cymbals, expressed below by the syllables. This rhythm helps to create the basis of the “swing” feel. Horn soloists and pianists would likely also swing in this uneven fashion

Make sure that you review the sections about Performance Practice in Chapter 3, “Listening to Jazz,” found on the website. It might also be helpful to view the short video entitled Video Blues, paying particular attention to the rhythm section. If you haven’t already done so, you should also examine the section about rhythm found on the website in Chapter 2—“The Elements of Jazz.”

As the bass and guitar players were playing on each beat, and the drummer was also emphasizing every beat, often embellishing in between major beats, pianists were forced eventually to create a new style of harmonic accompaniment. In previous years, pianists had followed the earlier stride, boogie-woogie, and ragtime models that were best suited for solo performance or for bands that had no bass or guitar (banjo). Pianists found that these busy, early soloistic styles, which were centered around filling up every beat in every measure, were inappropriate for the swing-style rhythm section, as the other instruments had well-defined roles that duplicated much of what earlier jazz pianists used to play. Eventually, pianists developed a sparser style of harmonic accompaniment, as it was no longer necessary to carry the added burden of keeping steady time— now the responsibility of the bass and drums. The new piano accompaniment style to emerge from the Swing Era was termed comping, an abbreviation of complement. It is Count Basie’s rhythm section that is given much of the credit for developing these more modern rhythm- section techniques.

Repertoire and Arrangement

Throughout the history of jazz, each era has been responsible for contributing to a growing repertoire. This repertoire, along with established performance practices associated with the proper interpretation of this music, has resulted in what could be considered the “jazz canon.” The first generation of jazz performers and composers contributed pieces to the canon such as “Tiger Rag,” “St. Louis Blues,” “King Porter Stomp,” and “Sugar Foot Stomp,” to name just a few titles. The Swing Era gave birth to an astounding list of songs that were added to this expanding canon. One can view this repertoire, particularly from this period, as a list of works that fall into one of three basic categories—(1) the standard pop tunes that were readily adopted by jazz performers and arrangers, (2) head charts that were based largely on a series of improvised repeated motives (“riffs”), often in call–response style, that outlined blues or “rhythm changes” (“I’ve Got Rhythm” model), and (3) the jazz standard, written by jazz players and initially performed by them. This was the age of the great American popular song, written by composers such as Irving Berlin, Cole Porter, and George and Ira Gershwin. These songs were usually com - posed for the theater or film. Jazz arrangers and performers were quick to adopt songs such as Gershwin’s “Lady Be Good” and “I’ve Got Rhythm” or Irving Berlin’s “Blue Skies” and recast them in their own new molds. In addition to these Tin Pan Alley composers, Swing Era jazz composers also contributed immeasurably to the growing jazz repertoire. Duke Ellington, of course, was one of the most prolific, writing thousands of pieces during his lifetime. Ellington, sometimes


Jazz pianist Teddy Wilson playing with a quartet during the set break of Benny Goodman’s band, because racially mixed bands were not the rule in New York City at the “Madhattan Room” in the Hotel Pennsylvania


with help from his band members, composed jazz standards such as “Perdido,” “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore,” “Mood Indigo,” and “In a Sentimental Mood.” Ellington, like others, also borrowed from the earlier tradition, for example using portions of “Tiger Rag” as the basis for his new compositions. But Ellington was not the only composer contributing to the repertoire. Bix Beiderbecke’s old friend Hoagy Carmichael, for example, wrote the timeless ballad “Stardust,” and Benny Goodman composed “Stompin’ at the Savoy,” both of which serve as excellent examples of jazz standards that continue to be performed today.

All the swing bands had theme songs, many of which became charted by the trade journals that tracked record sales and other means of measuring a band’s popularity. Fans immediately identified a theme song with the band that created it—for example, Count Basie’s “One O’Clock Jump,” Lionel Hampton’s “Flying Home,” and Duke Ellington’s “Take the ‘A’ Train.” Once a band popularized a song, it was not uncommon for other bands to create their own arrange- ments of it.

It has already been established that the arranger assumed a great deal of responsibility for developing a big band’s particular sound. It was during this era that the jazz arranger first rose to high status. The arrangers and soloists gave each band its unique musical identity—its DNA. It was the arrangers’ job to promote the particular strengths of the bands they wrote for, showcasing the best soloists and capitalizing on special attributes that might be available to give the band its special musical signature. Although some arrangers wrote for more than one band, they were able to adjust their writing style to suite the individual strengths of each band. Arrangers determined what key a piece should be in, the tempo, the style, which soloists and sections would be featured, how each section of the piece would be orchestrated (what instruments were assigned to what notes and roles) and harmonized, and other details. A good arranger would not only find a unique way to orchestrate and harmonize the original tune, but might also add entirely new material that would appear as the introduction, coda, or even in the main body of the arrangement. Although the big bands may have been relatively similar in terms of their instru - mentation and general repertoire, the ways in which this repertoire was presented differed widely from band to band, and the arrangers controlled the presentation.


As jazz music was so widespread by the 1930s that no single city served as a Mecca, the Swing Era can be viewed geographically, examining the hotbeds of musical activity throughout the country and the musicians associated with these areas.

As discussed in the previous chapter, New York had become a Mecca for jazz and the developments in big bands of the early 1920s. It is no surprise that this trend continued during the Swing Era, when New York supported any number of swing and sweet dance bands, both black and white. Gigs at the Savoy and Roseland Ballrooms in New York, for example, attracted bands from across the country, as these engagements marked a level of accomplishment and achievement they all sought.

Listen to the brief discussion with Gene Ramey about Eastern and Western swing. This interview is found in the corresponding chapter on the website.


Fletcher Henderson (1897–1952)

The frequently told story about many black jazz pioneers is that many were simply street-trained musicians. This “noble savage” myth of un schooled, innate talent was perpetuated by many of the early jazz writers. On the contrary, many of those jazz musicians, such as Fletcher Henderson, although not completing higher-education degrees, sought training beyond high school. Admittedly, his training as a mathematician and chemist may not have formally prepared him for the career path that he ultimately chose, but he was nevertheless an articu late, intelligent repre sentative of the black arts community in Harlem. He initially found work in New York as a song peddler, working for W.C. Handy’s jointly owned publishing company. This employment was supposed to be temporary until Henderson found work as a pharm - acist. Whether it was a poor market for pharmacists or his initial success as a pianist that led to his career change is irrelevant, but he found himself in much demand as an accompanist for blues sing ers in race recordings and live perform ances. He recorded with Bessie Smith (see “Lost Your Head Blues,” included on the SCCJ) and performed extensively with Ethel Waters. His first band was little more than an ordinary dance band, but it did earn him a local reputation as the “black Paul Whiteman.” When it became apparent that hot jazz was what was attracting public attention, particularly in Harlem, he began to employ more soloists who were exploring improvisation. In 1924, he brought in Louis Armstrong from Chicago. Armstrong stayed barely a year, but left an indelible impression on Henderson’s men and all New York musicians. Saxophonist Don Redman became Henderson’s musical director about this same time, and together they began to develop a formula for big-band arranging that became the archetype for many others to follow. Together, these arranging pioneers built upon devices that were pioneered by Whiteman and Jelly Roll Morton. Those characteristics and techniques that define this arranging style are as follows:

• call–response style, setting brass and saxophones in opposition; • arranged by choirs, keeping like instruments together, rather than mixing brass and woodwind; • harmonized soli sections achieved by composing a lead voice in an improvised style and

creating parallel harmony, using secondary instrumental voices to follow the same melodic rhythm as the lead voice;

• stock swing rhythmic patterns scored (written) for wind players.

Henderson continued to improve his band, adding more top-flight soloists, but his rising star never reached a zenith. “A Study in Frustration” was the name that Columbia Records attached to their reissue of Fletcher Henderson big-band recordings, and this title aptly defines much of his career. Although he and his alto saxophonist Don Redman did much to establish the arranging formula that was followed for years to come, neither of these men ever enjoyed great success.

Bandleader, pianist, composer/arranger Fletcher Henderson



Fletcher Henderson and His Orchestra

“Sugar Foot Stomp” (K. Oliver–L.Armstrong) 2:50

Recorded New York City April 4/25/1931

“The Father of the Big Band” Jazz Archives #137

Personnel: “Connie’s Inn Orchestra”: Russell Smith, Bobby Stark, Rex Stewart, trumpets; Benny Moten, Claude Jones, trombones; Russell Procope, clarinet, alto sax; Harvey Boone, alto sax; Coleman Hawkins, clarinet, tenor sax; Fletcher Henderson, piano; Clarence Holiday, guitar; John Kirby, tuba; Walter Johnson, drums

Form: 12-bar-blues choruses (with variation)

0:00–0:04 Introduction—4 bars

0:04–0:15 First chorus—12-bar blues, first theme, saxes and rhythm

0:16–0:26 Second chorus—12-bar blues, second theme, trumpets and rhythm

0:27–0:42 Third chorus—16 bars (8 + 8), third theme, clarinets and rhythm

0:43–0:53 Fourth chorus—12-bar blues, improvised trombone solo (C. Jones), with rhythm

0:54–1:29 Fifth, sixth, and seventh choruses—each 12-bar blues, improvised trumpet solo (R. Stewart), with rhythm and background riffs

1:30–1:52 Eighth and ninth choruses—each 12-bar blues, improvised clarinet solo (R. Procope), with rhythm and background riffs

1:53–2:28 10th, 11th, and 12th choruses—each 12-bar blues, improvised trombone solo (B. Moten), with rhythm and background riffs

2:28–2:52 13th and 14th choruses—12-bar blues and 10-bar blues, with 2-bar drum break, improvised tenor sax solo (C. Hawkins), with rhythm and background riffs

2:52–3:09 15th chorus—15 bars, 10-bar return of truncated first theme (like first chorus), with 5-bar repeat of Introduction as ending tag

Henderson was forced to replace Don Redman with Benny Carter when Redman left to work with McKinney’s Cotton Pickers, eventually forming his own band. Although Carter contributed top-flight arrangements to the band’s library, it was not enough to sustain the band, as star soloist Coleman Hawkins also elected to leave. Hawkins had been with Henderson from the beginning, serving a 10-year apprenticeship before choosing to pursue lucrative opportunities in Europe. Hawkins’s departure from the Henderson band was devastating, and, although many fine soloists came and went, no one seemed capable of elevating the band to its rather short- lived halcyon days. Henderson employed a long list of exceptional soloists, but nearly all had left by the early 1930s, and, in 1934, Henderson was forced to break up his band. This was an unfortunate fate, as the band had just begun to hit its stride, recording several hits, including “Wrappin’ It Up” (included on the SCCJ) and “Deep Down South Camp Meeting,” which Henderson later sold to Benny Goodman. Even his last-ditch efforts to produce palatable, trivial arrangements of popular tunes failed to generate any real commercial success, and he succumbed to added pressure from a growing number of black and white bands. His attempt, from 1936 to 1941, to revive his band, featuring a stellar cast of soloists, was reasonably successful and enjoyed regular employment and several hit records. In the end though, it was Henderson’s skill as an arranger that enabled him to sustain his career.


Coleman Hawkins—“The Father of Jazz Tenor Saxophone” (1904–1969)

Tenor saxophonist Coleman Hawkins had no idea that, upon his return from a 5-year stay in Europe, he would wax a recording that would catapult him to leadership status and earn him the title of the “father of jazz tenor saxophone.” The impressive early sales of “Body and Soul” were astonishing. Pianist Thelonious Monk, in talking to Hawkins about this phenomenon, asked,

how did these people, these old folks and everybody, go for your record of “Body and Soul?” . . . ’Cause I’ve listened to the record, and I can understand if you played the melody, ’cause that’s what they like . . . they like melody. They sure won’t listen to anything else that’s jazz.5

Monk was right in that the Hawkins recording, which remained in jukeboxes well into the 1950s, is pure im provisation, making only vague references to the ori - ginal melody. (Compare Hawkins’s version to the Billie Holiday recording, also in - cluded on the companion collection of recordings.) This recording helped to set the stage for the rebellious new music eventually described as bebop, which featured performers in extended, improvised solos, rarely ever referring to the original melody. In some ways, Hawkins became an early mentor to many of the younger players he found in New York, following his return to the US. Although big-band swing was still the thing in 1940, this small core of New York musicians had begun to reach for something that had deeper artistic value for them and elevated the role of the improvising soloist.

Hawkins, or the “Bean” as he was nicknamed, was both an older-style swing player deeply rooted in the blues tradition and an innovative upstart. He projected a huge, husky, deep-throated sound and used a wide, thick vibrato (regular fluctuation of pitch for expressive purposes) that was associated with Swing Era players of his generation. His somewhat regular and exagger ated swing rhythmic feel, with an on-the-beat emphasis, was somewhat predictable, at least by latter- day standards, and gave away his roots in the “swing” style. But he also delivered elastic phrases that strayed out of the strict tempo, creating rhythmic tensions between the regular pulse of the rhythm section.

Like Louis Armstrong, whose brief membership in the Henderson big band overlapped with his own, Hawkins showed a penchant for demonstrating his ferocious technique through use of double-time phrases. It was no doubt Armstrong who also led Hawkins to take a smoother, more legato approach to phrasing and his articulation of notes (the way in which notes are attacked

Coleman Hawkins, “the father of jazz tenor saxophone”


Vertical arpeggiated style

Linear, horizontal style

EXAMPLE 7.3 Contrast between arpeggiated and linear styles

with the tongue). Hawkins’s recordings in the early 1920s with the Henderson band showed a very choppy, articulated style of tonguing (as did many early jazz players), but, by the end of that decade, falling under Armstrong’s influence, he showed the smoother phrasing evident in his 1939 recording of “Body and Soul.” Hawkins was the first tenor saxophonist to bring this more modern approach to the instrument.

His understanding of music theory enabled him to create and negotiate elaborate chord progressions. He flaunts these impressive skills on “Body and Soul,” included in the online audio anthology. Throughout this improvised solo, he demonstrates his inventive and skillful use of chord substitutions and embellishments, replacing chords in the original progression with more harmonically colorful and rich alternatives. Hawkins also introduced a new sense of dissonance (clash created by notes that do not fit a given harmony) and resolution by surrounding chord tones (notes that are part of a chord) with more dissonant neighbor tones (notes that are not part of the basic chord), eventually resolving them to consonant chord tones. This approach later became the foundation of the bebop improvisational style.

Although it is limiting to place narrow, blanket descriptions on a soloist’s improvisational style, it is generally agreed that Hawkins took a largely vertical, or arpeggiated, rather than linear, approach to improvising. Arpeggiated refers to the way a wind instrument plays a chord by playing each pitch, one at a time, in ascending or descending order, rather than playing them simul - taneously, like a piano, to sound the chord. The arpeggiated approach is in contrast to a more horizontal, scalar, or linear style associated with some other performers, such as Lester Young, Hawkins’s most well-known counterpart, discussed in the following chapter (see Example 7.3). No soloist conforms exclusively to either approach, but uses a combination of both. Hawkins negotiated his way through chord progressions by outlining the chords, playing chord tones in ascending and descending sequences, creating arpeggios. He had attended Wasburn College in Topeka, Kansas, studying music theory and composition for 2 years, so it is no wonder that he excelled in his knowledge of harmony. As a result of these stylistic traits, his playing bore little resemblance to that of the instrument’s early pioneers.

In 1939, a Down Beat magazine reader’s poll showed Hawkins in the top spot on his instrument, enabling him to assemble fine big bands and small groups filled out with some of the most modern musicians of the day. This popularity led to his sponsorship of what many consider to be the first landmark bebop recording session, in 1941, featuring young upstarts Dizzy Gillespie on trumpet, Oscar Pettiford on bass, and Max Roach on drums. Bebop, however, was not yet an established or recognized style.



Coleman Hawkins and His Orchestra

“Body and Soul” (Green-Sauer-Heyman-Eyton) 2:59

Recorded 10/11/1939 Bluebird B-10253

Reissued on The Smithsonian Collection A5 19477

Personnel: Coleman Hawkins, tenor saxophone; Joe Guy, Tommy Lindsay, trumpets; Earl Hardy, trombone; Jackie Fields and Eustis Moore, alto saxophones; Gene Rodgers, piano; William Oscar Smith, bass; Arthur Herbert, drums

Form: 32-bar song form choruses (AA1BA2 = chorus)

0:00–0:09 Introduction—4 bars, solo piano

0:10–1:30 First chorus—32 bars, tenor chorus melody and solo

0:10–0:29 A section—8 bars, tenor plays chorus melody with simple, restrained piano, bass, and drums accompaniment

0:30–0:50 A1 section—8 bars, tenor begins improvised virtuoso solo over chorus chord changes, only hinting at melody, with piano, bass, and drums

0:51–1:10 B section—8 bars, tenor improvises freely over bridge chord changes, with rhythm

1:11–1:30 A2 section—8 bars, tenor continues solo over chorus chord changes, with rhythm

1:31–2:59 Second chorus—34 bars, improvised tenor solo on AA1BA2 chord progression

1:31–1:50 A section—8 bars, tenor continues virtuoso improvisation over chorus chord changes, with sustained background chords in trumpets and saxes, simple rhythm section accompaniment

1:51–2:11 A1 section—8 bars, similar to A section

2:11–2:31 B section—8 bars, tenor continues solo, trumpets and saxes tacet, continued simple rhythm

2:32–2:59 A2 section—10 bars, tenor climaxes improvisation over sustained chords in trumpets and saxes, short tenor solo cadenza followed by ending chord in trumpets and saxes


As the title of John Edward Hasse’s book implies, Edward Kennedy “Duke” Ellington was “Beyond Category.” Ellington was more than a composer and bandleader; he became an institution and has been the subject of more books than possibly any other jazz musician. A prolific writer, Ellington is considered one of America’s foremost composers, whose catalogue contains approximately 2,000 works, including film scores (Anatomy of a Murder, Paris Blues, with Louis Armstrong, and The Asphalt Jungle), musicals, sacred music, popular dance tunes, and episodic concert works. His work was and is recognized world wide, receiving France’s highest award—The Legion of Honor, and the U.S. Presidential Medal of Honor for his contributions to the American art form. Four countries issued postage stamps to honor his accomplishments.6

Ellington followed a destiny instilled in him as a youngster by his family. He was the child of a proud black family who earned an honest living in Washington, DC. As a youngster, he was taught that he was special and should carry his head high, so it is no surprise that he eventually earned the royal title of the “Duke” of jazz. In DC, he studied piano and learned about the dance-band business, performing with local bands and organizing


his own, which he called the Washingtonians. Ellington was articulate, sophisticated, witty, elegant, and, most of all, had the self-confidence to believe in himself and his potential for greatness. He believed that, despite his blackness, he was heir to a throne. As a child, he showed talent as a painter, although he ultimately chose to follow another artistic calling. However, he continued, throughout his career, to pursue painting as a form of relaxation, while traveling with his band and performing in over 20,000 engagements, living out of a suitcase in hotels and backstage dressing rooms for most of his life. His visual mind clearly influenced his music and is evident in many of his impressionistic, moody works, which often seem like tone paintings.

With his early success in New York at the famed Cotton Club (1927–1931), Duke Ellington continued to sustain a working big band for nearly 56 years, until his death in 1974. His uncanny ability as a leader is a testament, not only to his leadership, but also to his genius and charisma. Why else would some members of his band remain for over 40 years—virtually their entire careers? Although he was a pianist, his real instrument became the band. Ellington developed a sound palette comparable to no other composer or bandleader, learning to combine instruments in unusual ways and relying on the unique abilities of his band members. Even in the face of bebop and other stylistic trends in jazz following the Swing Era, Ellington stayed his course, following his own lead.

To fully appreciate Ellington’s recordings, one needs to become more closely acquainted with the following characteristics that make the Ellington sound so unique:

1. The 4 years that Ellington spent at the Cotton Club represent what could be termed his workshop period. With an ever-changing floorshow, often involving exotic choreography and singers depicting African scenarios, Ellington learned to create new music, or revise old music quickly, to accommodate the needs of new shows. He had to create moods that reinforced the jungle atmosphere by creating special, unique orchestrations and by using drums to provide a jungle-like scenario, with African-American entertainers performing in exotic, native-like costumes.

2. Although the catalogue of Ellington compositions is almost mind-boggling, it is not difficult to find pieces that are strongly influenced in some way by the blues. Another primary source of inspiration was train travel. As Duke and his band often traveled by train, the sounds and rhythms associated with this mode of transportation permeate his scores. An early composition entitled “Daybreak Express” is an excellent example of his use of the train theme.

3. With the help of his exceptional musicians, such as trumpeter Bubber Miley and trombonist “Tricky Sam” Nanton —outstanding brass soloists who had developed unique performance techniques—he learned to make use of the special sounds of muted brass instruments.

4. Ellington’s orchestration during the Cotton Club period began to demonstrate a special flare for combining instruments from different families—termed cross-section orchestration—and using mutes to alter the open, unmuted sound of a brass instrument. In this way, he left an indelible and unique signature on every composition. Most bands followed the orchestration model made popular by Fletcher Henderson and Don Redman, who arranged by choir—keeping like families of instruments together in their statement of melodic and harmonic passages. Instead of following this already shopworn path, Ellington favored combining instruments from different families, carefully assigning notes to instruments in less expected registers or ranges to achieve new sound colors. For example, in “Mood Indigo,” he scores the clarinet in its lowest register, sounding under the trombone, which usually plays under the higher-pitched woodwind instrument.

5. Recognizing the strengths of his individual musicians, Ellington wrote specifically for them. His music never sounds quite the same when played by other bands, although many did play it, because they lack the special musical personalities necessary to duplicate the Ellington sound.

6. Most music produced during the Swing Era, even by the best-established, most polished bands, never displayed much harmonic originality—if any at all. Ellington developed a harmonic style all his own, constructing unusual chord progressions that often broke the rules of convention that dictated which chords should precede and follow one another. He frequently presented harmonically ambiguous introductions and interludes connecting main themes.


These ambiguous sections defy a descriptive tone center and provide no clear sense of key, while breaking rules of functional harmony.

7. Harmonically speaking, Ellington also favored creating dissonances by adding tones outside the ordinary three- note triads and four chords typically found in the run-of-the-mill swing-band arrangements of the day. His penchant for dissonance was evident in both his piano and arranging styles. It is not uncommon to hear Ellington play closely grouped, dissonant clusters of notes at the piano, and this same harmonic sense found its way into his band arrangements. His dissonant piano style can be heard clearly in “Ko-Ko,” included in the online audio anthology.

8. As discussed and illustrated in the section on form found in the “Elements of Jazz” chapter on the com- panion website, most popular music follows a rather predictable structure based on phrase groups in multiples

Duke Ellington and his band performing at the legendary Cotton Club


of 4 and 8 measures. For example, the A section of a typical jazz or popular song from this period is generally

8 or 16 measures in length. Ellington broke free of this stereotypical template, sometimes composing phrase

groups of 5 and 10 measures, as is the case in his “Concerto For Cootie,” included in the SCCJ (editions prior to

the 2010 release).

9. Other big-band composers were not particularly known for revising their work to create new, improved versions.

Rarely did they extrapolate a section from one piece and use it as the basis for a new composition. Throughout

his career, Ellington followed both of these practices. “East St. Louis Toodle-o” was later revised as “New East

St. Louis Toodle-o” and is a good example of this Ellington practice. The more popular swing ballad “Do Nothin’

Till You Hear From Me” was later extrapolated from “Concerto for Cootie.” Ellington rarely performed anyone else’s

music, as was common practice in many other big bands from the period. Other bands played arrangements of

Ellington’s music, but the reverse was rarely true.

Although it is always dangerous to categorize art into neat cubbyholes, it does serve an instructional purpose.

In the case of Duke Ellington, his prolific career offered him opportunities to compose for numerous occasions,

people, and surroundings, and to express his own beliefs and convictions. Categorization will help you to

understand the depth and breadth of this man’s talent and legacy. His music can be loosely divided into five

categories: (1) jungle styles; (2) popular dance tunes; (3) atmospheric mood pieces; (4) miniature solo concertos;

and (5) multi-movement, extended-form concert works. Although he was not an active member of the civil rights

movement, nor a militant, outspoken activist, Ellington was deeply committed to his race and proud to be black.

As a result of this personal dedication, he often wrote on African-American themes, including tributes to prominent

members of the race. “Black, Brown, and Beige,” “Black and Tan Fantasy,” “Creole Rhapsody,” and numerous

others suggest this theme and attest to his commitment. A closer examination of the works in each of these five

categories follows.

1. Jungle pieces: Ellington’s first formative period as a composer/bandleader was during the band’s Cotton Club engagement. During this time, he wrote a number of what are often classified as “jungle pieces.” In these, he used

drums, muted brass, and sometimes-bizarre instrumental effects, along with special orchestrations to project the

jungle atmosphere depicted by the floorshow. “Caravan,” co-composed with his valve trombonist Juan Tizol, serves

as a good example of this early style.

2. Popular dance pieces: Perhaps in an effort to remain popular, Ellington composed a number of tunes designed to capture the attention of the dance-crazed public. Some were set to words composed by his manager, Irving

Mills. He had hopes that the recordings of these songs would become hits. Many of them did, but, ironically, other

bands’ arrangements of them were often more successful than his own recordings, which may have suffered

because of the more extended improvised solos, which were too sophisticated for the average dance crowd. “In

A Mellow Tone,” “Don’t Get Around Much Any More,” “It Don’t Mean a Thing if it Ain’t Got That Swing,”

“Sophisticated Lady,” and “Prelude to a Kiss” are fine examples of Ellington’s more popular composition style.

The somewhat angular, leaping melodies and wide range in these last two titles, along with their unusual chord

progressions, were daring as far as pop tunes of the day went, making them less attractive to the casual listener

who liked best those melodies that were easily remembered.

3. Mood pieces: A number of Ellington’s works are categorized as “mood” pieces. These compositions establish an atmospheric, pastel sense, and often use the term “mood” in their titles, such as “Mood Indigo” or “In a

Sentimental Mood.”

4. Solo features: Ellington composed a number of miniature concertos to feature the various soloists in his band. Perhaps the most famous of these solo features is “Concerto for Cootie.”


5. Episodic concert works: The final category of Ellington compositions is by far the most daring, as these works broke away from the established tradition of the big band by serving a secondary function—providing music for dance or shows. Although the two musicians were vastly different in many ways, Ellington followed Paul Whiteman’s lead in believing that jazz and related American popular music could serve as the basis for more serious concert or symphonic works that would establish a new, purely American tradition. There is evidence to support the idea that Ellington was so enthralled with the European high art that he worked to elevate his own music to the same stature. He was once asked what few recordings he would want if he were “fleeing from this or that wicker city.” (The author Robert Goffin was a French-speaking Belgian who wrote his book about jazz during World War II, when he had to flee leaving behind thousands of records.) Ellington’s initial response to Goffin’s question included classical pieces by Ravel, Debussy, Delius, and Holst. Upon further consideration, he added six jazz works and his own composition, “Something to Live For.”7 The technology of the time worked against his early efforts to create extended-form, multi-movement pieces that exceeded the typical, established, 3-minute 78-rpm record model. His first effort, “Creole Rhapsody,” was recorded in 1931 and broke new ground. Despite its innovations, including unusual phrase lengths, the piece was marred by poor thematic structure and was not well received. We can only imagine that he was forced by the limitations of available recording technology to make certain compromises in this work, which was nearly 61⁄2 minutes long and occupied two sides of a 78-rpm record. His

Dancers performing onstage at the Cotton Club


subsequent efforts were spotty; nonetheless, the most important consideration was that he was making major strides in elevating his music to the level of art music, on a par with multi-movement classical works. Along these lines, he contributed numerous extended concert works, a dance suite, and three sacred concerts. A few of his many works in this category include: the “Far East Suite,” “Such Sweet Thunder,” inspired by Shakespeare’s plays and sonnets, “Suite Thursday,” “Drum is A Woman,” the “Perfume Suite,” “The River,” commissioned by the Alvin Ailey Dance Company, “Togo Brava Suite,” “The Liberian Suite,” and the “New Orleans.” As is evident from many of these titles, his travels, along with people he had met, often inspired these lengthy compositions. Although some of these works were criticized for their discontinuity and absence of sufficient jazz improvisation, there is little doubt that they helped to elevate jazz to a status on a par with European concert music.

Ellington was an enigma without peer. He stands as somewhat of an anomaly, as he was able to sustain a big band well beyond the years of their general popularity. Only a few other bands, some of which were latecomers, were able to continue beyond the true heyday of this great music. Count Basie, Woody Herman, Stan Kenton, Buddy Rich, and Maynard Ferguson are among the very few bandleaders who were able to keep their big bands touring and recording long after 1945 by adding new arrangements that captured current popular and jazz trends. On the other hand, Duke Ellington stayed on course, relatively unaffected by changing tastes and stylistic trends. Bebop, cool, and funk are all styles that passed him by later, leaving no real impact on his own style. Although other big bands of the day relied heavily on the popularity of their singers, many of whom went on to stellar solo careers, not one of Ellington’s singers rose to such heights. Ellington never relied heavily on vocalists for popular appeal. He was his own master and is “beyond category.”

Not only was he responsible for contributing a huge body of work to the jazz canon, but he was also as a leader who helped to introduce some of the most individualistic soloists to the world. These include the lyrical and bluesy alto saxophonists Johnny Hodges and Russell Procope; baritone saxophonist Harry Carney; trumpeters Bubber Miley, Cootie Williams, Clark Terry, Ray Nance (who also played violin), and Cat Anderson; drummers Sonny Greer and Louis Bellson; and trombonists “Tricky Sam” Nanton (heard prominently in the featured selection “Ko-Ko”) and Lawrence Brown.

Significant Ellington Sidemen

Trumpets Bubber Miley, Cootie Williams, Rex Stewart, Clark Terry, Cat Anderson Alto Sax Russell Procope, Johnny Hodges Tenor Sax Ben Webster, Paul Gonzalves Bass Jimmy Blanton, Oscar Pettiford Trombones “Tricky Sam” Nanton, Juan Tizol, Lawrence Brown Tenor Sax and Clarinet Barney Bigard, Jimmy Hamilton Baritone Sax Harry Carney Drums Sonny Greer, Louis Bellson

Many of these sidemen revolutionized the way in which their instruments were played, making people realize potentials that had never before been imagined. For example, one of the most important jazz bassists in the development of this instrument was Jimmy Blanton, who performed with Ellington’s rhythm section in the early 1940s. As a soloist, Blanton was perhaps without peer at that time, consequently bringing the bass into the solo spotlight and out of its more obscure role as a member of the rhythm section. His strong walking bass lines, which

A listening guide for an excellent example of a piece from Ellington’s “mood” category can be found in the corresponding chapter on the companion website.


can be heard on “Ko-Ko,” included in the accompanying anthology, provided the foundation for some of the finest recordings by this band. Baritone saxophonist Harry Carney was also often spotlighted as a soloist in Duke’s arrangements and assigned colorful notes in chord voicings (the way pitches are organized to state a particular chord) that would capture Carney’s fat, luscious sound on the baritone. Prior to Carney’s development on this instrument, the baritone sax had been relegated to playing tuba or bass-like parts, usually emphasizing chord roots. Last, and certainly not least, was Ellington’s alter ego, composer/arranger Billy Strayhorn. Strayhorn’s first piece for Ellington was “Take the ‘A’ Train,” written in haste to show Ellington what he could do. It not only became the band’s theme song, but also marked the beginning of a life-long relationship. Strayhorn so closely captured the Ellington sound that it became difficult to tell which of the two had actually written some of the music.

“Ko-Ko” is generally agreed to be one of Ellington’s most outstanding showpieces, conceived and recorded during one of his prolific periods and by one of his best bands. This piece is one of many he based on a simple blues progression—in this case, in a minor key. Although it is a commonplace blues (discussed in Chapter 2), it is in the very unusual key of E-flat minor. His ability as a composer and orchestrator to develop a short, 3-minute masterpiece that transcends the simplicity of this simple, almost shopworn harmonic form is a testament to his genius. According to Martin Williams, “Ko-Ko” “was originally dedicated to the drum ceremonies that centered in Congo Square in pre-Civil War New Orleans, survivals of African worship.”8 The tom-tom rhythm pattern stated in the introduction lays the groundwork for the rest of the pieces and captures this old New Orleans scenario. Ellington also makes use of the timeless African call–response form, with Juan Tizol starting the call on his valve trombone, which invokes the response from the ensemble. This effect continues throughout much of the

Composer Duke Ellington, singer Ivie Anderson, and drummer Sonny Greer pose for a portrait with the orchestra in 1943, in Los Angeles, California


arrangement, with different instrumental groups assuming the role of the “caller” and “responder.” Bassist Jimmy Blanton demonstrates clearly in this recording why he is considered to be an important link in the lineage of jazz bassists, providing strong, well-balanced walking lines and short solo fills throughout the arrangement.

Ellington Firsts

1. First black band to broadcast nightly on the radio; 2. First composer to merge jazz with film to create the film short Black and Tan Fantasy; 3. First black jazz band to appear in a full-length feature film—Check and Double Check; 4. First black jazz composer to score a musical theater production and use his band in the production; 5. First jazz composer to create extended concerts pieces that required more than one side of a 78 rpm record

to produce—Creole Rhapsody being the first; 6. First jazz composer to compose for full-length feature films.

Although all of the Ellington multi-movement suites offer something interesting, perhaps one of the more widely acclaimed is the “Far East Suite,” a major work created collaboratively with Billy Strayhorn and released in 1967. The suite is the result of a 1963 Ellington Orchestra tour of what was actually the Middle East, sponsored by the U.S. State Department, including stops in Amman, Nabul, New Delhi, Ceylon, Tehran, Madras, Bombay, Baghdad, and Ankara. Other cities were on their itinerary, but the tour was cut short by the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. In March of 1964, Ellington wrote in Music Journal, in an article titled “Orientations” (quoted in the original liner notes that accompanied the LP), that:

The tour was a great adventure for us on what is indeed the other side of the world. Sometimes I felt it was this world upside down. The look of the natural country is so unlike ours and the very contours of the earth seem to be different. The smell, the vastness, the birds, and the exotic beauty of all these countries make a great inspiration. I hope much of this will go into the music, but doing a parallel to the East has its problems. From my perspective, I think I have to be careful not to be influenced too strongly by the music we heard, because there is a great sameness about it, beginning in the Arabic countries and going through India all the way to Ceylon.

Why the suite was mis-titled in terms of the geographic reference is anybody’s guess, but the music Ellington and Strayhorn created is enchanting and projects a mood equal to the best classical program music.

“Isfahan,” the third movement from the Ellington/Strayhorn “Far East Suite,” is by far one of the most striking and celebrated Ellington Orchestra ballads. Recent scholarship has suggested that this particular piece, although copyrighted under both composers’ names, was actually written by Strayhorn and initially titled “Elf.”

Composed in 1963, before the completion of the suite in 1965–1966, this atmospheric ballad features the sensuous alto saxophone of Johnny Hodges, who makes pure poetry out of the haunting melody. His ability to smear and bend notes, connecting them seamlessly in liquid fashion, made him one of the most identifiable soloists of all time. Harry Carney’s thick, lush baritone saxophone can be heard on composed fills at 1:29 and 3:04.

The tune, which could be considered one of Ellington’s “mood” pieces, was renamed for use in the suite after the band’s U.S. State Department-sponsored tour of the Middle East, which included a stop off at this city in Iran, south of Teheran.

There is no introduction to “Isfahan,” and Hodges’s opening, unaccompanied descending solo line immediately lays out the most important phrase in this composition. There is nothing superfluous in this entire, brief 4-minute piece, which includes very little improvisation on the part of the soloist. The solo breaks, in the early jazz tradition, and sudden pauses, which are always in tempo, supply surprising tension and anticipation to this otherwise relatively straightforward ballad. On closer examination, however, there are surprising changes made to the typical song form.



Duke Ellington and His Famous Orchestra

“Ko-Ko” (Ellington) 2:40

Recorded 3/6/1940, Chicago

(Victor 26577)

Personnel: Duke Ellington, piano; Wallace Jones and Cootie Williams, trumpets; Rex Stewart, cornet; Joe Nanton, Lawrence Brown, and Juan Tizol, trombones; Barney Bigard, clarinet and tenor saxophone; Otto Hardwicke and Johnny Hodges, alto saxophones; Ben Webster, tenor saxophone; Harry Carney, baritone saxophone; Fred Guy, guitar; Jimmy Blanton, bass; Sonny Greer, drums

Form: 2-bar minor blues

0:00–0:11 Introduction—8 measures featuring trombones over single bass note (pedal point) played by bass and baritone sax

0:12–0:31 First chorus—theme played by muted trombone in call–response with sax section

0:32–0:50 Second chorus—muted trombone solo (different from first mute), with sax line and brass syncopated brass punches as background texture

0:51–1:07 Third chorus—trombone soloist continues for another chorus

1:08–1:25 Fourth chorus—Ellington plays piano solo featuring dissonant chords and cascading lines over brass punches and sax unison line

1:26–1:44 Fifth chorus—trumpets play melody, with sax and trombone figures in contrast

1:45–2:03 Sixth chorus—2-bar exchanges between full band and solo bass

2:04–2:21 Seventh chorus—most climactic section termed the “shout chorus,” when entire ensemble plays new material at high dynamic level

2:22–2:33 Return of 8-measure introduction

2:34–end 4-bar coda

Although Ellington may have been the “Duke” and the first to achieve the many accomplishments cited above, someone else claimed the crown of “King” of swing. It is important to point out that none of the black bands captured the commercial spotlight and financial success to rival the best of the white swing bands. Benny “the King” Goodman led certainly one of the best of the white bands, without overly compromising his standards to satisfy the dance-crazed public. His crown was earned only after many years of struggling and failing as a freelance musician and bandleader.

Be sure that you use the website to review the high points of this chapter and access a wealth of supplementary material. There are some fascinating excerpts of interviews with Duke Ellington and others that feature in the corresponding chapter heading.



Duke Ellington Orchestra

“Isfahan” (Ellington/Strayhorn) 4:02

From “The Far East Suite”

Recorded 12/20/1966

Bluebird 07863 (reissue 66551–2)

Personnel: Reeds: Johnny Hodges, alto sax; Russell Procope

Trumpets: Cootie Williams, Cat Anderson, Mercer Ellington, and Herbie Jones; trombones: Lawrence Brown, Buster Cooper, Chuck Connor

Rhythm: Duke Ellington, piano; John Lamb, bass; Rufus Jones, drums

Form: A (8 bars); B (8 bars); A (8 bars); plus 8-bar coda

This structure is unusual, because each 4-bar phrase within the A sections begins with the end of the previous 4-bar phrase. This descending line that serves as the most prominent feature of the melody begins each phrase as a pickup or anticipation of the first bar of each phrase. This feature is evident from the very first line played by the soloist. The final return to the A section is also unusual, as it is extended beyond the expected 8-bar reprise of A. At this point, an additional 4-bar section of brand new material occurs, before the return to the main 4-bar theme to end the form, making the final A section following the bridge a full 16 bars rather than 8.

0:00–0:16 A theme begins immediately, stated by Hodges on alto sax

0:17–0:32 Second phrase of A theme

0:33–1:04 B theme for 8 bars ends with pickup to A theme

1:05–1:20 Return to A theme, first phrase

1:21–1:37 Second phrase of A theme

1:38–1:48 Extension of A theme consisting of new material

1:49–1:52 Break

1:53–2:05 Return to final 4-bar phrase from A theme

2:05–2:08 Bass solo break

2:09–2:32 Full band plays new material based on A-section harmony; Hodges improvises solo fills

2:33–2:39 Alto sax plays solo break, ending with pickup to return of melody

2:40–2:55 Return to A theme

2:56–3:11 Second A-theme phrase

3:12–3:22 Extension to A theme for 4 bars

3:33–3:26 Break—silence

3:27–3:28 Reprise of A theme, leading to a false sense of ending

3:29–3:40 Break—silence

3:41–end Hodges plays alto sax pickup to repeat of final phrase, leading to ending chord where Hodges plays opening five notes of melody as a final



A child of Russian–Jewish immigrants, Goodman was a product of the urban acculturation process in Chicago in the 1920s. Here, he learned to borrow both accepted and unorthodox techniques from black and white musicians. Goodman associated with members of the Austin High Gang. He most likely learned the value of practice and maintaining a good work ethic from his parents. His efforts were rewarded with a polished and flawless technique, along with a pure tone and vibrato that could at times be considered an anticipation of the “cool” sound developed years later in the 1950s. Because of his classical training, he developed a classical approach to the clarinet, unlike many of the more freewheeling, untrained jazz players of the day. This background no doubt led to his association with classical composers and performers later in his career.

His early Chicago experiences with society dance bands led by Ben Pollack and in recording studios as a freelance musician earned him a reputation as a consummate musician, comfortable in any number of musical situations. His solo work, as pointed out by historian Gunther Schuller, often sounded safe, or risk free, no matter how difficult the passage, lacking the tension and daring so often associated with great jazz performances. He was such a superior musician in every way that his music suffered at times from a lack of edge and urgency. In short, Goodman and his band were often just too perfect. His style was therefore contrary to the hallmark “hot” black soloists of the day.9 As a result of this criticism, his early work is not considered to be profound or entirely original. This criticism, whether justified or not, followed him much of his life.

As Goodman’s reputation as a recording soloist grew, he formed his own band in the early 1930s to honor several recording contracts. Although these early groups were not entirely successful, they did record several rewarding arrangements penned by Glenn Miller in 1931. Chicago drumming sensation Gene Krupa was instrumental in the success of the early Goodman band. This band also featured the brilliant Texas trombonist Jack Teagarden, who would eventually take this instrument to new heights, away from the earlier tailgate style. However, like most musicians, Goodman struggled through the effects of the Depression in the early 1930s. As much of the recording work had disappeared during these years, he took to performing live for radio broadcasts. Because radio provided free entertainment, it became even more popular during those difficult economic times.

His first successful recordings were made with the English Columbia label. By then, he had formed an alliance with John Hammond, who was one of the most successful promoters and champions of jazz to emerge during this period. Hammond, who was an active civil rights spokesman, convinced him to use the best possible talent for these recordings, including the up-and-coming Billie Holiday. Holiday made her first recording with the Goodman band. It was also Hammond—who exerted a major influence on Goodman for much of his career—who urged Goodman to form an allegiance with Fletcher Henderson. Goodman hired Henderson as his chief arranger, which not only saved Henderson’s decaying career, but also eventually attributed to Goodman’s overwhelm- ing success. Goodman, who had experienced more than one failure, had all but abandoned any hope of fronting a successful jazz band and was bored with the run-of-the-mill dance-band arrangements. It was Hammond’s commitment to Goodman and Hammond’s ability to secure engagements, including extended radio broadcasts, that kept his band working in the face of failure. Goodman employed some of the finest musicians and soloists of the day, including Krupa, trumpeter Bunny Berigan, and pianist Jess Stacy.

The Goodman band struck out on what proved to be a lackluster tour across the country in 1935. By the time the band had reached Denver, he was almost ready to abandon all hope for success. His “Let’s Dance” radio contract had been dropped, and he had succumbed once again to what he perceived as commercial pressures by playing more and more pedestrian arrangements of popular dance tunes. Most of these arrangements avoided improvisation, and all sounded much the same. Something happened, however, when the band arrived at the Palomar Ballroom in Los Angeles, California. That night, there was a young crowd on hand whose tastes had apparently caught up to the adventuresome Goodman and the more daring side of his band that featured “hot” arrangements by Fletcher Henderson. This young crowd craved Goodman’s most demanding literature, which actually featured more improvisation. The young crowd was enraptured by Goodman’s set of “hot,” danceable


arrangements, and their enthusiastic acceptance, which was broadcast nationwide on radio, sparked the beginning of the great Swing Era. It was ironic that these same Henderson “hot” arrangements that turned Goodman’s career around had been recorded only a few years earlier by Henderson’s band, but failed at that time to generate any real notice. On that particular night, however, Goodman and his band became an overnight success, and he ultimately captured the title of “King of Swing.” The differences between the Henderson and Goodman bands are obvious, but do not explain Goodman’s overnight success. The Henderson band often featured higher-caliber soloists and swung harder, but it was difficult to match the level of precision and polish that Goodman, who was known as a taskmaster, had achieved.

Goodman and his band rode the crest of the wave that he had created until 1942, when he broke up his band. By then, he had posted an amazing list of accomplishments in the 7 years since his overnight success at the Palomar.

Like many other big-band leaders, Goodman found that he could also be successful surrounding himself with all-star casts in small group settings. His small groups, which included Lionel Hampton on vibes, Charlie Christian on guitar, pianist Teddy Wilson, and Gene Krupa on drums, may have actually contributed more to jazz in terms of a lasting influence than his big bands. Goodman’s trios, quartets, and sextets brought a chamber-music element to jazz at a time when bombastic big bands were the thing. Throughout his career, Goodman showed a penchant for classical music, commissioning Igor Stravinsky and performing classical repertoire with the New York Philharmonic and the Budapest String Quartet.

John Hammond, who eventually became Goodman’s brother-in-law, recognized the growing importance of bringing the best soloists into Goodman’s band. Motivated by his empathy with black musicians struggling for equality and recognition, he persuaded Goodman to become the first white bandleader to employ black musicians

Bandleader and clarinetist Benny Goodman (center) performs for a large crowd at Manhattan Beach, New York, August 11, 1938


in public performance. Goodman’s first step towards integrating his bands led other bandleaders such as Charlie Barnet to follow. Goodman’s first historic trio, formed in 1935, broke precedence by featuring black pianist Teddy Wilson, a native Texan, who 1 year later became a regular member of Goodman’s small groups. Wilson was a polished pianist who had incorporated elements of Earl Hines’s and Art Tatum’s styles. The trio soon became a quartet with the addition of vibraphonist Lionel Hampton, another aspiring black musician. Hampton began his career as a drummer and had recorded with Louis Armstrong’s big band. Hampton switched to vibes, seeing more opportunity for notice on this unusual instrument. (Make sure that you become acquainted with the vibraphone, which can be found on the website in the instruments section of Chapter 3—“Listening to Jazz.”) Wilson left Goodman in 1939 to form his own band and, for a time, was singer Billie Holiday’s musical director. Hampton too eventually left Goodman to form his own small and big bands and became one of the most important early innovators on his instrument. As a dedicated performer, he was known for his showmanship and tireless energy.

The last great black performer to be added to Goodman’s small group was the revolutionary guitarist from Oklahoma, Charlie Christian. Christian was a major talent by the time he hit New York at the age of 23. The blues background that is apparent in his playing reinforced the importance of this heritage at a time when it could easily have been forgotten, amid the craze for popular big-band dance tunes. Most importantly, Christian engineered a solo style on guitar that brought the instrument into a more prominent role in jazz. Prior to his work in jazz, the instrument had been largely relegated to playing chords, providing regular rhythmic accompaniment. Christian’s father performed throughout Texas and Oklahoma in bands that could be described as the predecessors of the western swing style. Many of these players actually pioneered the use of amplified guitar, but it is Christian who is justifiably given credit for bringing amplified guitar to widespread attention and use. The amplification helped him to break away from the traditional chording role and create a more linear, single-note solo style, similar to that of the saxophonists of the day. Jazz historian Gunther Schuller described his style as possessing “uncluttered lines, often arching shapes, flawless time, and consistently blues-inflected melodic/harmonic language.”10

The Benny Goodman Sextet. L–R: Lionel Hampton, Artie Bernstein, Benny Goodman, Nick Fatool, Charlie Christian, Fletcher Henderson



The Benny Goodman Sextet

“Good Enough to Keep,” 2:53, also known as “Airmail Special”

Recorded in Los Angeles, 6/20/1940, Columbia G.30779. Reissued on Columbia Jazz Masterpieces #45144

Personnel: Benny Goodman.clarinet; Dudley Brooks, piano; Charlie Christian, electric guitar; Artie Bernstein, string bass; Nick Fatool, drums; Lionel Hampton, vibraphone

Form: Repeated 32-bar-song form (AABA = chorus)

0:00–0:34 First chorus—32-bar song form melody

0:00–0:08 A section—8 bars (verse), clarinet, vibes, guitar play song melody

0:09–0:17 A section repeated—8 bars (verse), repeat of A-section song melody

0:18–0:26 B section—8 bars (bridge), clarinet, vibes, guitar play bridge melody

0:26–0:34 A section—8 bars (verse), repeat of A-section melody

0:34–1:08 Second chorus—32-bar song form, vibes freely improvise full chorus over chord changes, with piano, bass, and drum accompaniment

1:09–1:43 Third chorus—32-bar-song form, guitar freely improvises full chorus over chord changes, with piano, bass, and drum accompaniment

1:43–2:16 Fourth chorus—32-bar song form, clarinet freely improvises full chorus over chord changes, with piano, bass, and drum accompaniment

2:17–2:52 Fifth chorus—32-bar-song form: “shout chorus” featuring variation on melody

2:17–2:25 A section—8 bars (verse), clarinet, vibes, guitar play “shout” variation of the melody

2:26–2:33 A section—8 bars (verse), repeat of A theme

2:34–2:42 B section—8 bars (bridge), clarinet, vibes, guitar play original (first chorus) bridge melody

2:43–2:52 A section—8 bars (verse), repeat of A to end

Even today, his solos sound as modern as if they were recorded yesterday. Christian died prematurely from tuberculosis in 1942, but not before leaving a heritage that revolutionized jazz guitar playing and continues to exert an influence on young guitarists. Up until his death, he had been a regular fixture at Minton’s Playhouse, participating in after-hours jam sessions where the groundwork for the bebop revolution was being laid. As brief as his career was, he was considered to be one of the most advanced musicians of the day.

Guitarist Charlie Christian on stage with the Benny Goodman Orchestra, in New York, c.1940


There was a select group of big bands in the late 1930s and through the 1940s that topped the pop music charts for record sales and radio airplay. A high percentage of bands enjoying the limelight were white bands that catered more to the dance floor than they did to any higher aesthetic. In fact, the famous bandleader Glenn Miller made it clear that he never wanted to have a jazz band. Some of these bands, however, featured fine jazz soloists and excellent arrangements that provided redeeming qualities, aside from those appreciated by the dance crowd. Benny Goodman successfully straddled the line that separated purely commercial dance music and music that offered both listener and performer greater challenges. Goodman was able to satisfy his best soloists’ need for artistic challenge more through their small group work than with the big band, although his challenging big-band arrangements often satisfied dancers, listeners, and musicians alike. Rival clarinetist Artie Shaw took a similar approach, adding the Gramercy 5 small group to diversify his big band. Trombonist Tommy Dorsey followed the same path, and his band within a band was called the Clambake Seven. Shaw also sought diversity by recording with strings, following in the footsteps of Paul Whiteman.

Artie Shaw (Arthur Arshawsky) (1910–2005)

From the outset, Artie Shaw’s approach to jazz was unique, forming an early ensemble that included a string quartet, rhythm section, and clarinet. His fascination with modern classical composers no doubt explains the motivation to use strings throughout his career. Shaw’s recording of “Begin the Beguine” was his first major hit in 1938, prompting the public to begin a long-time debate over who was the best clarinetist— Goodman or Shaw. Shaw was well known for his fluid technique, enabling him to spin long, flowing lines at any tempo, as demonstrated by the track included on the companion anthology. His command of the instrument’s high register is also evident on this recording, which represents one of Shaw’s million-sellers, “Traffic Jam.” It is a masterpiece in that so much variety has been packed into such a brief recording.

Shaw, like Goodman, was an advocate for integration and racial equality, at one time featuring Billie Holiday, Roy Eldridge, and Orin “Hot Lips” Page in his bands. Provoked by racial attitudes, his own fame, publicity, and commercial pressures, Shaw left the music business in 1955, jaded about the music industry and bearing a disdain for the average listener who would not support more thought-provoking, artistic products. His own quest for artistry was so much at odds with the public’s appetite for the commercial side of jazz that he was unable to continue in the business.


Big-band leader Artie Shaw performs in 1945, Los Angeles, California


Goodman and Shaw weren’t the only successful white bandleaders, and there is a lengthy list of others who enjoyed lasting popularity during the Swing Era, such as Glenn Miller, Tommy Dorsey, Jimmy Dorsey, Woody Herman, Les Brown, Charlie Barnet, Harry James, and Gene Krupa. Trumpeter James and drummer Krupa (who as a youth kept company with the Austin High Gang in Chicago) both made their mark while working as sidemen with Goodman’s band. In each case, theme songs, featured vocalists, and popular recordings helped to secure enduring success for these bands. Some of the best-selling hits have become timeless and are still recognized today, even by younger generations far removed from the Swing Era heyday. Some of those most lasting tunes are listed in Figure 7.2 opposite.


Artie Shaw

“Traffic Jam” (Artie Shaw and Teddy McRae) 2:15

Recorded in Los Angeles, 6/12/1939

Soloists: Artie Shaw, clarinet; Georgie Auld, tenor sax; George Arus, trombone; Budy Rich, drums

Form: Repeated 32-bar-song form (AABA = chorus)

0:00–0:03 Buddy Rich plays brief prelude to introduction on drums

0:04–0:10 Introduction—played by full band, culminating in long ascending clarinet gliss

0:11–0:18 First chorus—A theme stated by brass and saxes in call–response riff fashion, while Shaw weaves improvised clarinet obbligato

0:19–0:25 Repeat of A theme—Shaw continues soloing overtop of ensemble

0:26–0:33 Tenor sax solo on bridge (B section of form)

0:34–0:40 Repeat of A section completes the first chorus

0:41–0:44 Interlude—4-measure trumpet section break in pyramid style; drums enter to lead into first solo

0:45–0:51 Second chorus—Shaw solos on first A section with rhythm-section accompaniment

0:52–0:58 Shaw continues to solo on second 8-measure A section

0:59–1:05 Trombone solo on chords to B section

1:06–1:12 Clarinet reenters to solo over final A section to complete chorus

1:13–1:20 Third chorus—full band returns to repeat A section theme

1:21–1:27 Full band continues with repeat of A section

1:28–1:34 Rhythm section alone, Basie style, plays through bridge

1:35–1:42 Band returns with final A section to complete chorus

1:43–1:49 Fourth chorus—Full band “shout chorus,” with new material featuring brass and based on A section harmonies

1:50–1:56 Repeat of previous section

1:57–2:03 Sax section soli in call–response style with brass and based on B section harmony; 2-bar drum break ends the section

2:04–end Full band returns to original A theme; abrupt ending with final chord and drum flourish


A few of these bands survived the transitional years, bridging classic and modern jazz when the war and bebop had a lasting effect on the music. The Herman and Kenton bands were most successful at adapting to change, bringing new young players into their bands and reflecting change through their arrangements. In both cases, these bands served as training grounds for many of the best jazz musicians of the 20th and 21st centuries, some of whom are mentioned in Figure 7.3 on p. 154.

In retrospect, not all the popular white bands during this period offered music that became timeless. Many leaders played to the popular dance crowd exclusively, unconcerned with a higher aesthetic or jazz improvisation. Some of these groups were described as “sweet,” “mickey mouse,” or just “mickey” bands. Bands led by Lawrence Welk, Guy Lombardo, Spike Jones, Kay Kaiser, Wayne King, Fred Waring, Freddie Martin, Lester Lannin, Horace Heidt—the list goes on and on—fall into this category. None of these bands or sidemen, despite enjoying widespread popularity and celebrity, had any significant impact on the development of jazz.


Although big-band jazz reigned in the 1940s, the vocalists, whose careers had been launched as members of the big bands, prevailed in the decade that followed, and the top 1940s record charts reflect this transition in American tastes. By the mid 1950s, it was difficult to find a big band anywhere on the charts, but singers such as Frank Sinatra, Perry Como, Tony Martin, Doris Day, Kay Star, Jo Stafford, and Teresa Brewer were regular winners. Only Nat “King” Cole stands out as a jazz-instrumentalist-turned-singer who enjoyed success in the 1950s. Figure 7.4 pairs some of these singers with the bands that gave them their initial exposure.

Popular Hit Tune

Band Leader

Let’s Dance Sing, Sing, Sing (featuring Gene Krupa)

Benny Goodman

Moonlight Serenade String of Pearls Tuxedo Junction In the Mood

Glenn Miller

Stardust I’m Getting Sentimental Over You

Tommy Dorsey

Opus No. One

Tommy Dorsey

Begin the Beguine Stardust

Artie Shaw

Blue Flame

Caldonia At the Woodchopper’s Ball

Woody Herman

Artistry and Rhythm

Stan Kenton

Leap Frog

Les Brown


Charlie Barnet

Ciribiribin Harry James

FIGURE 7.2 Memorable Swing Era hits and associated bands


Woody Herman Sidemen Stan Kenton Sidemen

Nick Brignola, baritone sax Art Pepper, alto sax

Stan Getz, tenor sax Maynard Ferguson, trumpet

Zoot Sims, tenor sax Peter Erskine, drums

Joe Lovano, tenor sax Frank Rosolino, trombone

John Fedchock, trombone Marvin Stamm, trumpet

Bill Chase, trumpet Anita O’Day, vocalist

Neal Hefti, arranger

June Christy, vocalist

Ralph Burns, arranger

Pete Rugolo, arranger

Al Cohn, tenor sax

Kai Winding, trombone

Nat Pierce, piano

Mel Lewis, drums

Pete and Conti Candoli, trumpet

Gerry Mulligan, baritone sax

Dave Tough, drums

Bud Shank, alto sax

Sal Nestico, tenor sax

Tim Hagans, trumpet

Tom Harrell, trumpet

Conte Candoli, trumpet

FIGURE 7.3 Important artists to emerge from Woody Herman and Stan Kenton bands

Vocalists Bandleader Affiliation

Jo Stafford Tommy Dorsey

Rosemary Clooney Tony Pastor

Billie Holiday

Benny Goodman Artie Shaw

Helen Forest

Artie Shaw, Benny Goodman and Harry James

Helen O’Connell

Jimmy Dorsey

Peggy Lee Benny Goodman

Kay Star

Charlie Barnet

June Christy

Stan Kenton

Frank Sinatra

Tommy Dorsey

Anita O’Day

Gene Krupa

Bing Crosby Paul Whiteman

FIGURE 7.4 Popular vocalists and associated bands

By the mid 1950s, the tide began to turn again, gradually diminishing the careers of all but the biggest of these stars, with yet another new wave of American popular music—rock ’n’ roll.


Using Jelly Roll Morton’s words, the “Spanish tinge” continued to flourish during the Swing Era. America’s infatuation with Latin dances came in waves, one after another, each popularized by Latin musicians who had taken up residence in the US. Pérez (Prez) Prado, for instance, was a Cuban-born musician who helped popularize the mambo. The samba was also known among early jazz and popular musicians. Carmen Miranda, famous for her fruit-cocktail headdresses, helped to further popularize this dance form in 1946, and it was reborn in the 1970s. The rumba entered the American scene in 1929, followed by the popular conga in 1937 through its promotion by noted Cuban bandleader Desi Arnaz (Lucille Ball’s husband and of I Love Lucy TV fame). Many of these traditional dance rhythms underwent simplification or alteration to accommodate the demands of the dance-oriented American public. Xavier Cugat was largely responsible for some of this popular simplification. His great success enabled him to continually import Cuban musicians to replace those who left his employment to seek opportunities with other jazz bands.

The growing popularity of Latin music, combined with the increasing number of Latin musicians migrating to the US, led jazz musicians to continue with experiments to integrate the two styles. Valve trombonist Juan Tizol performed with the Duke Ellington Orchestra in the 1930s. It was during this period that Ellington collaborated with Tizol to compose and record “Caravan,” “Conga Brava,” and “Bakiff,” all possessing obvious Afro-Cuban rhythmic qualities. Another east-coast Swing Era bandleader, Cab Calloway, recorded “Doin’ the Rumba” in 1931. From time to time, he employed Latin American-born musicians such as trumpeter Mario Bauza. Bauza, who had played in the trumpet sections of big swing bands led by Chick Webb, Fletcher Henderson, and Don Redman, became an important catalyst in the formation of new Latin-jazz styles in the late 1930s and throughout the 1940s. His friendship with jazz trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie later becomes significant to the growth of Latin jazz and Cubop in the late 1940s, discussed in more detail in Chapter 9.


In the first half of the 1930s, the Great Depression had a profound effect on life in America and on jazz. Twenty-five percent of the workforce was unemployed, with minorities being especially impacted. The recording industry slowed to a near standstill, as all but the most established record labels went bankrupt owing to plummeting record sales. Looking for inexpensive forms of entertainment as a way to forget their troubles, many Americans turned to radio, the movies, parlor games, and ballroom dancing.

As the popularity of ballroom dancing increased, so did the size and number of dance halls. At a time when sound reinforcement was still in its infancy, larger musical groups were needed to fill these larger halls with music. Instead of the three-musician front line of the previous decade, bands expanded to have entire sections of trumpets, trombones, and saxophones, in addition to the three- or four-piece rhythm section. Fletcher Henderson and his arranger Don Redman are often credited with the standardization of big-band instrumentation and arranging techniques still in use today.



Continuing the trend started in the 1920s by Louis Armstrong, most groups started playing in a more connected, less jerky fashion. For example, drummers began using the cymbals to indicate pulse rather than drums, and the string bass gradually replaced the tuba and bass saxophone as the commonest bass instrument. Bassists could play long lines without the need to stop for a breath, as had been the case earlier with wind instrumentalists.

Duke Ellington was one of the great American musical geniuses. Throughout his long touring career, he composed more than 2,000 songs, many of which have become a part of the standard jazz repertoire. Ellington had a more sophisticated approach to arranging than did Fletcher Henderson and Don Redman, often effectively using very unusual combinations of instruments, longer forms, uneven phrase lengths, and more advanced chromatic harmonies.

During the Swing Era, jazz reached the height of popularity and was the popular music of the day. The most commercially successful groups were white big bands. Some, such as the bands of Benny Goodman and Artie Shaw, featured hot-jazz solos, whereas others, such as Glenn Miller’s, contained few improvised solos. Benny Goodman is especially noted as the first white big-band leader to integrate, featuring great black jazz artists such as Teddy Wilson, Lionel Hampton, and Charlie Christian.

The solo work of Charlie Christian on amplified guitar and numerous other musicians indi cated a new direction in improvisation yet to come. Probably the most important solo record- ing of the era was tenor saxophonist Coleman Hawkins’s recording of “Body and Soul.” This recording served as a model for the next generation of musicians, helping to foster the emergence of bebop.


Important terms, places, people, and bands:

Terms Arpeggiate (arpeggio)




Chord tones

Chord voicing






Head charts or







Places Cotton Club


People Harry Carney

Charlie Christian

Duke Ellington

Benny Goodman

John Hammond

Lionel Hampton

Coleman Hawkins

Gene Krupa

Don Redman

Billy Strayhorn

Teddy Wilson

Bands Duke Ellington

Fletcher Henderson

Artie Shaw


1. Can you describe the life of a traveling musician, particularly during the Depression? How were things worse for the black performers?

2. How did the concept of swing change, and what factors led to this important change from early jazz styles?

3. What characteristics distinguished “hot” bands from “sweet” bands?

4. Who was undoubtedly the most prolific jazz composer from the Swing Era?

5. Explain what arrangers do when they create music for a big band.

6. Describe the typical instrumentation of a Swing Era big band.

7. What was the specific contribution made by Jimmy Blanton?

8. Which pioneering big-band leader brought Louis Armstrong from Chicago to New York to join his band?

9. Benny Goodman’s early success was based on music arranged by ________?

10. Who is remembered as “the father of jazz tenor saxophone”?

11. What was so special about Coleman Hawkins’s recording of “Body and Soul”?

12. Which white bandleader was the first to hire black performers for public performances by his small groups? Who were these black musicians, and what instruments did they play?

13. Which jazz promoter played a role in integrating jazz bands during the Swing Era?

14. Where was the Cotton Club, and what significance did it have in Ellington’s career?

15. Were black or white big bands more popular? Of the two, which seemed to do more artistically to move the music forward?

16. What attributes made Duke Ellington’s music so special?

17. Duke Ellington’s music can be generally placed in several categories. Name these categories.

18. How did changes in recording formats eventually help Duke Ellington’s quest to be a composer of more lengthy, serious music?


C H A P T E R 8

Swinging Across the Country The Bands, Singers, and Pianists

No previous form of jazz had come even close to the immense popularity of the swing bands, which thoroughly dominated the hit charts during the years 1936 through 1945.1

—Bernard Gendron

8th December 1941: The front page of the New York World Telegram announces Japanese air attack at Pearl Harbor, commencing the U.S. entry into World War II


Kansas City, or “Kaycee” as the locals knew it, was the midwestern big-city hub for cattlemen and

wheat farmers selling their wares. They came to this city starved of the various forms of entertainment

that were hard to come by in the more remote, rural plains. Cabarets, gambling houses, nightclubs

and bars, opera houses, and dance halls were plentiful in this big city, near the confluence of the

Missouri and Kansas Rivers. Kaycee had its special brand of music, much of which was derived

from blues and ragtime styles. As was the case in other big cities during this period, there was a

shady side to Kansas City. Gangsters not only owned many of the establishments, but also saw to

it that illegal alcohol flowed freely, supporting nightlife activities. Just as Al Capone controlled much

of the Chicago scene, Kansas City flourished from dawn until dusk during the reign of political boss

Tom Pendergast. Pendergast gained control of the rough-and-tumble immigrant district known as

the First Ward. This appointment was a stepping-stone, leading to his eventual control of much of

the politics in the city, and eventually the entire state, until the federal government brought him

down in 1938 on charges of tax evasion, among others. He enjoyed close ties to the gangster

community. His demise came only after he did much to ensure the unencumbered operation of

clubs selling illegal alcohol and every other imaginable vice during Prohibition years. Much like

Chicago and New York, there were the black and white sides of town in Kansas City, each

supporting dozens of nightclubs and gambling houses. Kansas City, described as a “wild town”

during these years, could satisfy any desire and was a magnet for musicians who willingly came to

provide their brand of music. During the Depression years, the numerous clubs that supported live

music sustained many of the Kansas City musicians.

In a radio interview with jazz radio DJ Art Vincent, bassist Gene Ramey made the following

observations and comments about the scene in Kansas City:

It was back in 1932 when I came from Texas to Kansas City. At that time Benny

Moten had his band. They had those fabulous battles of bands and I think that’s the

thing that impressed me the most about Kansas City. Those guys were dressed in

the sharpest clothes. In those days it seemed like every big time musician owned a

Hudson car. I remember George E. Lee [Kansas City territory bandleader] had two of

them. And they would have these battles of the bands . . . I can’t name all of them

. . . Andy Kirk’s 12 Clouds of Joy, Walter Page’s Blue Devils, Harlan Leonard’s

Rockets, Julius and Carl Banks, Clarence Love, and of course the mighty Benny

Moten. On holidays, Labor Day or Christmas Eve, they’d have a ballroom battle of all

those bands and it would start at 7 o’clock and go to about 5 o’clock in the

morning. Just one band after another until whoever won that contest and of course

Benny Moten always won.2




Although there are some similarities in terms of the nightlife and corruption, there are many differences that distinguish Kansas City and other southwestern cities from New York in the 1930s. Remote southwestern and midwestern towns were less subject to the influences of New Orleans, and, as author Ross Russell put it, musicians in these towns “were left to their own musical devices.”3 The plain states were slow to absorb the more sophisticated musical styles evolving in Harlem and to participate in the growing music industry developing around Chicago and in these eastern urban areas. Consequently, ragtime and blues styles continued to flourish during the Swing Era and exerted a strong influence on music in the southwest. Many of the eastern-based groups developed in ways that identified them with a more sophisticated approach compared with the bands from the Midwest and Southwest. Bassist Gene Ramey, who traveled to New York as a member of the Kansas City-based band led by Jay McShann, was in a good position to assess the differences between bands from these two locales. He offered the following explanation: “lots of those [bands] that came from the east were [featuring] unnecessary inter- ludes and modulations. KC bands [on the other hand] had a certain ruggedness, roughness that swung hard.”4

The east-coast band with the most sophistication was of course Duke Ellington’s. Ramey also pointed out that eastern rhythm sections lacked the “laid-back,” behind-the-beat, “Baptist” beat that he associated with midwestern and southwestern bands. He felt that the eastern bands played with a very precise, “metronome beat.”

Benny Moten

It was the popular Benny Moten band that is most associated with jazz in this city during the Pendergast reign. The Moten band captured much of the choice work, and, when bookings became sparse and travel difficult for Walter Page’s Blue Devils band, many of Page’s top bands- men were lured to the Moten band. The Blue Devils, out of Oklahoma City, were a fine outfit that, at one time, employed Lester Young on saxophone, pianist William Basie, Walter Page on bass, and vocalist Jimmy Rushing. It was this southwestern band, along with Moten’s, that perfected the blues riff, head-style arrangement. By 1932, nearly all of these fine Blue Devils musicians, including the leader, had left to join the Moten band. Listen to Moten’s recording of “Moten Swing,” included on the SCCJ (editions prior to 2010), to hear this band at the top of its game.

Benny Moten started his band in 1923, but at this point the area was still heavily under the influence of ragtime, brass bands, and vaudeville-style music. His first recording, released in 1923 and coinciding closely with those issued by King Oliver in Chicago and Fletcher Henderson in New York, featured a New Orleans-like instrumentation to project an arranged ragtime-ensemble style. Over the years, Moten built his Kansas City-based band to be rivaled by no other from the area. He gradually expanded the instrumentation, while moving away from the rag- based style. Up until the addition of the Blue Devils’ personnel, his band lacked the secure soloists that the eastern bands boasted, and he had difficulty producing arrangements that would adequately showcase his expanded band. The recruitment of those stellar Blue Devils soloists, however, turned this situation around. Bill Basie, one of the first to leave the Blue Devils, replaced Moten at the piano, enabling the leader to concentrate on conducting and the business of running his band. Historian Ross Russell called bassist Walter Page “the single most important addition to the Moten band during this period.”5



A tragedy struck Moten and his band in 1935, just as they were at the top of their game. Moten died on the operating table while undergoing a simple tonsillectomy. In short order, Bill Basie, capitalizing on his old friendships with members of the Moten and Blue Devils bands, brought together a new band under his leadership. At this point, he declared himself the “Count.” Basie’s band was first discovered by impresario John Hammond, who heard a radio broadcast of the band. He was so impressed that he brought the band to New York in 1936.

It is doubtful at this point that Bill Basie, the “Kid from Redbank,” New Jersey, realized that he had begun a legacy that would continue even today under the leadership of band alumni. With the exception of a brief 2-year period from 1950 to 1952, when economics forced him to reduce his band to a smaller group, Basie maintained his career as a big-band leader for 49 years. The Basie band brought together the finest musicians from this area and codified the relaxed, swinging blues-riff style that is associated with bands from the Midwest and Southwest. The blues was at the core of this band’s style, and, in these early years, much of the arranging was accomplished by Eddie Durham, who was gifted at constructing “head” arrangements based on riffs to serve as a framework for Basie’s superb soloists. Head arrangements came about as the result of musicians improvising simple riffs (a short, repeated musical phrase described as motive), usually blues-based, that were memorized and eventually

The Count Basie Orchestra performs on stage in Chicago in 1940. Seated at far right: Lester Young; others: Walter Page (bass), Buddy Tate, Tab Smith, Jack Washington (saxes), Joe Jones (drums), Freddie Green (guitar), Vic Dickenson, Dicky Wells, Dan Minor (trombones), Buck Clayton, Ed Lewis, Harry Edison (trumpets)


served to codify a particular arrangement. The arrangers utilized simple motives (short, melodic phrases that serve as the primary basis of a tune) as riffs, which served to characterize a loose, improvised style. The arrangers who have provided “charts” (accepted term for arrangement) for the band over the years have always maintained Durham’s concern for economy of style. These motives and riffs were orchestrated for brass and saxophones and served both as backgrounds (secondary material that serves as accompaniment to a solo) behind soloists, as well as primary material for the main themes. The various riffs were often tossed about from section to section, in a call–response format. The arrangements also took advantage of the large dynamic range of a big band, contrasting quiet rhythm-section moments with bombastic surprises in the form of full band blasts. The Basie band, although never specializing in sophisticated and elaborate compositions, attracted listeners who were caught up in the relaxed swing and simplicity that became the hallmark of this great band. Basie had eliminated all that was superfluous, leaving only those essential ingredients that appealed to man’s basic instincts by creating an infectious brand of toe-tapping swing. Late in his career, he was asked in a Sixty Minutes television interview to describe his music. After a brief pause, he replied succinctly by saying, “tap your toe.” His brief description was as streamlined and to the point as his music.

It was the Basie rhythm section that generated the undercurrent that contributed to a unique brand of swing. Known as the “All-American Rhythm Section,” these four men revolutionized and modernized the approach to rhythm-section playing by the late 1930s. They were the first rhythm section to redefine the roles of their

Count Basie with his “All American Rhythm Section”—Walter Page, bass; Jo Jones, drums; Freddie Green, guitar


instruments to achieve a much-improved balance within the rhythm section. Page, who had already begun to assert himself as a fine bassist in the Blue Devils, perfected the walking bass line by playing ascending and descending notes on each beat of the measure, creating a steady pulse. These flowing lines gave impetus, power, and forward motion to the music. Guitarist Freddie Green, who spent his entire professional life with the Basie band, played an unamplified rhythm guitar, strumming dry, simple, three- and four-note chords on each beat. Jo Jones, who had also played with the Blue Devils, joined Basie’s rhythm section in 1934. He is credited with developing a more modern swing style of drumming by moving the emphasis away from the bass drum, which could easily obscure bass lines. Jones focused on playing the uneven swing pattern on the hi-hat, while using the bass drum more subtly and embellishing the basic beat using his free hand to chatter on the snare drum. Eventually, this swing pattern was moved to the suspended ride cymbal. With each beat being well defined by bass, drums, and guitar, Basie was forced to abandon his earlier stride and boogie-woogie styles. These earlier piano styles were far too busy and duplicated the new roles established by Page, Jones, and Green. Basie developed a new economic approach to playing chords, described as “comping.” It is a sparse, uncluttered technique compared with earlier styles and allowed the music to breathe, giving the listener an opportunity to hear more clearly the bass and guitar. This new abbreviated, succinct accompaniment style is based on chords played, often, in short, rhythmically random, and often syncopated gestures designed to punctuate other activities and provide harmonic accompaniment for soloists.

Basie also developed a sparse solo style based on simple motives consisting of single-note lines played in the upper register of the piano. This style became his easily recognized signature, and arrangers always made sure to feature him in this way. While other bands on the East Coast, such as those led by Ellington and Jimmy Lunceford, were perfecting a similar rhythm-section concept, it is the Basie rhythm section that is justly given credit for initially advancing and perfecting it.

The Basie band developed a reputation for featuring an endless parade of solos by the best players of the day, many of whom left other bands to join his ranks, including the now legendary saxophonist Lester Young.

Each of these specific rhythm-section performance practice techniques is clarified through video and audio examples found in the Performance Practice tutorial of Chapter 3—“Listening to Jazz”—on the website. These examples will enhance your understanding and recognition of comping, walking bass, and swing-style drumming techniques. A brief video example of the stride style is found in the section corresponding to Chapter 5.

Lester Young (1909–1959)

Tenor saxophonist Lester Young, who began his career in music as a drummer in his touring family’s territory band, offered an alternative to the bold, big sound asserted by Coleman Hawkins. (Refer to the interview excerpts found in the corresponding chapter on the website.) Young’s tone was often without obvious vibrato, light and airy, and much closer to the sound of the C- melody or alto saxophone. Young’s sound was in stark contrast to that of Hawkins, who began a long line of descendants who preferred his aggressive style with a husky sound and thick, wide vibrato. Because of his wispy sound, Young, along with Bix Beiderbecke and Frankie Trumbauer, is often considered an early pioneer of the “cool” sound, not yet defined. Even Young’s posture was distinctive, in that he cocked his head and held the saxophone at an odd angle, forcing him to play almost out of the side of his mouth. He also was rarely seen without his wide-brimmed porkpie hat, a trademark adopted by many Swing Era players.


There was at least one other obvious contrast between Hawkins and Young. Young tended to favor building improvisations by stringing together a series of simple, melodic motives that consisted of pitches which were common to several consecutive chords in the progression. Hawkins, on the other hand, favored a busier harmonic style that engaged him in long phrases of endless arpeggiations (outlining of chords by playing one note at a time) as each chord changed. Young, therefore, favored linear melodic development, regardless of changes in harmony, whereas Hawkins’s solos were motivated by chord motion. Young’s solos consequently often occupied a smaller range than Hawkins’s improvisations. Although he enjoyed suc - cess throughout his career, his style, particularly his sound, placed him in the minority, and in some ways he lived bitterly in the shadow of the more robust tenor saxophonists who had followed in Hawkins’s foot- steps. Nicknamed the “President,” or “Prez” for short, Young recorded with numerous small groups that included vocalist Billie Holiday and pianist Teddy Wilson, among others. He performed at festivals in the US and in Europe, but some say he never regained the “fire” in his playing after serving in World War II, when he was a victim of various forms of racial discrimination and harassment. He passed away only one month before his life-long friend and kindred musical spirit, Billie Holiday.

“Every Tub,” included in the online audio anthology, provides an excellent glimpse of Lester Young, as well as Basie’s “All American Rhythm Section” sound, which has survived virtually unchanged, at least in basic stylistic concepts, for decades.

Tenor saxophonist Lester Young performs while holding his instrument in his classic sideways style


Count Basie

“Every Tub” (Count Basie, Eddie Durham) 3:14

Recorded 2/16/1938, New York City, Decca1728

Reissued by MCA and GRP records GRD-3–611

Personnel: Count Basie, piano; Buck Clayton, Ed Lewis, Harry Edison, trumpets; Benny Morton, Dan Minor, Eddie Durham, trombones; Lester Young, Herschel Evans, clarinets and tenor saxophones; Earl Warren, alto saxophone; Jack Washington, alto and baritone saxophone; Freddie Green, guitar; Walter Page, bass; Jo Jones, drums

Form: Song-form choruses (AABA = chorus)

0:00–0:07 Introduction—8 bars, tenor sax solo over stop-time band


0:08–0:30 First chorus—24-bar (abbreviated) tenor sax solo (Young)


0:08–0:15 A section—8 bars, tenor sax solo over brass riffs, rhythm section

0:16–0:23 B section—8 bars, tenor sax solo over bridge chords (B section), with rhythm section only

0:24–0:31 A section—8 bars, tenor sax solo over brass riffs, rhythm section

0:31–0:54 Second chorus—24-bar (abbreviated) piano solo

0:31–0:38 A section—8 bars, piano solo with bass and drum accompaniment

0:39–0:46 B section—8 bars, piano solo over bridge chords, with bass and drums

0:47–0:54 A section—8 bars, piano solo with bass and drum accompaniment

0:55–1:21 Third chorus—36-bar trumpet solo (Edison):

0:55–0:58 Interlude break—4 bars, trumpets play unison ensemble break with drums only

0:59–1:06 A section—8 bars, trumpet solo (Edison) with sax-section riffs, rhythm section

1:07–1:14 A section—8 bars, trumpet solo continues with sax-section riffs, rhythm section

1:14–1:21 B section—8 bars, trumpet solo continues with rhythm section only

1:22–1:30 A section—8 bars, trumpet solo continues with sax section riffs

1:30–2:01 Fourth chorus—32-bar ensemble shout chorus, with saxes and brass in call–response pattern, alternating with piano solo:

1:30–1:38 A section—8 bars, sax and brass play call–response riffs

1:38–1:46 A section—8 bars, like A section above

1:46–1:53 B section—8 bars, piano solo with rhythm

1:54–2:01 A section—8 bars, like A section above

2:02–2:33 Fifth chorus—32-bar theme:

2:02–2:09 A section—8 bars, saxes play theme with brass riffs and rhythm section

2:10–2:17 A section—8 bars, like A section above

2:18–2:25 B section—8 bars, tenor solo (Evans) over bridge chords, with rhythm section

2:36–2:33 A section—8 bars, like A section above

2:33–3:05 Sixth chorus—32-bar varied theme:

2:33–2:40 A section—8 bars, saxes play varied theme with brass riffs and rhythm section

2:41–2:48 A section—8 bars, like A section above

2:49–2:57 B section—8 bars, trumpet solo (Edison) with sustained sax chords and rhythm

2:57–3:05 A section—8 bars, like A section above

3:05–3:14 Coda—4-bar repeated brass riff, 2-bar tenor break (Young), 2-bar Dixieland style ensemble ending

Listen to the interviews with Lester Young and Billie Holiday found in the corresponding chapter on the website.



As towns were many miles apart, musicians found it necessary to travel a great deal for work. Many of these bands traveled only within certain unofficial boundaries and became known as territory bands. These bands roamed the Southwest and Midwest, often commanding salaries as high as $150 per week in the major cities such as Dallas. Figure 8.1 illustrates how far this weekly salary would go in terms of purchasing power in 1940.

Cost of Living Index circa 1940

Weekly Salaries Averages

Farm Hand – $10

Factory Worker – $25

Clerks – $30

White collar employees – no more than $60


Basic automobile – $645

Butter and bacon – 35 cents per lb

Loaf of Bread – 10 cents

Whole chicken – $2

Dress shirt – $2 Worsted wool suite – $25

Woman’s two-piece suit – $15

Blouse – $3

Shoes and socks or hose – $6


One room New York apartment –�$40 per month House – $6,000–$10,000 Entertainment and Luxuries

Restaurant dinner – $2 Movie ticket during prime time – 25 cents Combination radio-phonograph –�$50 Bottle of Scotch whiskey – $1 Cigarettes – 15 cents per pack

FIGURE 8.1 Cost of living index, c.19406

Troy Floyd – Dallas Milt Larkin – Texas

Alfonso Trent – Dallas

Black Aces – Colorado

Andy Kirk’s 12 Clouds of Joy – Kansas City

Jesse Stone – Kansas City

Benny Moten Orchestra – Kansas City

Lawrence “88” Keys – Kansas City

Blue Syncopaters – Texas Kansas City Rockets

Boots and His Buddies – Texas Blue Devils – Oklahoma/Texas

FIGURE 8.2 Well-known territory bands and their locales


Many Swing Era “territorial” musicians went their entire lives without being recorded, whereas some were recorded, but with limited circulation, and others, such as Benny Moten and Jay McShann, became nationally known initially through their regionally produced records. Most of these bands were deeply rooted in a blues tradition, and much of their repertoire was based on improvised head arrangements. Many of these black performers came to jazz from a strong foundation in gospel and spiritual music, as religion was an important part of their upbringing in this part of the country. Many of the greatest musicians of the Swing Era, such as Ben Webster, Lester Young, Charlie Christian, Count Basie, and Mary Lou Williams apprenticed early in their careers with territory bands. Although many of these exceptional soloists moved on to successful careers, the ravages of the Depression years were too much for many of the territory bands to overcome, as they relied so heavily on the ability to travel, and for this reason many migrated to Kansas City in search of employment.

Mary Lou Williams (1910–1981)

With the exception of vocalists, the jazz profession remained largely a male-dominated world. Of course, there were exceptions, such as Ina Rae Hutton’s Sweethearts of Rhythm and Phil Spitalny’s “All-Girl” orchestra, but more often than not they were treated like novelty acts, playing watered-down jazz with window dressing. Some female orchestras became popular during wartime, when many male musicians had been drafted. Mary Lou Williams was, however, an exception. Her accomplishments are even greater when you consider the general attitude towards women in jazz, which was encouraged by the press. For instance, Down Beat magazine, founded in 1934 on the strength of the growing enthusiasm for swing, ran an article in 1938 titled, “Why Women Musicians are Inferior.” The author was coldly unsupportive of the “fairer sex,” citing that “women should be able to play with feeling and expression and they never do.” He went on to say that, “women don’t seem to be able to develop a lip” to withstand the endurance required to play jazz on a wind instrument. “The mind may be willing but the flesh is weak.”7

This same magazine printed rebuttals written by women in the field, but it was difficult to further their minority opinion. Other writers expounded that women were not hired for their musicianship as men were, but were employed because they were attractive to men. Women were “not well suited to the hard life of touring and playing in ‘gin joints,’”8 other writers claimed. The scales in the jazz gender battle have unfor tunately always tipped on the side of the male musicians, and

only recently have women begun to be recognized for their artistic contributions to jazz. Conse quently, it has taken decades for Mary Lou Williams’s con tri bu tions to be fully appreciated and touted.

She was raised in Pittsburgh, where she developed an early flare as a solo pianist and arranger. She was hired by Andy Kirk’s Kansas City-based 12 Clouds of Joy and remained with Kirk from 1930 to 1942, before moving to New York. By this time, her reputation as a first-rate arranger and composer earned her commissions from Benny Goodman, Earl Hines, Tommy Dorsey, and even Duke Ellington. In an unprecedented move, the New York Phil - harmonic Orchestra premiered a portion ofPianist, composer, arranger Mary Lou Williams



Mary Lou Williams with Andy Kirk and His 12 Clouds of Joy

“Mary’s Idea” (Mary Lou Williams)

Recorded 12/6/1938

New York City

Decca 2326

Andy Kirk: Director

Personnel: Harry Lawson, Clarence Trice, Earl Thompson, trumpet; Ted Donnelly, Henry Wells, trombones; John Harrington, clarinet, alto saxophone; Earl Miller, alto saxophone; John Williams, alto and baritone saxophone; Dick Wilson, tenor saxophone; Mary Lou Williams, piano; Ted Brinson, guitar; Booker Collins, bass; Ben Thigpen, drums

Soloists: Donnelly; Trice; M.L. Williams; Harrington, clarinet; Donnelly

Form: AABA song form repeated

0:00–0:05 Introduction for 4 measures

0:06–0:16 First chorus—brass section plays punctuated, harmonized tune with unison sax line as secondary melody

0:17–0:27 Second A

0:28–0:38 B section featuring harmonized saxes followed by solo trombone

0:39–0:50 A section from top of chorus repeats

0:51–1:12 Second chorus—trumpet solo on first two A sections

1:13–1:35 Piano solo by Williams on B section and final A section of chorus. Note more modern, single-note style following in the early Hines tradition

1:36–1:59 Third chorus—clarinet solo with muted brass accompaniment

2:00–2:24 Ensemble chorus featuring brass and saxes in rhythmically sophisticated riff style

2:25–2:35 B section with trombone solo on first 4 bars followed by muted brass

2:36–2:43 Final A section closely resembling first A theme

2:44–end Coda

her “Zodiac Suite” in Carnegie Hall, in 1946. The merging of jazz and symphonic styles in this work was by itself unique and groundbreaking, and the fact that the suite was composed by a woman added to the significance of its premier.

In New York, Williams adapted her style as a pianist and composer/arranger to the new bebop idiom emerging in the mid 1940s, contributing works to Dizzy Gillespie’s big band. Before her career came to a close, she had composed numerous jazz pieces, sacred works for chorus and orchestra including three masses, and many recordings. She stands as an exceptional example of the highest accomplishments by women in jazz, claiming a list of awards of which any artist would be proud.

Like Ellington, Mary had a habit of revisiting her compositions, as she was always learning, growing, and absorbing the latest jazz innovations. The track in the listening guide above, initially created in 1930, is just one of those updated arrangements. It demonstrates ex cep tional architectural craftsmanship and sets up a series of tensions and relaxations as it moves from section to section. You may guess right that the alto saxophonist listed in the pers onnel is her husband.



As the Basie band’s style was molded largely by the blues, it stands to reason that the band would feature blues singers. A long line of exceptional blues singers, mostly males, performed with the Basie band during its lengthy history. Jimmy Rushing and Joe Williams best exemplify this style. One of the most famous of all jazz singers began her career with the Basie band, although her stay was brief, and commenced what became a lengthy relationship with Lester Young. Her name was Billie Holiday.

Billie Holiday (1915–1959): “Lady Day”

Lester Young gave her the nickname “Lady Day,” but Lester called everybody “Lady,” even the men. Gene Ramey, who performed and recorded with Lester Young and worked with “Lady Day,” offered the following insight into these two compatible and compelling artists:

Louis Armstrong showed us that you could play a melody and not actually play the melody. You could play the harmonic structure of a melody which made it more pleasing. I think she [Billie Holiday] got some from Louis Armstrong—the idea of how to make songs, even the worst songs, so appealing. And along with that you’ll notice that Lester Young got his idea from that, so I would say that Billie Holiday kept the thing going, the sound that was actually created by Armstrong; but she is the only one to this day that put it through with the voice like that. She would sing a note with so much appeal. She was the greatest singer with the worst voice. If you’ll notice her voice—it sounded like nothing, but she had so much control of the way to put a song over. It would sound like, as they would say, a bluesy singer. It was appealing—she was begging. She would take a half-

ways good song and make it wonderful. I was one of the pall bearers at Prez’s funeral and the last time I saw her was about three or four months before he died.9

Billie Holiday singing at a Decca recording session, c.1946

Ramey was both complimentary and a bit harsh in his assessment of Holiday, but another bassist, John Levy, who worked with Holiday seemed to confirm Ramey’s opinions:

Billie was a complete stylist. When you listen to her sing, you feel she has lived that experience and she is telling a story about it. I don’t think anyone can express a story better than Billie. She didn’t have great range or any of that stuff, but most of the tunes she sang had good melody lines and good stories, and they’re not easy to sing or play.10

Information about her early life is somewhat obscure and blurred by inaccuracies, but we do know that Billie Holiday’s father played guitar with Fletcher Henderson’s band. Although her life was clouded with problems, including prostitution and drug and alcohol addiction, which eventually led to her arrest, her talent should not


be obscured by these details. Like other black performers, she owed her initial discovery and subsequent first recordings with Benny Goodman to John Hammond. It was through this association that Holiday met Teddy Wilson, who served as musical coordinator for her outstanding recordings from the mid 1930s. Her long association with Lester Young, whose wispy, light sound complemented Holiday’s, is well known, as is her fairly short stay with Artie Shaw’s big band, which followed her even shorter stay with the Basie band. She joined the Shaw band in 1938 to become one of the first black singers to appear with a white band. This arrangement was not without problems, and there is evidence that Shaw, who stood by Holiday, became frustrated and disgusted with racially prejudiced attitudes. Her best work is considered to have been accomplished from about 1939 to 1944, before her life was turned to chaos by drugs, alcohol, and ensuing legal problems. Although the movie about her, Lady Sings the Blues, gives one the impression that she was primarily a blues singer, much of her repertoire does not confirm this. She claimed Louis Armstrong as a significant influence, and preferred popular tunes and love songs. Her style was certainly informed by the blues style, and she was a fine blues singer, although she might be more accurately labeled a torch singer. Her untrained voice projected a certain plaintive cry, a forlorn quality that went beyond the accomplishments of most singers of the day. She became quite popular as a singer who could deliver passionate, poignant per formances. She phrased much like an improvising instrumentalist and rarely interpreted the melody strictly as it was written—so one could say in this way she improvised; however, she is not known for scat singing or straying completely away from the melody. Holiday always took great liberty in reinterpreting the rhythm of a melody so as to find just the right way to give the lyric its greatest


Billie Holiday

“Body and Soul” (Heyman-Sour-Eyton-Green) 2:57

Recorded 2/29/1940 Vocalion 5481

Reissued on Columbia Legacy K 65757-S1

Personnel: Roy Eldridge, trumpet; Jimmy Powell, Carl Frye, alto saxophones; Kermit Scott, tenor saxophone; Sonny White, piano; Lawrence Lucie, guitar; John Williams, bass; Jo Jones, drums

Form: 32-bar-song form choruses (AA1BA2 = chorus)

0:00–0:11 Introduction—4 bars, trumpet solo over sustained chords in saxes, rhythm-section accompaniment

0:11–1:44 First chorus—32 bars, vocal chorus melody:

0:11–0:34 A section—8 bars, vocal chorus melody over sustained sax section lines, rhythm accompaniment

0:35–0:57 A1 section—8 bars, similar to A

0:58–1:21 B section—8 bars, vocal chorus bridge over long moving trumpet and sax section lines

1:22–1:44 A2 section—8 bars, vocal chorus melody over moving sax section lines

1:45–2:57 Second chorus—24 bars, trumpet solo (Eldridge), vocal bridge and chorus:

1:45–2:07 A1 section—8 bars, improvised trumpet solo, over moving sax section lines, rhythm section

2:08–2:30 B section—8 bars, vocal bridge over moving sax section lines, rhythm section

2:31–2:57 A2 section—8 bars, vocal chorus over trumpet and sax section sustained moving lines, rhythm section


impact. Listen to her rendition of “Body and Soul,” included in the accompanying anthology, and pay particular attention to the way in which she accents or emphasizes certain words, syllables, and phrases to give the lyrics special meaning and maximum impact. She is accompanied by an all-star cast, including some members of the Basie band, such as Roy Eldridge, who was the most important Swing Era trumpet soloist to serve as a link between Louis Armstrong and the more modern Dizzy Gillespie.

You should go back and listen to the Coleman Hawkins recording of this same song, paying particular attention to how radically Hawkins departs from the original melody, which is more closely adhered to by Holiday.

Holiday’s performance of “He’s Funny That Way,” included on the SCCJ (editions prior to 2010), also serves as an excellent illustration of her uncanny ability to deliver a lyric with an impact even greater than any composer or lyricist could imagine or hope for. This particular recording, as Martin Williams indicates, also reveals the rapport that Holiday enjoyed with Lester Young, who weaves beautiful counterpoint to her emotionally charged lyricism. Her life was ultimately overcome by the effects of her substance abuse, which eventually took over her life, leaving her nearly destitute in her final days. Fortunately, her music has stood the test of time, transcending this tarnished aspect of her life.

Make sure that you review the corresponding chapter on the website, which includes several short interviews with Billie Holiday and Lester Young.


A case can be made that Coleman Hawkins and Lester Young served to represent two contrasting sides of jazz playing during the Swing Era—hot and cool, respectively. Of equal contrast were singers Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald. Holiday represented the cool, lyrical, and melancholy plaintive cry of the era, whereas Fitzgerald represented the hot, boisterous, gregarious, macho side of jazz singing. Orphaned as a child, she moved to New York, where she was initially discovered at a talent contest sponsored by the Apollo Theater. Black bandleader and drummer Chick Webb hired her, and she became a near overnight success with her 1938 recording of “A-Tisket, A-Tasket.” Her popularity enabled her to assume the leadership of Webb’s band when he died in 1939, a position that she held for 3 years before striking out on her own. Her partnership with promoter Norman Granz in the years to come was legendary and led to a series of “songbook” recordings featuring the repertoire of America’s finest popular songwriters. Fitzgerald also became a headline attraction on Granz’s Jazz at the Philharmonic tours, and recordings helped her to achieve international status as a performer. It didn’t hurt that she was accompanied by some of the very best instrumentalists of the day. Ella Fitzgerald, the “First Lady of Song,” 1940


Fitzgerald was a consummate performer who never failed to astound her audiences with her amazing range, vocal flexibility, and sense of rhythmic swing. As was the case with Holiday, she has served as a model for all future jazz singers to follow, particularly those who improvised in the scat style (an improvised jazz singing style using wordless syllables), unlike Holiday’s style, which did not favor significant improvisation or scatting. Armstrong no doubt served as her influence in this regard (and they recorded more than once together), but she elevated the art of scat singing to new heights. Her improvisations were as sophisticated as those of any instrumentalist, and they admired her ability to interact with them using a similar, horn-like language. Fitzgerald was equally skilled at improvising lyrics, as illustrated by the track included on the accompanying anthology. She enjoyed a long and very productive career performing in every imaginable setting worldwide. Once again, trumpeter Roy Eldridge is showcased.


Ella Fitzgerald

“Honeysuckle Rose” (Fats Waller–Andy Razaf) 4:32

Recorded live, July 1964, at Juan-Les-Pins, France

“Ella Fitzgerald Live” Verve Compact Jazz 833 294–2

Personnel: Ella Fitzgerald, vocal; Roy Eldridge, trumpet; Tommy Flanagan, piano; Bill Yancey, bass; Gus Johnson, drums

Form: Repeated 32-bar-song form (AA1BA = chorus) in F major

0:00–0:07 Introduction—4-bar piano solo

0:07–0:54 First chorus—32-bar-song form: vocal chorus:

0:07–0:18 A section—8-bar vocal verse, original melody, with trumpet improvisation

0:19–0:30 A1 section—8-bar vocal verse, with trumpet continuing “ad-lib” improvisation

0:31–0:42 B section—8-bar vocal bridge, with trumpet improvisation

0:43–0:54 A section—8-bar vocal verse, with trumpet improvisation

0:55–1:42 Second chorus—32-bar song form: improvisation:

0:55–1:06 A section—8-bar vocal improvisation, repeated scat musical ideas or “riffs,” with trumpet and rhythm section- accent answers

1:07–1:18 A1 section—8-bar vocal improvisation, repeated scat “riffs,” with band answers

1:19–1:30 B section—8-bar vocal free scat improvisation, with rhythm, trumpet drops out

1:31–1:42 A section—8-bar vocal scat mimicking rapid “trumpet-like” melodies

1:42–2:29 Third chorus—32-bar-song form: improvisation:

1:42 1:53 A section—8-bar vocal improvisation, bluesy scat “riffs,” with band accents, trumpet reenters

1:54–2:05 A1 section—8-bar vocal scat, repeated “riffs,” with rhythm and trumpet accents

2:06–2:17 B section—8-bar vocal and trumpet free simultaneous improvisation

2:18–2:29 A section—8-bar vocal free scat, also using words, trumpet drops out

2:29–3:15 Fourth chorus—32-bar song form: shout chorus:


2:29–2:40 A section—8-bar vocal and trumpet “shout” melody, with band accents

2:41–2:52 A1 section—8-bar vocal and trumpet “shout” melody repetition with variation

2:52–3:03 B section—8 bars (bridge), vocal and trumpet trade 1 bar improvisations

3:04–3:15 A section—8-bar vocal and trumpet “shout” melody as in previous A section

3:16–4:25 Fifth chorus—32-bar-song form with tag: vocal verse

3:16–3:27 A section—8-bar vocal verse variation, improvised words and new melody, trumpet fills

3:27–3:38 A1 section—8-bar vocal verse variation, more improvised words

3:39–3:50 B section—8-bar vocal bridge variation, improvised words, new melody, trumpet fills

3:51–4:25 A section—8-bar vocal verse variation, extended 15-bar vocal tag, trumpet improvisation

Art Tatum (1909–1956)

Art Tatum was an anomaly among pianists. The art of solo piano playing, although certainly not disappearing, had at the very least become less prominent during the “swing” years. The focus had shifted away from solo pianists, most of who, like Earl Hines, had jumped on the bandwagon and formed their own big bands in hopes of riding the popularity wave. Tatum was truly an exception and is considered to represent the epitome of solo jazz piano in the 1930s and 1940s. Legally blind, Tatum concentrated on developing a solo and trio style during the Swing Era that was without equal. Although he received some early formal schooling in music, his impaired vision made formal training less practical, and his self-taught approach seemed more appropriate. His early inspiration was Fats Waller, although he showed more of a penchant for classical music than his elder. Idolized by critics and musicians, Tatum never gained widespread popularity with fans or in the magazine readers’ polls, probably because he strayed away from the Swing Era mainstream. His most striking recordings in the solo and trio format show his total mastery of the keyboard and illustrate an unparalleled technique that awed both jazz and classical pianists. He was in total control, with unprecedented facility, a rich sense of harmony, an uncanny ability to improvise long lines, and a grasp of the earlier stride tradition. Although he was a masterful improviser, he was sometimes criticized for repeating himself, working out arrangements and improvisations in advance, and often duplicating his recordings in live performance. Whether performing solo or with his famous trio, which included Tiny Grimes on guitar and bass specialist Slam Stewart, he preferred to perform arrangements rather than original material, and his arrangements were incredibly intricate. His style was unique and, in many ways, chameleon-like, featuring frequent shifts from one mood to another, frequent chord substitutions, rhythmic, metric and tempo shifts, thematic variation, and counterpoint between left and right hands. Consequently, he was difficult to play with, as observed first hand by bassist Gene Ramey:

I worked with Tatum, though I never did satisfy him. Tatum wanted a bass player to stay at home [play simply, outlining the basic harmony]. He would really rather have you play 2-beat (only 2-notes out of every 4-beat measure) no matter how fast the tempo. He had a thing where he would play one song with his right hand and another song with his left. I might get carried away with what he was playing with his right hand and go right along with that and he would get so mad . . . Slam Stewart took my place with him. No bass


player should be playing with Tatum. He’s a solo player. A solo pianist can go anywhere he wants to.11

One cannot overemphasize how far he raised the bar, influencing generations of jazz pianists who followed, such as Bud Powell, Lennie Tristano, and more contemporary pianists, such as Oscar Peterson and Herbie Hancock, to mention but a few discussed in upcoming chapters. His sheer virtuosity and technical mastery of his instrument, however, had an impact on many instrumentalists of the day, not just pianists. The recorded example included in the online audio anthology provides evidence of his incomparable virtuosity and illustrates why he had such an impact on so many pianists who followed. An additional listening guide through his performance of “Tiger Rag” can be found in the corresponding chapter on the website.

Art Tatum Trio. L–R: Tiny Grimes, Slam Stewart, and Art Tatum



Art Tatum

“Tea For Two” (Caesar-Youmans) 3:11

Original issue: Brunswick 6553, Reissue: Best of Jazz 4022

Recorded New York, 3/21/1933

Art Tatum, solo piano

Form: Repeated 32-bar-song form (ABA1C = chorus)

0:00–0:06 Introduction—4 measures

0:07–0:52 First chorus—32-bar-song form: melody or theme

0:07–0:17 A phrase—8 bars, piano plays song melody

0:18–0:29 B phrase—8 bars, piano plays song melody

0:30–0:41 A1 phrase—8 bars, piano plays song melody

0:42–0:52 C phrase—8 bars, piano plays song melody

0:53–1:38 Second chorus—32-bar-song form: improvised solo:

0:53–1:04 A phrase—8 bars, piano solo over song chords

1:04–1:15 B phrase—8 bars, piano solo

1:16–1:27 A1 phrase—8 bars, piano solo

1:27–1:38 C phrase—8 bars, piano solo

1:39–2:24 Third chorus—32-bar song form: improvised solo explores upper range of piano:

1:39–1:50 A phrase—8 bars, improvisation

1:50–2:01 B phrase—8 bars, continue improvisation

2:01–2:12 A1 phrase—8 bars, continue improvisation

2:13–2:24 C phrase—8 bars, continue improvisation

2:24–3:11 Fourth chorus—32-bar song form: improvised solo;

2:24–2:35 A phrase—8 bars, improvisation

2:36–2:46 B phrase—8 bars, improvisation

2:47–2:57 A1 phrase—8 bars, improvisation

2:58–3:11 C phrase—8 bars, improvisation



Although swing reigned supreme during the late 1930s and early 1940s, it was not without contenders for public attention. There were some who spoke out against what they thought was overly commercialized, stagnant dance music and expressed their support for the “authentic,” “hot” jazz styles of the 1920s. The nostalgic rebirth of interest in New Orleans- and Chicago- style jazz led to the establishment of two record labels devoted to recreating this earlier tradition. H.R.S. and Commodore, along with other established labels such as RCA Victor and the newly formed Blue Note, rushed to record Bunk Johnson, Sidney Bechet, Johnny Dodds, Jelly Roll Morton, Kid Ory, and other nearly forgotten artists who had forged early instrumental jazz. The Yerba Buena Jazz Band from the San Francisco Bay area also contributed to what became an international revival movement.12 Perhaps it was new books on the subject of early jazz, such as Frederick Ramsey’s Jazzmen, issued in 1939, or the numerous articles in upscale magazines such as Esquire that helped to spark this revival.

Benny Goodman and John Hammond sponsored the landmark “From Spirituals to Swing” concert at Carnegie Hall in 1938, featuring a lineup of blues, spiritual, boogie-woogie, and New Orleans performers offering a jazz retrospective that kindled interest in historic jazz and the roots of swing. The concert was also unique because jazz and related forms were presented for the first time in a hallowed concert hall that had previously showcased only classical music. For nearly 8 years, a sometimes-bitter feud waged between traditionalist fans, labeled moldy figs, the swing crowd, and the new modernists, who sided with the newer music challenging swing for attention and described as bebop.


For the first time in the history of American music, from 1935 until about 1945, popular music was in complete resonance with American society and thought. Whether one lived on the East Coast, West Coast, or somewhere in between, swing was the thing. Attending dances was so much a part of the American way that it was often an important stage in the adolescent courtship ritual. Many young women and men met their lifelong partners on the dance floor. This is the only time in the history of jazz that the music was in sync with the American psyche. As the country came out of its worst depression, Americans gained a sense of confidence, and their renewed spirits yearned for the enjoyable things in life to occupy their leisure time. Never before, and never since, has jazz experienced such financial success, public acceptance, and worldwide acclaim. For almost 10 years, big-band swing music was America’s pop art, and nearly any reasonably capable musician was working, and for good money. New magazine publications such as Down Beat (which first hit the newsstands in 1934), Esquire, and Metronome followed the music and its creators, sponsoring polls to determine the most popular musicians and bands of the day. Fans debated as to which was the best band or hottest soloist. Hot clubs sprang up in this country and abroad, formed for the sole purpose of providing a meeting ground for enthusiasts who collected and enjoyed listening to jazz recordings. Between 1937 and 1940, Metronome magazine posted nearly 300 big-band entries for its readers to rank in their polls. This number represented only a portion of the number of working bands throughout the nation. They were to be ranked

Special edition of Jazzmen, produced by the Armed Services and designed to fit in soldiers’ knapsacks

in one of three categories—“Swing,” “Sweet,” and “Favorite of All.”13 These same magazines also began ranking individual soloists and choosing “all-star” bands, based on input from their writer-critics and readers. The critics and fans did not always agree, and, as history proves, sometimes both parties were wrong in their selections, at least if we consider which musicians ultimately had a lasting impact on the music.

During the peak years of the Swing Era (c.1935–1945), it was not uncommon to see long lines of fans clambering to gain entrance to a dance where a name band was performing, or crowding the bandstand or stage to get a closer look at their favorite band. Imagine being swept up in the frenetic enthusiasm of a throng of crazed fans, rushing the stage to get a closer look at their swing idols, and struggling to get close enough to feel the throbbing pulse of the big band. This exchange of energy between musician and exuberant audience made the often-difficult life of the big-band musician all worthwhile.

At times, these crowds were almost uncontrollable in their enthusiasm, much like reactions in the 1960s to rock groups such as the Beatles, Cream, or the Rolling Stones. New dances, including the shag, shim-sham, and big apple emerged overnight to become the next sensation. Dance marathons and contests, staged battles between bands, and “cutting contests,” where soloists challenged one another on the bandstand, were all familiar scenes during this era. Radio stations broadcast band battles live from ballrooms, adding to public exposure, helping to sell recordings, and promoting future engagements.

Successful leaders, particularly white bandleaders such as Glenn Miller, Artie Shaw, and Benny Goodman, became wealthy icons, enjoying reputations on a par with the most famous movie stars and much like those of pop, rock, or country-music headliners today. For that matter, some bandleaders married movie stars, and the most successful bands were occasionally featured in films. Bandleader Artie Shaw married both Lana Turner and Ava Gardner. The Swing Era also produced its share of bluebloods—even royalty, or at least their nicknames suggested such status. Edward Kennedy Ellington, for example, was dubbed the “Duke,” and Benny Goodman was known as the “King of Swing;” William Basie was referred to as “Count,” Billie Holiday was known as “Lady Day,” and Lester Young had bestowed upon him the title of the “President,” or “Prez” for short.

A new cult language began to emerge during the Swing Era. Developed largely by the black jazz community, this new jargon was quickly adopted by white musicians. New words and expressions such as “crib” (dwelling), “chick” (female), “hip” (wise, aware and sophisticated), “bread” (currency or money), and “it was a gas” (impressive, satisfying, enjoyable) were born and helped to create an even more cult-like environment in which these musicians lived and worked.14 Gene Ramey reminisces about some of the extra-musical slang expressions that developed, particularly among jazz musicians:

Now we always had lots of smoke signals that we used in conversation. Say you and your wife are sittin’ over there and me and my wife are sittin’ over here and you’re talking in a different language. Now we can’t understand what you’re saying, but we can watch by the expression that you must be talkin’ about us. So then I would say to her “You know, it’s kind of drafty in here. Do you feel that draft.” She’s got the message right away. We started using anti-language. We would say something was “bad” which really meant it was good. Lester Young and Cab Calloway had a whole bunch of those expressions. They really personalized it.15

The expression “feel a draft” was also coined as an expression of racial prejudice and attributed to Lester Young. Jazz lingo has motivated American slang for decades, and it is not unusual to find more than one meaning associated with a particular word.



Many of the successful star soloists left the employment of one band to strike out on their own, forming a new band under their leadership. One successful band often led to several other spin-offs. For example, Gene Krupa, Teddy Wilson, Lionel Hampton, Harry James, Jack Teagarden, Bunny Berigan, Buddy Rich, and Cootie Williams formed their own bands after serving apprenticeships with Benny Goodman, Glenn Miller, the Dorsey Brothers, Artie Shaw, Duke Ellington, and others. It was not uncommon for those most in-demand soloists to move from one band to another, following the best wage, best working conditions, and best public exposure. The most in-demand musicians were bartered and traded from band to band like professional athletes.

There were several factors that were responsible for the success or failure of a big band during the Swing Era.

• Arrangers and musical directors established a band’s identifiable sound. Their particular treatment of a song gave the band its unique sound. Fans could often identify a particular band after listening to only a few measures of music.

• Soloists contributed significantly to the overall success of a band, explaining why bandleaders typically paid them the highest salaries.

• The leader’s personality, stage presence, and charisma also contributed to the band’s public appeal, and, for that matter, a few leaders such as Cab Calloway did not play an instrument, although most did.

• Vocalists added an extra element of popular appeal, as everyone could appreciate a lyric, even if they did not understand or relate to the more involved instrumental arrangements. Consequently, every band had at least one vocalist and it might feature two—a male and a female. In some ways, the overwhelming success of some of these singers, such as Frank Sinatra, actually contributed to the gradual downfall of big-band jazz.

• Businessmen, booking agents, and promoters helped bandleaders make their careers. Without them, a great band would languish unknown in its quest for notoriety.

• The quality of the band’s dance music attracted fans. • The band’s exposure on radio, record, and in major venues helped immeasurably to popularize

a band.

Although these factors promoted a band’s success, any one factor could also lead to its demise, as suggested with the growing popularity of some singers. For example, bassist Gene Ramey, along with many black musicians, was very much against many of the white managements and their business practices, feeling that they placed too many conditions on employment and often worked against a band’s success:

Moe Gale was intent on breaking up the [Jay] McShann band after he found he couldn’t bring us into his fold. You see Moe Gale owned the Savoy [Ballroom] and he owned the Golden Gate and he had control of the Rockland Palace, Apollo Theater, and Audubon Ballroom. I remember they had us set up to be one of the first black bands to play in a white hotel. That hotel was down on 43rd and Broadway. I forget the name of it but it’s nothing but a dump now. Anyway, this was the come-on, now the stipulation they came up with—McShann would give them complete authority over the band [including] hiring and firing. This was the thing they tried to do when they got rid of Charlie Parker. We were a band with only one record out and I was making $16 a night and the other guys were making $13. They even sent us out with phony booking agents who would run away and we would have to pay for the dance hall, bouncer, ticket-takers and everything. That happened to us in Georgia, Virginia and South Carolina. They had that attitude:

“We can help you and without us you’re nothing. We can do whatever we want to do with you and if you don’t like it we won’t help you.” We had lots of that sort of thing happening, so the musician who went to New York expecting to really make it found that he was at their mercy—somebody else was the master of his fate.16

The record industry, which had all but collapsed during the Depression years, made a tremendous rebound during the peak years of the Swing Era. For example, 10 million records were sold in 1933, and by 1938 that figure climbed to 33 million. By 1941, the record industry boasted sales in excess of 127 million! In only 1 year during the swing peak, the number of jukeboxes (a term for coin-operated record players derived from “juke joint,” a slang expression for a black brothel) in use soared from 25,000 to 300,000, serving to promote black artists at a time when there were few featured on radio broadcasts. This music had truly captured the attention of most Americans and was no longer the focus of harsh criticism. Swing music had, in fact, become impossible to ignore, and to some degree the popular singers had much to do with the record industry’s rebound.17

As is the case with any fad, “swing” spawned its own industry, which revolved around the making and marketing of this music. By 1940, there was, for the first time, a clear jazz tradition, a developmental timeline that could be examined, dissected, and debated among journalists, historians, critics, and fans. As a result, numerous articles about jazz ran in trade magazines, journals, and newspapers. Magazines devoted to jazz began to flourish, drawing the attention of jazz fans lured to the print debates and encouraged to participate in readers’ polls. A new generation of writers contributed several new books on the subject, and, as one would expect, each offered their own views on jazz—some optimistic and some less so about the future of jazz. For example, English-born critic and historian Leonard Feather wrote that there was an obvious differentiation between commercial and authentic jazz. For example, in 1945, he asserted that,

Among the outright commercial bands, Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey and Harry James and the rest of them, there were the customary assortment of good jazz, bad jazz and music that does not pretend to be jazz by my standards or anyone else’s.

In this same article he cited the young Woody Herman and Billy Eckstein bands as exciting surprises for the year. He closed the article saying that: “By the time the musicians in uniform come marching home [from WWII], the music business will be ready, both artistically and commercially, to hit a new all-time high in jazz history.”18 If this was a prediction about the decline of swing bands and the upsurge of a new kind of jazz, he was right. If he was predicting ongoing health for the big bands and the jazz business in general, then he was wrong.

There was a false sense of security that surrounded the big-band movement, but not everyone was lulled into believing that they could ride the crest of this commercial wave indefinitely. Some critics took a hard line on many of the swing bands that made little effort to challenge the listener. Author Wilder Hobson called swing a fad that had been encouraged by the repeal of Prohibition. Like so many writers on the subject, he was concerned about over-commercialization. He said, in his 1939 book American Jazz Music, that the bands

follow the usual practice of mixing many compromise arrangements of popular songs with its jazz orchestrations; this is undoubtedly a necessity if a band wishes to maintain such an extraordinary wide popularity as Goodman has had. It is no small wonder that talented jazz musicians in general regard their playing as a livelihood and make their best music in small, impromptu sessions. As working men, they may appreciate the swing fad, but as musicians they dislike it intensely.19



The rapid changes that had occurred in jazz styles throughout its relatively short history had already led critics to expect periodic change to occur, and, at this point, some were becoming impatient. But Hobson agreed that “in the midst of the ‘swing’ salesmanship a good deal of excellent music [had] been made,” citing Goodman’s small groups and the best of the black bands as high points. He added though that, “The swing fad has encouraged just about every imaginable kind of commercialization of the jazz language.”20 Even Duke Ellington recognized that, by 1940, the fad had run its course, and he too publicly expressed concerns about the music’s future. It had clearly become shopworn and, at least with many bands, too predictable.

By the mid 1940s, big-band swing in most cases had become a cliché, a caricature of itself. Although there were a few new bands that arrived on the scene during this time, most of the bands began to dissolve, leaving only a few, led by Count Basie and Duke Ellington in particular, to carry on the tradition. The new, younger bands led by Stan Kenton and Woody Herman had embraced the newer style of jazz emerging from New York along with the Afro-Cuban forms. Although they never flourished as they had in the 1930s and early 1940s, the big-band tradition would be carried forward into the next century, at least in terms of the general sound and instrumentation, but discussion of this will be delayed until a future chapter. By the mid 1940s, it was time for a change, and there was a line of young musicians in New York waiting to forge a new path for jazz that was radically different than the big-band-swing brand of jazz. The big- band Swing Era, although not forgotten, was destined to become a lasting, but faded, memory.


Chronicle of Historic Events

The timeline that follows will put the developments of jazz discussed in Chapters 7 and 8 into a larger historical context, providing you with a better sense of how landmark musical events may relate to others that match your personal areas of interest.

1929 • The Museum of Modern Art opens.

• The Valentine’s Day mob battle takes place in Chicago.

• The beginnings of commercial passenger air travel are seen.

• Black Tuesday—the Wall Street Stock Market crash marks beginning of the Great Depression.

1930 • The planet Pluto is discovered.

• George Gershwin’s musical Girl Crazy opens, featuring “I Got Rhythm,” which serves a role as important to jazz as the blues.

• Nancy Drew books about a teenage female sleuth become popular with young female readers.

1931 • More bank failures create an even more unstable economy.

• The “Star Spangled Banner” is declared to be the national anthem.

• The Empire State Building is completed as the world’s tallest building.

• The Dick Tracy cartoon begins.

• The George Washington bridge is completed—the longest suspension bridge in the world.


1932 • Roosevelt is elected president on “New Deal” promises.

• Radio City Music Hall opens as the largest theater in the world.

• Amelia Earhart becomes the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic in a small plane.

• Greta Garbo and John Barrymore star in Grand Hotel.

1933 • Newsweek and Esquire magazines are founded.

• The Chicago Exposition showcases the “Century of Progress.”

• The 21st Amendment repeals Prohibition after nearly 14 years.

• Jazz pianist Art Tatum records “Tea For Two.”

• Adolph Hitler becomes Chancellor of Germany.

1934 • Cole Porter’s musical Anything Goes opens.

• F. Scott Fitzgerald publishes Tender is the Night.

• Comic Strip “Li’l Abner” makes its debut.

• Legendary blues singer Leadbelly is pardoned from prison term.

• The Securities Exchange Commission and Federal Communications Commission are established to regulate the stock market and communications.

• The Disney character Donald Duck is born.

• Down Beat magazine, dedicated to jazz, is founded.

1935 • George Gershwin’s American opera/musical Porgy and Bess opens.

• The WPA is formed in an effort to put America’s 11 million jobless back to work. This affects one- quarter of American families.

• President Roosevelt establishes the Rural Electrification Administration to electrify rural America.

• Dancer Martha Graham gains notice as a pioneer of modern dance.

• The Social Security Act becomes law.

• Germany imposes anti-Semitic laws.

1936 • American morals loosen as a Fortune magazine poll shows 67% favor birth control.

• Babe Ruth and Ty Cobb are inducted into the newly founded Baseball Hall of Fame.

• F.D.R. wins reelection in a landslide vote.

• Child actor Shirley Temple is a box-office smash.

• Margaret Mitchell’s book Gone With the Wind sells a record 1 million copies in 6 months.

• Benny Goodman enjoys a hit with “Goody-Goody.”

1937 • Margaret Mitchell wins a Pulitzer Prize for Gone With the Wind.

• The first NBC Orchestra performance takes place with Toscanini conducting.

• General Motors gives in to striking workers and union demands.

• Amelia Earhart disappears in a single-engine airplane.

• The Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco opens.

• Right-wing political movements attract some American interest because of the Depression.

• Walt Disney releases the film Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.

1938 • Benny Goodman and a racially mixed all-star band perform at Carnegie Hall.

• Dupont Company makes first products with Nylon. Teflon and fiberglass are introduced in the same year.


• Austria falls to Nazi Germany.

• The minimum-wage law is established, along with a 40-hour workweek. The same law prohibits wage discrimination based on sex.

• H.G. Wells’s radio hoax has millions of Americans believing in a Martian invasion.

• Ella Fitzgerald launches her career with a successful recording of “A-Tisket, A-Tasket.”

• Count Basie’s band records “Every Tub.”

• Andy Kirk’s 12 Clouds band records Mary Lou Williams’s “Mary’s Idea.”

• Superman is introduced as an action comic.

1939 • The US hosts the 60-nation Worlds Fair.

• War erupts in Europe, as the US attempts to remain neutral.

• Einstein reports on atomic-power potential for weapons.

• Negro performers, athletes, writers, and politicians continue the fight for equality.

• The first baseball game is televised to only 400 viewers with TV sets.

• As the Depression fades, Hollywood capitalizes on the renewed American spirit, making 388 films. These included: Gone With the Wind, with Clarke Gable and Vivian Leigh; The Wizard of Oz, with Judy Garland; Stagecoach, with John Wayne; Wuthering Heights; Goodbye Mr. Chips; Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, with Jimmy Stewart; Pinocchio; and Gunga Din, with Cary Grant.

• The dance team of Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire becomes popular on stage and screen.

• Radio dramas, soap operas, comedies, and variety shows become popular, with Search for Tomorrow, Burns and Allen, and The Jack Benny Show.

• Author Frederick Ramsey publishes Jazzmen.

• Author John Steinbeck publishes The Grapes of Wrath.

• Coleman Hawkins records “Body and Soul.”

1940 • Hattie McDaniel becomes the first black woman to win an Oscar for her performance in Gone With the Wind.

• Social security is first received.

• John Steinbeck wins a Pulitzer Prize for The Grapes of Wrath.

• The American Negro Exposition in Chicago celebrates emancipation.

• Hemingway authors For Whom the Bell Tolls.

• War in Europe escalates with the fall of France.

• A draft lottery is created to bolster the U.S. armed services. Males aged 21–36 must register for the draft.

• Billie Holiday records “Body and Soul.”

1941 • Automakers cut production to aid the war effort.

• President Roosevelt establishes the Fair Employment Practices Commission to end discriminatory practices.

• NBC and CBS compete on commercial TV.

• Pearl Harbor is invaded by Japanese air strikes on December 7, prompting the US to declare war.

• Orson Wells writes, directs, produces, and stars in the film Citizen Kane.

• President Roosevelt wins the U.S. presidency for an unprecedented third term.

• Swing-dance bandleader Glenn Miller records the timeless hit “In the Mood.”

1942 • Large numbers of women enter the U.S. workforce to aid the war effort and replace drafted men.

• Automobile production is halted for 3 years as a consequence of World War II. There is rationing of petroleum products, sugar, meat, and other products.

• Singer Frank Sinatra becomes the new king of American pop music, although wartime hits by the big swing bands are still selling.

• Jackson Pollock has a one-man art show.

• The movie industry vows to no longer restrict blacks to comic and menial roles.

• Casablanca, an all-time American film hit, stars Ingrid Bergman and Humphrey Bogart.

• Bing Crosby records “White Christmas” from the movie Holiday Inn.

1943 • The war death toll reaches 60,000 Americans, although the US turns the tide on the Pacific, Africa, and European fronts.

• Rodgers and Hammerstein enjoy a hit with the Broadway musical Oklahoma.

• Racial tensions lead to riots in New York, Los Angeles, and Detroit.

• T.S. Eliot publishes Four Quartets.

1944 • Esquire magazine publishes the first jazz poll and sponsors an all-star concert at the Metropolitan Opera House.

• The cost of living escalates by almost 30% in 12 months.

• Playwright Tennessee Williams publishes The Glass Menagerie.

• Americans salvage discardable goods for the war effort.

• D-Day: American troops storm the beaches in Normandy, forcing the Germans to retreat from France.

• American composer Aaron Copland premiers Appalachian Spring, and Sinatra continues to woo young audiences with his popular vocal stylings.

• Franklin D. Roosevelt wins a record fourth term as U.S. president.

• Major Glenn Miller, the popular swing bandleader, is lost in an apparent plane crash. He was known for “In the Mood,” “Moonlight Serenade,” and “Tuxedo Junction.”



Being rather isolated from Chicago, New York, and the other main population centers, big bands developed somewhat independently in Kansas City and the Southwest. Groups performing primarily in this territory tended to rely on the blues and ragtime as a basis for their repertoire. Head arrangements, made up primarily of various riffs (repeated phrases), were much more common in this region than the more sophisticated arrangements of East-Coast groups. Using some key players from these southwestern territory bands, such as the Blues Devils and Benny Moten’s band, William “Count” Basie formed his band, which rose to national and international notoriety, surviving well beyond the life of its founder. The rhythm section of the Basie band of the late 1930s, sometimes referred to as the All-American Rhythm Section, helped to redefine the roles of the rhythm-section instruments, not only for the Swing Era but also for future jazz styles.

In the 1930s, Kansas City was a hub for farming and ranching communities and also offered opportunities for musicians beyond those of many other cities, owing, in part, to political boss


Tom Pendergast. Under his control, clubs were able to operate openly, serving alcohol during Prohibition and offering many other forms of daring entertainment. This situation made Kansas City a wild town, with many clubs featuring some of the area’s top groups, including the bands of Jay McShann, Andy Kirk, Benny Moten, and Count Basie.

Tenor saxophonist Lester Young was probably the most influential of the many great soloists in the Basie band of the 1930s. His light, airy sound and linear improvisations were in sharp contrast to the assertive and angular solos of Coleman Hawkins. Just as Coleman Hawkins’s approach had an important impact on bebop, Lester Young’s approach influenced many cool- jazz musicians of the 1950s.

The styles of vocalists Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald paralleled those of Lester Young and Coleman Hawkins. Billie Holiday was not known as an improviser, but created interpretations of melodies that hardly resembled the originals and were made even more compelling by her understated voice. Fitzgerald, on the other hand, had magnificent technique and was an exceptional improviser. Her assertive approach would align her more with Coleman Hawkins’s style.

The Swing Era was a golden age for jazz in that big-band music was the popular music of the day; however, not all big bands placed emphasis on hot-jazz solos. Generally, the most popular of the big bands were dance bands, precisely performing arrangements that left little space for improvisation.


Important terms, people, and bands:

Terms Arpeggiations Backgrounds Juke joint Moldy figs Motives Riffs Territory bands

People William “Count” Basie Ella Fitzgerald Billie Holiday Benny Moten Walter Page Art Tatum Mary Lou Williams Lester “Prez” Young

Bands Count Basie Blue Devils Andy Kirk Benny Moten Artie Shaw


1. Was there a discernible difference between midwestern, southwestern and East-Coast bands? If there was a difference, what was it?

2. Who was Tom Pendergast and what was his significance to jazz and where?

3. Why did jazz flourish in Kansas City, just as it had in New York and Chicago?

4. Which midwestern band is said to have perfected the blues riff, head-style arrangement associated with this regional brand of swing?

5. Describe the musical character of the Basie style.

6. What does the “All American Rhythm Section” refer to, and what was its significance to jazz?

7. Compare and contrast the styles of Lester Young and Coleman Hawkins.

8. Who was “Lady Day”?

9. Can you describe Billie Holiday’s style?

10. Can you explain how Louis Armstrong influenced two important Swing Era female jazz singers?

11. What was a territory band? Can you name several?

12. Who is considered “the first lady of song”?

13. Compare and contrast Ella Fitzgerald’s and Billie Holiday’s styles.

14. What was so amazing about Art Tatum, and which more modern-day pianist did he influence?

15. What is the significance of the “moldy figs”?



Modern Jazz


C H A P T E R 9

The Bebop Revolution It is the repetition and monotony of the present-day Swing arrangements which bode ill for the future. Once again it is proven that when the artistic point of view gains commercial standing, artistry itself bows out, leaving inspiration to die a slow death.1

—Duke Ellington

The ruins of a cinema stand stark against the rubble after the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima August 8, 1945, brought World War II to a close


No single event or action was responsible for the gradual decline in big-band popularity. The big- band Swing Era was by far the most lasting, influential, and commercially successful period in all of jazz history. The influences of the Swing Era and big bands continue to this day; however, this music gradually succumbed to the pressures of entertainment and became a commodity—


a business that relied on basic principles of supply and demand. There was an astounding demand for this music just prior to the U.S. entry into World War II, and there were hundreds of bands ready to supply the popular music. Once the US was drawn into the war with the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, both the demand and supplies necessary to sustain the big-band swing movement were cut off, or, at the very least, the supply lines were dramatically reduced. An examination of the specifics of this decline around 1944 will help you to understand the complexities of the situation that caused the downfall of the most successful times for jazz and the rise of a new, more rebellious music, described as bebop.

1. The music became one of the many casualties of wartime, and for less than obvious reasons. Although, to many fans, the life of a jazz musician may have seemed glamorous, it wasn’t. Long hours spent traveling in between gigs, and a generally unstable and irregular lifestyle tended to discourage a normal family life. Consequently, many big-band musicians were young, single, and very vulnerable to the armed-services draft. Many were drafted, and others voluntarily enlisted. Successful bandleader and arranger Glenn Miller enlisted, as did many of his band’s members. Their duty was to entertain the troops in the Great Britain area. His plane disappeared during a flight over the English Channel and was never found. Bandleaders who did not join the armed services were left with the difficult task of staffing their bands. Some leaders formed small combos, or ultimately gave up, disbanding their bands until after the war, and others never regrouped. Dances became less popular because of the reduced male population, and women were recruited into the workforce to help stimulate the wartime economy and contribute to the war effort. “Rosie the Riveter,” portrayed in posters and movie newsreels, served as an example to women across the country of women’s capabilities, doing what previously was considered men’s work in factories. With such a shortage of men, and women’s leisure time curtailed by their new work-a-day lives, it is obvious why dance halls began to close their doors. Even the famous Cotton Club fell victim to these circumstances and was gradually forced to close. As dance halls became scarcer, it was difficult for the bands to maintain a reliable, steady work schedule. If they had released a new record, it would sell only on the strength of their personal appearances, and it became more and more difficult to book the necessary number of engagements to sustain the bands and the sale of their recordings. In some cases, promoters could not fill engagements because they could not find a band to book, or the band was unable, owing to the transportation crisis, to travel to the engagement. In the summer of 1942, Variety magazine reported that there was a shortage of bands available to fill bookings. As a result, musicians’ salaries escalated, making it even more difficult for bandleaders to employ those most in-demand musicians.

2. Petroleum and its by-products were key to the war effort. Gasoline, oil, and rubber were much in demand, as these precious resources were essential for a successful military campaign, abroad and at home. Consequently, travel became much more difficult, and many of the swing bands relied on automobile or bus transportation to get from one engagement to the next. The rationing of petroleum products particularly hurt the black bands. According to author and historian Scott DeVaux, the National Association For the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) complained after the Department of Defense banned the use of buses for travel not related to the war effort. For a short time, the government conceded, allowing five buses for the transportation of 45 bands. This arrangement failed for obvious reasons and was curtailed in 1943, leaving the traveling black bands in the lurch.2

3. In 1940, James Petrillo was elected president of the American Federation of Musicians (AFofM). Petrillo rose to this position as national union head after serving as chief of the Chicago local


musicians’ union. By 1942, Petrillo determined that musicians had been selling themselves short in terms of their payment for recordings. Recordings, for which musicians were paid only once, were played countless times on the radio, and the popularity of jukeboxes, which offered no return to musicians, provided Petrillo with a convincing argument. His claims that the record companies were getting rich at the musicians’ expense were not unfounded. In 1942, claiming that recording musicians were “playing for their own funerals,”3 Petrillo called for a ban on all recording by union members. The timing, in some ways, was good, in that record companies had been forced to reduce their production, as records were made from a petroleum by-product that was in short supply. The only records made for nearly 2 years, aside from bootlegged sessions, were “V-Discs,” made exclusively for U.S. troops abroad and sanctioned by the Defense Department. Gradually, the major record companies succumbed to Petrillo’s pressure and signed the union agreement, which established a royalty structure. Monies paid by the record companies to the AFofM were used to establish the Music Performance Trust Fund, a fund that is still in existence and is used to subsidize free public performances by union musicians. Not all of the union members supported the spirit of this strike, however, as careers were definitely stalled or even halted by Petrillo’s actions.

4. As previously discussed, the presence of vocalists became increasingly important to the success of a big band (see sales information included at the close of this chapter). It stands to reason that the general public would warm to the good-looking male and female singers who delivered heart- rending ballads and uplifting swing tunes. People untrained to appreciate instrumental music are quick to follow and appreciate the universality of a lyric—something everyone can understand and enjoy without any special knowledge of music. It was this widespread appeal of the vocalists and their success with popular songs that eventually contributed to the steady decline of big-band jazz. Singers were less affected by the AFofM recording strike, as they were not union members and consequently were offered some limited recording opportunities during the strike. If they used union instrumentalists to back them, they didn’t dare give them credit on the record, for fear of repercussions from the union for breaching the ban—in effect, crossing the picket line. Frank Sinatra, whose career rose to fame following the strike, is considered a pop singer with phrasing and overall style informed and influenced by jazz. During the strike, he issued a record that featured his vocal solos with choral accompaniment. At this point in the history of American music, the pop singer begins to take the lead, gradually eclipsing the popularity of the swing big band.

5. A growing artistic unrest among some of the more prominent soloists and younger musicians such as Coleman Hawkins, Dizzy Gillespie, and Charlie Parker began to manifest itself concurrently with the U.S. entry into World War II. Big-band arrangements, particularly those designed for recordings, rarely left sufficient room for the improvised solo. These 78-rpm records supported only about 3 minutes of music per side, which amounted to only 8–16 measures of solo space in the arrangement. Many of the fine soloists spotlighted in these bands began to enjoy the musical freedom provided by the after-hours jam session more than their regular, salaried position with a big band. In the eyes of some of the musicians, a few fans, and some critics, jazz had strayed off the path pioneered by its first great soloist—Louis Armstrong. Many younger players sought to establish jazz as a serious art form, a style that stood on its own and did not serve at the pleasure of some other popular entertainment form. Critic Roger Pryor Dodge said, in 1945, that, “the demands of the listening public could never create an art. Its demands are not creatively inciting to the musicians.”4

6. Immediately following the end of World War II, the future of big-band jazz seemed questionable at best. By the end of the 1940s, jazz had endured a second recording strike and faced the growing onslaught from pop singers and R & B performers vying for popularity. The number of outlets for



An underground, cult-like, rebellious music, bebop, or “rebop” as it was first called, lacked the commercial appeal of the big dance band. Instead, its appeal was based on new challenges for listeners and practitioners, who strove to create a new form of jazz that demanded the attention of its listeners and was not subservient to any other form of entertainment. Although there were several big bands that played danceable, bop-like music, bop music was largely played by small bands and made no effort to pander to the dance-hungry public, as had been the case during the previous decade. The new, younger-generation black musicians sought to reclaim their music, reshaping it as an art-music through a combination of experimentation and repackaging of certain aspects of the earlier jazz tradition.

Some thought bebop was a frantic music that reflected the chaos associated with wartime and the beginnings of the modern atomic age. In every way, this new modern music challenged the old ways and traditions, much as the earliest forms of jazz had done. Even the dress, mannerisms, speech, and general bohemian (someone in the arts who disregards conventional behavior) lifestyle of the bebop musician worked against the old ways and accepted norms. The bop musicians were well dressed, often sporting dapper suits, berets, and goatees. Their demeanor on stage often projected a more detached, aloof attitude toward their audiences. For example, dark sunglasses hid their eyes from full view, and musicians often left the stage after their solo. This behavior

big-band swing entertainment had substantially diminished, and a new social paradigm seemed to be taking root. Men had returned from the war eager to start families, reclaim lives that had nearly been lost, and in many cases take advantage of the GI Bill, which provided government financial assistance to those who wanted to pursue a higher-education degree or specialized vocational training. A new focus on family, planning for the future, and buying a house took precedence over partying, dancing, or club hopping. Many Americans who served in the war had put their lives on hold for several years and, following the war, needed to grow up as responsible adults quickly. There was much less room in this generation’s lives following World War II for the music they had so loved and left to defend democracy. They grew up in the face of war and, at its conclusion, found that it had engendered new goals and dreams. The music of the big-band Swing Era just didn’t fit in any more.

7. Although there were more musicians working as sidemen than at any other time in the history of jazz during the big-band Swing Era, many of these musicians were left behind by the new bop style. Many musicians were unable to cope with the innovations associated with the bop style and were quick to criticize it. They did not possess the skills necessary to confront the demands of this complex new style.

Although some musicians were left behind by bop, so too were many fans. Fans who had followed the more listenable, danceable, big-band style were shocked to find, after the AFofM recording ban, that the music had so radically changed. Some fans felt that it had become a self-indulgent music for “insiders” and no longer related to the masses. In many cases, they were right. You had to be “hip” to understand it and willing to hang out in the small clubs where it was played. Despite this controversy, it is safe to say that the bebop style has had a lasting influence on jazz, as even today it serves as the basis for studying and teaching the language and craft of jazz improvisation.


was often considered arrogant by the uninitiated public, but more often than not was merely a gesture of respect for the other musicians who were subsequently featured. Bebop jazz was an insider’s music, played initially by musicians for musicians, in a jam-session atmosphere.

There were other aspects of this new style that unfortunately served to attract a good deal of negative press. Beboppers seemed to have a reputation for loose sexual mores and consumed a wide array of alcohol, drug stimulants, and depressants. Although mild drugs such as marijuana had been in use years before, bebop musicians turned to more deadly, addictive drugs that ruined the careers of some of the music’s greatest innovators. For the first time in jazz, we see black and white musicians resorting to heroin and other illegal substances as a form of escape from everyday discriminations or in an attempt to reach new heights of artistic creativity. For some, drugs seem to offer a false sense of confidence and a euphoric relief from the trials of their everyday existence. Drug use for many became a badge of hipness and a talisman of their lifestyle, and many young musicians felt that, in order to play like their heroes, they must act like them in every way, including in the use of addictive drugs. Saxophonist Stan Getz, in an interview with National Public Radio’s Fresh Air host Terry Gross, spoke candidly about drug use among musicians:

As I look back on it, musicians used drugs and alcohol for two reasons. One is the same reason why doctors use morphine, because when you get tired morphine is a work drug. As long as you don’t take too much of it, it will keep you going. Alcohol is a temporary stimulant before it is a depressant. I think that was one reason because we traveled and worked very hard. I didn’t look to any idols as a reason to take drugs or [because] it would make me play better. That’s nonsense. The other reason is that there is a state of mind that you need to do anything in the art forms. It’s called the alpha state . . . Alpha is the state of mind [that you need] to create something. It’s sort of thinking off the top of your

The Onyx jazz club in New York, advertising singer Maxine Sullivan

head—relaxed concentration, and when you can’t get that naturally, you’re too tired or something, you might resort to alcohol, drugs, chocolate, food—anything that will give you a chance to get into alpha—to relax and think but not like an accountant would think. Think in the artistic sense. That’s the reason I used stuff.5

Bop musicians were sometimes labeled as communists, anti-American, and unpatriotic, but it was racism, economic exploitation, poverty, and other forms of discrimination that they protested, not a political ideology. Some turned to religion, particularly Islam for solace, as it seemed that Muslims saw no difference in the color of their comrades. Bebop to some was the expression of a newfound militancy by black musicians and one that would prove to escalate in the years ahead.

Bebop, not for “squares” or the unhip, created a civil war in the music scene. For the first time in the history of jazz, there is no single popular style. A few swing bands, based on a now shopworn tradition, still existed alongside a handful of more modern, new big bands, led by Billy Eckstine, Dizzy Gillespie, Stan Kenton, and Woody Herman. These musicians, along with beboppers and traditional jazz musicians such as Louis Armstrong, all vied for attention from the industry and public. Musicians and critics were outspoken in their assessments of bebop, declaring that its creators, Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker, were either jazz music’s saviors or its destroyers. For example, Norman Granz, a well-known promoter, producer, and jazz entrepreneur, initially said, in a 1945 Down Beat magazine interview, that, “Jazz in New York stinks,”6 referring to the small clubs that had sprung up on 52nd Street that supported small bebop bands. Granz went on to criticize Charlie Parker’s sets at the Three Deuces club as rigid and repetitive. Some years later, Granz embraced this music and its associated artists and packaged successful tours featuring all-star casts, including bop figures Parker and Gillespie. Louis Armstrong, whose own brand of jazz in the mid 1920s was revolutionary, criticized bop in a 1948 Down Beat magazine article entitled “Bop will Kill Business Unless it Kills Itself First.” Here, he described bop as “crazy mixed-up chords that don’t mean nothing at all” and attacked bop musicians as,

young cats who want to carve everyone because they’re full of malice, and all they want to do is show you up. . . . [At] first people get curious about it because it’s new, but soon they get tired of it because it’s really no good and you got no melody to remember and no beat to dance to.7

Some years later, Armstrong made peace with the younger generation, appearing on the same stage with Gillespie and other younger-generation musicians. Other more traditional jazz and swing musicians, such as Chicago “Moldy Fig” Mez Mezzrow, called bebop “frantic, savage, frenzied, and berserk,”8 and Swing Era bandleaders such as Benny Goodman were equally harsh. Goodman, for example, initially accused bop musicians of “faking it,” but later employed them in his band and hired arrangers to write in the bop style.9


Although it is true that Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie are considered the founding fathers of bebop, the birth of this new style was actually encouraged, supported, and embraced at a few New York clubs by several older musicians during the AFofM recording ban. Uptown Harlem nightspots such as the Club Onyx, Clark Monroe’s Uptown House, and Minton’s Playhouse became the staging ground for jam sessions attended by guitarist Charlie Christian, bassist Oscar Pettiford, and tenor saxophonist Coleman Hawkins. Younger upstarts such as trumpeters Dizzy



Gillespie and a young Miles Davis, drummer Kenny Clarke, and pianist/composer Thelonious Monk also frequented these clubs, particularly Minton’s, which many consider to be the most important laboratory for the creation of this new music. These loose jam sessions allowed for experimentation, unencumbered by the demands of an audience wanting to dance. Old melodies were discarded in favor of creating new ones, using their associated chord progressions as a springboard for lengthy improvisations. Against the musicians’ union, club owners charged an

The club named after Charlie Parker, located at 1678 Broadway, New York


admission to those curious patrons who wanted to enjoy the fruits of these experimental jam sessions. Only the most exceptional musicians dared to participate and sit in at these sessions, as the music presented challenges that demanded virtuosic command of their instruments and a thorough understanding of music theory. Musicians frequented these clubs after they finished their more sedate, big-band dance jobs, in search of a more challenging, artistic stimulus. The popularity of these few uptown clubs opened up opportunities for new clubs downtown on 52nd Street, which became know as “Swing Street” or just “the Street.” These clubs offered steady, well-paid employment for many small groups in the mid-to-late 1940s, once the idea of a small, intimate club to showcase jazz for listening caught on.

Characteristics of the Style

Bebop, the onomatopoeic (a word or use of a word that sounds like what it is meant to describe) term that was eventually used to describe the scat sung rhythms associated with this new music, was a radical departure from big-band swing jazz. These characteristics can be summarized as follows:

• Bebop featured smaller combos (trios, quartets, and quintets), rather than large ensembles. • Although swing typically required arrangements for large bands with little improvisation, bop

arrangements were simple, following a predictable scheme: theme–solo–solo–solo–theme, which allowed ample space for improvised solos. The arranger’s role, therefore, became less important in bebop.

• The emphasis therefore returned to improvisation, as it did when Louis Armstrong recorded his Hot Five and Hot Seven discs.

• Bebop showed little concern for the dancing public and was intended to challenge both the serious listener and musician.

• Bebop repertoire was based on:

– blues forms; – the George Gershwin “rhythm changes” model derived from his popular song “I’ve Got

Rhythm,” featured in his 1930 Broadway show Girl Crazy; – new melodies composed over chord progressions borrowed from other songs (described

as contrafacts), which enabled bebop musicians to make additional royalties from their recordings (copyright laws do not protect chord progressions);

An excellent example of a bebop “contrafact” composed and recorded during the bebop period can be found in the corresponding chapter on the website.

– new tunes designed using the new style and vocabulary by composers such as Charlie Parker, Thelonious Monk, and Dizzy Gillespie.

• When bebop artists did perform a popular tune, they often completely disregarded the original melody, sacrificing it in the interests of improvisation. As historian Marshall Stearns once said, “Bop made a practice of featuring variations upon melodies that were never stated.”10

• The saxophone surpassed the clarinet in terms of popularity, and the clarinet began to fall out of favor, in sharp contrast to earlier decades and jazz styles.

• The guitar became a less essential instrument in the bop combo. Although excellent soloists began to develop during this period, as long as there was a pianist, the guitar was a non- essential ingredient in bop small groups.

• Bebop music was virtuosic in its musical demands on the performer in that it often featured: (1) fast tempos and very slow ballads; (2) technically difficult “heads” (jazz lingo for tune); and (3) more sophisticated and challenging chord progressions.

Bebop Performance Practice and Instrumental Roles Redefined

When compared with earlier styles, bebop shows obvious and subtle differences in performance techniques attributed to all the instruments associated with this style. For example:

• The horn players used noticeably less vibrato than had previous generations. • There was less obvious and predictable swing or unevenness in the melodic lines associated

with bop, as compared with the swing style. The de-emphasis on exaggerated swing was no doubt due to the faster tempos that made it more difficult to facilitate an exaggerated swing eighth-note emphasis. Try skipping fast: the faster you go, the more difficult this uneven gait becomes.

• Horn players demonstrated increased technical facility, enabling them to improvise complex, fast passages.

• In some cases, bebop instrumentalists pushed the upper, useful range of their instruments. Trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie serves as a good example of pushing this envelope.

• Bebop instrumentalists became more aware of music theory, which enabled them to negotiate the more advanced harmonies and dissonances associated with the style.

• There was no such thing as a sideman in bebop small groups, as each member soloed and carried great ensemble responsibilities.

As was the case with every major stylistic innovation throughout the history of jazz, changes in rhythm-section performance practice lie at the heart of advances during the bebop era. The bass, which had largely been relegated to the role of time keeping and outlining harmonies, begins to emerge during the bop period as an instrument that, in the hands of a master, was capable of creating meaningful improvised solos. The groundwork for the bass to emerge as a solo instrument had been laid by the previous generation of swing players, such as Jimmy Blanton with the Ellington band, Slam Stewart with Benny Goodman and Art Tatum, and, of course, Walter Page with the Count Basie band.

By the close of the Swing Era, drummers had begun to move the well-defined swing pattern from the hi-hat to the ride cymbal and were occasionally featured in solo spots. Their solos, however, were usually predictably rudimental in construct and more rhythmic than melodic. Using saxophonists and trumpet players as their model, bebop drummers began to shape their solos in a more melodic fashion, even though the drums are not considered to be melodic instruments. Bebop drum-set innovators Kenny Clarke and Max Roach also discarded the use of the bass drum on every beat, in favor of using it only for occasional punctuation and to prod the soloist. The earlier concept of playing the bass drum on every beat could obscure the bass player’s walking lines. Clarke is given much of the credit for this modern innovation, claiming that he dropped the regular bass drum thumping by accident when he realized he could not maintain the fast bop tempos for any length of time.

Pianists followed the comping style that had been pioneered by Count Basie and singer/pianist Nat “King” Cole, who played sparse chord accompaniments in non-repetitive and unpredict- able rhythmic gestures. The intent of this comping style was to accompany and complement the soloist and not be distracting by over-playing. This style was a radical departure from the earlier, busy stride and ragtime styles. Bebop pianists developed their right-hand single-line technique, enabling them to play long, improvised lines in the same style as bebop horn players.



Swing Style Characterisics

Bebop Style Characteristics

1. Big Bands personified the swing era and style. 1. Bop bands were small combos of 3–5 pieces.-

2. The elaborate arrangement brought attention to the ensemble rather than the soloist. Solos were often brief, especially on recordings.

2. Arrangements were not elaborate. Bop combos placed the emphasis on the improvising soloist. Consequently the greatest percentage of recordings was dedicated to improvisation.

3. Swing era soloists at times were required to play

the same solo that they played on recordings. 3. Bop soloists prided themselves in spontaneous

creativity, striving to be different each time they play a tune.

4. Vocalists became prominent during the swing ����era.

4. Vocalists were rarely featured with bebop bands.

5. Swing bands were often subservient to

commercial pressures aimed at entertainment


5. Bop bands played music for artistic sake. Bop was aimed at listeners not dancers.

6. The bass played walking lines, fulfilling a time keeping role in the rhythm section.

6. The bass continued to maintain time keeping roll, but emerged as solo instrument.

7. Drummers emerged as soloists, but still relied on

technical, rhythmic rudiments. Responsibility was largely time keeping using bass drum on all beats.

7. Drummers became more melodic in their

approach and further developed as soloists. Bass drum was reserved for explosive punctuation rather than used on all beats.

8. Guitar often used in big bands but largely in

rhythmic, chording contexts. 8. Guitar was infrequently used in bebop bands. A few

performers advanced the instrument’s soloistic potential.

9. Performances always placed emphasis on

presenting recognizable and memorable melodies. 9. Melodies were often obscured beyond

recognition in favor of fresh variation and improvisation.

10. Repertoire was based on arrangements of pop

and show tunes of the day. 10. Repertoire placed emphasis on blues and

“rhythm changes” formats that inspired the composition of new tunes.

11. Clarinet was a popular instrument especially in the

hands of bandleaders. 11. The saxophone eclipsed the clarinet in bop. No

prominent bop innovators were known for their clarinet playing.

12. Swing was the popular music of the day, leading

record sales and radio play.

12. Bop did not enjoy the mass appeal of swing.

13. Performers could be good musicians and work in a big band without ever soloing.

13. Bop bands featured only the best virtuosic soloists.

14. Vibrato was usually obvious.

14. Vibrato became less emphasized especially as tempos increased.

15. Uneven eighth-note swing was quite noticeable.

15. Uneven swing eighth-note became de-

emphasized especially as tempos increased.

FIGURE 9.1 Comparison of swing and bebop styles

Review Chapter 3—“Listening to Jazz”—on the website and explore the Performance Practice subsection. Here you will learn to recognize many of the concepts that relate to the bebop style. Specifically, the sections to be reviewed under Performance Practice are Piano, Bass, Drum Set, Interpretation, Dissecting a Jazz Performance, and Improvisation.

In some cases, pianists only occasionally played left-hand chords to accompany their right-hand improvisations.

Figure 9.1, above, provides a quick reference and comparison of swing and bebop styles, serving to summarize the aforementioned discussion.


Although there were many outstanding musicians associated with the bebop movement, only a few have ultimately been considered real innovators who pushed the boundaries and reached new heights. The following section will focus primarily on those instrumentalists who made signifi - cant contributions to the evolution of their particular instruments in the jazz continuum.

Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker are considered to be the founding fathers of the bebop style. Their first meeting was as members of the Earl Hines big band, before it was taken over by singer Billy Eckstine. Unfortunately, the recording ban is responsible for there being no lasting evidence of their work together in this band. Although musically there were similarities that brought these two artists together, there were as many contrasts, particularly in lifestyle, that ultimately sent them in different directions. Despite their differences, both musicians left an indelible imprint on the future of jazz.


A supplementary listening guide for “Koko,” recorded by Parker and Gillespie at the outset of bebop in 1945, can be found on the website in the corresponding chapter.


John Birks “Dizzy” Gillespie was born to a large family in South Carolina. He left school at age 18 to join his family in Philadelphia, and it was here that he met his first mentor, trumpeter Charlie Shavers. Shavers, like Gillespie in his early years, closely followed Roy Eldridge’s swing-style model. Gillespie, who was known for his practical jokes and clownish behavior, became known in the Philadelphia area as “Dizzy,” a nickname that stayed with him the rest of his life. Gillespie made the move to New York in 1937 and, like most of the bebop artists, found employment in big bands. In his case, Teddy Hill and Cab Calloway provided big-band opportunities for Gillespie to travel to Europe and to record. Gillespie began to surpass the influences of swing-style trumpeters by the early 1940s. He met Charlie Parker at Minton’s jam sessions, and they both became members of the Billy Eckstine big band. The Eckstine big band became a home for many of the younger-generation bop players. The band was short lived, however, and failed to provide the kind of danceable entertainment that was appealing to most jazz fans. Despite the appealing vocals by Eckstine and Sarah Vaughan, the band’s repertoire was too modern for the dance-oriented audience.

It was perhaps Gillespie’s relationship with Coleman Hawkins in the early 1940s that is most significant to his own advancement and to the birth of bebop as a new style. The early 1940s collaborations of these two artists, immediately following the AFofM recording ban, led to recording sessions that produced the first bop records and served to introduce listeners to the new style. The overwhelming and unexpected success of Hawkins’s “Body and Soul” (released in 1939), which boldly presented improvisations without ever stating the original melody, no doubt served to inspire and give hope for commercial success to the next generation of younger bebop artists.


Gillespie and Parker formed their history-making quintet in 1945, shortly after the Hawkins sessions. It fizzled, in part owing to Parker’s personal battles with drug and alcohol addition, and in no time at all Gillespie returned to the big-band format, while Parker continued to struggle, developing his reputation as a small-group per - former. This situation underscores two major differences between these two artists: (1) Although economics often encouraged him to work in smaller bands, Gillespie favored big bands throughout his life, whereas Parker always favored small groups; and (2) Parker struggled with drug addiction and alcoholism most of his life, which drove him and Gillespie (the more clean-living of the two) apart more than once.

Like Louis Armstrong and Roy Eldridge who had preceded him, Dizzy Gillespie was an innovator. Many of the characteristics that define his style as a composer and performer became the heart and soul of the bebop style. He claimed his signature, upturned trumpet was the result of an accident when a birthday-party guest sat on it. He liked its newfound acoustical properties, and so he had future instruments designed with an up-flared bell. All innovators are known for very specific contributions, and Gillespie is no exception:

• He further developed the extremely high register of the trumpet, executing improvised lines in the strato- sphere.

• He fused bebop and swing-style jazz with Afro-Cuban rhythms, forging the Cubop style. • Gillespie possessed a blinding technique that, along with his high-register abilities, made him one of the flashiest

performers on the instrument. • He was a ferocious trumpet player, but, despite his high notes and fast technique, he was known to invoke

shocking surprises by sudden changes in dynamics and range, and by slowing down or speeding up his technique. His style was dramatically captivating and dynamic, based on contrasting extremes—from soft to loud and high; and from subtle, simple melodies to long bursts of rapidly played notes.

• There was a new element of harmonic sophistication in Gillespie’s compositions as well as his improvisations. He began to incorporate notes from the blues scale (flatted thirds and fifths) into chords, and composed unusual chord progressions to accompany his sometimes-exotic melodies. These notes were considered dissonant before the bebop period.

• Many of his compositions are now important landmarks in the repertoire, e.g. “Woody n’ You,” “Bebop,” “Manteca,” “A Night in Tunisia,” “Groovin’ High,” and “Con Alma.”

Gillespie’s discography indicates that he lived a great deal longer than Parker. Once again in contrast, Parker, with his voracious appetite for life, somehow compressed at least one full lifetime of creativity into a significantly shorter lifespan. On the other hand, Gillespie’s durability, showmanship, musicianship, and resilience earned him countless honors and awards, and his legacy will live for years to come.

Dizzy Gillespie, with characteristic puffed cheeks and upturned trumpet


CHARLIE PARKER (1920–1955)

Charlie Parker was nicknamed “Yardbird,” which became simply “Bird.” He earned the nickname while traveling by car through the Ozarks with a local territory band. The car swerved and hit a chicken crossing the road, and Parker insisted they retrieve it for dinner! From that moment on, he was known as Yardbird, or Bird for short.

Born in Kansas City, Parker’s life was in stark contrast to that of Gillespie, who had experienced a normal childhood and upbringing. For most of his life, Parker knew no father, and his male role models were those traveling jazz players who passed through Kansas City. Parker hung out whenever he could to get a glimpse of his heroes, such as Lester Young, whom he claimed as one of his greatest influences. By 15, Parker had switched from the baritone horn to the alto saxophone, had become involved with various addictive drugs, and had married his first wife. In contrast to Gillespie, who was raised in an upstanding family and more privileged by educational opportunities, Parker learned only the basics in school and was largely a self-taught musician. He nevertheless developed an innovative style that was to become the model and inspiration for generations of players. For years after his premature death at age 35, subway walls and billboards were painted with the words “Bird Lives,” the title of Ross Russell’s captivating Parker biography. Parker became a cult hero and was idolized by the many young musicians who were inspired by his new, modern approach to improvising.

Parker’s first recordings were made with Jay McShann’s Kansas City swing-style big band. Like most bands from the Midwest, the McShann band was deeply rooted in the blues tradition, and Parker’s style was based in part on this tradition throughout his career. Germs for at least one of his later small-group compositions can be heard in these early McShann recordings, but his mature style did not gain widespread exposure until the small- group recordings made in 1945–1946 with Dizzy Gillespie surfaced. Following a nervous breakdown in California brought on by family problems and drug abuse, Parker resurfaced with his second quintet, featuring the young trumpeter Miles Davis, whom he hired to replace Gillespie. Although still in the very early stages of development, Davis’s style was in many ways radically different than the bravado style of Gillespie. Parker enjoyed great success throughout the late 1940s and early 1950s, earning awards in various jazz magazine polls and increased record sales. He enjoyed a fertile period of recording and live performances with his own small groups, Afro-Cuban bands,

Jay McShann Orchestra in New York, 1942. L–R: McShann far left; Gene Ramey, bass; Walter Brown at microphone; Gus Johnson, drums; Charlie Parker, second saxophone from left


string ensembles, and various all-star bands. His recording of Just Friends with a small chamber ensemble of strings, woodwinds, and rhythm was his biggest-selling record. He looked back on this series of recordings as one of his proudest accomplishments. Despite what appeared on the surface to be a successful career, his life was always in a state of chaos, living as he did in the fast lane and on the edge, both musically and personally. His reputation as a known drug user, however, cost him deeply, and, in 1951, the New York authorities revoked his cabaret card, banning him from performing in the city’s nightclubs. Until several years later, he could not even perform in Birdland, the club that bore his name. Parker attempted suicide several times and was nearly always in debt to friends or the pawnshop, where more than once he hocked his alto for quick cash. His last engagement was at Birdland only seven days before his death. He was a tormented artist who never fulfilled many of his dreams, not the least of which was to study classical composition.

Parker’s style, although based in great part on the blues, was entirely unique and one that redirected the path of jazz for decades to follow. As a composer and performer, he charted a new course for many to follow. His style and contributions can be summarized as follows:

• Like Gillespie, Parker patterned many of his new compositions off the chord progressions and formal schemes of old standard tunes and 12-bar blues, i.e., “Anthropology” (Gershwin’s “I’ve Got Rhythm”), “Ornithology” (“How High the Moon”), “Scrapple From the Apple” (“Honey Suckle Rose”), “Now’s the Time,” and “Billie’s Bounce” (blues).

• Parker eliminated or severely curtailed the use of vibrato (except in ballads), in comparison with Swing Era styles. His lean tone had an edge.

• Like Gillespie, Parker possessed blazing technique that enabled him to negotiate complex chord progression at very fast tempos and gave him the ability to play fast, double-time lines.

• Parker played in a more legato style (less articulation, or tonguing, of notes) than most players from the previous generation of saxophonists.

• Parker’s improvisations were newly created, complex melodies that rarely bore any resemblance to the tune. Each improvised chorus was a newly created masterpiece, often with little repetition or reference to previous material.

• As an improviser, Parker had a rare gift that enabled him to render two completely different solos from performance to performance, as demonstrated by the two takes of “Embraceable You” featured on the SCCJ (editions prior to 2010). These solos were recorded only moments apart but are entirely different.

Charlie Parker, with Miles Davis, trumpet; Tommy Potter, bass


• Parker was particularly gifted at taking simple chord progressions such as the 12-bar blues or an old standard tune and embellishing it by adding chords to link the original skeletal framework. (Listen to “Blues For Alice” as an example of a complex blues approach, as compared with King Oliver’s “Dippermouth Blues.”)

• Parker introduced new possibilities that existed by improvising lines based on pitches found in the upper structures of chords, beyond basic, fundamental chord tones (1,3,5,7).

Despite his untimely death in 1955, his music exerted a major force for the next several decades. Young musicians hung on every phrase he played and sought to emulate him in every way. Bassist Charles Mingus told Down Beat magazine, at the death of Parker, “Most of the soloists at Birdland had to wait for Parker’s next record to find out what to play next. What will they do now?”11 They not only copied his playing, note for note, but also sought to follow his lifestyle, leading many to experiment with drugs in an effort to reach the same creative state. His improvisations were conceived of a new and innovative musical language that remains at the core of jazz musicians’ education, even today.

Bud Powell (1924–1966)

“The Amazing Bud Powell” (1924–1966), to borrow the title of his multi-volume set of recordings on the Blue Note label, is considered the most eminent of bebop pianists, known for his incredible right-hand technique and sparse left-hand comping style that was rhythmically freer than that of earlier pianists. Like so many artists from this period, he struggled with racial prejudices, various addictions, and mental disorders. Powell jammed at Minton’s Playhouse, where he met and was influenced by pianist Thelonious Monk. Ellington trumpeter Cootie Williams was first to employ Powell as his pianist, from 1942 to 1944, and it was this band that laid claim to being the first to record a Monk composition (“Epistrophy” in 1942).

Powell suffered a severe head injury in 1945 as the result of a racial incident during which he was beaten. Coupled with his already quirky personality, this injury led to a series of emotional breakdowns, alcoholism, and numerous stays in medical institu tions, where he even underwent electric-shock treatments. Poor physical and mental health plagued Powell for much of his adult life, hampering his career and causing erratic performances. Eventually, Powell moved to Paris, where audiences were more accepting of black per formers and very receptive to jazz. Here, he teamed with another expatriate, Kenny Clarke, who had been the house drummer at Minton’s, and French bassist Pierre Michelot. Although his recordings from this period tend to be spotty compared with his earlier standard, he was still capable of displaying the virtuosic talent that had earned him a reputation as the best of the bebop pianists.

Powell’s style was original, yet based on a synthesis of Art Tatum’s technique and Teddy Wilson’s lyricism. He preferred to play rapid, Parker-like right-hand lines in counterpoint and contrast to a sparse, rhythmically jagged and irregular, low-register, and often dissonant left- hand chordal accompaniment that resembled Monk’s style. His technique allowed him to play fast, double-time lines at will. Like Earl Hines had done decades before in copying Armstrong, Powell preferred a style that was Pianist Earl “Bud” Powell


more akin to the single-note, improvised lines associated with the bop horn players. Although Powell had a penchant for the trio setting, he often performed and recorded with the prominent bop horn players of the day, including Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, J.J. Johnson, as well as Fats Navarro and Sonny Rollins. Like most bop innovators, Powell’s legacy includes a catalogue of compositions that are now standard repertoire, including “Tempus Fugue-it,” “Dance of the Infidels,” “Budo, Bouncing With Bud,” and “Un Poco Loco.”

Although the audio quality is not as high as studio recordings from this period, the following track was chosen for several important reasons. It captures an exciting live performance recorded at Birdland, the club named after Charlie Parker. This live performance also closely captures bebop at its pinnacle, demonstrating a mature bop style by the soloists who are most important to its formation and uninhibited by the time limitations of recording technology at that time. Drummer Roy Haynes (b. 1925), who is, at time of writing, still performing and recording, is an important member of this Parker ensemble, driving the tempo and propelling the performance with his punch-and-jab modern bebop style.


Charlie Parker

“Anthropology” (Charlie Parker) 4:55

From Complete Bird: Charlie Parker at Birdland 1950–51 Vol. 1

Recorded 3/31/1951

TKO Records FBB 901

Personnel: Charlie Parker, alto saxophone; Dizzy Gillespie, trumpet; Bud Powell, piano; Tommy Potter, bass; Roy Haynes, drums; Symphony Sid: M.C.

Form: AABA 32-bar form. This is a contrafact based on chord progression from George Gershwin’s “I’ve Got Rhythm.”

Brief Introduction by the M.C.

0:00–0:04 4-bar drum solo introduction

0:04–0:10 Parker and Gillespie play A theme in unison. Trumpet in cup mute

0:16–0:22 Bridge or B section

0:22–0:28 A theme returns to end first chorus

0:28–0:50 Parker improvises full chorus on 32-bar form. Begins chorus with quote from a pop tune

0:50–1:15 Parker improvises a second chorus on the form

1:15–1:40 Third and final improvised chorus by alto sax

1:40–2:05 Gillespie begins his first improvised trumpet chorus, now without mute

2:05–2:30 Second improvised trumpet chorus on 32-bar form

2:30–2:53 Gillespie improvises final chorus using high register and double time to achieve a climax

2:53–3:16 Pianist Powell improvises a chorus on 32-bar form

3:16–3:42 Second improvised piano chorus

3:42–4:06 Sax and trumpet trade fours with drummer following 32-bar form

4:06–4:30 Second full chorus trading fours

4:30–end Band returns to play 32-bar tune to ending


Dexter Gordon (1923–1990)

Dexter Gordon, like many American jazz artists from this period, found working conditions for black jazz artists better in Europe. He is known as the first tenor saxophonist to incorporate Bird’s bop alto style. Gordon’s career throughout the 1940s included stints with Fletcher Henderson, Billy Eckstine, Dizzy Gillespie, and pianist/ composer Tadd Dameron. On the surface, Gordon appears to have been productive during this period, but it was marred by his struggles with drug addiction. He managed to conquer these problems by 1960 and contributed as an actor, musician, and composer to the West-Coast production of Jack Gelber’s play The Connection, about drug addiction. Following a lengthy stay in Europe, his much-lauded return to the US in 1976 helped to announce the nostalgic rebirth of acoustic, bop-flavored jazz that had been erased from memories by the rock-influenced jazz of the 1970s. It wasn’t until this time that many fans and students first discovered Gordon. His robust tone projected a hard edge and thicker vibrato than Parker employed. He shared with many others from this era a penchant for quoting other tunes, some as humorous as “Happy Birthday” or “Here Comes the Bride,” in the midst of his improvisations. Down Beat magazine readers voted him musician of the year in 1980, and he received an Academy Award nomination for his seminal role in the feature film Round Midnight in 1986. Gordon served as an important link between swing style and more modern tenor saxophonists such as John Coltrane and Sonny Rollins, who were influenced greatly by him.

“Index,” described in the listening guide which follows, was not only chosen to illustrate Gordon’s style at the time, but also to display two other exceptional bebop musicians—trumpeter Fats Navarro (1923–1950) and pianist/composer Tadd Dameron (1917–1965).

Dameron is best remembered as a composer and accompanist who never developed a solo style on the level of Bud Powell or other major forces in the bop piano world. He composed a fine collection of tunes, now considered significant contributions to the repertoire, including “Good Bait,” “If You Could See Me Now,” “Our Delight,” “Lady Bird,” “Hot House,” and others. In many ways, he is considered a catalyst for the next generation of musicians, who advanced bebop to become the more arranged, mainstream hard bop of the next decade.

Navarro, who recorded with Parker, became a key soloist in Dameron’s combos and was considered to be the most important new trumpet player on the east-coast scene in the late 1940s. Heroin addiction and tuberculosis led to his untimely death at the young age of 27.

Navarro’s fat, full sound, range, uncanny ability to pace a solo, clean technique, and melodic inventiveness are all characteristics illustrated by the track included in the online audio anthology, even though the tune itself could be considered transitional—not quite mature bebop, but with more advanced solos than those played by Swing Era players. The tune is a simple blues riff tune that serves as a springboard for outstanding solos by Gordon and Navarro.

Tenor saxophonist Dexter Gordon in Los Angeles, 1947



Dexter Gordon and Fats Navarro

“Index” (Dexter Gordon) 3:02

From Nostalgia

Recorded 12/22/1947, Newark, New Jersey

Savoy MG12113 SV 0123

Personnel: Fats Navarro, trumpet; Dexter Gordon, tenor saxophone; Tadd Dameron, piano; Nelson Boyd, bass; Art Mardigan, drums.

Form: 12-bar blues

0:00–0:17 First chorus—12-bar-blues riff tune played by sax and trumpet in cup mute

0:18–0:34 Second chorus—repeat tune

0:35–0:51 Third chorus—tenor sax improvisation on form

0:52–1:09 Fourth chorus—sax continues improvising on blues form

1:10–1:27 Fifth chorus—sax solo continues

1:28–1:45 Sixth chorus—final sax chorus

1:46–2:03 Seventh chorus—trumpet begins soloing on blues form

2:04–2:21 Eighth chorus—trumpet continues soloing

2:22–2:39 Ninth chorus—last trumpet solo chorus

2:40–end Last chorus—Return to “head” for final chorus with ending fermata

J.J. Johnson (1924–2001)

J.J. Johnson (1924–2001), who can be heard in recordings with all of the above bop artists, is considered the first trombonist to absorb the new harmonic and melodic language fostered by Parker and Gillespie. However, unlike Parker, Gillespie, Powell, and Monk, Johnson travelled in many musical directions throughout his career, venturing far beyond his roots in bop. His fluid technique, ability to negotiate the faster bop tempos, rhythmic inventiveness, fast articulation, yet light tone and reserved vibrato, accommodated the new, post-war style. The trombone is perhaps the most difficult of the wind instruments to master from the technical standpoint, and Johnson’s technique allowed him to master the bebop style. His first important recorded solo was as a member of Parker’s small group on a 1947 recording of “Crazeology.” In the 1950s, he collaborated with trombonist Kai Winding to form an unusual small group that featured the trombone duo. Johnson eventually also became as well known for his arrangements and compositions, spending many years in Hollywood composing for film and television before returning to the jazz scene as a performer in his later years. His activities at the center of the cool and third-stream styles will be discussed further in the next chapter.



Thelonious Sphere Monk (1917–1982)

Thelonious Sphere Monk (1917–1982) was perhaps the most enigmatic personality to gain attention as a pianist and composer in the late 1940s. Monk became the house pianist at the after-hours club Minton’s, where he performed with Parker, Gillespie, Charlie Christian, Kenny Clarke, and many of the other pioneers of the new bop style. Ironically, however, Monk’s own piano style eventually became the antithesis of what bop represented and encouraged—fast, flashy, notey passages, all characteristics exemplified by Bud Powell. Although his harmonic concepts were very advanced for the day, his style was deeply rooted in the older stride tradition, and he did not seem to possess the right hand technique required to play the fast lines typically associated with the bop style of improvisation. Everything about Monk, his music, and persona was unorthodox and eccentric, from his hand position at the keyboard to the way he dressed. Monk’s style was rhythmically driving, percussive, harmonically rich, and quirky to say the least. Bassist Gene Ramey, who participated in early Monk recording sessions, theorized that Monk purposely sought to create a style that was less easily mimicked, as, by the mid 1940s, most of the younger musicians on the scene were overtly copying the Parker–Gillespie–Powell style. Improvisational clichés were quickly becoming common practice, and it is no wonder that Monk’s more obtuse, almost avant-garde style caused the jazz world to initially overlook him. Consequently, he is often referred to as a rediscovery figure, not widely recorded or recognized until the 1950s and 1960s. It was difficult for Monk to get work in his early years because of this unique style, which was contradictory to the current trends. His sparse accompanying style and unusual chord voicings comprised a style that was often criticized by horn players looking for the ideal accompanist. Monk never wasted a note, and his solos were often masterful understatements, sounding like an edited improvisation in which all extraneous material had been omitted. He used the entire range of the keyboard and often approached the instrument in a percussive fashion.

Ex-Ellington trumpeter Cootie Williams was the first to record an arrangement of a Monk composition, although it seemed out of character to be performed by this swing-style big band. Monk also performed and recorded with tenor saxophonist Coleman Hawkins. Monk’s most significant compositions from this bebop period were collected on two LPs for Blue Note Records. Each tune illustrates a perfect marriage between melody, harmony, and rhythm, making the whole better than the sum of these individual components. Monk’s compo sitions are very difficult to perform, as the musicians must completely internalize the composition, being willing to give up a certain amount of themselves in order to project the essence of the tune through their improvisations. His later recordings for the Prestige and Riverside labels, although not big sellers at the time, were later identified as landmark recordings. Some believe that his much touted 1957 “Brilliant Corners” release planted further seeds for the not-yet-realized avant-garde movement in jazz.

Thelonious Monk at Minton’s Playhouse



Thelonious Monk

“Epistrophy” (Thelonious Monk) 3:05

From The Genius of Modern Music Vol. 2

Blue Note CDP7–81511–2

Recorded 7/2/1948

Personnel: Thelonious Monk, piano; Milt Jackson, vibraphone; John Simmons, bass; Shadow Wilson, drums

Form: 32-bar form A(4)–A1(8)–A1(4)–B(8)–A1(4)–A(4). Although the A sections are similar, they are different enough to be designated as such in the formal outline (A and A1). Parentheses above indicate the number of bars. The soloists never improvise on the bridge (B) of the tune.

0:00–0:07 Introductory piano vamp implies 3/4 meter against 4/4, creating a polymetric situation

0:07–0:34 Jackson plays similar A themes for a total of 16 bars

0:35–0:49 Contrasting B section

0:50–1:02 Final A section completes first full chorus and statement of tune

1:03–1:31 Jackson improvises vibes solo on A section only

1:31–2:00 Monk improvises piano solo on A section

2:01–2:29 Head returns played on vibes

2:30–2:44 B section—Jackson avoids melody on second half and improvises

2:45–end Return to final A section—Monk plays signature, whole-tone descending scale to end performance

Monk was one of the few jazz artists to be pictured and written about in Time magazine and, after his death, was the subject of more than one film. His legacy, which includes compositions such as “Straight No Chaser,” “Ruby My Dear,” “‘Round Midnight,” “Criss Cross,” “Well You Needn’t,” and “Epistrophy,” among others, can be summed up by his own quotation from Harper’s magazine:

Maybe I’ve turned jazz another way. Maybe I’m a major influence. I don’t know. Jazz is my adventure. I’m after new chords, new ways of syncopating, new figurations, new runs. How to use notes differently. That’s it. Just how to use notes differently.12

He chose his own path and was unaffected by the press or current trends, passing this attitude and uncompromising ethic on to those, such as avant-garde pianist Cecil Taylor (featured in Chapter 14), who would follow.

In the recording of “Epistrophy,” Monk demonstrates many of the quirky elements of his unique style as a composer and pianist. The composition and performance are somewhat abstract and angular, although they include a good deal of repetition that helps to make them recognizable and listenable. His pianistic style is equally unique for the period—loose, not flashy like Powell, rhythmically choppy and irregular, and with a comping style often based on unusual chord voicings that sometimes seem muddy and harmonically unclear. Also evident is his penchant for the descending, exotic-sounding whole-tone scale evident throughout his solo and again at the very end, serving as a final signature.


Oscar Pettiford (1922–1960)

Oscar Pettiford (1922–1960) was the first modern bassist to serve as a link between Swing Era bassists Slam Stewart and Jimmy Blanton and the more modern demands of bebop. Pettiford, who was first schooled as a pianist, toured with a family band as a teenager. His first major positions were held in swing bands led by Charlie Barnett (1942), becoming the first black musician to join this band, and Roy Eldridge (1943). It was Coleman Hawkins’s important transitional recordings that brought Pettiford to the center of attention in terms of the new bop movement, and he soon found himself co-leading a quintet with Dizzy Gillespie in 1944. He returned to working with big bands, holding down the bass chair in Duke Ellington’s band from 1945 to 1948 and, a year later, with the Woody Herman band. Throughout the next decade, he recorded with most of the significant personalities of the bebop era, including Monk, Art Blakey, Stan Getz, and Bud Powell. Later in his career, he adopted a jazz-playing technique for the cello. He passed away suddenly in Copenhagen, his home away from home, as a result of a polio-like virus. Pettiford is remembered for bringing the bass into a better-defined solo role and is considered the first modern jazz bassist.

Kenny Clarke (1914–1985)

Kenny Clarke (1914–1985) is considered the true father of the modern bebop style of drumming. Clarke was the first of this new breed of bop drummers to disregard the regular use of the bass drum. Drummers in the earlier styles played in a chunky, less-flowing style than what evolved in the mid 1940s, thanks to the efforts of Clarke, Roach, and Art Blakey (Chapter 11). The most immediate predecessors of this new modern style were Jo Jones (with Basie’s band), Cozy Cole, and Sid Catlett. Both Cole and Catlett had cut some of the first early bop sides with Gillespie and Parker. Bop drummers, along with bass players, still carried the burden of maintaining the steady pulse and time feel; what changed was how they maintained the time. Swing-style drummers used the bass drum on every beat, often very aggressively, whereas Clarke and his followers transferred this every-beat pulse from the bass drum to the lighter, more flexible ride cymbal, where it was easier to achieve more variety. Clarke, who also played piano and vibes, which may explain his more melodic approach to the drums, is credited as the first drummer to overtly avoid using the bass drum on every beat. He claimed to have developed this approach by accident when playing the faster bop tempos, which made it tiring to use the bass drum on every beat and slowed the tempo down on extended tunes with long solos. He developed a more independent, less rigid style of drumming where all limbs were free to embellish the basic beat and inherent rhythms of the melody. This new style is akin to the punching and jabbing of a boxer, who continues to move in a flowing rhythm around the ring. Teddy Hill, who once fired Clarke from his big band for playing in this wilder style, took over the management of Minton’s Playhouse, where he later hired Clarke as house drummer. It was here, in the years that followed, that Clarke perfected this new style. Max Roach elaborated on it by adding even more complex syncopations and cross-rhythms. Hill described this new, accented approach to playing—using the bass drum only to “drop bombs” as musical punctuation marks—as “Klook-mop music,” a name that stuck, and Clarke earned his new nickname—“Klook.”

Before taking up permanent residence in Paris in 1955, Clarke became a dominant figure in the New York scene, performing with Miles Davis, Monk, Tadd Dameron, Ella Fitzgerald, Gillespie, and many others. After serving time in the Army, Clarke returned to the States to become a regular member of Gillespie’s big band, before leaving to help found the Modern Jazz Quartet with pianist John Lewis (Chapter 10). Clarke was less intrigued by Lewis’s new brand of “cool” jazz and termed it “too bland and pretentious.” He left New York for Paris where he


cofounded the Kenny Clarke–Francy Boland big band. Clarke was a well-rounded musician, who brought his knowledge of composition and melodic instruments to the drum set to create a new way of playing time by engaging in a dialogue with the performers, in ways that had never been done before.

Max Roach (1924–2007)

Drummer Max Roach (1924–2007) represents one of the newer breeds of schooled musicians that surfaced during the bebop period. By day, he studied percussion and composition at New York City conservatories and by night he sat in at Minton’s and Monroe’s Uptown House. Roach and Kenny Clarke, his mentor, are considered to be the best representatives of the explosive new drumming style that emerged in the mid 1940s and complemented what the bop horn players were doing melodically and rhythmically. Roach is considered the earliest and most fluent member of the modern school of drumming, less concerned with mere time keeping and more concerned with a melodic approach to drumming and rhythmically complementing the tune and soloists. Roach was the first to approach the drums in a more melodic fashion.

Roach replaced Clarke at Minton’s, later recording with Hawkins, Gillespie, and Parker, where he showed off the new style of drumming. At home in small groups and big bands, including those led by Ellington, Benny Carter, and Gillespie, Roach co-led the famous hard bop group in the mid 1950s with trumpet virtuoso Clifford Brown (Chapter 11). From then, he performed and recorded with most noted jazz soloists of the past several decades. In the 1970s and 1980s, he pursued composition with more fervor, writing for new and interesting amalgamations of instruments, including string quartets and choirs, while always remaining true to the basic tenets of the jazz tradition. Roach, a vocal spokesman for equal rights, also explored more fringe styles of jazz in the 1960s and 1970s with artists such as pianist Cecil Taylor, and saxophonists Archie

Shepp and Anthony Braxton, all movers and shakers in the avant- garde jazz style. His We Insist— Freedom Now suite, recorded in the 1960s, showed his awareness and deep commitment to the civil rights movement, with which he was actively involved. The claims that there is little relationship between sociopolitical issues and the arts are clearly mistaken. He composed, performed, and taught for decades, exerting an influence on young drummers for nearly seven decades. His influence on the years since the mid 1940s can - not be overstated, and he can be heard on “Moon Dreams” and “Pent Up House,” found in the online audio collection and dis - cussed in the upcoming chapter.

Drummer Max Roach


Sarah Vaughan: “The Divine One” (1924–1990)

Sarah Vaughan was one of several singers, along with Carmen McRae and Betty Carter, to fall under the influence of the bop generation of instrumentalists and serve as an example of the vocalist’s side of this movement. A contralto, she earned the nickname “The Divine One” because of her incomparable vocal technique and mastery, often compared with those of the best of opera singers. She negotiated her exceptional four-octave range with ease, and her signature swoops from the height of her range to the extreme low register and back are legendary and hallmarks of her individualistic style. Vaughan used her rich, resonant vocal quality, strong, controlled vibrato, sudden chan - ges in dynamics, and flare for the daring and dramatic to advantage, bringing her praise from vocalists and instrumentalists. In contrast to Billie Holiday, her incredible vocal technique at times inspired her to ignore the interpretation of a lyric in favor of exploring and flaunting her vocal talent, but, if doing the unexpected with utmost sincerity and virtuosic artistry is the mark of a truly great performer, then Sarah Vaughan earned her reputation. Vaughan’s talent shone on sultry ballads and, like Fitzgerald and Holiday, she did not favor blues, but did enjoy a romping, swing, or bop-style tune.

Sarah Vaughan began her love affair with music as a child, singing and playing organ and piano in a Newark, NJ, Baptist church. Like Ella Fitzgerald had done 8 years earlier, she won a competition at an Apollo Theater Amateur Night and captured the attention of pianist–bandleader Earl Hines. Hines put her to work serving as second-string pianist and vocalist in his band, sharing that spotlight with baritone Billy Eckstine. It was here, and later with Eckstine’s own bop-oriented band, which splintered off from the Hines band, that she encountered the horn players who would write the new bebop language, including its finest authors, Charlie Parker, Dexter Gordon, Dizzy Gillespie, Fats Navarro, and others. Gillespie called her, along with Carmen McRae, a “musician’s singer. Both of them can play the piano and accompany them selves. They know all the flat fives and modern progressions and can do them vocally.”13 As a scatting improviser, some thing she did with less abandon or flash than Ella Fitzgerald, Vaughan took full advantage of her training as a pianist, enabling her not to only embrace the melodic side of im provisation, as is the case with most singers, but also to get inside the complex bebop harmonies in much the same way as the horn players. “You had to sing within whatever the chords were they were playing. You had to know a little about music or have a hell of a good ear,” according to Vaughan.14

In 1944, she became one of the first singers to record in the bop vein, immediately after the AFofM recording strike was settled. Down Beat magazine recognized her in their polls from 1947

Vocalist Sarah Vaughan



Sarah Vaughan

“Easy Living” (L. Robin/R. Rainger) 4:36

From How Long Has This Been Going On?

Recorded 4/25/78 in Hollywood, CA, Pablo PACD-2310–821–2

Personnel: Sarah Vaughan, vocals; Oscar Peterson, piano; Joe Pass, guitar; Ray Brown, bass; Louie Bellson, drums

Form: 32-bar-song form (AABA)

0:00–0:16 Introduction—pianist Oscar Peterson provides rubato introduction

0:17–0:56 Chorus begins with first A section sung in tempo with rhythm-section accompaniment

0:57–1:35 Repeat of A section

1:36–2:12 Bridge or B section of form

2:13–2:40 Return to final A section to complete first full chorus; bass and drums drop out (2:41–2:49) in final bars of chorus as tempo deteriorates to rubato

2:50–3:31 Piano and voice in duet return to bridge, breaking from expected form by eliminating first two A sections

3:32–4:02 Band reenters in tempo to state final A section

4:03–end Vaughan improvises a short rubato coda; listen for bowed bass

to 1952, and she won top vocalist in 1950. Her most exceptional recorded work is undoubtedly those sides preserved on the Mercury/Emarcy label and those made later in life for the Mainstream and Pablo labels. Despite these successes in the 1950s, recording with the likes of the Count Basie Band, Miles Davis, saxophone hard bopper Cannonball Adderley, and trumpeter Clifford Brown, she found herself jumping from label to label and producer to producer. She was trying her hand at becoming a more mainstream, popular success, at a time when the general public had lost track of jazz in favor of following pop trends. Her volatile, diva-like personality earned her a second nickname, “Sassy,” and this may partially explain her label/producer hopping. For the most part, even amidst the backdrop of over-produced orchestral arrangements, or in lavish productions of pop tunes, including Beatles tunes, of later years, she remained true to her roots as a jazz singer, emerging later and throughout her career to record exceptional jazz. Along with Bessie Smith, Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Betty Carter, and Carmen McRae, Sarah Vaughan stands as one of the most original and identifiable jazz singers, serving as an important model for generations of singers to follow.

“Easy Living,” included in the online audio anthology, is an example of Vaughan in the later stage of her career but still in impeccable form, demonstrating her flare for slow ballads and operatic- like technique. Some of the finest rhythm-section players of the 20th century, each in their own right noted soloists, provide exquisite accompaniment on this Pablo recording, produced by jazz impresario Norman Granz.


A smooth blending of jazz and Latin or Afro-Latin music was not accomplished overnight. Both sides were forced to overcome challenges encountered by the union of styles. Latin musicians were faced with jazz rhythms, similar to, yet different from, their native styles, and a more advanced harmonic and melodic vocabulary. Latin percussionists, using various drums such as congas and timbales, gradually learned how to coexist with jazz rhythm sections. Example 9.1 is an example of a variation of the Cuban Son rhythm. This same rhythm is frequently played in jazz on the conga drum with only one small change—leaving out the initial downbeat of each measure, as shown in Example 9.1. Chano Pozo plays this rhythm on the conga drum in the introduction of “Manteca,” discussed in the following pages and included in the online audio collection.


1 & 2 & 1 & 2 &

EXAMPLE 9.1 Graphic representation of the jazz conga drum variation. Tap your left foot in a steady tempo following the graphic, while clapping the conga-drum pattern

The increasing popularity of Latin dance music urged jazz artists to discover ways to incorporate the complex Latin rhythms into their own styles. Eventually, the exchange became mutual, and Latin bands began exploring the more advanced harmonic and melodic possibilities that the jazz language presented. Machito’s band of the 1940s was probably the most stable and successful in the integration of styles during this period. Jazz bands began hiring Latin musicians, and vice versa, making for a healthy exchange of ideas. For example, Latin bandleader Rene Touzet hired jazz arranger Johnny Mandel, who had arranged for many artists, including Frank Sinatra. Mandel then persuaded Touzet to employ former Stan Kenton jazz artists to complement his Latin band. Eventually, the entire horn section of this band consisted of jazzmen, and Mandel conducted extensive experiments superimposing Latin rhythms on the jazz repertoire. The result was frequently referred to as “Cubop.” “Barbados,” recorded by Charlie Parker, is an excellent example of this style, as is Bud Powell’s “Un Poco Loco.” Parker also recorded the album South of the Border for the Mercury label, featuring a bop approach to traditional Latin tunes.

Dizzy Gillespie and the Birth of Cubop

Dizzy Gillespie was the prime force in the blending of jazz and Afro-Latin styles in the middle and late 1940s. Gillespie’s early association with the Cab Calloway band served to introduce him to fellow trumpet-section mate and arranger Mario Bauza. Gillespie and Bauza, who later became Machito’s arranger, became friendly on and off the bandstand, attending after-hours sessions together at New York Latin music clubs. Gillespie’s experiences sitting in with these Latin bands


became a primary source in his training, inspiration, and life-long obsession with Afro-Latin music. Gillespie hired master Cuban drummer Chano Pozo to be a member of his 1947 bebop big band and recorded the historically significant George Russell composition “Cubano Be, Cubano Bop” (according to Gillespie, it was co-composed by Russell, himself, and Pozo). Other compositions associated with Gillespie that featured Afro-Latin rhythmic influences include his “A Night in Tunisia,” “Manteca,” “Con Alma,” and “Gillespiana,” the extensive multi-movement suite composed for the trumpeter by his Argentinean pianist Lalo Schifrin (composer of the Mission Impossible theme). Gillespie’s own “A Night in Tunisia” has become a jazz classic and bears an amazing resemblance to the Cuban bolero.

One of the best examples of the outcome of blending bebop and Afro-Cuban influences is Gillespie’s big-band rendition of “Manteca,” which features the legendary percussionist Chano Pozo. Gillespie’s mid 1940s big band was a haven for some of the finest bebop musicians of the day, but, although it enjoyed some success, it became the victim of the economic downturn that affected all of the big bands by the close of the decade. The fact that the band avoided danceable repertoire also had a great deal to do with its short life span. However, the band was an exciting

Latin jazz singer and bandleader Machito (Frank Raul Grillo) holding maracas, while leading his band. Trumpeter Mario Bauza is middle trumpet

powerhouse ensemble that boasted a particularly muscular rhythm section to match Gillespie’s own macho, bravado trumpet style. “Manteca” shows how Gillespie’s band could move nearly seamlessly from Latin to swing–bop styles.

Gillespie’s big band enjoyed some success during its career, but, by 1950, its future was extinguished by the ever-encroaching popular music trends. Despite his best efforts and those of the U.S. State Department, which sent him on several world tours as an ambassador of American good will, he found himself without a recording contract. He was proclaimed the “Crown Prince of Bebop” and, in his later years, served as mentor to many aspiring young black and white jazz musicians, such as trumpeter Jon Faddis and saxophonist Phil Woods. Later in life, his appearances on the Bill Cosby and Muppets television shows added to his celebrity. Comparing profiles with Kermit the frog, he showed off the same enormous, balloon-like cheeks known in medical books as “Gillespie pouches,” a condition likely caused by unorthodox trumpet playing over many years that deteriorated the facial muscles.

Chico O’Farrill, like many musicians who immigrated to the US, was another product of Havana, Cuba. He arranged for Benny Goodman and Stan Kenton, but is best known for his


Saxophonist James Moody, Cuban conga player Chano Pozo, and trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie performing in 1948



Dizzy Gillespie and his Orchestra

“Manteca” (Gillespie, Fuller, Pozo) 3:06

Recorded 12/30/1947, New York City, RCA Victor Vi20–3023

Reissued in The Complete RCA Victor Recordings, Bluebird 07863 66528–2

Personnel: Dizzy Gillespie, trumpet; Dave Burns, trumpet; Elmon Wright, trumpet; Lamar Wright Jr., trumpet; Benny Bailey, trumpet; William Shepard, trombone; Ted Kelly, trombone; John Brown, alto saxophone’ Howard Johnson, alto saxophone; Joe Gayles, tenor saxophone; George “Big Nick” Nicholas, tenor saxophone; Cecil Payne, baritone saxophone; John Lewis, piano; Al McKibbon, bass; Kenny Clark, drums; Chano Pozo, conga drums, bongos

Form: Repeated 40-bar modified song form—AABCA = chorus

0:00–0:37 Introduction—28 bars. Afro-Cuban Latin groove, trumpet solo

0:00–0:18 Section 1—14 bars, staggered entrances of conga drums, bass, drums, baritone sax, trumpets, and trombones set up Latin groove, with “Manteca” chanted vocals

0:19–0:31 Section 2—9 bars, improvised “bebop” trumpet solo (Gillespie), over continuing Latin groove, concluded by 1-bar ensemble triplets with “fall”

0:31–0:37 Section 3—5 bars, conga, bass, and drum groove

0:38–1:47 First chorus—50-bar theme:

0:38–0:48 A section—8 bars, repeated riff melody in saxes, answered by brass, followed by ensemble variation of brass riff, with conga fills

0:49–0:59 A section—8 bars, similar to A section

1:00–1:10 B section—8 bars, saxes play sustained bridge melody, with brass answer, swinging rhythm- section accompaniment

1:11–1:21 C section—8 bars, trumpet (Gillespie) plays remainder of bridge melody, with sustained ensemble chords, Latin rhythm-section accompaniment

1:22–1:33 A section—8 bars, similar to A section

1:34–1:47 Solo send-off—10 bars, break down to rhythm-section groove similar to introduction (section 1), followed by 4-bar ensemble “shout” send-off to tenor solo

1:48–2:42 Second chorus—40-bar tenor solo, trumpet solo, theme:

1:47–1:58 A section—8 bars, improvised tenor solo (Nicholas) for full chorus with ensemble accents and riffs, swinging rhythm-section accompaniment

1:59–2:09 A section—8 bars, tenor solo continues, ensemble tacet, with swinging rhythm section

2:10–2:20 B section—8 bars, ensemble “shout” variation of theme bridge melody, with swinging rhythm section

2:21–2:32 C section—8 bars, improvised trumpet solo (Gillespie), with sax sustained backgrounds, swinging rhythm section

2:32–2:42 A section—8 bars, ensemble theme similar to first chorus A sections, with “Manteca” vocals

2:43–3:06 Coda—15 bars, ensemble Latin groove similar to

Introduction, with “Manteca” chants, staggered instrumental “exits,” drum figure


collaborations with Gillespie. O’Farrill’s “Afro-Cuban Jazz Suite” is often referred to as the first successful landmark extended concert work, outside Russell’s quirky “Cubano-Be, Cubano-Bop,” that merged the two styles.

Parker, Gillespie, Mandel, and Kenton weren’t the only bebop musicians to explore the potential of merging bebop with Afro-Cuban music. Trumpeter Fats Navarro formed an allegiance with Cuban percussionist Chano Pozo to create several memorable Cubop recordings in the late 1940s. It is easy to speculate that the modal jazz concepts first emerging from Miles Davis’s bands in 1958–1959 came as a natural progression from the fusion of jazz improvisation with simple repetitive harmonies and bass lines central to much Afro-Cuban jazz of the 1940s. Davis believed strongly in the significance of folk music and its importance to jazz, and much Afro-Caribbean music evolved first as folk music.


It would be unfair and misleading to say that bebop has ever really declined in terms of its influence. It was a new music in the mid 1940s that was quickly noticed in the downtown Harlem and Village clubs such as Minton’s and Clark Monroe’s Uptown House and nearly overnight moved to successful uptown establishments such as the Onyx, Spotlite and The 3 Deuces. 52nd Street, eventually referred to as “the Street,” was the new home for jazz in the small clubs that nightly packed in curious audiences. Although some critics initially questioned its value and condemned it, most quickly rose to champion the bop practitioners, and even the naysayers eventually changed their tune. The novelty for most fans who were looking for entertainment had worn off, and most bop performers were ill prepared to sell themselves or their art. Bop placed too high a demand on listeners, who found that they couldn’t dance to it, couldn’t talk over it, and couldn’t find, hear, or understand its melodies and harmonies. As early as 1946, the Street began to suffer from bad press, causing clubs such as the Onyx to close because of stories about conmen, hipsters, and junkies who were frightening away some fans. Many of the great clubs on the Street turned into strip joints, and the music moved to new clubs on Broadway, but even those (Birdland and the Royal Roost) closed their doors in 1949. It appeared that bebop had burned out as quickly as it had ignited, but the style would prove to have a much longer life span and range of influence than anyone anticipated. To this day, it continues to be the foundation young musicians are first trained in as jazz improvisers.


Chronicle of Historic Events

The timeline that follows will put the developments of jazz discussed in this chapter into a larger historical context, providing you with a better sense of how landmark musical events may relate to others that match your personal areas of interest.

1945 • U.S. president FDR dies—Harry Truman sworn in as president.

• The House of Representatives establishes the Committee on Un-American Activities, spearheaded by Joseph McCarthy.

• J. Steinbeck publishes Cannery Row.

• John Hersey wins a Pulitzer Prize for A Bell For Adano.

• Germany surrenders.

• The US drops an atomic bomb on Hiroshima—Japan surrenders.

1946 • The US begins space exploration.

• The “Iron Curtain” signals the beginning of “cold war” conflict between democracy and communism/socialism.

• The US begins atomic testing at Bikini Atoll (Island).

• Irving Berlin premiers his new musical, Annie Get Your Gun.

• The ENIAC computer ushers in a new age.

• Popular films include The Postman Always Rings Twice and The Best Years of Our Lives.

1947 • Robert Penn Warren wins a Pulitzer Prize for All the King’s Men.

• Author James Michener publishes Tales of the South Pacific.

• Tennessee Williams premiers A Streetcar Named Desire.

• The GI Bill provides housing, education, and business opportunities for former armed-services members in an attempt to stimulate the post-war rebuild.

• Jackie Robinson becomes the first African-American to play professional baseball.

• There are growing concerns about communist activities in the US—10 Hollywood personalities are blacklisted.

• Dexter Gordon records “Index.”

• A tape recorder is produced for home use.

• Dizzy Gillespie’s bebop big band records Afro-Cuban tinged “Manteca,” defining the Cubop style.

1948 • Toscanini conducts the first NBC Orchestra concert on TV.

• The transistor is developed by Bell Labs to replace the vacuum tube.

• The Supreme Court rules that race may not be used to consider law school admissions at the University of Oklahoma, and President Truman attempts to halt racial discrimination in the military.

• James Michener wins a Pulitzer Prize for Tales of the South Pacific.

• The Supreme Court forbids prayer in schools.

• Candid Camera and The Milton Berle Show top the list of popular new TV shows.

• Monk and Jackson record “Epistrophy.”

1949 • Rodgers and Hammerstein create the Broadway musical South Pacific.

• Harry S. Truman wins the presidential election.

• Arthur Miller’s play The Death of a Salesman wins a Pulitzer Prize.

• Miles Davis and company launch the cool jazz style.

1950 • Senator McCarthy denounces communism and begins efforts to purge the US of all members of this party, blacklisting 205 well-known personalities.

• The U.S. backs South Korea against North Korea, and the war with Korea begins.

• William Faulkner wins the Nobel Prize for Literature, and Ralph Bunch wins the Peace Prize.

• The U.S. census indicates there are 150 million Americans.

• Parker, Gillespie, and Powell record “Anthropology” live at Birdland.



1951 • The U.S. detonates an H-bomb.

• The UNIVAC electronic, digital computer is unveiled.

• I Love Lucy, staring Lucille Ball, is an instant TV success.

• Author J.D. Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye is a tale of teenage alienation.

• Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, and Bud Powell peform “Anthropology” at Birdland.


In the early 1940s, numerous factors combined to cause the demise of many of the big bands. America’s entry into World War II necessitated a military draft that claimed many big-band musicians. Others, wanting to do something for their country, enlisted. Those still in the US had to cope with the rationing of petroleum-related products, including gasoline and tires, making travel very difficult. Even records depended on petroleum products that were being reserved to support the war effort. On the home front, with so many men away fighting the war, women took on many of the jobs traditionally held by men, leaving very little leisure time. Add to this situation the recording ban of the early 1940s imposed by the musicians’ union, and it becomes clear that big bands could no longer thrive as they had.

At the same time, top jazz soloists continued to seek more artistically rewarding avenues to express themselves, beyond the confines of the big band. At after-hours clubs such as Minton’s Playhouse, where musicians could play music for themselves, rather than for the public, a return to the early jazz ideal emphasizing improvisation fostered a new music—bebop. Although older musicians (notably, Coleman Hawkins) were important in helping to bring about this new style, trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie and alto saxophonist Charlie Parker are considered the true founders of bebop. Typically, a bebop group was small (three to five performers), allowing each member ample time to solo. As a music for musicians, bop tended to use much more complex harmonies and could be played at very fast tempos, as dancers were no longer a consideration. Pianist Bud Powell and tenor saxophonist Dexter Gordon made significant contributions to developing the bop language on their instruments, and only the very best musicians were capable of playing this music.

The musical partnership and friendship between Dizzy Gillespie and Mario Bauza helped forge Cubop. This hybrid style was the result of the merging of certain aspects of bebop with Afro-Cuban styles.

Pianist/composer Thelonious Monk contributed a sophisticated and original harmonic approach to bop. Although he served as the house pianist at Minton’s, participating in many important bop sessions, his quirky, unorthodox style does not fit the bop ideal. At the time, his music and performance style defied classification and mainstream trends.

Not all of the bebop innovations involved solo styles. Changes took place in the rhythm section to accommodate this new style. Drummers used primarily the ride cymbal to maintain pulse, rather than the hi-hat and bass drum, as, at some of the fast tempos, it became physically impossible for drummers to maintain a steady pulse with the bass drum. Bop drummer Kenny Clarke is normally credited with this development. He and Max Roach were the trend-setting bebop drummers. Pianists abandoned the timekeeper role in favor of a punctuated style known as comping, and the guitar was often omitted from bop rhythm sections. Bass players still frequently played walking bass lines, but some, notably Oscar Pettiford, used the bass more and more as a solo instrument. This new approach gave the rhythm section a more open, less cluttered feel.


In Cab Calloway’s swing band, Cuban trumpeter/arranger Mario Bauza and future bebop great Dizzy Gillespie formed a bond that helped lead to the Afro-Cuban-flavored approach to bebop known as Cubop.

Bebop-rooted vocalist Sarah Vaughan was an exceptionally talented singer, possessing technique and range equal to top performers of any style of music. Also an accomplished jazz pianist, she was the first vocalist to apply a more advanced, harmonic approach to her interpretations and improvisations.

Bebop never actually ceased being influential. Another generation of bop players would be important in the 1950s, playing hard bop. Bebop lives on today, serving as the basis for study and teaching improvisation.


Important terms, places, and people:

Terms Contrafact Cubop Rhythm changes

Places Birdland Clark Monroe’s Uptown House Minton’s Playhouse Onyx Club Swing Street

People Mario Bauza Kenny Clarke Nat “King” Cole Tadd Dameron “Dizzy” Gillespie Dexter Gordon J.J. Johnson Thelonious Monk Fats Navarro Charlie “Bird” Parker

James Petrillo Oscar Pettiford Bud Powell Chano Pozo Max Roach Sarah Vaughan


What follows is a list of million-selling record albums produced during the peak swing years and leading up to the decline of big bands. The V indicates a vocal recording, and I represents an instrumental album. It is clear that the tide seems to shift around 1944–1945, when the number of million-selling vocal recordings surpasses instrumental sales. From this point on, jazz begins to decline in widespread popularity as it moves closer to art music, while being overtaken by new, popular music styles

Year Title Artist

1937 Bei Mir Bist Du Schoen Andrews Sisters (V)

2-V Sweet Leilani Bing Crosby (V)

2-I Marie Tommy Dorsey Orchestra (I)

1938 Boogie Woogie Tommy Dorsey Orchestra (I)

4-I Begin the Beguine Artie Shaw Orchestra (I)

Nightmare Artie Shaw Orchestra (I)

Back Bay Shuffle Artie Shaw Orchestra (I)

1939 Traffic Jam Artie Shaw Orchestra (I)


Year Title Artist

8-I That Silver Haired Daddy of Mine Gene Autry (country vocal)

3-V Jumpin’ Jive Cab Calloway Orchestra (I)

Over the Rainbow Judy Garland (V)

Body and Soul Coleman Hawkins (I)

Woodchoppers Ball Woody Herman (I)

Ciribiribin Harry James Orchestra (I)

One O’Clock Jump Harry James Orchestra (I)

All or Nothing at All Frank Sinatra with H. James Orch. (V)

Little Brown Jug Glenn Miller Orchestra (I)

Moonlight Serenade Glenn Miller Orchestra (I)

In the Mood Glenn Miller Orchestra (I)

1940 Pennsylvania 6-5000 Glenn Miller Orchestra (I)

5-I Tuxedo Junction Glenn Miller Orchestra (I)

1-V Frenesi Artie Shaw Orchestra (I)

Stardust Artie Shaw Orchestra (I)

Summit Ridge Drive Artie Shaw Orchestra (I)

San Antonio Rose Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys (country vocal)

1941 San Antonio Rose Bing Crosby (V)

6-I Amapola Jimmy Dorsey Orchestra (I)

2-V Green Eyes Jimmy Dorsey Orchestra (I)

Maria Elena Jimmy Dorsey Orchestra (I)

You Made Me Love You Jimmy Dorsey Orchestra (I)

Chattanooga Choo Choo Glenn Miller Orchestra (I)

Dancing in the Dark Artie Shaw Orchestra (I)

Rose O’Day Kate Smith (V)

1942 There Are Such Things Tommy Dorsey Orchestra (I)

I Had the Craziest Dream Harry James Orchestra (I)

I’ve Heard That Song Before Harry James Orchestra (I)

Easter Parade Harry James Orchestra (I)

Kalamazoo Glenn Miller Orchestra (I)

American Patrol Glenn Miller Orchestra (I)

Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition Kay Kyser Orchestra

Strip Polka Kay Kyser Orchestra

Who Wouldn’t Love You? Kay Kyser Orchestra

Jingle Jangle Jingle Kay Kyser Orchestra

White Christmas Bing Crosby (V)

Silent Night Bing Crosby (V)


Year Title Artist

1943* Besame Mucho Jimmy Dorsey Orchestra (I)

4-I Artistry in Rhythm Stan Kenton Orchestra (I)

Is You Is or Is You Ain’t? Louis Jordan Orchestra (I)

Cow-Cow Boogie Freddie Slack Orchestra (I)?

1944 White Christmas Frank Sinatra with H. James Orch. (V)

7-V You Always Hurt the One You Love Mills Brothers (V)

5-I Begin the Beguine Eddie Heywood Orchestra (I)

Cocktails For Two (novelty) Spike Jones Orchestra (I)

Opus No. 1 Tommy Dorsey Orchestra (I)

On the Sunny Side of the Street Tommy Dorsey Orchestra (I)

Swingin’ On A Star Bing Crosby (V)

Don’t Fence Me In Bing Crosby (V)

Too-Ra-Loo-Ra-Loo-Ra Bing Crosby (V)

Sentimental Journey Les Brown Orchestra (I)

Rum and Coca Cola Andrews Sisters (V)

Into Each Life Some Rain Must Fall Ella Fitzgerald (with the Ink Spots) (V)

1945 Till the End of Time Perry Como (V)

7-V If I Loved You Perry Como (V)

3-I Dig You Later Perry Como (V)

Temptation Perry Como (V)

I Can’t Begin To Tell You Bing Crosby (V)

Cottage For Sale Billy Eckstein (V)

Prisoner of Love Billy Eckstein (V)

Laura Woody Herman Orchestra (I)

Tampico Stan Kenton Orchestra (I)

Shoe-Fly Pie Stan Kenton Orchestra (I)

1946 Prisoner of Love Perry Como (V)

12-V I’m Always Chasing Rainbows Perry Como (V)

4-I South America, Take it Away Bing Crosby (V)

McNamara’s Band Bing Crosby (V)

Alexander’s Ragtime Band Bing Crosby (V)

To Each His Own The Ink Spots (V)

The Gypsy The Ink Spots (V)

April Showers Al Jolson (V)

Rockabye Your Baby Al Jolson (V)

You Made Me Love You Al Jolson (V)

Sonny Boy Al Jolson (V)


Year Title Artist

Anniversary Song Al Jolson (V)

Glow-Worm Spike Jones Orchestra (I)

Humoresque Guy Lombarde Orchestra (I)

Christmas Island Guy Lombarde Orchestra (I)

Choo Choo Ch’ Boogie Louis Jordan and His Tympani 5

1947 By 1947 nearly every million seller was either a vocal, novelty number, or instrumental by a sweet band bearing no resemblance to jazz aside from instrumentation. The big band era had clearly come to a close at least in terms of capturing the attention of throngs of Americans as it had only a few years earlier.

* In 1943, the recording industry was hit hard by the AFofM recording ban, hence fewer million-selling hits, most of which were recordings issued from archived, previously unreleased stock

Information is based on statistics cited in Peter A. Soderbergh’s Old Records Price Guide 1900–1947, Des Moines: Wallace-Homstead Book Company, 1980, pp. 176–180


1. Cite the reasons for the gradual decline of swing-style popularity.

2. Compare and contrast bebop with swing style.

3. Describe the social atmosphere that surrounded the bebop style.

4. Can you name some of the older swing musicians who helped to develop and promote the earliest forms of small-group bebop?

5. What changes occurred in the bass’s role and performance style during the bebop period?

6. Which three bassists had laid the groundwork for a more modern style that emerged during the bebop period?

7. Bebop drummers initiated what significant changes in their playing during the bebop period? Which two drummers were most instrumental in making these changes?

8. Who are the two pianists given much of the credit for modernizing the jazz pianist’s accompaniment style?

9. Who was the first trombonist to embrace the more modern bebop style?

10. What was Cubop and who was largely responsible for it?

11. List the musical characteristics that define Dizzy Gillespie’s unique style.

12. List the musical characteristics that define Charlie Parker’s revolutionary and unique style.

13. Who are considered the originators of the bebop style?


14. Who was the tenor saxophonist given much of the credit for incorporating Parker’s bebop alto style?

15. Which tenor saxophonist was heralded as the leading tenor saxophonist of the post bop school?

16. Who was the preeminent bebop pianist?

17. What kind of repertoire did bop bands concern themselves with?

18. Describe the typical bebop tune in terms of the overall form or architecture of its presentation.

19. Which eccentric bop-era pianist was equally recognized as a composer?

20. In what ways did Monk’s style make him an anomaly in the bebop period?

21. Who was the bassist who served as a link between swing-style bassists Jimmy Blanton and Slam Stewart and the more modern, soloistic demands of the bebop style?

22. Which two drummers are considered to be the best representatives of the explosive new drumming style that emerged in the mid 1940s and complemented what the bop horn players were doing melodically and rhythmically? In what ways did these two drummers modify their playing, compared with earlier Swing Era drummers?

23. Who is considered the true father of the modern bebop style of drumming?

24. Name one preeminent vocalist from this period and describe her style.

25. Were there any bebop-style big bands? If so, who were their leaders?

26. How can the decline of bebop be explained?

27. Was bebop an art music, or music that supported entertainment?

Make sure that you also review material on the corresponding chapter of the website.

C H A P T E R 1 0

The 1950s and Early 1960s Cool, Intellectual, and Abstract Jazz

The first time in history that a jazz drummer’s solo was so soft that you had to whisper or be conspicuous.1

—Ralph Gleason

Race riots and picketers in Birmingham, Alabama


On the surface, the 1950s appeared to be a period of great prosperity and tranquility in the US. In many ways this was true. Americans had survived the ravages of World War II. Those who returned to a normal life were realizing the American dream—starting families, owning a TV, a car, and a house in suburbia, and perhaps profiting from a college education funded by the GI Bill for those


who had served in the armed forces. However, beneath this rosy surface lay the beginnings of a cold war, essentially a battle between democracy (the US) and communism, represented by Russia and the Iron Curtain communist bloc countries. Many actors, writers, and artists were victimized for their freethinking ideas and blacklisted by the radical conservative Senator Joseph McCarthy. The growing cold war fueled anti-communist sentiments, and McCarthy was the most vocal advocate for democracy. He singlehandedly led a crusade to rid the country of all suspected communists or, worse, anyone who spoke of liberal ideas freely. Many artists, actors, and writers were blacklisted because of mere accusations about communist sympathies, and McCarthyism ran unchecked, ruining careers for some time.

Racial tensions, although largely non-violent during the 1950s, continued to escalate, despite some progress being made toward desegregation of schools and public places. The U.S. State Department, however, saw in jazz the perfect counter-offensive to thwart communism and the cold war. Construction on the Berlin Wall began in 1961 and was designed to separate communist East Germany from the Free World. The Bay of Pigs incident between Cuba and the US underscored the growing tensions between communist bloc countries and the Free World. Communism was painted to represent repression, oppression, and rigid structure, whereas jazz was cast as the perfect weapon—the Western embodiment of democracy, freedom of choice, and expression. Tours abroad were sponsored by the State Department, making use of Louis Armstrong and Dizzy Gillespie as jazz ambassadors. Willis Conover hosted a regular jazz program targeted at the Iron Curtain coun tries by the Voice of America radio station, operating on shortwave frequencies. Ironically, African-Americans, who continued their quest for equality in the US more earnestly than ever before, had still not earned the very democratic freedoms they were asked to promote. Despite the 1954 Supreme Court ruling against school segregation, President Eisenhower was reluctant to send federal troops to Arkansas to enforce the high court’s ruling. Louis Armstrong, who rarely made his political views public, openly criticized the president and was so unnerved that he canceled an upcoming State Department goodwill trip to Russia. Armstrong stated publicly that: “The people over there ask me what’s wrong with my country. What am I supposed to say? It’s getting almost so bad a colored man hasn’t got any country.”2 Two years later, Miles Davis, stepping outside Birdland in New York for a smoke, was assaulted and bludgeoned by the police. The NAACP was forced to activate its forces against the courts again in 1956, and the Reverend Martin Luther King rose to be the most effective leader and spokesman for the growing civil rights movement.

Not only was there increasing political tension between the US and Russia, but the race to stake out new frontiers in space eventually found these two superpowers even more at odds. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) was formed in 1958, and the US launched the first artificial, unmanned earth satellite that same year. Extraterrestrial activity and science fiction were in the minds of many Americans, and some jazz performers reflected this new obsession in their record titles, such as the Riverside release Clark Terry In Orbit and George Russell’s Jazz in the Space Age. The atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki to end World War II launched the nuclear age, causing great concern for many Americans. The University of Chicago developed the first nuclear power plant in 1956, and there came the realization that the same tool that had provided peace through destruction was now also the key to new scientific discoveries. This new reality caused many Americans to reassess the very nature of life itself.

Young people once again found the need to re-evaluate life and look inwardly for solutions to living in a world that was becoming increasingly stressful. No longer were their parents’ values always desirable models. In some ways, a new cycle, much like in the 1920s, had begun, especially with the under-30 generation. Some turned to Eastern philosophical teachings and the offbeat writings of poets who represented the new beat generation. Langston Hughes, for example, became identified as the poet laureate of the late 1940s and 1950s, and other writers also emerged and

THE 1950s AND EARLY 1960s 227

found a kinship with the spontaneity of improvised jazz. For many, it became increasingly important to learn how to “stay cool” and find new ways to enjoy life while controlling their emotions.

By the mid 1950s, jazz had not only become an art, it had become a way of life and, to some, a science, with a unique subculture somewhere to the left of mainstream society. Not everyone supported the new, cool, intellectual jazz movement. Some felt that jazz was running parallel to what had happened to classical music when the serial 12-tone composers took over, applying too many formulas for music to be enjoyable. Jazz in the hands of these so called “mathematicians” (referring to the third-stream crowd and Lennie Tristano’s early free jazz experiments) had become more of a science than an art, and it was this criticism from those who appreciated more mainstream black jazz from the same period that served to chill some of the cool experimentalists.

The new, more abstract attitude could be seen in other artistic arenas as well. Painters no longer cared to portray lifelike objects, for example Jackson Pollock, who preferred to drip paint on his canvas in more spontaneous, abstract gestures, often improvising as he created. Architects began to use more functional designs that were sometimes criticized for their tendency to be too stark and pessimistic. The titles of some jazz recordings seemed to capture this mood and project a sense of moving forward into uncharted territory. Stan Kenton, who for a time called his band the “Innovations Orchestra,” featured works such as the “City of Glass” (composed by Robert Grettinger) or “Opus in Abstract.” Keeping with the more intellectual, academic trend among the new breed of 1950s jazz musicians was composer George Russell, who, in 1953, published the first major theoretical treatise about jazz harmony and melody. He called it his Lydian Chromatic Concept of Tonal Organization. Perhaps it was the more intellectual jazz known as third stream, which combined elements of jazz improvisation and rhythm with European art music, or the more cerebral, sedate, and sophisticated sound of cool jazz, or simply the then 40 years of jazz tradition that explains the steady flow of more scholarly publications such as Russell’s that emerged in the 1950s. Serious efforts by Marshall Stearns—The Story of Jazz—and French author/composer André Hodeir—Jazz, Its Evolution and Essence—marked the beginning of writings about jazz that were more informed than ever before.

The literary world reflected similar attitudes, and many closely allied themselves with jazz—both bebop and cool. In 1955, Jack Kerouac wrote the novel On the Road about the wanderings of impulsive young adults, often at loose ends and out of sync with mainstream society. His representation of the West-Coast scene, though, depicted a more carefree, relaxed, and affluent lifestyle. For that matter, the names of new jazz record labels, such as Fantasy, Contemporary, and Pacific Jazz, helped to reinforce the Californian “LA LA Land” stereotype. The Walt Disney, Hollywood, expansive beach images helped to sell millions of newcomers on the opportunities available in the sunny state with a mild climate. As a result, the state’s population nearly doubled during the 1950s. Allen Ginsberg, Norman Mailer, William Burroughs, and Lawrence Ferlinghetti, like Kerouac, aligned themselves with the jazz subculture, even on occasion performing with its members. Some labeled this group of artists, musicians, and writers as deviants, but their freer ideas about race, religion, and sexuality were resonant with the younger generation’s modern, “hip” new attitudes. Thespians used the jazz performer as a metaphor to represent the struggling, repressed minority, viewed as second-class citizens by respectable society and caught in an anguished struggle to gain acceptance and respectability. It is no small wonder that a bebop-derived score was used as a backdrop for the film version of Tennessee Williams’s A Streetcar Named Desire.

Home entertainment and rock ’n’ roll had a negative effect on jazz popularity. Television became the center of family entertainment, and the improved “hi-fi” stereo recordings that could be enjoyed in the confines of one’s living room often became a reasonable substitute for live, late- night entertainment. The “baby boomer” generation was cradled during the 1950s, and home entertainment was a must in order to stay close to the nest after a hard day’s work. The younger



If bop was hot, muscular, and macho, then cool was the subtler, more romantic, more feminine reaction. Whereas vivid reds, yellows, and orange shades might best represent bebop, a painter might use light pastel shades to represent the sound of much cool jazz. The following musical attributes are typically associated with this 1950s, restrained, more intellectual style:

• Cool jazz featured toned-down dynamics accomplished through a variety of means, including drums that were often played by brushes instead of sticks. Bands played more quietly, brass players often added mutes, and trumpet players might choose the mellower flugelhorn.

• Tempos were often, but not always, slower than bop tunes. • More emphasis was placed on improvising listenable melodies, rather than playing fast,

technical passages. • Trumpet players placed less emphasis on playing screaming high notes and, in contrast, focused

on playing mellow melodies in the middle register. • Vibrato is a useful device in expressing emotions, and cool horn players often projected a

steely, colder emotional style by discarding or nearly removing vibrato from sustained note values. Bop players had already significantly reduced the amount of vibrato compared with the previous swing generation.

• Although cool musicians didn’t abandon the previous repertoire and forms, the blues was nearly forgotten in favor of experimenting with new forms. Compositionally speaking, they stretched boundaries by mixing meters within a song (going from 4 beats a measure to 3) and using unusual phrase lengths. (Most songs up until this time were constructed of typical patterns, where melodies were grouped in 2- or 4-measure subdivisions).

set turned on to emerging rock ’n’ roll and folk, a rage that began to sweep the nation in the 1950s, but not without protest from the more mature generation, who reacted to it in the same way their parents had to jazz decades earlier. Rock ’n’ roll represented immoral, sexual behavior, as jazz had in the 1920s. The Coasters, Little Richard, Fats Domino, Jerry Lee Lewis, the Platters, Bill Haley and the Comets, Chuck Berry, and of course Elvis Presley rose to star status, while jazz began to take more and more of a back seat. Television also had a direct impact on record sales. A survey of 1950s hits shows a direct relationship to television exposure. For example, Tennessee Ernie Ford, with his country brand of religious-tinged music, Jackie Gleason, Pat Boone, Perry Como, Mitch Miller, the Kingston Trio, Rick Nelson, Harry Belafonte, and Johnny Mathis enjoyed gold-record sales and were simultaneously regular TV personalities.

Somehow, amidst the slump in live entertainment and despite the popular rock ’n’ roll phenomenon, the jazz festival concept was successfully born at this same time, serving to salvage many jazz careers. George Wein produced the successful Newport Jazz Festival in 1954, which started a new trend. Even some of the older jazz acts were rejuvenated by such festivals. For example, Duke Ellington made headlines at this festival in 1956, at a time when he was being accused of becoming passé. Norman Granz began his Jazz at the Philharmonic series and successfully booked all-star groups on tours throughout Europe and Japan. Both promoters were champions of racial equality and insisted that people of all races be permitted to attend these performances. Many of Granz’s Philharmonic concerts were recorded and are still available on CD reissues.

• Arrangers and band leaders began to make use of instruments that had not been previously associated with jazz, i.e. French horn, tuba, flute, and oboe. There are other instances where instruments that had previously been considered indispensable were omitted, such as the piano.

• The influence of sophisticated, European-derived composition devices is increasingly noticeable in cool-style jazz.

• Although the ensembles were never larger than 9 or 10 players, tightly defined arrangements even for trios and quartets became very important, much as they had been during the big- band period.

• General experimentation was the motto of many cool-jazz instrumentalists.

Cool jazz in the 1950s reflected a complete reexamination of what had come before. Without being so radical as to throw the baby out with the bathwater, the musicians associated with this school broke new ground. Predictable rhythmic patterns and forms were dismantled and reassembled in new ways. Although improvisation was still important, and integral to jazz, in the cool sound it sometimes occupied an equal role to composition and arrangement, as had been the case in the big band era. It was a musical style that was practiced by more white per- formers than black. It may be that white performers were subconsciously trying to get back in the game by producing a new brand of jazz that was more destined for the concert hall, more polished and sophisticated, and less intrusive than bop. White musicians, who had enjoyed such a prominent role in the commercial success of the big-band Swing Era, lost ground during the bebop period to black artists, who refocused jazz as an improvisational art, not as entertainment and dance accompaniment. Cool served to bring white musicians back into the foreground by offering a menu of jazz that, in some cases, was more accessible and easy to market to the casual listener.

The images displayed on the covers of many of the cool recordings sent a different message as well, depicting beautiful women, beaches, men and women posed with fast cars, and the general sunny California beach vibe. This cool-jazz imagery was in stark contrast to that shown on recordings released by black artists of the period, who continued to follow the bebop tradition. These musicians were portrayed with sweat pouring off their brows in dimly lit nightclub scenes, surrounded by cigarette smoke. Cool jazz, therefore, projected a much cleaner image to the consumer.

The terms “cool” and “West-Coast” jazz have been used interchangeably, causing some confusion and misunderstanding about this period. Although it is true that many of the musi- cians associated with the new 1950s style were based on the West Coast, this should not give the impression that all cool jazz originated here. For that matter, the West Coast at this time was simultaneously a source for the hotter, bop style of jazz. Easterners also became involved in the cool sound and approach. It is important to note that many musicians who were associated with cool jazz were not devoted to it exclusively. It was a time of experimentation, and, unlike the earlier periods of jazz where one or two styles dominated, musicians in the 1950s often moved freely from one style to another, perhaps even within the confines of one recording. This chameleon-like activity becomes commonplace in jazz from this time on. For example, tenor saxophonist Stan Getz contributed several burning bop recordings in the late 1940s, but is often considered in discussions of cool jazz. Pianist Bill Evans, discussed in this chapter, also defies categorization under any one single style.

A summary of the fundamental characteristics that define cool jazz, along with a direct comparison with the bebop style, is presented in Figure 10.1 on p. 230. The figure offers a quick reference, making clear how these two styles served to contrast with one another.

THE 1950s AND EARLY 1960s 229


Bebop Style Characteristics Cool Style Characteristics

1. Aside from ballads, bop was a garish, flashy, dynamic, “in your face” music.

1. Cool was softer dynamically and less intrusive than bop.

2. Drummers were aggressive and primarily used sticks.

2. Drummers popularized brushes to help inspire a more mellow, relaxed approach.

3. Bop tunes often featured fast tempos and technically demanding “heads”.

3. Tempos were generally slower with greater emphasis placed on listenable melodies.

4. Trumpet soloists developed macho, technical flare, exploring the extreme upper register.

4. Trumpeters were less concerned with

approach by using mutes and the more mellow flugelhorn.

5. Heavy vibrato was less popular with bop soloists than it had been with previous generations.

5. Vibrato became even less predominant in

the cool style with some players nearly discarding it completely.

6. Bop style was dominated by black musicians.

6. The cool style was popularized largely by white musicians.

7. Experimentation in terms of composition, orchestration and instrumentation was of little significance and takes a back seat to the soloist.

7. Innovative compositions featuring experimentation with orchestration and instrumentation became increasingly important.

8. Bop bands were usually small combos.

8. Cool bands, with a few exceptions, were usually small combos.

9. The blues continued t repertoire.

o dominate bop

9. The blues is much less important to cool


10. European classical influences were virtually nonexistent in bebop.

10. European classical influences became embraced including compositional techniques like counterpoint.

11. In its day, bebop did not prove to be commercially viable.

11. Cool was more commercially successful than bop. One artist who emerged from this period was featured on the cover of Time magazine.

playing high notes and tone down their

FIGURE 10.1 Comparison of bebop and cool styles

THE 1950s AND EARLY 1960s 231


It was Gil Evans and Miles Davis on the East Coast and Dave Brubeck, Chet Baker, and Gerry Mulligan on the West Coast who were said to be the progenitors of this new direction in jazz. San Francisco became the center for their activities and, ironically, was also the city that harbored the “moldy figs” revival of traditional, early jazz styles. Many new record labels were formed to capitalize on the new west-coast artists and their experimental music.

Miles Davis and Gil Evans: The Birth of the Cool

Gil Evans grew up on the West Coast, where he started his own swing band, which never quite made the leap to star status. He actually used progressive big-band leader Stan Kenton as an occasional sub-pianist in this early band. Just before and after World War II, Evans worked as an arranger for the most influential of the “Johnny-come-lately” east-coast big bands, led by pianist Claude Thornhill. Thornhill encouraged his arrangers to experi ment. Evans and other arrangers, such as Gerry Mulligan, who also wrote for Thornhill’s band, were the first to add French horns and tuba to the standard big band, often juxtaposing this rich brass sound with the dark, reedy sound of a section of clarinets instead of saxophones. These orchestrations laid the ground work for the innovations that soon followed, serving as the catalyst for the first major cool-style recording.

Evans moved to New York, taking up residence in an apartment that became a hangout in the late 1940s for trumpeter Miles Davis, baritone saxophonist Gerry Mulligan, and others who were instrumental in forming the nonet that would define the new cool sound. They collectively decided to form a band with an unusual instrumentation, designed to emulate the Thornhill sound, but with only nine players. Their new ensemble would have one of each member of the brass family (French Horn, trumpet, trombone, and tuba), alto and baritone saxes, and a three-piece rhythm section. The group’s pianist, John Lewis, along with trumpeter Miles Davis, arranger Johnny Carisi, Evans, and Mulligan contributed arrangements to this historic series of recordings, eventually issued as Birth of the Cool by Capitol Records. No other movement in jazz was announced so abruptly, with the release of a single recording, as was the case in 1949–1950. This band defined the cool style, but without abandoning all that had come before. Their music projected an air of sophisticated, “restrained chamber music” to the astute, well-prepared audience. Mulligan, altoist Lee Konitz, and Davis served as the prominent soloists, and they all sought to shed the trappings and “licks” (stock melodic patterns or phrases, derived initially from an improvisation, that become adopted by others) that had become bebop’s clichéd language. Mulligan was a gifted soloist and arranger, who was the first noted baritone sax soloist to come forward since Ellington’s Harry Carney. As an earlier member of the Thornhill band, Konitz had already displayed his willingness to blaze new trails as an improviser, emerging from Bird’s Miles Davis recording in 1959


Listen to the interviews with Miles Davis and Gerry Mulligan, who discuss the Birth of the Cool sessions. They can be found on the corresponding chapter on the website.

long shadow. Davis had been somewhat out of character in Parker’s bop bands, as he lacked the aggression associated with the Gillespie trumpet style and seemed to prefer a more mellow, minimalist approach as he matured. The band performed live in New York for only a short time, but the impact they had on the future of jazz, particularly the cool style, was immeasurable. Davis’s association with Evans would spark even greater collaborations in the future. Most of the cool players who followed captured the essence of this first model.


Miles Davis

“Moon Dreams” (MacGregor–Mercer) 3:17

Recorded 3/9/1950 in New York City

Reissued on Capitol Jazz Birth of the Cool CDP 7 92862 2

Personnel: Miles Davis, trumpet; J.J. Johnson, trombone; Gunther Schuller, French horn; John Barber, tuba; Lee Konitz, alto saxophone; Gerry Mulligan, baritone saxophone; Al McKibbon, bass; Max Roach, drums

Form: 32-bar-song form (ABA1C = chorus) with extended coda

0:00–0:25 A section—8 bars; theme—played by ensemble with trumpet lead

0:25–0:50 B section—8 bars; theme—4 bars, alto sax plays theme with background chords and answering lines in ensemble

0:25–0:36 4 bars—ensemble plays theme with trumpet lead

0:51–1:16 A1 section—8 bars; theme—played by ensemble with trumpet lead (2 bars), then trombone lead (6 bars)

1:17–1:43 C section—8 bars; theme—4 bars, alto sax plays theme with background chords and lines in ensemble

1:17–1:29 4 bars, trumpet lead over moving parts and lines in ensemble

1:44–2:12 C1 section—9 bars baritone sax solo; ensemble—4 bars, baritone sax solo with moving background ensemble lines

1:44–1:57 4 bars, ensemble with trumpet lead, baritone and alto sax fills

2:13–3:17 Coda—trumpet leads overlapping, cascading, descending ensemble lines

Although “Moon Dreams,” one of several contributions by Evans to the Birth of the Cool sessions, is not representative of every song on this landmark recording, it does exemplify Evans’s flare for orchestration and personifies many aspects of the cool sound. His ability to cast moody tone paintings through unusual instrumental textures defied earlier arranging doctrines practiced by most large-ensemble arrangers. Solos by Davis, Konitz, and Mulligan are very characteristic of the cool sound, often vibrato-less, stark, and spare in technique. Other pieces on the recording, such as “Boplicity,” are clearly more upbeat, offering a renewed look at the still-omnipresent bop influences.

Modern Jazz Quartet

No discussion of the cool style would be complete without including the Modern Jazz Quartet (MJQ), the longest-running group in jazz, with the fewest personnel changes, and the cool-jazz standard bearer from the East Coast. The original members of this quartet served as the nucleus of Dizzy Gillespie’s bebop big-band rhythm section in 1947. The quartet became known for its polished chamber-jazz approach, counterbalanced by Milt Jackson’s more aggressive, blues- influenced style on the vibes. First known as the Milt Jackson Quartet, it changed its name in 1953 to the more co-op sounding MJQ. Their first recording as the MJQ in that year showed an early penchant for an arranged sound, in contrast to the freewheeling nature of most bop- influenced groups. They avoided the theme–solo–solo–solo–theme predictability and favored a more structured, at times classically influenced, light sound. Improvised counterpoint in the tradition of European classical-music composers became the MJQ’s hallmark, as was their dapper attire of smartly styled, tailored suits—an influence, no doubt, years later on Wynton Marsalis and his cohorts in the 1980s. “I am an American Negro,” MJQ pianist John Lewis said, and “I’m proud of it and want to enhance the dignity of that position.”3 Duke Ellington and Lewis were similar bedfellows in this regard, and both produced dignified jazz suitable to the most elegant concert halls. “Django,” dedicated to the Belgian guitarist, is one of the best-known works by the MJQ and it appeared on their second recording. “Django” is included on the SCCJ (any edition). Their dignified, refined, and polished brand of jazz made them attractive to a wide range of audiences and performance venues. On the other hand, some felt their music was pretentious, but, under the musical leadership of John Lewis, the quartet broke new ground for many years. Lewis, like Gunther Schuller and J.J. Johnson, was serious in his efforts to elevate jazz to the same high plateau as European art music. All three of these musicians were at the center of the third-stream movement, born in the mid 1950s, to bring together elements of jazz and aspects of European concert music. At the time, this style had little impact, influence, or following, and it was not until years later that its repercussions would be of value.

Gerry Mulligan (1927–1996) and Chet Baker (1929–1988)

Baritone saxophonist Gerry Mulligan and West-Coast-native son Chet Baker on trumpet are justifiably also given much credit for advancing the cool-jazz style on the West Coast. Mulligan was a stylistically versatile baritone saxophonist who could mix comfortably, jamming with musicians from any era. He played an unusual instrument mastered by very few and, coupled with his gift as a composer/arranger, left an indelible mark on jazz history. Pianist/composer George Russell called him “the most important innovator of the 1950s.”4 Like so many musicians from the 1950s, Mulligan cut his teeth as a member of numerous big bands. He met Gil Evans as a result of his employment as an arranger for the Thornhill band, after a stint with Gene Krupa’s mid 1940s big swing band. Following his collaborations with Evans on the Birth of the Cool sessions, Mulligan moved to sunny California, where he conceived the piano-less quartet. His first quartet featured the young Chet Baker, recently discharged from the armed services. Baker had sat in with Charlie Parker earlier in his career, but had begun to formulate a more lyrical, wistful style than that associated with bop. Baker’s romantic, abbreviated vocal and instrumental style helped to define the new cool style, while also serving to make him and the quartet very popular. Baker, who struggled through life with drug addiction, could be compared to James Dean, the young, good-looking 1950s actor who played the youthful, troubled soul on the silver screen. The resemblance between the two was remarkable, and both projected the misunderstood, rebellious, brooding, sensitive image that represented the anti-establishment ideals of the younger generation. Many lived on the fringe, as did Baker. Baker’s success as a trumpet player and vocalist prompted

THE 1950s AND EARLY 1960s 233


him to strike out on his own, performing and recording in Europe and the US with a number of different partners and rhythm sections. He was replaced in the Mulligan quartet by valve trombonist/composer Bob Brookmeyer and, later, flugelhornist Art Farmer. Brookmeyer has distinguished himself since as one of the foremost modern jazz composers, frequently working in Europe and teaching in his later years.

The Mulligan–Baker quartet was unique in that there was no piano or guitar, leaving only single-line performers. Mulligan felt that the absence of a chording instrument freed the soloists


Gerry Mulligan Quartet with Chet Baker

“Line for Lyons”

Recorded 9/2/1952, Fantasy EP 4028

Reissued on OJC, OJCCD-711–2

Personnel: Gerry Mulligan, baritone saxophone; Chet Baker, trumpet; Carson Smith, bass; Chico Hamilton, drums

Form: Repeated 32-bar-song form (AA1BA2 = chorus), in G major

0:00–00:22 First chorus—32 bars, melody:

0:00–0:11 A section—8 bars, trumpet plays melody, with accompanying sax counter-line and swinging bass and drums

0:11–0:22 A1 section—8 bars, trumpet plays slightly varied melody, with sax and rhythm similar to A section

0:23–0:34 B section—8 bars, trumpet plays bridge melody with answering sax counter-line and swinging bass and drums

0:35–0:46 A2 section—8 bars, trumpet plays slightly varied melody, with sax and rhythm similar to A section

0:46–1:33 Second chorus—32-bar sax solo/trumpet solo:

0:46–0:57 A section—8 bars, sax improvises solo over chorus chord changes, with swinging bass and drums, trumpet tacet

0:58–1:09 A1 section—8 bars, sax continues improvised solo

1:10–1:21 B section—8 bars, trumpet improvises solo over bridge chord changes, with sustained descending sax counter-line, swinging rhythm section

1:22–1:33 A2 section—8 bars, trumpet continues solo, with long sax counter-line

1:34–2:30 Third chorus—35-bar sax/trumpet solo and melody with tag:

1:34–1:45 A section—8 bars, sax and trumpet improvise solo together, using fragments of the melody

1:45–1:57 A1 section—8 bars, sax and trumpet improvise, similar to previous A section

1:57–2:09 B section—8 bars, trumpet plays bridge melody similar to first B section, with answering sax counter-line and swinging bass and drums

2:10–2:30 A2 section—8 bars, trumpet plays melody as in first A section, with accompanying sax counter-line and swinging bass and drums; 3-bar ending tag repeats last line of melody

Listen to the interviews with Gerry Mulligan, who talks about Chet Baker and the famous piano-less quartet. These excerpts can be found on the website in the corresponding chapter.

THE 1950s AND EARLY 1960s 235

to become more melodically inventive, as they would not be bound to the pianist’s chords. The result was pure melody in counterpoint between bass and the two horns. Their style was relaxed, detached, and rhythmically subdued. Melodic clichés that had become associated with the bop style were almost completely absent in the Baker–Mulligan quartet performances. Mulligan described his music to Down Beat magazine as,

Pipe and slipper music. I like jazz that is easy and quiet with a subtle swing. Lester Young

used to get a sound on his horn that I would like to get with my whole group. Jazz is an

art of many emotions; ours is to relax and build from a comfortable position.5

“Line for Lyons,” included in the online audio anthology, was composed as a tribute to west- coast jazz entrepreneur and festival promoter Jimmy Lyons. Their performance on this track is exemplary of the improvisational style associated with this period of jazz, where the contrapuntal dialogue between the two instrumentalists almost makes the listener forget that there is no piano or guitar accompaniment. Their improvisations are reserved, lyrical, and not overbearing.

Mulligan appeared in several movies, including I Want to Live (1958) and the 1960 beatnik flick The Subterraneans. By the early 1960s, Mulligan abandoned the small group and founded the Concert Jazz Band, which played challenging, big-band compositions featuring some of the finest New York musicians of the day, including trumpeters Clark Terry and Doc Severinsen of television’s Tonight Show fame. He also appeared on record with numerous pairings, including record dates with Ben Webster, Stan Getz, Thelonious Monk, Johnny Hodges, and Paul Desmond. The Two of a Mind recording with Paul Desmond is one of the finest examples of improvised duet playing in a piano-less quartet setting.

DAVE BRUBECK (1920–2012)

Although it is true that many of the players who became involved in the cool movement were based on the West Coast, Mulligan, Davis, J.J. Johnson, and others involved in the Birth of the Cool sessions were part of the New York scene and key players in the bop trend a few years earlier. Unlike these Easterners, Dave Brubeck was a west-coast native son. Born and raised in the northern farmlands of California, Brubeck attended the University (then College) of the Pacific in Stockton, studying classical composition and piano. It is here that his archives now reside and here that he formed his first groups. Very few recordings of his early octet exist, but we do know that its style was the precursor of what Brubeck eventually became famous for—merging jazz with “classical” techniques. Perhaps no one is more closely associated with the west-coast style, and no one was more successful and controversial at the same time. Critics have either loved or despised his brand of jazz, but it was all this publicity, pro and con, that helped to catapult him to fame in the mid 1950s. Not many other jazz artists can lay claim to being on the cover of Time magazine—an honor bestowed on Brubeck in 1955. In retrospect, his music was more important then than it is now, but he nevertheless served as an important link in the history of jazz. Most critics who leveled criticism at his quartet claimed that it did not swing and had not assimilated the roots of jazz. His critics felt that his music was too compositionally derived and lacked the improvisational spontaneity of the jazz-jam-session atmosphere. Such criticism is often directed at new jazz that breaks from mainstream traditions, as was the case with Brubeck and avant-garde artists who followed.

When Brubeck was praised, it seemed almost begrudgingly, but it is irrefutable that his quartet was rhythmically charged, producing unexpected accents, heavy-handed piano accompaniments, and experiments in odd meter signatures. For example, he was known to play in one meter and tempo, while the rhythm section forged ahead


in another, creating mesmerizing polymetric tensions. His piano style was very chordal, using big blocks of chords, rather than the fast, single-line passages associated with the bop pianists. In contrast, Brubeck’s quartet avoided the now cliché-ridden bop style, favoring modern “classical” composition devices such as contrapuntal interplay, and he relied on saxophonist Paul Desmond to help inspire improvisational dialogue. They resorted to blues tunes later in their careers, but Brubeck’s earlier music was harmonically rich and fresher, drawing from a contemporary “classical” palette, which he used to influence arrangements of standard tunes. He studied “classical” composition with renowned French composer Darius Milhaud, who himself had been influenced by jazz, and so the influences went full circle. (See the supplementary chapter included on the website for additional information about the marriage of jazz and classical music. Third-stream jazz is discussed later in this chapter.)

Like other white bands before his, led by Beiderbecke, Trumbauer, and Goodman, Brubeck’s quartet brought jazz out of the urban taverns that had spawned it, developing a marketable niche on the college concert circuit. His success encouraged others to follow suit, including the important cool-style black combo the MJQ, featuring pianist John Lewis and Milt Jackson on vibes. The campus market for jazz grew greatly during the 1950s, and Brubeck’s quartet cashed in before the market was swept away by the rock ’n’ roll phenomenon of the 1960s.

The tune that served to make Brubeck and his quartet familiar to households worldwide was “Take Five,” composed by his long-time associate, alto saxophonist Paul Desmond. Contemporary pop artist Billy Joel is reputed to have said that this tune was as important to him as “Sergeant Pepper’s” was to the Beatles and rock ’n’ roll, nearly a decade later.6

Paul Desmond (1924–1977) was an anomaly in the continuum of jazz saxophonists. His playing was in direct opposition to the trend of creating an edgier, harsher, and more aggressive, brittle tone. Instead, he chose to model his serene, demure, lyrical, and dry sound on the earlier black tenor saxophonist Lester Young. A would- be writer, Desmond was intelligent, well read, and witty, often poking fun at his own playing. He once said that he was “unfashionable before anyone knew who he was. I wanted to sound like a dry martini.”7 Although, to some degree, he may have been right in his self-assessment and criticism, he influenced at least one generation of

The Dave Brubeck Quartet, with Brubeck at the piano, Paul Desmond on saxophone, Eugene Wright on bass, and Joe Morello on drums, in 1959

THE 1950s AND EARLY 1960s 237

Listen to the interviews with Dave Brubeck included on the website in the corresponding chapter.

young players and has never really been copied. Writer Gene Lees described him as “the loneliest man [he] ever knew,”8 and at times his playing is melancholy. His high register is unmistakable in its crystalline, almost classical- sounding purity, which in some ways made him the perfect partner for Brubeck, counterbalancing his own flowing, perfectly developed melodic lines with the pianist’s rhythmic, chordal, and percussive style.

Despite its unconventional approach to jazz, the Brubeck quartet, collectively and as individuals, soared in popularity, releasing a new record every 4 months or so and winning polls in Down Beat, Metronome, and Playboy magazines. It is amazing to realize that the quartet not only survived the 1960s, but also flourished, despite the rock ’n’ roll sensation that had begun to take the country by storm.

“Take Five” represents the more popular side of the Brubeck Quartet, and the track was released as a longer LP version and a shorter, edited, ready-for-radio 45-rpm record. Although some critics may not have accepted this track as great jazz, millions of listeners, including some who may not have been aware of jazz, turned on to the tune’s memorable melody and rhythm vamp that served as a bed for improvisations by Desmond and drummer Joe Morello. What makes the success of this song even more phenomenal is that it was written in 5/4 meter, rendering it a non-danceable form of jazz. Desmond was as surprised as anyone that it was so widely acclaimed, as his only goal had been to compose a simple tune to serve as a canvas for a drum-solo feature.


Dave Brubeck Quartet

“Take Five” (Desmond) 2:52 (short version)

Recorded July 1959, New York City, “Time Out”, Columbia

Reissued on Sony Legacy Records

Personnel: Dave Brubeck, piano; Paul Desmond, alto saxophone; Gene Wright, bass; Joe Morrello, drums

Form: 24-bar-song form melody (ABA) in 5/4 time

0:00–0:22 Introduction—12 bars, drums, piano, bass: 4-bar staggered entrances of drums, piano, and bass set up 5/4 groove

0:22–1:06 Opening melody section—24-bar melody:

0:22–0:36 A section—8 bars, alto sax plays melody in two similar 4-bar phrases, with continuing swinging 5/4 piano, bass, and drum groove on vamp

0:37–0:51 B section—8 bars, alto sax plays bridge melody in two similar 4-bar phrases

0:52–1:06 A section—8 bars, alto sax plays melody similar to opening A section

1:07–1:58 Solo section—28-bar alto sax solo: improvised sax solo over tonic (E flat) chord, and swinging 5/4 rhythm-section accompaniment

1:59–2:18 Solo section—11-bar drum solo: improvised drum solo, with continuing piano and bass 5/4 swinging groove

2:19–2:33 Closing melody section—8-bar melody: sax plays A section of melody, similar to opening A section

2:33–2:52 Ending tag—9 bars, sax repeats last melody fragment over 5/4 tonic chord groove in rhythm section


1 2 3 4

Mer-ri-ly Mer-ri-ly Mer-ri-ly Mer-ri-ly

EXAMPLE 10.1 Eighth-note triplets

Bill Evans (1929–1980)

Pianist Bill Evans, one of a long line of pianists who served with Miles Davis’s bands, revolutionized the jazz trio of piano, bass, and drums. In addition, his innova- tions as a pianist served to influence future generations of pianists, including Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea, and Keith Jarrett, among others. His first important collab - oration was as a member of composer George Russell’s small groups, where he premiered Russell’s famous “Concerto For Billy the Kid.” In 1958, he joined the Miles Davis Quintet during the pivotal years when the new modal approach (discussed in Chapter 12) was being developed. It was with this quintet, and in his prior work with Russell, that Evans began to demonstrate a mastery of the keyboard, technically and harmonically unique in the development of jazz-piano styling. Although he had the facility to “burn” like Bud Powell at fast tempos, he also favored a sensitive touch in the ballad tradition. Ballads were Evans’s forte, and he was known for very slow tempi that benefited his lush, sensuous, harmonic approach. His trios featured a revolving collection of bassists and drummers over his lifetime, setting a new standard in modern jazz. They developed a sense of improvised interplay by liberating the bassist from playing walking bass lines for involvement in a more melodic dialogue with the pianist. Evans’s technique was refined and fluid, although he varied his right-hand melodic approach with a more rhythmic, close block-chord solo style known as locked hands style. This more rhythmic, chord style of playing, along with his penchant

Pianist Bill Evans

THE 1950s AND EARLY 1960s 239

The website includes an excellent audio example, along with the tune discussed below, that exemplifies the interactive-dialogue improvised style developed by pianist Bill Evans and bassist Scott LaFaro. This example is the last example under the discussion of the bass in the “Performance Practice” section of the “Elements of Music” section.

1 2 3 4

Mer–––––ri–––––ly Mer–––––ri–––––ly

EXAMPLE 10.2 Quarter-note triplets

for juxtaposing one meter or tempo with another, showed a certain kinship with Brubeck’s work, although Brubeck tends to have a heavier touch at the keyboard. Evans favored the tension created by long lines of triplet patterns (groups of three) over the relentless pulse laid down by bass and drums emphasizing 4/4 meter, creating a polymetric illusion. Try tapping your feet in a regular pulse while saying mer-ri-ly, mer-ri-ly, mer-ri-ly, mer-ri-ly, as shown in the exercises in Examples 10.1 and 10.2.

The space that Evans left in his improvised phrases was purposeful, allowing the drums and bass to provide their own musical commentary. The lines were often blurred, and at times it was difficult to tell who the featured soloist was. The titles of Evans’s recordings not only reflected his musical style, but also captured his muse, by projecting his forward-looking, introspective, experimental, and cerebral creative process. Titles such as Explorations, Interplay, Intuition, Quintessence, and Moonbeams are good examples, along with the popular solo recording Conversations with Myself, where Evans took advantage of new multi-track recording technologies, enabling him to improvise in counterpoint with his previously recorded tracks, the result sounding like three pianists playing simultaneously.

The Evans trio style developed to its most advanced stage with young bassist Scott LaFaro. With LaFaro and drummer Paul Motian, Evans’s trio developed a sense of free rhythmic and melodic interplay that was truly telepathic—like three minds thinking as one. The polyphonic, contrapuntal dialogue between Evans’s and LaFaro’s irregular, non-walking bass lines illustrated a unique collaboration never before achieved. LaFaro, with his classical training, was perhaps the most important new voice, as he brought into focus an entirely new concept of bass playing that was more melodic and horn-like. While the walking style had been the most important innovation to occur during the Swing Era, LaFaro’s more liberated, soloistic style is viewed as the next most important change in jazz-bass performance practice.



Bill Evans Trio

“Witchcraft” (Leigh-Coleman) 4:30

Recorded 12/28/1959 New York City,

CD: Riverside 12–315

Personnel: Bill Evans, piano; Scott LaFaro, bass; Paul Motian, drums

Form: Repeated 40-bar-song form choruses (ABCDA1)

0:00–0:52 First chorus—40 bars

0:00–0:10 A section—8 bars, piano plays song melody in block chord style, with improvised bass fills and swinging groove with brushes on drums

0:11–0:21 B section—8 bars, piano continues song melody in block-chord style, with bass fills and swinging drums

0:21–0:31 C section—8 bars, piano plays melody in single-note style, with syncopated repeated pattern in bass, swinging groove in drums

0:31–0:41 D section—8 bars, piano plays melody in single-note style, bass walks with swinging drums

0:42–0:52 A1 section—8 bars, piano returns to block-chord-style melody, with improvised bass fills

0:52–1:44 Second chorus—40 bars, piano and bass solo

0:53–1:02 A section—8 bars, piano and bass solo together over song chord changes, creating interweaving lines in conversational style, with swinging drums

1:03–1:13 B section—8 bars, continues as in previous A section

1:14–1:23 C section—8 bars, piano continues improvised solo, with repeated bass pattern similar to first chorus C section

1:24–1:34 D section—8 bars, piano continues solo, with walking bass and swinging drums similar to first chorus D section

1:34–1:44 A1 section—8 bars, piano and bass solo continues as in previous A section

1:45–2:36 Third chorus—40 bars, piano solo

1:45–1:55 A section—8 bars, piano continues solo with walking bass and swinging drums

1:55–2:05 B section—8 bars, piano continues solo with walking bass and swinging drums

2:06–2:15 C section—8 bars, piano continues solo with repeated syncopated bass pattern similar to previous C sections

2:16–2:26 D section—8 bars, piano solos with walking bass and swinging drums, similar to previous D sections

2:26–2:37 A1 section—8 bars, piano solos with walking bass and swinging drums

2:37–3:29 Fourth chorus—40 bars, bass solo: bass improvises with occasional piano “comments,” swinging drums

3:29–4:32 Fifth chorus—47 bars

3:29–3:39 A section—8 bars, piano plays varied melody in block-chord style, similar to first chorus A section

3:40–3:50 B section—8 bars, piano plays melody in single-note style, with walking bass

3:50–4:00 C section—8 bars, piano continues single-note melody with repeated syncopated bass pattern, similar to previous C sections

4:01–4:10 D section—8 bars, piano continues single-note melody, with walking bass

4:11–4:32 A1 section with ending tag—15 bars, piano plays varied melody in block-chord style, with improvised bass fills, similar to first-chorus A section; added 7-bar ending tag

THE 1950s AND EARLY 1960s 241

Drummer Marty Morrell, who performed and recorded extensively with Evans’s trio in the mid 1960s, recently commented:

Bill was a complete musician, totally immersed in his music and deeply committed to it. He was incredibly organized and planned his sets very carefully to ensure that one tune flowed into another so the performance was as musical an experience as possible. Bill’s music was the perfect projection of his personality—sensitive and highly emotional. Nothing about his music was superfluous. Each solo was well paced, never too long and with every note perfectly placed within each phrase making for a perfectly balanced and organized improvisation. He played like a painter—every stroke had special meaning and contributed to the whole picture.9

In terms of repertoire, Evans, like most cool-style musicians, avoided the blues and focused on original material coupled with reworked, obscure standards not usually performed. Outside the trio context, his collaborations with Getz, guitarist Jim Hall, and singer Tony Bennett repre- sent the highest level of performance. Despite his problems with drug addiction, Evans continued to play a significant role in jazz up until his premature death in 1980, at the age of 51. Although he may not be the classic cool artist, he emerged during this period, and his music reflects some of the characteristics of this style. Bill Evans never produced a mediocre recording, maintaining the highest level of musical integrity throughout his abbreviated career.


Slavery of Africans in Brazil existed for over three centuries, until it was abolished in the late 1800s. African rhythmic practices are, therefore, evident in much Brazilian music. For example, the Brazilian samba can be traced to dance forms from Africa’s Angola and Congo regions. Syncopated ostinato rhythm patterns shown in the following example serve as the foundation of what became a popular ballroom dance style in the 1930s and 1940s and served as the foundation for the creation of the bossa nova. The samba style also became popular among 1970s jazz artists. The last of these examples is clearly related to the habanera, introduced in an earlier chapter.

The fact that Brazilian music is rhythmically rich, harmonically wealthy, and in part African derived, is no doubt why jazz artists were eventually drawn to this music.

The bossa nova is a later derivative of the samba, and the term is Portuguese slang for the “new wrinkle” or the “new touch.” It is played at various tempi, but rarely very fast. Although, at times, there can be an almost subliminal similarity between the clavé, samba, and the bossa nova rhythm patterns, the bossa nova is actually a discretely different rhythmic style. The basic bossa nova rhythm, which is highly syncopated, is shown in Example 10.4 on p. 243. Both the samba and bossa nova are dance styles associated with Brazil’s four-day Carnaval celebration, which features a countrywide celebration of street dances, parties, and parades, culminating in Mardi Gras. The Mardi Gras tradition has spread to many parts of the US, especially the southernmost cities.

The pattern shown in Example 10.4 represents a graphic interpretation of a fundamental bossa nova rhythm pattern. Try tapping your foot and clapping the syncopated accents that capture the essence of the bossa nova rhythm.

Listen to the interview with Bill Evans included on the companion website and found in the corresponding chapter.


Traditionally, the guitar maintains the fundamental, highly syncopated bossa nova rhythm pattern, reinforced by the drummer. The Stan Getz recording included in the companion anthology follows this scheme. Although the pattern can vary, as is the case on this recording, the essential syncopated rhythms that serve as the foundation of this style continue without interruption, helping the music to glide along.

Antonio Carlos Jobim was known to have been influenced by the cool, West-Coast jazz style, as was Brazilian guitarist Laurindo Almeida, who took up residence in Los Angeles during the peak cool years. The stage was set so the marriage between jazz and sophisticated Brazilian popular music seemed almost inevitable. Jobim and his guitarist/singer João Gilberto are accredited with developing the samba-related bossa nova style. This style had an impact on a number of American jazz artists, such as flutist Herbie Mann, Stan Kenton, and Dizzy Gillespie, who tried to exploit the use of Brazilian elements in American jazz even before they skyrocketed to widespread popularity in the US in the early 1960s. Almeida also teamed with west-coast artists such as saxophonist Bud Shank, Kenton, and others, but it wasn’t until Stan Getz and his comrades,

Variation 1


Variation 3


Variation 2


EXAMPLE 10.3 Samba rhythmic ostinato patterns; the foot image represents downward taps

including guitarist Charlie Byrd, traveled to Central and South America in 1961 on a State Department tour that the marriage between these styles became consummated and commercially successful. In 1962, they recorded Jazz Samba, which rose to be a number 1 hit on the Billboard magazine pop charts. Its unexpected, overwhelming success launched the bossa nova craze in America. According to Jazz Times author David Adler, the bossa nova served as a bridge between the fading influences of the great American songbook composers, such as George Gershwin and Cole Porter, and the rise in popularity of rock ’n’ roll.

THE 1950s AND EARLY 1960s 243

Repeat pattern

1 2 3 & 4 & 1 & 2 & 3 4

EXAMPLE 10.4 Hand clapping syncopated bossa nova rhythm—syncopated tensions occur when hand claps fall between the foot taps. There are numerous variations on the ostinato bossa nova rhythm patterns

STAN GETZ (1927–1991)

Stan Getz was a tenor saxophonist who, like baritone saxophonist Mulligan, was at home in many different jazz styles. Perhaps it is his musical connection to Lester Young’s melodic style and sound that explains why Getz is so often considered in discussions of the cool sound. Young, along with Bix Beiderbecke, is often considered one of the earliest forefathers of the cool sound, offering an alternative to the Coleman Hawkins and Louis Armstrong hot heritage. Getz first appeared on the scene, however, in the midst of the bebop revolution, gaining widespread exposure initially through his association with the more modern Woody Herman big band. It was here that he helped to establish the famous “Four Brothers” Herman saxophone section. His hit solo on Herman’s recording of “Early Autumn” served as the necessary springboard to leader status, and he recorded his first quartet sides in the late 1940s. Like so many white, cool-era players, Getz had learned to create a style that was fresh and free of many of the clichéd bopisms associated with Parker and his crowd. What makes Getz somewhat difficult to classify is his chameleon-like style, for he could comfortably play hot, swinging solos, and yet was equally at home in the more subdued, cool style of the 1950s. He was fairly inactive for much of the 1950s, as he struggled to conquer drug addiction, and it was his ingenious recording of Eddie Sauter’s Focus, a suite for strings and rhythm, that helped to restart his career.

Although Getz was instrumental in launching the bossa nova jazz craze, initially with his recording of “Desafinando” from the successful Jazz Samba album, it was his follow-up recordings with Brazilian singers such as Astrud and João Gilberto that pushed his career over the top, winning him Album and Record of the Year for the ever-popular “The Girl From Ipanema.” Billboard’s pop charts only showed the Beatles’ A Hard Day’s Night ahead of this initial Getz/Gilberto collaboration. The bossa nova soundtrack of the award-winning film Black Orpheus also played a significant part in raising American audiences’ awareness of this popular, native Brazilian folk style. “Corcovado” (also known as “Quiet Nights”), “One Note Samba,” and “How Insensitive” were all popular recordings


that followed, introducing the Brazilian samba, a number of Brazilian musicians, and a battery of native percussion instruments to American audiences. Getz’s light, airy sound was a wonderful complement to the wispy, vibrato-less sound of the Brazilian vocalists. An analogy could be made to the musical rapport that also existed between Lester Young and Billie Holiday, whose two sounds were symbiotic. Getz had always had a penchant for romantic ballads and was drawn to the similar sultry, romantic quality in Brazilian music. It is the combination of lyrical, romantic, and twisting melodies with the busy rhythms that provides an element of tension that is the essence of the bossa nova style.

The jazz bossa nova recordings released by Getz, and by a host of others who capitalized on the “easy listening” nature of this music, were a huge success in the US, selling millions of records. Even AM radio stations aired 45-rpm single versions of these hits. It is difficult to achieve commercial success without compromising artistic integrity, but Getz did just this with his immensely popular bossa nova recordings. Getz, in a 1990 interview with Terry Gross on her NPR syndicated Fresh Air program, explained why he was drawn to this Brazilian style: “[The bossa nova] is very beautiful music with suggestive, laid back rhythms. The melodies are beautiful, sad and romantic. It’s a folk music and all folk music is beautiful and it goes perfectly with jazz.”10

In the following song, included in the online audio anthology, Getz demonstrates his ease at improvising in this genre and is accompanied by the famous Brazilian guitarist/singer João Gilberto. Although the title suggests that it is a samba, the guitar and drum patterns more closely resemble the rhythmic style of a medium-fast bossa nova. The bossa nova and samba are Brazilian folk-dance rhythms. Getz’s solo is certainly one of the happiest on record in this style, demonstrating his facility in improvising complex double-time phrases, tempered by sultry blues-derived lines. Also of note in this session is the participation of pianist Antonio Carlos Jobim, who is undeniably the most recognized composer of Brazilian bossa novas and sambas.

Stan Getz in a live performance


Stan Getz/João Gilberto

“So Danço Samba” (de Moraes, Jobim) 2:33 (excerpt)

Recorded New York City, 3/18–19/1963, Verve LP 8858651

CD reissue, Verve 810 048


The fact that significant jazz and classical composers as well as performers (Miles Davis, J.J. Johnson, John Lewis, Duke Ellington, Charles Mingus, and Gunther Schuller) were attracted to the idea of merging certain aspects of the jazz tradition with classical composition techniques and instrumentations lends credibility to the third-stream jazz movement. Although the product of this movement in the mid and late 1950s through early 1960s was not particularly attractive to the general public, nor for that matter to many of the mainstream jazz musicians, it was a movement that has endured, had lasting influence, and gained some momentum as time passed.

Two landmark recordings from the mid 1950s serve to document the work of crossover composers. J.J. Johnson, Gunther Schuller, John Lewis, Milton Babbit, Charles Mingus, Duke Ellington, and George Russell represent the wide range of possibilities for composers who are open to the influences of both music styles. It was Schuller, a true Renaissance man in this age of specialization, who participated in the movement and coined the term “third stream” to describe it. As European classical art music is labeled the first stream, and American jazz the second, the term “third stream” seemed appropriate to describe a style of music that combined elements of both traditions. It was a logical direction for jazz composers to pursue, as, by the late 1950s, jazz had developed a strong tradition, with an identity and repertoire that could now withstand the risk of affiliations with the music from which its founders had initially sought distance. Jazz pianist/composer John Lewis described it as a “hybrid,” while Schuller used the term to include music that “attempts to fuse the essential characteristics of jazz and so called ‘classical’ music.”11

Although third-stream jazz was far more structured and organized from the compositional standpoint than any other style of jazz, composers who work in this style seek to create pieces that present the illusion or impression of spontaneity that is so essential to good jazz. The problem these composers faced was in creating music that was tightly controlled, while also allowing the important elements of jazz—rhythmic vitality, spontaneity, and the essential element of improvisation—to rule. As many of the pieces from the heart of this period show, this union was a tall order and one that often went unsatisfied. Consequently, much of the original music labeled “third stream” was not well received by either the jazz audience or the classical crowd. In Schuller’s own words:

THE 1950s AND EARLY 1960s 245

Personnel: Stan Getz, tenor saxophone; Astrud Gilberto, vocals; João Gilberto, guitar, vocals; Milton Banana, drums; Tommy Williams, bass; Antonio Carlos Jobim, piano

Form: Repeated song form (AABA = chorus)

0:00–0:05 Introduction—4-bar guitar and piano sets up bossa nova groove

0:06–0:51 First chorus—32-bar vocal melody:

0:06–0:16 A section—8-bar vocal (João Gilberto) in Brazilian Portuguese, with guitar, bass, and drums accompaniment

0:17–0:28 A section—8-bar vocal, similar to A section

0:28–0:39 B section—8-bar vocal bridge, similar to A section

0:40–0:51 A section—8-bar vocal, similar to previous A sections

0:52–1:38 Second chorus—32-bar tenor sax solo: improvised tenor sax solo with bossa nova rhythm-section accompaniment, key change to F major

1:39–2:25 Third chorus—32-bar tenor sax solo: continued tenor sax solo, key change to A-flat major

2:25–2:33 Fourth chorus—(fades out) tenor sax returns to melody


A fair amount of controversy did, of course, surround this kind of music in the 1950s and early 1960s, primarily in the professional magazines and journals. Great fears were expressed on both sides of the stylistic fence that, in coming together, the two musics would seriously damage each other. Jazz critics were worried that the “spontaneity” of jazz would be severely affected with alleged “stiffness,” “straightness,” “abstractness”— what was deemed the “academicism”—of modern “classical music.” Conversely, critics on the “classical” side either considered these “experiments” as simplistic and naïve, or were concerned that the sacred precincts of modern music would be contaminated by the populist “vulgarities” and/or “simple-mindedness” of jazz.12

Some of the best work found on the aforementioned Columbia recording are those pieces by MJQ pianist John Lewis, composer/conductor/author Gunther Schuller, classical composer Milton Babbitt, who contributed “All Set,” George Russell with his three-movement “All About Rosie,” Duke Ellington, and bebop trombonist J.J. Johnson.


J.J. Johnson

“Sonnet For Brass” (1st movement of Poem For Brass ), (J. J Johnson) 3:49

Recorded 10/23/1956

Reissued on The Birth of Third Stream

Columbia/Legacy CK 64929

Personnel: Trumpet: John Ware, Bernie Glow, Arthur Statter; trombone: Urbie Green, John Clark; French horn: Joseph Singer, Ray Alonge, Arthur Sussman, Jim Buffington; baritone horn: John Swallow, Ronald Ricketts; tuba: Bill Barber; bass: Milt Hinton; drums: Osie Johnson

Soloists: Miles Davis, flugelhorn, and J.J. Johnson, trombone

0:00–1:14 Introduction—slow, stately introduction alternating between brass and percussion. Dramatic crescendos and pyramid-style brass entrances create a fanfare-like beginning. Fragments of melodic material appear that will later comprise the main theme

1:15–1:49 Main thematic material—played by muted brass in a strict 2/4 meter and tempo

1:50–2:00 Miles Davis improvises on flugelhorn

2:01–2:04 Solo break

2:05–2:40 Rhythm section returns to accompany soloist; brass backgrounds behind subtle, cool-style solo

2:41–2:47 Composed 4-bar break based on thematic material

2:48–2:55 Trombone soloist plays 8 bars of written solo

2:56–3:03 Trombone improvisation

3:04–3:10 Trombone returns to composed thematic material

3:11–3:15 Trombone improvisation continues

3:16–3:22 Trombone returns to composed thematic material

3:23–3:49 Brief written trombone statements set up ensemble transition to the next section of the suite. Final muted trumpet gesture refers to earlier thematic material

First introduced in the previous chapter as the first trombonist to embrace the modern bebop approach, J.J. Johnson was also a key figure in the Miles Davis/Gil Evans historic Birth of the Cool recordings and a major force as both a composer and performer in the third-stream jazz movement. His multi-movement Suite for Brass, also known as Poem For Brass, is a high point on the previously mentioned 1956 Columbia recording. The first movement of this work, discussed in the listening guide on p. 246, features Johnson on trombone as soloist, along with Miles Davis.

Father Time is often kinder in assessing new art forms than are initially skeptical critics, because the new movements gradually become more widely accepted and respected as time passes. The marriage of classical music and jazz in this third-stream tradition is an example of just such a development, for more recent efforts such as Wynton Marsalis’s All Rise, although not necessarily labeled “third stream,” have become more widely accepted, as composers learn how best to marry what, on the surface, appears to be two polar opposites.

Lennie Tristano (1919–1978)

Blind pianist Lennie Tristano is perhaps the most overlooked and misunderstood artist from this period. Although jazz fans bought Brubeck, Mulligan, Baker, Davis, and the MJQ, they largely ignored the cerebral music that Tristano created along with his colleagues Billy Bauer on guitar, bassist Arnold Fishkin, and protégés Warne Marsh and Lee Konitz on saxophones. Cool was one thing, but Tristano’s music, described by some as “chilly,” was too much for most listeners. “Why don’t they leave me alone,” said Tristano in a Down Beat article. “I’m told my music is supposed to be cold, over-intellectual. If what I play were intellectual, it would have to be all premeditated and it isn’t.”13 His 1949 Capitol Records recordings of “Digression” and “Intuition” should be strong proof of his statement, as both are completely free improvisations—pure spontaneous dialogue between the musicians, with no preconceived ideas about harmonic structure, melody, or form. These experimental works were so progressive that the record company failed to issue them until years later. Tristano’s work predates the much-praised free-jazz recordings by Ornette Coleman and Cecil Taylor (discussed in detail in upcoming chapters) by nearly a decade, but very few knew about it!

“Intuition,” included in the online audio anthology, features a series of ever-changing tex - tures, changing tempi, and improvised ges tures. Listening to it can be compared to viewing an abstract painting, where the depth of field, or fore - ground and background, are in a constant state of flux. The instrumentalists are not bound by tradi - tional guidelines or role expectations. The musi - cians’ contributions to the group sound are more important to this style than their roles as individual soloists. Apparently, the only pre conceived aspect of the performance was the order of instrument entrances. Alto saxophonist Lee Konitz’s indivi - duality is particularly remarkable in view of the bebop firestorm that surrounded him at this time. His unique tone quality can only be compared in later years to that of Paul Desmond. It is obvious that the entire group on this track has completely shed any clichés attributed to earlier or mainstream jazz styles.

THE 1950s AND EARLY 1960s 247

Pianist Lennie Tristano



Lennie Tristano and Warne Marsh

“Intuition” 2:27

Recorded 5/16/1949 New York City

CD: Capital Jazz (Blue Note) CDP 72438 8 52771 2 2

Personnel: Lennie Tristano, piano; Lee Konitz, alto saxophone; Warne Marsh, tenor saxophone; Billy Bauer, guitar; Arnold Fishkin, bass

Form: Free form—no set key, harmony, or form

0:00–0:20 Solo piano establishes a tempo

0:21–0:33 Alto sax enters in improvised dialogue with piano

0:34–0:41 Bass enters walking, but quickly adopting style to more gestural-like exchanges

0:42–1:07 Guitar enters texture, varying style between single-note solo style and playing chords rhythm style

1:08–1:46 Tenor sax enters; entire group is now engaged in improvised dialogue

1:47–end Tempo begins to erode, gradually slowing down, and continues to decay to the end as instruments drop out

Tristano was praised as Metronome magazine’s “Musician of the Year” in 1947, but his recordings were largely unsuccessful from a commercial standpoint, and Tristano turned to teaching. His music was an anomaly in the midst of bebop and cool. His style was based on long improvised lines, often played without swing and devoid of any reference to bop clichés. His tunes were sometimes harmonically complex, forcing the soloists to radically depart from the well-trodden path laid by the bop generation. Much like Art Tatum, Tristano and his music defied categorization, although he is generally associated with this period of increased intellectual developments and cool jazz.


Others who contributed to the West-Coast, cool sound found that being based in the Hollywood area led to more lucrative careers in film and television studios and ended their careers as full- time jazz musicians. The popular poll winners throughout this decade were Dave Brubeck, the MJQ, Miles Davis, Paul Desmond, J.J. Johnson, drummer Shelly Manne, Gil Evans as arranger, Stan Getz, Gerry Mulligan, Chet Baker, and the progressive, adventuresome big band fronted by Stan Kenton. In the vocal categories, Ella Fitzgerald continued to capture the attention of fans and critics, along with Frank Sinatra, whose style and demeanor wowed the women and sold millions of records in the 1950s.

THE 1950s AND EARLY 1960s 249


Chronicle of Historic Events

The timeline that follows will put the developments of jazz discussed in this chapter into a larger historical context, providing you with a better sense of how landmark musical events may relate to others that match your personal areas of interest.

1949 • Rodgers and Hammerstein create Broadway musical South Pacific.

• Harry S. Truman wins the presidential election.

• The Lone Ranger debuts on TV.

• Arthur Miller’s play Death of a Salesman wins a Pulitzer Prize.

1950 • Senator McCarthy denounces communism and begins efforts to purge the U.S. of all members of this party, blacklisting many well-known personalities.

• The U.S. backs South Korea against North Korea.

• William Faulkner wins a Nobel Prize for Literature, and Ralph Bunch wins the Peace Prize.

• The U.S. census indicates there are 150 million people in the US.

• The cold war begins.

• Miles Davis and cohorts record the famous Birth of the Cool sessions.

1951 • The US detonates an H-Bomb.

• The UNIVAC electronic, digital computer is unveiled.

• I Love Lucy is an instant TV success.

1952 • Mad Magazine is first published.

• Dwight “Ike” Eisenhower is elected 34th president.

• Gerry Mulligan and Chet Baker record “Line for Lyons” with their piano-less quartet.

• Author Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man presents the black man’s underworld.

1953 • McDonald’s fast-food hamburger chain begins.

• McCarthy and the House Committee on Un-American Activities continue to persecute many artists, poets, writers, actors, and other intelligensia.

• After 3 years, the Korean War draws to a close, but not before there are 3 million casualties.

• Marilyn Monroe becomes a film sex symbol.

1954 • The Brown Vs. Board of Education decision by the courts is a key victory for the NAACP and desegregation movement—the Supreme Court rules against school segregation.

• Ernest Hemingway wins a Nobel Prize for Literature.

• McCarthy and the communist witch-hunt are condemned.

• The first Newport Jazz Festival is a success.

1955 • The minimum wage is set at $1.

• African-American Rosa Parks is arrested in Alabama for not giving up her bus seat.

1956 • Civil rights advocate Martin Luther King has his home bombed.

• Peyton Place by Grace Metalious becomes a bestseller.

• The musical My Fair Lady hits Broadway.

• Top films include Invasion of the Body Snatchers, The Ten Commandments, and Bus Stop.

• The University of Alabama is sued for banning blacks from enrolling.

• Elvis Presley becomes a rock ’n’ roll idol.

• Bus segregation is declared unconstitutional.

• The University of Chicago develops the first nuclear power plant.

1957 • John F. Kennedy is awarded a Pulitzer Prize for Profiles in Courage.

• Count Basie’s band becomes the first black band to perform at New York City’s Waldorf-Astoria Hotel.

• President Eisenhower sends federal troops to assist the integration of Little Rock, Arkansas, schools.

• Leonard Bernstein enjoys a hit with his musical West Side Story.

• Beat author Jack Kerouac publishes On the Road.

1958 • Texan Van Cliburn wins the Tchaikovsky Piano Competition.

• NASA is created to bolster the U.S. position in the space race against the USSR.

• The Kingston Trio, Everly Brothers, Little Richard, Rick Nelson, and Chuck Berry are pop music successes.

• A Texas Instruments engineer invents the micro-chip.

1959 • Coast-to-coast flight becomes a reality, along with passenger flights to Europe.

• Jazz singer Billie Holiday dies at age 44.

• Integrated schools open in Little Rock, Arkansas.

• Dictator Fidel Castro takes control of Cuba.

• The Dave Brubeck Quartet becomes popular with its recording of “Take Five.”

• Alaska and Hawaii become the 49th and 50th states, respectively.

• Some Like It Hot and Ben Hur are popular films.

• The Bill Evans trio records “Witchcraft.”


The 1950s was a time of prosperity, but also unrest, in America. The space race, the cold war, the first nuclear power plant, and court rulings in favor of school desegregation all mark the 1950s. Advances in technology with the huge growth of television and hi-fi audio equipment gave parents of the baby-boom generation more reasons to stay home in their leisure time, rather than going out to clubs. These factors and the birth of rock ’n’ roll increasingly diverted the public’s attention from jazz. One development that served to renew interest in some of the more established jazz groups was the jazz festival, notably the Newport Jazz Festival, which began in 1954 and became an annual event.

Although Miles Davis’s Birth of the Cool album signaled the beginning of cool jazz, the majority of important cool-jazz artists/groups were white. California was home to a number of influential cool-jazz musicians, leading to the somewhat inaccurate term “West Coast,” which, for many, was synonymous with cool jazz. This style, in comparison with bebop, tended to be more subdued and delicate, with few instances of especially loud, high, or fast playing. Other differences


THE 1950s AND EARLY 1960s 251

contrasting with earlier styles included the use of instruments not normally associated with jazz (French horn, tuba, flute, etc.), very little use of the blues form, mixed meters, and, in some cases, a return to emphasizing the arrangement and ensemble playing.

The quartet featuring baritone saxophonist Gerry Mulligan and trumpeter/vocalist Chet Baker gained much popularity in the 1950s. This group used no piano or other chording instruments, deriving harmony instead from the counterpoint between the bass and two wind instruments. The Dave Brubeck Quartet achieved worldwide fame, especially for selections in odd meters, including “Take Five” (in 5/4 meter) and others. The Modern Jazz Quartet was an important black cool-jazz group, which remained virtually intact for many years. Lennie Tristano led groups in the late 1940s and 1950s that, in addition to playing in a cool style, also recorded the first examples of free jazz, “Intuition” and “Digression,” in 1949. Tenor saxophonist Stan Getz was a contributor to numerous styles of jazz, but is best known for his part merging the bossa nova, a Brazilian style, with jazz. Defying classification, Bill Evans’s influence as a pianist and leader is undeniable. His trios explored a new concept in rhythm-section playing in which interaction was more important than the traditional roles of piano, bass, and drums.

The term “third stream,” coined by Gunther Schuller, refers to a music combining elements of the European classical tradition and jazz. It was a music that lacked much popular appeal and emerged during this period of greater intellectualism in jazz.

Sadly, the 1950s marked the end of a number of brilliant jazz careers and left fans looking for new heroes. Charlie Parker, Fats Navarro, Billie Holliday, Lester Young, Art Tatum, the Dorsey Brothers, Frankie Trumbauer, James P. Johnson, W.C. Handy, Walter Page, and the great young trumpeter discussed in the next chapter, Clifford Brown, all passed on in the 1950s, leaving room for new voices and new directions in jazz. However, before we look too far into the next decade, it is important to examine the other side of jazz in the 1950s, discussed in the next chapter—the African-American mainstream jazz that stemmed from the bebop tradition in the previous decade.


Important terms, people, and bands:

Terms Bossa nova Contrapuntal Locked hands style McCarthyism Samba Third stream

People Chet Baker Dave Brubeck

Miles Davis Paul Desmond Bill Evans Gil Evans Stan Getz Milt Jackson Antonio Carlos Jobim J.J. Johnson Lee Konitz Scott LaFaro John Lewis

Warne Marsh Gerry Mulligan Lennie Tristano

Bands Bill Evans Trio Dave Brubeck Quartet Gerry Mulligan Quartet Modern Jazz Quartet


1. What new and unusual instruments not typically associated with jazz were sometimes heard in cool-style bands?

2. What was the first cool recording, and when was it made? What was unique about its instrumentation? Who were the principal musicians, including arrangers, involved in creating this new sound?

3. What was unique about the Mulligan/Baker quartet?

4. Did cool-style jazz attract primarily black or white musicians?

5. Describe and characterize the cool-jazz sound.

6. In what way did Bill Evans change the approach to jazz trio performance?

7. What Chicago-style musicians are credited as early pioneers of the more cool approach to jazz?

8. What is the significance of the MJQ?

9. Describe the political, social, and literary climate during the 1950s, and how there was a parallel to what transpired in the jazz community.

10. Who coined the term “third stream,” and what is meant by this term?

11. What great arranger partnered with Miles Davis to contribute some of jazz’s most serious concert works?

12. Why was Lennie Tristano important to jazz?

13. Who is the jazz saxophonist identified with the bossa nova jazz movement?

14. Which Dave Brubeck Quartet recording sold over a million records to become one of the most widely recognized instrumental jazz recordings of all time? Can you explain this success?

15. Which quartet was the most popular to emerge from this period?



Postmodern Jazz


C H A P T E R 1 1

Tradition Meets the Avant-Garde Moderns and Early Postmoderns Coexist

Fire! That’s what people want. Music is supposed to wash away the dust of everyday life. . . . You’re supposed to make them turn-around, pat their feet. That’s what jazz is all about. . . . I think you should play to the people.1

—Art Blakey

American civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (1929–1968) speaks at a rally held at the Robert Taylor Houses in Chicago, Illinois, 1960s



Although some have dismissed hard-bop jazz as little more than an extension of bebop, there was more to it than that. Bebop had been a somewhat self-centered, egocentric music that was often both intellectually and technically demanding. To the listener, bop musicians often seemed


Among his many discoveries and theories, Sir Isaac Newton is known best for his three laws of physics. One of these principles often applies to the arts. He said that, “for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.”2 Newton’s principle is sometimes referred to in the arts as the pendulum theory, implying that styles swing radically as a reaction and in opposition to one another. This principle is quite applicable to the jazz of the 1950s and 1960s. Cool had been a reaction to bebop. Hard bop, referred to at the time as mainstream jazz, was a reaction to the predominantly white jazz of the cool school, serving as a continuation of the bop tradition. Hard bop featured somewhat more aggressive horn and rhythm-section playing, with driving rhythm-section grooves and an overall harsher sound with heavier articulation from the horn players. The term “mainstream” is often used to define jazz from the 1950s and 1960s. Critic Stanley Dance first coined the term and, although the definition of this term is somewhat murky, it is usually applied to describe jazz that embraces key aspects of the jazz tradition. Mainstream usually refers to jazz based on typical harmonic schemes that follow tightly organized formal schemes.3

If fans had trouble grasping what the term jazz meant in the early years, then the waters became even more muddied in the 1950s and 1960s. There was the “mainstream” and so many other currents and eddies, making it easier than ever before to be confused about what jazz meant. On the other hand, this was a healthy situation, as it afforded fans many choices. The 1950s and 1960s represent a time of great debate, with critics and fans defending their own preferences and advocating their acceptance as the true jazz gospel. It was an artistically healthy time though, as many jazz groups and performers crossed over freely from one style to another, cross-pollinating as they went. Perhaps the number of styles prevalent during this time was the result of jazzmen’s quest to reclaim jazz’s spot as America’s popular music, at a time when it was quickly losing ground to emerging pop styles and becoming more the art music of an underground subculture. There was a great deal to choose from, and it all followed some jazz prescripts—cool, bossa nova, hard bop, funky-soul jazz, and third stream. Some artists were able to walk the line between commercialism and art music. They promoted a style of music with accessible qualities, both enjoyable to play and listen to, while offering sufficient musical challenges to satisfy their creative needs. It is not unusual for artists to want to be accepted by creating work that is enjoyed by many. On the other hand, artists such as Ornette Coleman unleashed free, avant-garde jazz at the close of the 1950s, signaling new postmodern trends in jazz that, for many listeners, were difficult to grasp. Coleman and his mostly African-American cohorts pursued a more experimental music that stretched boundaries and expressed, through music, their personal quest for freedom and equality. Some musicians in this group of experimentalists kept a tether attaching their music to jazz’s heritage, but the most adventuresome were less concerned with adhering to any traditions, as these roots, especially to the black artists, recalled earlier years of repression, creative control, and even bondage.

uptight, appearing to take themselves and their music too seriously. With the possible exception of Dizzy Gillespie, there seemed to be little fun associated with bop, and most of its progenitors seemed to be working hard to gain acceptance as artists rather than entertainers. On the other hand, many second-generation boppers (hard boppers) were more concerned about playing to the listener and engaging them. Although much of the fundamental improvisational language remained unchanged from the bebop era, there were many characteristics that set hard bop apart from it:

• A significant number of tunes were composed using minor tonalities. • Musicians returned to their roots in blues, gospel, and African music with the use of vocal-

like blues inflections, call–response phrases, and a general “down-home” quality, no doubt reflecting the growing popularity of R & B (rhythm and blues) styles.

• Tempos were generally slower than bebop tunes and, at times, featured strong, repetitive bass lines with relentlessly driving drum patterns.

• Artists, some who promoted funky jazz, showed more concern for audience appeal, making their music more accessible melodically and rhythmically.

• Tunes often promoted complex arrangements compared with the earlier generation’s loose, informal jam-session approach. Hard-bop arrangements might include structured introductions and interludes between solos, as well as very specific, organized accompaniments to solos, much as had been the case in earlier, big-band arrangements.

• Bands began to place a greater emphasis on original music, relying less on standards as the basis for new arrangements. Some new material was based on the blues, but other pieces were based on original harmonic progressions.

• Contrary to the cool sound, hard-bop drummers rarely used brushes and continued to develop a more melodic approach to their solo playing.

• Trading fours between soloists became ever more popular, often featuring the drums in a round-robin fashion with horn soloists and piano. The longer 331⁄3-rpm LP recording format encouraged longer solos.

As author David Rosenthal points out, the music and hard-bop musicians themselves projected an element of “badness” and “nastiness.” The performers were emoting a “mean,” guttural quality that was “down and dirty.” The music could, at times, appear “sinister, menacing,” and full of “malice toward a society” still withholding equal rights for African-Americans.4 Even the titles of many hard-bop tunes and recordings promoted an air of protest and defiance, or an awareness of African roots, i.e. Sonny Rollins’s Freedom Suite; Max Roach’s Deeds, Not Words and We Insist! The Freedom Suite; Cannonball Adderley’s, African Waltz and Why Am I Treated So Bad!; Jackie McLean’s Let Freedom Ring; Art Blakey’s The Freedom Rider; John Coltrane’s Bahia, Dakar, Spirituals and Africa Brass; and Andrew Hill’s Black Fire and Judgment. With the advent of 331⁄3-rpm long- playing records, performers could create recordings with multiple tunes that presented a thematic message.

Hard-bop activities were centered primarily in large, industrial, eastern and upper midwestern cities. Philadelphia, New York, Boston, Detroit, and Chicago were strongholds, but even the West Coast had its share of black-music strongholds. Clubs in San Francisco and, of course, the Los Angeles area supported this brand of jazz, as well as the cool style.

Although the personnel in hard-bop bands may have changed, for the most part it was an era of great stability, and many leaders enjoyed decades of success with small, hard-bop, and cool- oriented bands. Successful hard-bop leaders included Horace Silver, Miles Davis, Max Roach, Lee Morgan, Hank Mobley, Cannonball Adderley, John Coltrane, and Art Blakey and his Jazz Messengers.




No leader or group better exemplifies the music and attitude of this period than drummer Art Blakey and his Jazz Messengers. Tadd Dameron’s late-1940s bebop band, with his identifiable style of composition, is considered the precursor of the Messengers and other like bands in the 1950s and through the early years of the following decade. Art Blakey, along with his first pianist Horace Silver, deserves much of the credit for building on Dameron’s tradition and establishing the fundamental 1950s hard-bop sound. Both rhythm-section players are also noted for mentoring generations of young players who, under their tutelage, became leaders in their own right. Blakey was already a veteran by the time he hooked up with Silver, as he had played with many of the important bebop figures. The Jazz Messengers experienced several changes in personnel before it became an established co-operative band in the mid 1950s. The group was first billed as Horace Silver and the Jazz Messengers. Silver by now had also become an established, sought-after sideman, performing and recording with Stan Getz, Oscar Pettiford, and Coleman Hawkins. The group’s first outing at Birdland in 1954 produced a two-volume recording entitled A Night at Birdland with the Art Blakey Quintet. The quintet featured the amazing young trumpeter Clifford Brown, and this landmark recording set the tone for at least the following decade. Later that year, Blakey and Silver reorganized the band, bringing in seasoned Texas-born trumpeter Kenny Dorham and Philadelphia tenor saxophonist Hank Mobley. This group’s first recording for the Blue Note label bore its new name on the cover—Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers—and included Silver’s gospel-tinged “The Preacher,” along with other toe-tapping, rhythmically driving pieces. Although the personnel stayed intact for only a year, they served their purpose, establishing Blakey as the leader of a dynasty that would reign for four decades. Silver struck out on his own and accomplished similar success with his own quintets. The list of Blakey and Silver sidemen who carried their tradition into the future is as long as it is impressive.

Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers play at the Birdhouse, a Chicago jazz club, 1961. L–R: Wayne Shorter on saxophone, Art Blakey on drums, and Lee Morgan on trumpet


The group’s music was always fresh and original, dictated by these strong horn players and pianists such as Silver and Bobby Timmons, who also composed material for the band. It is Silver and Timmons who are justifiably given credit for developing a major current within the hard-bop mainstream, known as funky jazz, or soul jazz. The Messengers’ seminal 1958 recording featuring Timmons’s title track “Moanin’” capitalized further on groundwork already established by Silver in his “The Preacher.” Listen and follow the analysis of this classic tune included in the accompanying anthology. Its three salient features—(1) a call and response using a church-like amen response; (2) a very definite and aggressive rhythmic style that encourages the listener to tap the beat; and (3) an apparent blues roots—typify the “funky” style. Lee Morgan’s trumpet solo on “Moanin’” is drippy with soulful, bluesy gestures, smears, and half-valve techniques that add to the greasy appeal of his solo.

Alto Sax: Lou Donaldson, Gary Bartz, Donald Harrison, Jackie McLean, Bobby Watson, Kenny Garrett

Tenor Sax: Sonny Stitt, Benny Golson, Ira Sullivan, Johnny Griffin, Hank Mobley, Carter Jefferson, Billy Pierce, Dave Schnitter, Wayne Shorter, Branford Marsalis, Jean Toussaint, Javon Jackson

Trumpet: Clifford Brown, Lee Morgan, Kenny Dorham, Freddie Hubbard, Bill Hardman, Donald Byrd, Woody Shaw, Ira Sullivan, Chuck Mangione, Terence Blanchard, Wallace Roney, Philip Harper, Wynton Marsalis, Brian Lynch, Valery Ponomarev

Trombone: Curtis Fuller, Julian Priester, Steve Turré, Robin Eubanks Piano: Horace Silver, Bobby Timmons, Sam Dockery, Joanne Brackeen, Cedar Walton,

Walter Davis, Jr., Ronnie Mathews, Keith Jarrett, George Cables, James Williams, Donald Brown, Bennie Green, Mulgrew Miller, Geoff Keezer

Bass: Spanky DeBreast, Jymie Merritt, Victor Sproles, Doug Watkins, Charles Fambrough, Lonnie Plaxico, Peter Washington, Reggie Workman, Dennis Irwin

Alto Sax: James Spaulding Tenor Sax: Bob Berg, George Coleman, Joe Henderson, Hank Mobley, Michael Brecker, Junior Cook,

Clifford Jordan, Tyrone Washington Trumpet: Randy Brecker, Art Farmer, Carmell Jones, Woody Shaw, Donald Byrd, Tom Harrell,

Blue Mitchell, Charles Tolliver, Kenny Dorham Bass: Bob Cranshaw, Larry Ridley, Gene Taylor, John Williams, Teddy Kotick, Teddy Smith,

Doug Watkins Drums: Art Blakey, Louis Hayes, Mickey Roker, John Harris, Jr., Roger Humphries, Billy Cobham,

Roy Brooks, Al Foster

FIGURE 11.1 Jazz Messengers Sidemen (bold indicates most influential. Recommended recordings at close of chapter)

FIGURE 11.2 Horace Silver Sidemen (bold indicates most influential. Recommended recordings at close of chapter)


Other Hard-Bop Messengers

Horace Silver (1928–)

It would be unfair not to acquaint you with the work of a few of Blakey’s outstanding Messengers, who left their own legacy as leaders following their association with the drummer. Horace Silver (1928–) is undoubtedly one of the most noted not discussed in later chapters. His own brand of jazz relied heavily on strong and often repetitive bass lines, simple but strong melodies, blues- influenced chord progressions, and musical influences from outside the US, in particular his native Cape Verde. Silver’s recordings Cape Verdean Blues and Song For My Father reflect his Portuguese ancestry and interest in calypso music. Through his compositions, Silver’s recordings often gave the listener a sense of continuity from track to track, e.g. Cape Verdean Blues and his most popular recording, Song For My Father. The titles of many of his other fine recordings used wordplays based on his name that suggested musical continuity throughout, such as Silver ’n Wood, Silver ’n Brass and Silver ’n Voices. Like Blakey, he relied heavily on the strengths of outstanding sidemen, a list of which is a who’s who of contemporary jazz (see Figure 11.2 on p. 259). Although now in semi-retirement, Silver still occasionally releases a new recording. “Jazz had a little better shot [then] than today,” Silver said, “precisely because they would take a jazz tune and put it on the jukebox where it had more potential for people hearing it. Also because [the tunes] had that danceable thing.”5

“Strollin’,” the Silver track included in the online audio anthology, is a fine representation of the hard-bop sound. The chord progression is quite sophisticated and far more complex than his blues- and Latin-influenced tunes. The tune is based on two contrasting 8-measure phrases that, for analysis purposes, will be labeled A and B. Each of these 8-measure phrases can be further divided into two 4-measure sections—the first serving as the antecedent and the second the


Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers

“Moanin’” (Bobby Timmons) 3:02 (excerpt)

Recorded 10/30/1958, Blue Note BST 84003

Reissued: “The Blue Note Years” 7243–4-96375–2-8

Personnel: Lee Morgan, trumpet; Benny Golson, tenor saxophone; Bobby Timmons, piano; Jymie Merritt, bass; Art Blakey, drums

Form: Repeated song form (AA1BA)

0:00–0:59 First chorus—32 bars, theme:

0:00–0:14 A section—8 bars, piano plays melody theme (call), answered by stop-time response

0:15–0:29 A1 section—8 bars, trumpet and saxophone play melody theme, answered by stop-time band response

0:30–0:43 B section—8 bars, trumpet and saxophone play bridge melody over rhythm section, no stop-time

0:44–0:59 A section—8 bars, piano plays A theme melody, answered by stop-time band responses

1:00–1:59 Second chorus—32 bars (AABA), trumpet solo, with rhythm accompaniment, in straight 4/4 shuffle-style time

2:00–3:01 Third chorus—34 bars (AABA), trumpet solo, with rhythm accompaniment. First 2 measures of fourth chorus set up tenor sax solo at fade



Horace Silver

“Strollin’” (Silver) 4:57

Recorded New York City 7/8/1960

Blue Note Records Horace-Scope CDP 7 84042 2

Personnel: Blue Mitchell, trumpet; Junior Cook, tenor saxophone; Horace Silver, piano; Gene Taylor, bass; Roy Brooks, drums

Form: 32-measure tune in four 8-measure phrases—ABAB1; Key of D-flat major

0:00–0:01 Begins with short bass pick-up

0:02–0:15 First chorus—trumpet and tenor sax state first theme (A) in harmony; rhythm section plays in 2-beat style

0:16–0:30 B theme stated in similar fashion

0:31–0:44 Return to first theme (A) with exact repetition

0:45–0:59 B1 second theme, second 4 measures entirely different than earlier B

1:00–1:56 Second chorus—Blue Mitchell’s trumpet solo on entire form

1:57–2:53 Third chorus—Junior Cook’s tenor sax solo on entire form (notice lack of vibrato); quotes tune at close of solo (2:40), ending with a bluesy descending line

2:54–3:49 Fourth chorus—Silver’s piano solo begins; aggressive left-hand low register jabs are similar to Thelonious Monk’s style; quotes from Sonny Rollins “St. Thomas” at 3:36–3:40

3:50–4:45 Fifth chorus—trumpet and sax return to state tune with rhythm-section 2-beat style accompaniment

4:46–end Coda is additional 2 measures

consequent response. The body of the tune is a good illustration of the older “2-beat” swing style, with the drummer playing the signature open–closed hi-hat cymbal pattern, while the bass emphasizes primarily beats 1 and 3—hence, the “2-beat” identification. It isn’t until the solos begin that the bassist begins walking a 4-beat line, more typical of this era. The relaxed gait, as the tempo suggests, and infectious melody make “Strollin’” one of the many unforgettable Silver tunes.

Clifford Brown (1930–1956) and Sonny Rollins (1930–)

Clifford Brown was critically acclaimed for his uncompromising work in elevating the hard-bop style to a higher level. He was lauded as the next Dizzy Gillespie—the torchbearer for the next generation of jazz trumpeters—and he most likely would have had an even more lasting impact had he not died in an automobile accident at the age of only 25.

After brief apprenticeships with bands led by Lionel Hampton and Tadd Dameron, Brown joined up with drummer Max Roach to form the Clifford Brown–Max Roach Quintet in 1954,

Listen to the interviews with Horace Silver that can be found in the corresponding chapter on the website.


etching their first recordings in California. This recording is evidence that more than just the “cool” sound was emanating from the West Coast during the 1950s. Roach, who was a veteran drummer from the bebop generation, had impeccable credentials, never swaying from the straight and narrow artistic path and always uncompromising in his social and political doctrines. As an artist, he did what he could to express through music dis satisfaction with the black man’s status in America’s society.

The first generation of the Roach–Brown Quintet featured Richie Powell, Bud Powell’s younger brother, and west-coast tenor saxophonist, Harold Land. The few recordings that this band made, and the 1956 version with saxophonist Sonny Rollins replacing Land, stand alone as some of the best that hard bop had to offer. Brown’s musician ship was unparalleled, with flawless technique and a trumpet sound that was controlled and fat and flowed like warm butter from his bell. His style was based in part on Fats Navarro, but his improvisations show originality and an uncanny ability to play long, meaningful improvised lines that make so much sense one has to wonder how they could have been created spontaneously. Land was an able counterpart, but Rollins was more than his equal.

Tenor saxophonist Sonny Rollins (1930–) is often mentioned in discussions of the hard-bop style, although his climb to critical acclaim began in the latter days of the bebop era. Although Dexter Gordon is considered the first tenor saxophonist to incorporate Bird’s bop alto style, the younger Sonny Rollins in many ways is perhaps a better example of the first modern, post-war tenor saxophonist to take this instrument to new heights in later years. His recordings with Parker, the MJQ, J.J. Johnson, Fats Navarro, Miles Davis, and the Clifford Brown–Max Roach Quintet

Clifford Brown at a recording session

Tenor saxophonist Sonny Rollins performs at the Berkshire Music Barn Jazz Festival in Lenox, MA, 1956

put him at the center of bebop and the hard-bop explosions. In later years, Rollins, or “Newk” as he was nicknamed, preferred the trio setting in the 1950s. With the absence of piano or guitar in his trios, he followed the same path as those piano-less groups led by cool-style saxophonist Gerry Mulligan and the subsequent free-jazz experimentalist Ornette Coleman. In recent times, Branford Marsalis has followed this same model, preferring the melodic freedom encouraged by the absence of chord-playing instruments. Rollins is recognized by his fat sound, reminiscent of Dexter Gordon and the elder statesman Coleman Hawkins. According to Gunther Schuller, he was the first of the modern improvisers to create long-winded solos that consisted of a series of logically developed motives. In contrast to most soloists from this period, who based their solos



Sonny Rollins

“Pent Up House” (Sonny Rollins) 8:52

From Sonny Rollins Plus 4

Recorded New Jersey 3/22/1956

Prestige PRCD-30159–2

Personnel: Sonny Rollins, tenor saxophone; Clifford Brown, trumpet; Richie Powell, piano; George Morrow, bass; Max Roach, drums

Form: A (8) A1 (4) A (4) for 16 total bars per full chorus

0:00–0:19 Theme

0:20–0:39 Theme repeated

0:40–0:58 First chorus—Clifford Brown improvises with bass

0:59–1:18 Second chorus—drums join in; Brown improvises long line through almost entire chorus

1:19–1:38 Third chorus—piano adds sparse comping; ends chorus with blues lines

1:39–1:57 Fourth chorus—trumpet builds solo by high-register shouts and double-time phrases

1:58–2:18 Fifth chorus—trumpet continues to improvise

2:19–2:39 Sixth chorus—trumpet continues to improvise, gradually winding down solo

2:40–2:58 Seventh chorus—Rollins begins sax solo, logically building on Brown’s last phrase

2:59–3:19 Eighth chorus—Rollins shows skill in developing improvised motives using repetition and sequences

3:20–3:39 Ninth chorus—Rollins displays technical ability with double-time passages

3:40–4:21 10th chorus—soloist uses motivic development techniques—repetition, sequence, and thematic variation

4:22–4:42 11th chorus—final improvised sax chorus

4:43–6:45 Six more choruses—piano improvises using blues, riffs, alternating with longer, bebop-inspired lines

6:46–7:05 Two choruses of drums trading 2-bar phrases with sax and trumpet

7:27–7:43 Drums solo on 16-bar form

7:44–8:06 Second drum solo chorus

8:07–8:27 Return to “head”

8:28–end Final repeat of “head” and short tag to end

on a series of unrelated ideas, guided solely by the progression of chords, Rollins developed solos that were based on thematic developments of his improvised ideas. His improvisations could be considered more melodically driven, in the style of Lester Young, rather than directed by Coleman Hawkin’s style, which was geared more to harmony.

By the late 1950s, following a long list of outstanding collaborations, recordings, and compo - sitions, Rollins was heralded as the leading tenor saxophonist in the bop, post-bop tradition. He contributed a number of compositions now considered as staples in the jazz reper toire, including “Valse Hot,” “Blue 7,” “St. Thomas,” “Oleo,” “Airegin,” and “Doxy.” Of particular interest are his “Valse Hot,” for its 3/4 meter (an unusual digression for the times from the predictable 4/4 meter), and the popular “St. Thomas,” which featured a calypso rhythmic feel. It is no wonder that Rollins enjoyed a mild obsession with this brand of Caribbean music, as his parents hailed from the West Indies.

One of the most compelling recordings made during this period is “Pent Up House,” which Rollins recorded with the Clifford Brown–Max Roach Quintet and which is included in the online audio collection. The solos by Brown, Rollins, and Roach represent the most creative and fluid playing from the era. Listen to the long lines that Brown spins out in his improvisation, without pausing for a breath. Rollins demonstrates his evolving mastery of motivic development and cliché-free improvisa tions on this recording. Take note of how he develops simple ideas before moving on to a new musical thought.

Other fine examples of Clifford Brown at his peak in the quintet, with Harold Land on saxo - phone, are “Daahoud,” with a listening guide included on the companion website, “Joy Spring,” “Jordu,” and “Sandu.” These recordings represent some of the most memorable moments from this great quintet.


Funky jazz, or soul jazz as some call it, is a style that united jazz with the down-home qualities of the black community and popular music: R & B, gospel, and sanctified, holy-roller music. It was a time for black musicians to reconnect with a heritage that had, in some ways, been previously shunned because of memories of repression and slavery. Time had provided some distancing, and black musicians could once again be proud of their rich culture and history. It was particularly significant that their efforts to renovate these musical roots came in the midst of the biggest push for civil rights since emancipation. Funky jazz raised the black communities’ awareness of their cultural heritage, and white audiences appreciated it for its memorable melodies, slower tempos, and strong rhythmic basis, which rendered some of the material almost danceable.6 The more popular and danceable recordings found their way into jukeboxes across the country.

The titles of hard-bop recordings and tunes often gave away the funky punch line, even before a first playing. For example, Horace Silver’s “The Jody Grind,” “Sister Sadie,” “Serenade to a Soul Sister,” and “The Preacher”; Cannonball Adderley’s album Them Dirty Blues, featuring “Work Song” and “Dat Dare,” Mercy, Mercy, Mercy, and Why Am I Treated So Bad; Jimmy Smith’s The Sermon, Home Cookin’ and Back at the Chicken Shack, and, in the 1960s, Herbie Hancock’s popular “Watermelon Man.” The themes of these titles all relate to “soul foods,” religious activities, black slang, or comments on their earlier years of slavery and repression. Other titles invok- ing black slang terms or hip language, such as “blue(s),” “dig,” “boss,” “funky,” “mojo,” “workin’,” and “cookin’,” were also commonplace.7 This music, some of which was marketed on the 45-rpm record designed for the popular music market, reached a large audience through jukeboxes and radio play. Alto saxophonist and Blakey alumnus Jackie McLean referred to the popularization of this style of jazz as “a banner of racial self-affirmation.”8 Musical values for black


and white musicians, as well as audiences, had changed radically by the mid 1960s, caused largely by the surge in popularity of commercially viable pop groups such as the Beatles, Rolling Stones, Cream, Jimi Hendrix, and others. Since the earliest recordings by the Original Dixieland Jazz Band, the recording industry has shown interest in promoting white popular styles that are sometimes imitations or renditions of black music.

Although funky jazz was popular with many fans, who accepted it as an honest effort to make an artistic endeavor commercially palatable, many critics felt differently. For example, Martin Williams felt that the movement was largely “regressive, self-conscious, monotonous, and even contrived.”9 But the musicians fought back. Saxophonist Cannonball Adderley, well known for his commercially successful funky recordings in the early 1960s, countered with his own rebuttal:

We just played music we enjoyed. There was nothing calculated about it. However, I feel a responsibility to the man who’s paying the freight, and I try to be reasonably entertaining by playing music I think they want to hear—and music I think they should hear. In addition to this responsibility to the audience, you have a responsibility to yourself, the band, [and] your art. I see no reason why jazz musicians should not live well simply because they’re jazz musicians and artists. Responsibility to the art doesn’t mean you have to be hungry.10

Critics, in some cases, were more prone to write favorably about hard-bop musicians, who they viewed as not catering to commercial tastes. For better or worse, critics have always sided with music that is less influenced by public taste and more likely to have an impact on the long- range artistic development of the music. To be commercially successful as a jazz artist is often, but fortunately not always, the kiss of death when it comes to critical favor. The popular, funky brand of jazz sold records, engaged audiences, and was commercially viable. It resurfaced in the 1990s as the basis for what has been termed “acid jazz.” Many of the early recordings in this new genre were little more than facelifts of tunes from the late 1950s and 1960s.


Two instruments emerged as powerful forces in jazz during the1950s and 1960s and collaborated to capitalize on the jazz-soul movement. Although the guitar had been a standard member of the rhythm section through the swing years, it wasn’t until Charlie Christian arrived on the scene, along with modern amplification technology in the 1940s, that the instrument became viable as a solo instrument. The organs used by Count Basie and Fats Waller in earlier years were of older design and remnants of silent-film theaters. New electronic technologies enabled this instrument to become more viable in contemporary settings.

Wes Montgomery (1923–1968)

Guitarist Wes Montgomery was raised in Indianapolis, where he worked with his brothers and other local musicians. His first opportunity for more widespread exposure was as a member of Lionel Hampton’s band. Hampton is remembered for giving many young, unknown musicians their first opportunity for broader exposure. Riverside Records enabled Montgomery to strike out on his own, and his first recording for that label quickly established him as one of the leading innovators on this instrument. It seems that self-taught musicians, as was Montgomery, often discover revolu - tionary new techniques, as they are not bound by accepted conventions. This was the case with Montgomery, who employed thumb picking, chord soloing (in contrast to single-note), and octave techniques (two notes an octave apart played simultaneously) that had never before been used.


These techniques are evident in the recording found on the accompanying anthology. He quickly became known as the most important guitarist since Charlie Christian and was signed by Verve records. Although this label offered better exposure, its producers favored slicker, poppish, commercial productions, framing Montgomery with lush string backup arrangements of pop tunes of the day such as “California Dreamin’” and “Goin’ Out of My Head.”

The other important aspect of Montgomery’s brief career that was significant to the develop - ment of jazz styles was his organ-trio sessions, the basis of his first recordings for the Riverside label. Organ trios, coupling the instrument with guitar or saxophone and drums, became a popular config uration in the late 1950s, as they were easy to record and inexpensive to book. The organ’s bass pedals eliminated the need for a bass player. The sound of the electronic Hammond organ, with its broad, dynamic range and versatile tone quality, resonated with the new wave of pop music stemming from the R & B and rock ’n’ roll community. To quote author David Rosenthal: “There was something raucous, something down and dirty in its array of electronic growls, wails, moans, and shrill ostinato [persistently repeated rhythmic and/or melodic phrase, sometimes a bass line] tidal waves that immediately appealed to black ears,”11 and many white followers of main stream jazz. The organ is considered the immediate predecessor of the synthesizer, which rose to popularity in the 1970s.

Jimmy Smith (1925–2005)

Montgomery’s first recordings paired him with organist Melvin Rhyne, but Montgomery’s overnight success led to a recording partnership with another rising star—organist Jimmy Smith. Smith, who began his career as a Philadelphia-area pianist, was influenced by contemporary blues organists Wild Bill Davis and Bill Doggett and ultimately found more success as an organist.


Guitarist Wes Montgomery, c.1960 Jimmy Smith sitting at the Hammond B3 organ


He developed a ferocious right hand and can be recognized by his rapid-fire bursts of notes. He used the instrument to full advantage, playing it like a powerful orchestra, capable of projecting a wide range of moods, from electrifying to more subtle. Like other black artists from the period, Smith rode the crest of the popular funky-soul tidal wave, releasing numerous recordings that featured secular, modern versions of sanctified, down-home, and dirty blues. The organ was a natural for this style, as it was so often a part of worship in the sanctified churches. Other organists followed Smith’s lead, capitalizing on the new trend. They included Richard “Groove” Holmes, “Brother” Jack McDuff, and the queen of jazz organ, Shirley Scott. In addition to his work with Montgomery, Smith recorded with other solid guitarists, such as Kenny Burrell and Quentin Warren, who earned popularity during this era. The organ trios from this period can be considered as the genesis of many of the more modern “groove” bands, popularized in the late 1990s and early part of this new century by guitarists John Scofield, the group Medeski Martin & Wood, and second-generation Philadelphia organist Joey DeFrancesco.

The “James and Wes” excerpt from a critically acclaimed recording that is included in the online audio anthology features Smith and Montgomery in a straight-ahead, swinging blues tune, demonstrating their muscular style as soloists and showing off the aforementioned personal stylistic traits. Notice that, in this trio, there is no bass instrument, and Smith’s feet, playing bass lines on the organ bass pedals, fulfill this role. Organists could also use one of the keyboards to play fast, up-tempo bass lines.


Jimmy Smith and Wes Montgomery

“James and Wes” (Smith) 2:48 (excerpt)

Recorded 9/28/1966, Verve “Jimmy and Wes: The Dynamic Duo” SVLP 8678

Reissued Verve Master Edition Series

Personnel: Jimmy Smith, organ; Wes Montgomery, guitar; Grady Tate, drums

Form: Repeated blues 12-bar blues

0:00–0:16 First chorus—12-bar melody: organ plays riff melody with guitar, organ bass pedal, and drum accompaniment

0:17–0:33 Second chorus—12-bar melody: organ repeats riff melody with similar accompaniment

0:34–0:50 Third chorus—12-bar guitar solo: improvised guitar solo, with organ and drums accompaniment

0:51–1:08 Fourth chorus—12-bar organ solo: improvised organ solo with guitar, organ bass pedal, and drums accompaniment

1:08–1:25 Fifth chorus—12-bar guitar solo: improvised guitar solo with organ sustained chords, organ bass pedal, and drums accompaniment

1:26–1:42 Sixth chorus—12-bar organ solo: improvised organ solo with organ bass pedal and drums accompaniment, guitar tacet

1:42–1:59 Seventh chorus—12-bar guitar solo: improvised guitar solo (octaves), with organ sustained chords, organ bass pedal, and drums accompaniment

2:00–2:17 Eighth chorus—12-bar melody: organ plays riff melody with guitar, organ bass pedal, and drum accompaniment, octave guitar fills at end

2:18–2:48 Ninth chorus—12-bar melody: organ plays riff melody with guitar, organ bass pedal, and drum accompaniment, octave guitar fills at end


It is important to realize that, although the sun had set on big-band popularity, there were a number who survived the onslaught of popular new music trends and small-group jazz innovations. One such survivor was pianist and arranger/composer Stan Kenton (1911–1979). Kenton first surfaced in the late 1940s, leading his own band, which was labeled “progressive” even for those times. Stan Kenton and arranger Johnny Richards were also pioneers in the mingling of jazz and Afro-Latin styles during the 1940s and 1950s. Machito supplied the percussionists for Kenton’s first band that enjoyed success with this new format. “Peanut Vendor” was Kenton’s first recording success in this new vein and utilized a version of the Cuban bolero. The following quote from Stan Kenton accurately describes the atmosphere during this period of Afro-Latin influence:

Rhythmically, the Cubans play the most exciting stuff. We won’t copy them exactly, but

we will copy some of their devices and apply them to what we’re trying to do. The guys in

our rhythm section are doing just that. So are the guys in Woody’s [Herman]. And while we

keep moving toward the Cubans rhythmically, they’re moving toward us melodically. We

both have a lot to learn.12


Contemporary bandleader Stan Kenton rehearses his jazz band in London, in preparation for a performance at the Royal Albert Hall



Stan Kenton

Cuban Fire Suite

“La Suerte de los Tontos” (Fortune of Fools) composed/arranged by Johnny Richards, 4:17

Recorded 5/22–24/1956, New York City

Capital Jazz (Blue Note) CDP77962602

Soloists: Lennie Niehaus, alto sax; Vinnie Tanno, trumpet

Personnel: Trumpets: Ed Leddy, Sam Noto, Lee Katzman, Phil Gilbert, Al Mattaliano, Vince Tano; Trombones: Bob Fitzpatrick, Carl Fontana, Kent Larson, Don Kelly; French horns: Irving Rosenthal, Julius Watkins; Tuba: Jay McAllister; Saxophones: Lennie Niehaus, alto; Bill Perkins, Lucky Thompson, tenors; Billy Root, baritone; Rhythm section: Stan Kenton, piano; Ralph Blaze, guitar; Curtis Counce, bass; Mel Lewis, drums; Percussion: Saul Gubin or George Gaber, tympani; Willie Rodriguez, bongo; Tommy Lopez, conga; George Laguna, timbale; Roger Mozian, clavés; Mario Alvarez, maracas

Form: Song form (ABA1) in D major


0:00–0:10 Contrapuntal brass playing variations to main theme

0:11–0:24 French horns enter, followed by saxes, trombones, tuba, and baritone sax stating initial motive

0:24–0:28 Tuba solo

0:28–0:33 Percussion and brass enter

0:34–0:38 Percussion and rhythm section establish Latin tempo

0:39–1:13 Contrapuntal layering: bass (0:39), saxes (0:43), trombones (0:50), trumpets plus additional sax line (0:59); section crescendos as each new part enters

First chorus:

1:14–1:29 Primary A theme

1:30–1:45 B section featuring trumpets and French horns

1:46–1:57 A1, variation on first A theme


1:58–2:04 Percussion interlude with French horns, trombones, and rhythm serves as transition to sax solo that follows

Second chorus:

2:05–2:44 Lennie Niehaus plays alto sax solo on ABA form with brass background figures added


2:45–2:49 Short interlude links alto solo to trumpet solo that follows

Third chorus;

2:50–3:28 Trumpet solo on form with sax backgrounds


3:29–3:33 Brief brass and percussion interlude

Fourth chorus:

3:34–3:41 A theme only partially restated

3:41–end New material features exchanges between brass and percussion and represents the high point of the piece

Kenton’s dynamic recording entitled the Cuban Fire Suite followed “Peanut Vendor.” The suite of compositions on this recording are all composed by Johnny Richards (John Cascales) and are the product of his extensive study in Latin America, Mexico, Cuba, and the Latino sections of New York City. Each composition is based on a traditional Latin rhythm of predominantly Cuban origin. Cuban Fire represents a landmark recording in his lengthy Kenton discography and served to launch Richard’s career as an arranger/composer. “La Suerte de los Tontos,” the sixth movement from the suite, demonstrates the power and machismo that Kenton’s band was known for.

Kenton not only incorporated the influences of bebop and Cubop, but also ventured into the realm of jazz influenced by contemporary classical music with his LA Neophonic Orchestra. As was the case with most big-band leaders, Kenton helped to launch the careers of a host of notable jazz performers and arrangers, including cool-style saxophonists Art Pepper, Lee Konitz, Lennie Niehaus, Stan Getz, and Zoot Sims (the latter two also played with Woody Herman). Additionally, brass men Frank Rosolino, Carl Fontana, and Maynard Ferguson, among many others, did tours of duty with Kenton’s band. Kenton was a champion, in the 1960s, of the still- young jazz-education movement, sponsoring camps and clinics throughout the US and employing exceptional young college graduates. Kenton passed on in 1979, and his will prohibited the formation of “ghost bands” to recreate his music.


Although much of the 1950s and 1960s was consumed with modern mainstream jazz, at the close of the 1950s, Ornette Coleman stood the jazz world on its head, signaling with much fanfare a new age of postmodern jazz. It isn’t exactly clear when postmodernism began, nor is there unanimous consensus about what the term means. There are some generalities that can be used in an effort to clarify how the term can be applied to the jazz that follows Coleman’s path and emerges in other art forms in the mid-to-late 1960s and beyond. Typically, postmodernism refers to art that features a mixture of historical styles and new approaches, warped through various forms of reinterpretation and purposeful misrepresentation. The result is considered unconventional and sometimes produces what could be considered a parody. Such performances are not governed by the same rules used to create the original art, and as such are not subject to analysis by applying familiar, traditional criteria. Instead, postmodern artists attempt to force the development of entirely new sets of criteria by creating works that defy analysis by traditional means. These artists develop new processes for the making of art by bringing diverse elements together in new and different ways. In some situations, the creative process can be more important than the product.13

Postmodern art also tends to reflect the influences of new techniques and technologies, particularly those associated with electronics and the information age. The postmodern age stands as a time of great diversity, when no singular trend is evident, but instead many different directions are being pursued simultaneously. Diversity is an important trend to remember as we progress through the 1960s and beyond, tracing further developments in jazz.




California-based alto saxophonist Ornette Coleman, a transplanted Texan with a strong grounding in bebop and

R & B, turned the jazz world upside down, causing international debate and controversy in 1958–1959 with the

release of his first recordings on the Contemporary and Atlantic labels. He delivered an entirely new kind of jazz

that was well suited to the new, postmodern age.

In the early years, Coleman kicked around his native area of Fort Worth, Texas, and nearby states playing in

R & B and circus bands. As a saxophonist, he was largely self-taught and preferred to play a plastic alto sax.

Coleman uses a mouthpiece and reed combination that helps him control pitch and produce a vocal quality that,

at times, simulates crying, shouting, and moaning and is akin to early blues and African vocal styles. “You can

always reach into the human sound of a voice on your horn if you’re actually hearing,” Coleman said, “and [trying]

to express the warmth of the human voice.”14 Not everyone was impressed with his originality, however, and he

endured unimaginable abuses, simply because he chose to play in a non-traditional manner. Some found his

sound and sense of pitch to be offensive, annoying, unschooled, and inappropriate. He suffered beatings and had

his horn destroyed because of his quest for individuality.

He left Texas for Los Angeles, where he hoped to find a more supportive environment, but found it necessary

to sustain himself by taking low-paying odd jobs that enabled him to seek out nightly jam sessions. The local

musicians found Coleman to be eccentric, brazen, and without any inhibitions, and most refused to let him sit in,

often asking him to leave the bandstand. In time, however, Coleman encountered a small group of kindred spirits

who recognized that he offered something entirely new, not based on the laws laid down by the bebop crowd

that everyone was bound to at the time. For example, trumpeter Bobby Bradford cited Coleman’s penchant for

playing “outside the harmony.” (The term “outside” is often used to refer to avant-garde, free jazz that denies most prescribed rules of functional harmony, form, and melody.) “I was very impressed that he had the courage and

audacity to test Charlie Parker’s law,” Bradford said. “That’s when I began to think of him as a genius.”15

So what made Coleman and his music so controversial and different than what had come before? For the

jazz neophyte or newcomer to experimental free jazz, Coleman’s music presents a challenge, for it is difficult to

draw relationships to other, familiar musical experiences. His music defies predictability. Aside from occasional

reoccurring melodic and rhythmic fragments that are composed and serve as springboards for improvisation,

nothing can be labeled as formulaic. There are several important aspects of Coleman’s legacy to become

acquainted with before hearing his music:

• His compositions, although often folksy in quality, frequently introduced shifting meters, changing tempos,

and odd phrase groupings.

• Bass and drums sometimes played in different, opposing tempos.

• Although Coleman’s composed themes sometimes imply a tone or key center, his improvisations are polytonal,

in that they constantly shift from one tonality to another.

• Coleman and Don Cherry, his longtime trumpeter, did not adhere to conventional ideas of intonation. By

traditional standards, they often played out of tune.

• Their improvisations did not rely on prescribed chords or formal structure and were based solely on melody

and its development.

• Although his main themes are composed and often demonstrate a sense of form, his improvisations are often

free of any allegiance to the form and are rather unpredictable departures from his theme.

• Coleman’s group concept was revolutionary from the standpoint of liberating the rhythm section from its earlier

roles. The bassist was free to follow his own muse rather than playing rigid, walking bass lines that implied

specific chords in a progression. The drummer was equally free to interact in a free-form dialogue with the

other members of the quartet.


Coleman’s music could be compared to aleatoric classical music, as the outcomes of his quartet’s improvisations were based somewhat on chance and total spontaneity, without premeditation. On the other hand, there is an intentional dialogue in Coleman’s performances, although unrestrained by traditional guidelines. Such planned group interchange does not exist in aleatoric, “chance” music. Coleman said:

When our group plays, before we start out to play, we do not have any idea what the end result will be. Each player is free to contribute what he feels in the music at any given moment . . . I don’t tell the members of my group what to do. I let everyone express himself just as he wants to.16

As his tunes are based on melody for its own sake, without reference to prescribed harmony, his improvisations too were melodically derived, with no concern for chords or a set harmonic progression. Consequently, and like no other jazz before, each performance of a tune was radically different and comprised of a higher degree of pure improvisation than ever before.

Coleman termed the theory that drove his music “harmolodics,” but it is a term more widely known than understood. In essence, it was his way of describing the ever-shifting relationships that can occur when freely improvised melodies interact with one another, implying different accidental harmonies and tonalities. Shifting key centers helped to ensure that any harmonic relationship that might exist between melody and bass line was strictly accidental. Imagine the result of a three-voice vocal group, all singing the same song, but with each singer changing keys at will and using different rhythms. A melody, or a melodic phrase, can be set to any number of different chords, and he wanted his bassists to be free and sensitive to any of the possible relationships that they could help to imply. To ensure that harmony never influenced his players’ decisions, he did not use a pianist or guitarist. In many ways, Coleman’s seminal quartets demonstrated a further extension of earlier works by (1) Gerry Mulligan’s

Saxophonist Ornette Coleman with trumpeter Don Cherry at the 5 Spot, New York City


piano-less quartets; (2) Bill Evans’s trios, which sought to liberate the bass from its time-keeping responsibilities; (3) early New Orleans jazz, which often featured improvised counterpoint between instruments; (4) Thelonious Monk’s free-spirited compositions and performance style; and (5) Lennie Tristano, who pioneered free jazz in 1949.

Coleman’s improvisations, and those of his other quartet members, were almost entirely unpredictable, although based in part on the more conservative and predictable rhythmic style of Charlie Parker. Coleman’s rhythmic style was more irregular than earlier beboppers and kept the listener constantly off balance. There were no traditional signposts to guide the listener, just pure emotion. Some critics and musicians criticized him for being a charlatan who had no training. In the 1958 Down Beat readers’ poll, the year Brubeck Quartet saxophonist Paul Desmond won, Coleman received only 21 votes following the release of his first two recordings on the Contemporary label. Many other critics and musicians, on the other hand, such as Nat Hentoff, Amiri Baraka, Schuller, and Lewis, felt that Coleman was making a “unique and valuable contribution to tomorrow’s music.”17

As a true postmodern, Coleman forced the listener to abandon old standards and means of comparison and evaluation. His music made it necessary to re-evaluate the way jazz was judged. Coleman and his producers were convinced that his new brand of jazz was a beacon for those looking for a new direction, and his first album titles illustrate his commitment to predicting and pioneering the future—Something Else, Tomorrow Is the Question, The Shape of Jazz to Come, and Change of the Century.

Listen to “Mind and Time,” included in the online audio anthology. See if you can identify the unusual characteristics of Coleman’s quartet style. This track is from his second release on the Contemporary label and was the first recording to demonstrate the true essence of his style, which led to a contract from the major, New York-based Atlantic label. Despite its freshness, the tune itself adheres closely to a standard riff-like call–response format. Trumpeter Don Cherry described it as a 10-bar form,18 but it is actually 111⁄2 measures in all, divided into an initial 61⁄2-measure phrase, followed by a 5-measure phrase in 4/4 meter. The entire 111⁄2-measure tune is repeated before improvised solos begin.

Coleman’s greatest accomplishment is, perhaps, the 1960 Atlantic Records recording entitled Free Jazz (an excerpt of which is included on the SCCJ (editions prior to 2010) ), which featured two quartets playing 36 minutes of uninterrupted, improvised music. An appropriate painting ‘White Light’ by abstract expressionist painter Jackson Pollock is featured on the cover of this landmark recording. Pollock’s postmodern abstract expressionism offered a perfect visual association with Coleman’s music.

Aside from a few composed, but loosely played, ensemble passages that serve as interludes between solos, the balance of Free Jazz features entirely improvised dialogues between the two quartets. The result is a mind- boggling stream-of-consciousness mosaic of ever-changing textures. It can be compared to a group of people at a party, all having conversations, interacting, some voices sounding more predominant at times than others. Although some of the rhythm instruments essentially fulfill traditional roles as timekeepers, others are free to interact, comment, and react to the horn players’ gestures. The horn players, in turn, base their background riffs on ideas that began as improvisations stated by the primary soloist at the moment. Down Beat magazine played it safe when it reviewed this recording, electing to straddle the fence by printing opinions that represented both camps. For example, Pete Welding gave the recording a five-star rating—the highest possible. He said that the recording “does not break with jazz tradition; rather it restores to currency an element that has been absent in most jazz since the onset of the swing orchestra—spontaneous group improvisation.”19 Welding went on to say that Coleman’s music was “relentless in its re-examination of the role of collective improvisation, and this is, in many respects, where the work is most successful.”20 Critic John Tynan, who had been one of Coleman’s cheerleaders, contributing rave reviews following the release of his first two recordings, had a different impression of Coleman’s Free Jazz. He wrote:

Collective improvisation? Nonsense. The only semblance of collectivity lies in the fact that these eight nihilists were collected together in one studio at one time and with one common cause: to destroy the music that gave them birth. Give them top marks for the attempt.21



Ornette Coleman

“Mind and Time” (Coleman)

Recorded 1/16/1959, Contemporary 7569

Reissued on OJC OJCCD-342–2

Personnel: Ornette Coleman, alto sax; Donald Cherry, trumpet; Percy Heath, bass; Red Mitchell, bass; Shelley Manne, drums

Form: 111⁄2-measure melody

0:00–0:22 Melody

0:00–0:06 A section—61⁄2 bars, alto sax and trumpet play melody in unison, with rhythm-section accompaniment

0:06–0:11 B section—5 bars, sax and trumpet play melody in unison, with rhythm-section accompaniment

0:11–0:17 A section—61⁄2 bars, sax and trumpet repeat A-section melody in unison, with rhythm-section accompaniment

0:17–0:22 B section—5 bars, sax and trumpet repeat B-section melody in unison, with rhythm-section accompaniment

0:23–1:52 Open “free” alto sax solo, exploring the melodic and harmonic material of the melody section, with bass and drum swinging accompaniment

1:52–2:36 Open “free” trumpet solo, exploring the melodic and harmonic material of the melody section, with bass and drum swinging accompaniment

2:36–end Melody with 3-bar ending tag, sax and trumpet play melody in unison, similar to opening melody section, with ending tag inverting last phrase of melody

Tynan’s refusal to give any stars in his review of Free Jazz, the recording that coined the term and set a new course for jazz, also known as the “new thing,” will no doubt continue to be disputed. It cannot, however, be disputed that Coleman’s music exerted a magnetic force that attracted and influenced many musicians, changing the way in which they thought about playing jazz. Coleman and his music laid the foundation for the formation of the non-profit Association for the Advancement of Creative Music (AACM), centered in Chicago and devoted to supporting black, avant-garde jazz. Muhal Richard Abrams founded the organization in 1965, following a landmark series of sold-out concerts the year before, organized by Bill Dixon and billed as “The October Revolution in Jazz.” The AACM can be directly linked to the formation of such contemporary avant-garde bands as the Art Ensemble of Chicago and Anthony Braxton’s various ensembles. A similar organization in St. Louis, known as the Black Artists Group, was formed in 1968 in the image of the AACM and later helped to foster groups such as the adventuresome World Saxophone Quartet.

The less-informed listener often finds free jazz difficult to understand or appreciate, for its practitioners took so many liberties, breaking away from well-established traditions. Any new art form or style becomes difficult to understand when there is no frame of reference, causing one to lose the ability to relate it to something that is understood. Free jazz, therefore, threw many listeners off balance, as it continues to do even today. Figure 11.3, opposite, should help to put this style in sharper focus, making the juxtaposition and contrast of styles and approaches clearer.


Free Modern Mainstream

Repertoire New compositions, often lacking chord progressions. Based more on melody and rhythm than harmony. If supporting harmony is used, rules governing functional harmony are ignored. Form and structure may be less obvious or completely absent.

Blues, tunes based on “rhythm changes” harmonic scheme, contrafacts, recreations of standard pop and show tunes, and newly composed tunes by jazz artists. Melodies clearly derived from harmonies.

Form and structure fairly obvious, frequently based on modern song form.

Instrument Roles Bass – Freed from walking bass lines derived from prescribed chords. Not always in sync with drums. Instrument emerges with equal stature as potential soloist. Piano – At times absent from ensemble altogether, or freed from traditional comping roles defined by traditional chord progressions. Drums – Played in unconventional ways, sometimes out of time, out of sync with bass, and without traditional swing style. Solos in a more melodic fashion and often not bound by tempo or form. Horns – State melody, if one exists, followed by improvisations often not bound by traditional chord progressions, or any chords whatsoever.

Bass – walking bass lines derived from prescribed chord progression and in sync with drums. Instrument emerges with equal stature as potential soloist. Piano – Bound by prescribed chord progression. Supplies harmonic backdrop to melody. Comping technique employed to accompany soloists. Drums – Played in conventional synchronized fashion. Along with the bassist, defines steady tempo, and style. Modern drummers begin to solo in a more melodic fashion. Often bound by tempo and form of composition. Horns – Statement of melody followed by improvisations. Improvisations bound completely by prescribed chord progression.

Performance Practice

Horn players redefine traditionally accepted standards in intonation, phrasing, sound and articulation. Use of bop inspired rhythms, but free of melodic clichés. Performance practice less bound by the jazz tradition and reflecting past practices.

Impromptu, seemingly ragged, or under- rehearsed performances as compared to traditional standards. Overall performance presentation is less prescribed and expected. Focus on group textures – soundscapes – rather than consistently well-defined individual solos. (There are exceptions to this in free jazz however) Simultaneous dialogue, like the many conversations of a crowd, and similar to the collective polyphonic improvisations heard in early New Orleans jazz but less governed by traditional harmonies and bass lines. Individual instrument voices often blurred.

Intonation and overall sound derived from traditionally accepted European performance practice, but with ample room for personal expression. Performance practice heavily influenced by the jazz tradition and past practice. Cohesive, well-rehearsed performances. Performance presentation is well defined, prescribed by past practice. Clearly defined sections with each instrument fulfilling a well-understood role including that of soloist. Clearly defined musical dialogue where main characters are well defined and individual instrument voices easily separated.

FIGURE 11.3 A study in contrasts: A comparison of the characteristics of free jazz and more traditionally grounded, modern mainstream jazz styles



Charles Mingus (1922–1979)—The Underdog

Many artists were profoundly influenced by Coleman’s work, although they may have been more careful in pushing the envelope beyond what had become the accepted mainstream. One such artist was indisputably one of the most important pioneers and bandleader–composers of the late-modern and early-postmodern era—Charles Mingus. Much like Monk, Mingus was an enigma on and off stage. His passionate, volatile, unpredictable, and highly expressive music was a true reflection of his personality. Mingus was a powerfully commanding bassist who hailed from Watts, the Los Angeles equivalent of New York’s Harlem. He set out to be a classical performer and composer, studying trombone, cello, and bass in the European classical tradition, but Mingus found that a career as an orchestral musician was an unattainable dream for

black men and women at this time. Mingus chose a career in jazz, despite his concerns about the way in which he felt black artists were taken advantage of by the largely white-dominated music industry. He said, in his autobiography Beneath the Underdog, that, “Jazz is big business to the white man and you can’t move without him. We just work—ants.”22 He was outspoken about who held the rightful deed and title to this music, preaching that, despite all the primary innovations stemming from black artists, jazz had been largely usurped by white entrepreneurs.

The most innovative jazz artists throughout its history have defied categorization, and Mingus can be added to this group, along with Duke Ellington, Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk, Ornette Coleman, John Coltrane, and a few others. Although his contributions as a bass soloist were significant, it is his work as a composer that has stood the important test of time. His music was chameleon-like in reflecting roots that ranged from the blues, gospel, hollers, and work songs, to free jazz and European classical music. In many ways, he serves as an early example of a jazzman not particularly rooted in any one style, a trend that many jazz musicians follow from this point on. Although he comes out of a hard-bop tradition, there are many signs of a more postmodern approach that surface. He participated in the third-stream movement, contributing works, such as “Abstractions,” that bear little resemblance to jazz but bear more similarities to contemporary classical trends. In every Mingus composition, whether Ellingtonesque in its episodic format, or blues-drenched, with religious overtones, any number of the following attributes can combine to characterize his music:

• a loose, unrehearsed, and improvised atmosphere; • riffs, often layered in antiphonal fashion, some composed and some improvised; • a penchant for 6/8 and 3/4 meters—unusual for jazz up until this time; • hard-driving swing from the rhythm section, propelled by Mingus’s own forceful, aggressive

bass lines; • backgrounds arranged for the horn section as a backdrop to the soloist, often strong

compositional statements on par with the main theme; • shifting moods, meters, and tempos as explosive as his personality; • blues often the basis for the compositions, and a preference for minor tonalities—characteristics

shared by many hard-bop bands; • a reverence for, and loyalty to, the jazz tradition, and yet the impact of Coleman’s free jazz

is eventually felt, loosening his music up even more.

Jazz bassist and composer Charles Mingus



Charles Mingus

“Boogie Stop Shuffle” (Charles Mingus) 3:41 (original truncated LP release)

Recorded 5/5/1959 New York City

Columbia CS 8171

Personnel: Charles Mingus, bass; Danny Richmond, drums; Horace Parlan, piano; John Handy, alto saxophone; Booker Erwin, tenor saxophone; Shafi Hadi, tenor saxophone; Willie Dennis, trombone; Jimmy Knepper, trombone

Form: Repeated 12-bar blues

0:00–0:12 First chorus—12-bar riff: tenors, trombones, piano, bass, and drums play blues bass riff

0:13–0:23 Second chorus—12 bars, varied riff; piano and bass continue blues bass riff, saxes and trombones play accents and last 4 bars of theme-1 melody

0:24–0:34 Third chorus—12 bars, theme 1; piano and bass continue blues bass riff; saxes, trombones play theme 1

0:35–0:45 Fourth chorus—12 bars, theme 2; piano and bass continue blues riff; saxes, trombones play theme 2

0:46–0:57 Fifth chorus—12 bars, theme 2 repeated in saxes and trombones; piano and bass now quit blues bass riff and swing hard

0:57–1:08 Sixth chorus—12 bars, tenor sax solo (Erwin)—with backgrounds in saxes and trombones, rhythm section swinging hard

1:09–1:19 Seventh chorus—12 bars, tenor sax solo continues with backgrounds

1:20–1:30 Eighth chorus—12 bars, riff and piano solo, blues bass riff returns in saxes and trombones as piano-solo background

1:31–1:42 Ninth chorus—12 bars, riff and piano solo continues

1:42–1:53 10th chorus—12 bars, piano solo, with bass and drums

1:53–2:04 11th chorus—12 bars, piano solo continues

2:05–2:15 12th chorus—12 bars, riff, alto sax and drum solo; tenors, trombones, piano, and bass play blues bass riff behind alto and drums solo

2:16–2:26 13th chorus—12 bars, drum solo

2:27–2:37 14th chorus—12 bars, drum solo continues

2:37–2:48 15th chorus—12 bars, varied riff (like second chorus)

2:48–2:59 16th chorus—12 bars, theme 1 (like third chorus)

3:00–3:10 17th chorus—12 bars, theme 2 (like fourth chorus)

3:11–3:21 18th chorus—12 bars, theme 2 repeated (like fifth chorus)

3:21–3:30 Tag 1—“free” solos: all players solo freely without time

3:31–3:41 Tag 2—drum solo, all others tacet


Mingus’s ensembles were always harbingers for exceptionally innovative soloists, who were encouraged to go out on a limb, experiment, and express their blackness. Although mixed about Coleman’s “new thing,” Mingus was clearly intrigued by it. After hearing a Coleman recording among a group of more traditional recordings, he commented later that,

His [Coleman’s] notes and lines are so fresh. It made everything else he was playing, even my own record that he played, sound terrible. I’m not saying everybody’s going to have to play like Coleman. But they’re going to have to stop playing like Bird.23

This was an important revelation, considering Mingus had begun his career playing traditional jazz with Louis Armstrong and Lionel Hampton and bop with masters such as Parker, Powell, and Gillespie.

To capture the looseness and improvised feel and ensure that members of the band could contribute their own personal sounds and emotions, Mingus preferred to teach the musicians their parts rather than write them down. He even referred to his bands as the Jazz Workshop. He was public in showing his respect for the jazz tradition, and especially for Jelly Roll Morton, Monk, and Ellington. His compositions bore some resemblance to Ellington’s, in that each composer shared a similar flaw—Mingus’s more lengthy compositions were at times fragmented and lacked continuity, but this was a common trait (some considered blemish) of much postmodern art and, in some ways, helps to define it.24

Like Monk, Mingus is considered a rediscovery figure, in that his music has gained more respect and popularity in the years following his death than during his lifetime. Pop star Joni Mitchell completed a project that was intended as a collaboration with Mingus but ended as a tribute recording following his death. Some years later, composer Gunther Schuller recreated from Mingus’s sketches a 2-hour, multi-movement concert work entitled Epitaph. The bass line that begins Mingus’s famous “Haitian Fight Song” became the backdrop for a 2001 automobile TV commercial, although it is doubtful that most viewers were aware of the origins. The contemporary Mingus Big Band tribute band, formed years after his death, has been most successful in recreating his music while capturing recent polls and public attention in the process. They have established themselves as one of the most significant big bands of the early 21st century and are helping to keep this great tradition alive.

Mingus’s brand of loose, driving hard bop is well defined by “Boogie Stop Shuffle,” included in the online audio collection. It is classic Mingus in that it draws on important aspects of the black tradition—in this, the blues and a riff style associated with bands from the earlier years of jazz. As the title implies, the piece is built on a foundation of boogie-woogie-style riffs. Mingus had a penchant for also using ensemble riffs to accompany soloists, and this particular piece is no exception.


There were two stylistic strata moving in parallel during the 1950s and 1960s, and it is important to realize that both modern jazz and emerging postmodern styles coexisted and will continue to do so for quite some time, with many artists participating in many styles.

There seems to be no single reason why hard bop became of less interest, any more than there is a reason why any popular art form falls out of favor. Styles inevitably decline for any number of reasons. Hard bop was designed to attract and hold black and white audiences, at a time when attentions were being drawn toward new emerging pop styles, such as R & B and

rock ’n’ roll. Television had also become affordable and, along with movies and musicals, became the frequent source of leisure-time activity. For example, recordings of TV personalities, Broadway musicals, and movie themes contributed to nearly half of the top 50 gold (sales of 500,000 or more) and platinum (sales of 1 million or more) recordings produced in the 1950s. The balance of these hit recordings are attributed to Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, Johnny Mathis, Nat “King” Cole, Harry Belafonte, and two jazz artists—Dave Brubeck for Time Out (with “Take Five”) and Miles Davis for Kind of Blue. (Davis’s Kind of Blue has sold over 5 million copies worldwide since its release, but, at the time of its release in 1959, was not even charted by sales polls.)

Numerous problems plagued the performers of this time, not least of which was their highly publicized drug use. Jazz journalist Leonard Feather pointed out that, “of the 23 Down Beat poll winners, nine were known narcotics users and five had arrests and convictions on record.”25 An alarmingly high percentage of hard-bop artists were junkies, causing many to ask why. Saxophonist and Blakey alumnus Jackie McLean suggested that drugs were a “form of self-medication—trying to cool yourself out. It’s the pain of being so creative and not having avenues to express it, or having your work considered less than important that could drive a man to many things.”26 Not all artists felt this way, however. Pianist Oscar Peterson offered an alternative view:

I have seen how players can succumb to this false crutch, especially when their careers seem stagnated or suspended. I have observed the raft of famous but misguided players follow their idols into drug-abuse, and often into death as a result . . . If I had to advise any young musician, I’d say that your instrument should be your needle, and music your addiction. It is mine.27

For many musicians participating in the hard-bop scene, notoriety was fading by the early 1960s, as they lost their battle for acceptance by young audiences to the rock ’n’ roll bands. Down Beat magazine reviewer John S. Wilson gave Blakey’s Messengers’ recording Big Beat a lackluster review, stating that it was nothing more than a repetition of “material that has been gone over time and time again.”28 In 1978, author and historian James Lincoln Collier agreed with Wilson in writing that, “the hard bop style was exhausted [by 1960], worn out by overuse. . . . The central problem was a lack of musical intelligence, a failure of imagination on the part of the players in the style.”29 Dave Brubeck and Miles Davis are examples of two exceptionally successful musicians who survived the transition from modern jazz to the postmodern era. As Davis—a successful hard-bop musician—spanned so many decades, all the while serving as a steward for so many new directions in jazz and introducing, along with them, new young artists, his career will be discussed in detail in the upcoming chapter.


Modern Jazz 1950 1956 1959

Cool Jazz, Third Stream, Hard Bop and Funky Soul Jazz

Postmodern Jazz 1959

Free Jazz and Other Postmodern Styles

EXAMPLE 11.1 Modern and postmodern jazz coexist


Chronicle of Historic Events

The timeline that follows will put the developments of jazz discussed in this chapter into a larger historical context, providing you with a better sense of how landmark musical events may relate to others that match your personal areas of interest.

1956 • Civil rights advocate Martin Luther King has his home bombed.

• Peyton Place by Grace Metalious is a bestseller.

• The musical My Fair Lady hits Broadway.

• Top films include Invasion of the Body Snatchers, The Ten Commandments, and Bus Stop.

• The University of Alabama is sued for banning blacks from enrolling.

• Elvis Presley becomes a rock ’n’ roll idol with the release of “Heartbreak Hotel.”

• Bus segregation is declared unconstitutional.

• Stan Kenton records Cuban Fire Suite.

• Clifford Brown, Sonny Rollins, and Max Roach record “Pent Up House.”

1957 • John F. Kennedy is awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Profiles in Courage.

• The nuclear arms race heats up.

• The Count Basie band becomes the first black band to perform at New York’s Waldorf–Astoria Hotel.

• Vocalist Pat Boone enjoys popularity.

• President Eisenhower sends federal troops to assist the racial integration of Little Rock, Arkansas, schools.

• The US races Russia in space exploration.

• Leonard Bernstein enjoys a hit with the musical West Side Story.

1958 • Texan Van Cliburn wins the Tchaikovsky Piano Competition.

• NASA is created to bolster the U.S. position in the space race with Russia.

• The Kingston Trio, Everly Brothers, Little Richard, Rick Nelson, and Chuck Berry are pop music successes.

• Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers records the funky jazz tune “Moanin’.”

1959 • Coast-to-coast flight becomes a reality, along with passenger flights to Europe.

• Richie Valens, Texan Buddy Holly, and “The Big Bopper” die in a plane crash.

• Jazz singer Billie Holiday dies at age 44.

• Integrated schools open in Little Rock, Arkansas.

• The ill-fated Ford Edsel hits the market.

• Alaska and Hawaii become the 49th and 50th states.

• Some Like It Hot and Ben Hur are popular films.

• Avant-garde-jazz artist Ornette Coleman records “Mind and Time.”

1960 • Martin Luther King becomes a prominent civil rights leader—protests, sit-ins, and other forms of non- violent protest against segregation and discrimination are held.

• Free-jazz artist Ornette Coleman records the revolutionary Free Jazz.



• The birth-control pill is approved.

• Cold war tensions escalate following the U2 spy plane incident. Tension mounts in Cuba.

• J.F. Kennedy defeats Richard Nixon for the presidency by a narrow margin.

• Camelot opens on Broadway.

• Charles Mingus records “Boogie Stop Shuffle.”

• Horace Silver records “Strollin’.”

1961 • Rock ’n’ roll is a success with teenagers. The American Bandstand TV show and Chubby Checker’s “The Twist” are hot with teens.

• Fears of Armageddon increase as the missile race and atomic testing escalate.

• Harper Lee wins a Pulitzer Prize for To Kill a Mocking Bird.

• The US continues giving assistance to South Korea, defending democracy against communism.

• Freedom Riders are attacked as they tour the South to evaluate compliance with desegregation acts.

• The American astronauts Shepard and Grissom are the first to explore space, helping the US to catch up with Russia in the space race.

1962 • Astronaut John Glenn orbits Earth.

• John Steinbeck wins a Nobel Prize for The Winter of our Discontent. Other bestsellers included Helen Gurley Brown’s Sex and the Single Girl and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey.

• The US sends a small force to Laos.

• Popular films include Lawrence of Arabia, Dr. No, Days of Wine and Roses, To Kill a Mocking Bird, What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?, Long Day’s Journey into Night, The Manchurian Candidate, and How the West Was Won.

• Russia agrees to withdraw missiles from Cuba.

1963 • Violent demonstrations in Birmingham, Alabama, lead to desegregation of lunch counters and integration of schools.

• Four young girls are killed in a Birmingham, Alabama, church bombing, which, along with other racial incidents of the period, inspired jazz composer Charles Mingus to compose “Fables of Faubus.”

• Martin Luther King is jailed for his civil-disobedience actions.

• President Kennedy lends support to racial equality.

• The first blacks graduate from the University of Mississippi.

• The popularity of folk music soars through work by singers Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Pete Seeger, and Peter, Paul & Mary.

• Martin Luther King addresses the largest ever civil rights rally and declares, “I have a dream.”

• Pop artists such as Andy Warhol gain popularity for controversial postmodern art, breaking traditional barriers.

• JFK is assassinated in Dallas, Texas—Lyndon B. Johnson is sworn in as president.

• William Faulkner wins a Pulitzer Prize for fiction.

• James Baldwin publishes The Fire Next Time.

1964 • The British rock group the Beatles is widely accepted by American youth.

• Folk musicians such as Dylan continue to express themes of social injustice and the horrors of war in lyrics.

• Congress passes the Civil Rights Act prohibiting racial discrimination.

• Student unrest on the University of California Berkley campus and race riots in New York lead to deaths and arrests.

• Julie Andrews stars in Mary Poppins. Other popular films included The Pink Panther and the Beatles’ A Hard Days Night.

• Martin Luther King wins a Nobel Peace Prize.

• Lyndon B. Johnson wins the presidential election handily.

1965 • The US takes the offensive in Vietnam, despite divided public opinion.

• Dances such as the Frug and Watusi are popular, along with mini dresses and go-go boots.

• Black Muslim sect leader Malcolm X is shot by a member of an opposing sect.

• 25,000 blacks organize a march on Montgomery, Alabama, to affirm their right to vote.

• An astronaut walks in space.

• President Johnson signs the Voting Rights Act favoring African-Americans.

• Racial tension explodes in the Los Angeles Watts district.

• Timothy Leary advocates use of drugs to “tune in, turn on, and drop out.”

1966 • The war in Vietnam escalates amid waves of antiwar protests.

• Race riots erupt in Chicago and Atlanta.

• Pop music matures, with the Beatles, Bob Dylan, the Beach Boys, the Byrds, and Motown groups the Supremes and the Miracles.

• President Johnson launches a war at home on urban decay, awarding grants to cities for reconstruction.

• Top films include Blow Up, A Man For All Seasons, and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf.


In the 1950s, fans had numerous jazz listening options. While the cool reaction to bebop was taking place, most notably on the West Coast, a new generation of musicians continued the development of the bop tradition, creating hard bop. Within the hard-bop movement was a smaller faction, playing not only bop-inspired jazz, but also a more commercial, sometimes danceable music. Influenced by gospel music and R & B, this brand of jazz was labeled “funky jazz” or “soul jazz.” By the mid 1950s, important early third-stream works were recorded, and, by the end of the 1950s, free jazz took listeners to entirely new destinations, while other groups continued to play cool jazz and hard bop.

Art Blakey, Horace Silver, Clifford Brown, and Max Roach led important early hard-bop groups. Originally, drummer Blakey and pianist Silver worked together, forming the Jazz Messengers. Horace Silver later went on to lead his own groups, and both leaders had a knack for finding and developing young talents who became important contributors to jazz. Young trumpet sensation Clifford Brown teamed with bop veteran drummer Max Roach to form the Clifford Brown–Max Roach Quintet. Brown would tragically die in an automobile accident at age 25. Outstanding hard-bop alto saxophonist Cannonball Adderley was better known to the general public for his funky jazz hits, as was guitarist Wes Montgomery for his renditions of pop tunes. Selections by both artists could be heard on the radio and on jukeboxes throughout the country.

The postmodern movement is probably best illustrated by free-jazz alto saxophonist Ornette Coleman. His 1959 recording Free Jazz announced the dawn of a new era in jazz, just as Miles



Davis’s Birth of the Cool had done 10 years earlier. In a way, free jazz reestablished the emphasis on group or collective improvisation that was important in early New Orleans jazz. Unlike early jazz, however, free jazz did not rely on meter, melody, or chord changes. A free-jazz performance might contain some basic kind of theme statement, but, beyond that, the performers were welcome to add comments to the improvised conversation as they saw fit. Free-jazz artists also frequently treated pitch/intonation in a completely different way, resulting in what sounds out of tune by traditional standards. It should come as no surprise that, in general, free jazz has probably the least commercial appeal of any jazz style.

Bassist/composer Charles Mingus, an important pioneer of late modern and postmodern jazz, defies categorization. His diverse background includes work with Louis Armstrong, serving as bassist for the important bebop concert of Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie at Toronto’s Massey Hall, and performing and composing third-stream works. Mingus’s reputation gained more notoriety in the years following his death. Much of his music lives on in the work of the Mingus Big Band.


Important terms, people, places, and bands:

Terms Aleatoric Funk Harmelodic

(harmelodics) Mainstream Ostinato Pendulum theory Postmodernism

People Cannonball Adderley Art Blakey Clifford Brown Don Cherry Ornette Coleman Charles Mingus Wes Montgomery Max Roach Sonny Rollins Horace Silver

Jimmy Smith Bobby Timmons

Places Watts

Bands Clifford Brown—Max Roach

Quintet Horace Silver Quintet Jazz Messengers


1. How would you describe the hard-bop style?

2. What size bands are associated with hard bop, and what is the typical instrumentation?

3. Name the various styles of jazz that could be heard during the 1950s.

4. What cities seemed to be the strongholds for hard-bop bands and musicians?

5. Name some of the stable small groups that emerged during the hard-bop period.

6. Who is given credit for developing the funky style of hard-bop jazz?

7. Discuss the essence of the funky-jazz style.

8. Which guitarist, who is known as the most important player of this instrument since Charlie Christian, teamed up with organists, and in what ways did he make his playing style unique?

9. What was unusual about the instrumentation of Ornette Coleman’s revolutionary bands, and how did this instrumentation help him to forge a new style?

10. Although Ornette Coleman’s style attracted a great deal of attention in the late 1950s, many characteristics of his music were not entirely new or unique. Which artists paved the way and followed similar musical paths?

11. What was so unique about Charles Mingus’s music?

12. Compare and contrast the hard-bop style to free jazz, including a discussion of instruments’ roles.

13. Discuss the meaning and implications of the term “postmodern.”

14. What is the significance of Isaac Newton’s “pendulum theory” to jazz at this point in time?

15. What kind of music had become popular with the American public in the 1950s, gradually replacing jazz, and why?


C H A P T E R 1 2

Miles and Miles of Miles Miles Davis and His Sidemen Redefine Postmodern Jazz

I don’t want to sound like nobody but myself. I want to be myself, whatever that is.1

—Miles Davis

Apollo 11, the first manned lunar-landing mission, was launched on July 16, 1969, and Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first and second men to walk on the moon



The 1960s were tumultuous times in America and an age of conflicting values—peace, love, rock

’n’ roll, and war. Jazz experienced many changes as a result of these influences and vied for attention

with new trends in popular music. This decade is perhaps the most unsettled, at least on home

soil, as any on record, and the music in many ways reflects the tension and restless atmosphere.

Political and social unrest was sparked and fueled by the war in Vietnam (1965–1973), the missile

and space race with the Soviet Union, a soft and sagging economy, a volatile civil rights movement,

the rock ’n’ roll music explosion, and the rise and eventual assassinations of two of America’s greatest

leaders and orators—President John F. Kennedy (1963) and Reverend Martin Luther King (1968).

In retrospect, Stanley Kubrick’s film 2001: A Space Odyssey may have done more to summarize

the 1960s than may have been apparent at the time. His 1968 episodic film, complete with dramatic

special effects by 1960s standards, is a study in contrasts of mankind’s frailties and

accomplishments. A year later, U.S. astronaut Neil Armstrong became the first human to set foot

on the moon, where he announced to the world that his was “one small step for man” but a “giant

leap for mankind.” Although this may have been true in terms of scientific advancements and outer-

space exploration, on Earth it seemed like mankind was taking backward steps at an alarming rate.

The U.S. involvement in the war between North and South Vietnam drew mass protest, inspiring

musicians such as Bob Dylan to express political commentary at concerts and on recordings. Peace

marches to protest the war and young males burning their draft cards were common occurrences.

Some radical college students, who were enraged by the war, the draft, social injustices, and racial

inequalities, joined the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) organization. Other young people

tried a less volatile means of protest, marching 50,000-strong to San Francisco one summer for a

“love-in.” Dressed in their tie-died clothing, with males sporting hairdos that made the Beatles look

conservative, these young men and woman sought both to escape from the harsh realities of life

and to end political and social injustices with peaceful solutions. Their peaceful demonstration at

the 1968 Chicago Democratic convention against the war in Vietnam, however, turned to bloodshed,

with 700 injuries and 650 arrests.

During these same years, the civil rights movement escalated, bringing new focus to racial

prejudices. The famous phrase “I have a Dream,” spoken by civil rights champion Reverend Martin

Luther King, who preached non-violent resistance, was intended to incite peaceful protest for equal

rights, but public gatherings often led to violence in American cities and on college campuses. Riots

in Watts lasted 5 days, leaving behind a charred community that saw 34 dead, 1,000 injured, and

4,000 arrested. Riots erupted in other major cities across the country, including Birmingham,

Philadelphia, Boston, Chicago, and Detroit, where 38 died in 1967. Dr. King, who was awarded the

Nobel Peace Prize in 1964, was assassinated only 4 years later. Other black leaders, such as Black

Muslim Malcolm X, led more violent demonstrations, following his civil-disobedience credo, but he

too was struck down by an assassin’s bullet in 1965. Women, led by spokespersons such as author

Gloria Steinem, were also vocal in the 1960s, demanding equal treatment. The women’s liberation

movement was born in the 1960s and encouraged the symbolic burning of bras to make a case for

an end of male supremacy.

The 1960s was a time when drugs, sex, and rock ’n’ roll seemed to permeate college campuses,

breeding a new sense of social unrest and revolution, much as had been the case about 40 or 50

years earlier, when Victorian ideals were put on trial and rejected by the younger generation. Just

as jazz became the theme song for this earlier generation, rock ’n’ roll was adopted as the anthem

of 1960s youth. Beatlemania struck American youth in 1964, when the British pop group first

appeared in 73 million homes via the Ed Sullivan TV show. Young people experimented with LSD,



The jazz purists felt that the “three Ms,” referring to Monk, Mingus, and Miles (Davis), kept “real” jazz alive through the 1950s and early 1960s, in the midst of soulful, funky jazz, cool jazz, and third-stream fads. The jazz world had lost its spiritual leader and guiding light with the death of Charlie Parker in 1955, and many were waiting, looking for the next messiah to show them the way. The three Ms created original, adventuresome forms, harmonies, rhythms, and new compositions, not forged merely by borrowed chord progressions stolen from earlier compositions, as had been the case with much of the bebop repertoire. These new approaches challenged soloists to dig out of the predictable ruts left by those who had sculpted the modern bebop style. Mingus and Monk were both significant bridges linking past jazz traditions to the artist soon to be recognized as the new messiah. In 1955, no one yet knew that Miles Davis, the child of an East St. Louis dentist, who had first come to New York to study classical music at the Juilliard School of Music, would ultimately be the one to achieve such recognition. He cultivated or made significant contributions to seven periods of jazz development, including bebop, hard bop, cool, modal, third stream, progressive, and jazz–rock fusion. No other jazz artists can lay claim to such an accomplishment and contribution. His music was as provocative as his stylish, at times flamboyant, dress, and his elusive, sometimes militant behavior only fueled his rise to notoriety, adding to the mystique that will always be a part of his legacy. In time, Davis would transcend his status as merely a preeminent musician to become a cultural icon, a man whose art never remained static and always reflected the current state of an ever-changing American culture.


Without the advantage of the broader perspective that we now enjoy, Miles Davis’s career could easily have ended, or been doomed to relative obscurity, by the early 1950s, and he would have been remembered as just another trumpet player. In many ways, his less flamboyant trumpet style, as compared with the macho Gillespie, Navarro, or Brown approaches, characterized many of his earliest recordings, where he was featured as the youngest member of Parker’s late-1940s bebop band. These early solos were often undeveloped and lacked the virtuosic traits that were the hallmark of bebop. His technique was at times unsteady, his sound small by comparison, and he rarely played bravado-like high-note passages, preferring the middle to lower registers of the instrument. He was no doubt preoccupied with finding his own voice, while feeling pressure to conform to the accepted style at the time. There was an element of insecurity and inconsistency in many of these early solos, and yet they also possessed an austere, melodic beauty that was often

marijuana, and other mind-expanding hallucinogenic drugs as they listened to Janis Joplin sing

“Women is Losers,” the Beatles’ John Lennon with “Give Peace a Chance,” or guitar sensation

Jimmy Hendrix with “Are You Experienced.” For many teens and college-age students, it was time

to turn on and tune out—the “age of Aquarius,” peace and love, flower people, hippies, non-

conformity, and a time to drop out from an intolerant, flawed society. It was impossible for the jazz

world to go untouched by such significant developments in the evolution of American society and



absent in bop. Although it is true that he did not demonstrate a commanding, in-your-face style compared with notable bop artists, Davis did demonstrate in these early solos a desire to be different, following his own path and muse. Historian Martin Williams aptly described Davis’s first entry into the jazz scene as Parker’s sideman: “Davis was an effective foil for Parker’s technical and emotional exuberance.”3 Davis was preoccupied with finding a lyrical, more subdued approach to improvisation, caressing the harmonies rather than setting fire to them, as was the case with Parker, Gillespie, and the other hot-bop soloists. In his autobiography, comparing bebop artists’ approach with his different, cooler style, Davis described Gillespie’s and Parker’s music as,

this hip, real fast thing, and if you weren’t a fast listener, you couldn’t catch the humor or the feeling of their music. Bird and Diz were great, fantastic, challenging—but they weren’t sweet. The Birth of the Cool was different because you could hear everything and hum it also.4

The cooler side of Davis, exposed briefly in the 1949 Birth of the Cool recordings and short- lived nonet club engagements, served to launch the cool style, a movement that many artists devoted entire careers to exploring. The music recorded by the nonet seemed to frame Davis in a much more comfortable setting, as illustrated by his exceptional solos throughout these recordings. His solos were as revolutionary as the arrangements and compositions.

The Birth of the Cool was just a way station, and Davis kept moving, always in search of something new and more in sync with his own personal feelings about jazz. Everything about his playing, particularly his sound and attack, was different than what had come before. Although one hears the earlier tradition in his playing, there is also a very clear, new message being given.

Miles Davis’s nonet in a recording studio for the sessions released as Birth of the Cool. Pictured are, clockwise from left: Bill Barber, Junior Collins, Kai Winding, Max Roach (obscured behind screen), Al Haig (at piano), Joe Shulman (standing at rear), Miles Davis, Lee Konitz, Gerry Mulligan

The very fact that his style didn’t fit well into the bebop context provided a framework for him to emerge as perhaps the most influential jazz artist of the postmodern era. However, Davis’s career was nearly derailed by an addiction to heroin, a 4- or 5-year habit that he eventually conquered only through his own perseverance and abstention. During the early 1950s, he was under contract with the Prestige label and recorded a number of fine discs, but with no real, established group. In every case, these recordings featured headline performers from the era, including the MJQ. The Prestige recordings all offer some shining examples of brilliant playing. Davis’s solos during this period showed a newfound maturity, a new personalized trumpet sound, and a sense of pacing and confidence where the element of space was becoming as valuable, if not more so, than a rapid burst of notes à la Gillespie. He had effectively learned to edit out all the unnecessary notes from the bebop style, simplifying improvisations down to the most essential, melodic ingredients. The result was a poignant and to-the-point musical statement. Economy of style, along with his frequent use of the metallic harmon mute, became his trademarks as he developed a more mature style. Additional characteristics associated with Davis’s sound that separated him from dozens of trumpet players were his unique attack and preference for a straight tone with no vibrato. In his autobiography, he said that: “People tell me that my sound is like a human voice and that’s what I want it to be.”5

Without a band he could call his own, and with a bad habit that was consuming much of his life, it was difficult to see Davis in the early 1950s going much further, despite his unique approach to the instrument. By 1955, both became non-issues, as Davis found new freedom from his drug addiction and formed his first stable quintet, including John Coltrane on tenor saxophone (who replaced Sonny Rollins), Red Garland on piano, Paul Chambers on bass, and Philly Joe Jones at the drums. From this point on, Davis never looked back, and each personnel change to the quintet added a new dimension and often inspired him to pursue an entirely new musical direction. Perhaps his greatest attribute of all was his uncanny ability, as a leader, to identify and nurture new, young talent, in a sense returning the favor many times over that Parker had done for him. “I have always said that what the group does together is what makes music happen,” he said. “My gift [was] having the ability to put certain guys together that would create a chemistry and then letting them go; letting them play what they knew and above it.”6 The list of alumni from Miles Davis’s bands is a list of the most significant innovators in the past four decades of jazz. Topping this list are John Coltrane, Cannonball Adderley, Bill Evans, Herbie Hancock, Tony Williams, Wayne Shorter, Chick Corea, John McLaughlin, Joe Zawinul, Keith Jarrett, and Jack DeJohnette.


Miles’s first great quintet followed the pattern established by the all-stars dates he had fronted or participated in earlier in the decade. This repertoire included a balance of original jazz composi- tions and transformations (and at times abstractions) of standards such as “I’ll Remember April,” “Easy Living,” “Alone Together,” “The Man I Love” and “There is No Greater Love.” By the mid 1950s, however, Davis’s own quintet was devoting more and more attention to creating new works, and typically over half of the pieces included on these recordings were new jazz compo - sitions, as opposed to face-lifts of older standards. The group hit its stride during its performance at the 1955 Newport Jazz Festival. Its performance at Newport of “Walking,” a composition Davis had recorded 2 years earlier with J.J. Johnson, Horace Silver, and Kenny Clarke, brought the group long-overdue recognition. This successful performance served to mark the rebirth of Miles Davis and earned him a top spot in the Down Beat magazine’s critics’ poll that same year. He relinquished the top spot in this annual poll for only 2 years during the next 17 years.




Several personnel changes at the close of the 1950s added more depth to Davis’s quintet and brought a more modern sound to the group. These changes included Bill Evans, the replacement for the older-style pianist Red Garland, and the addition of Julian Cannonball Adderley to the front line, making the quintet a sextet. The two saxophonists—Adderley on alto and John Coltrane on tenor—were stylistically different enough that they served to complement one another. Adderley was deeply rooted in the blues and hard-bop traditions, projecting a wonderful, bouncy, and happy sound, while Coltrane was the more contemporary player who, like Miles, shunned vibrato, making his sound more metallic, brooding, and coldly passionate. The late 1950s also marked the beginning of a long-time relationship Davis enjoyed with Columbia Records, which successfully catalogued nearly every major innovation in his career from this point on. The new sextet recorded two significant albums, in 1958 and 1959, that served to revolutionize both the compositional and improvisational sides of jazz and, in many ways, led Davis down a path that he would walk for the balance of his career. The new concept displayed on these recordings was labeled “modal” and was first introduced by the title track of the quintet’s 1958 recording Milestones (although the original title was just “Miles”). Although this track was the only modal composition included on the Milestones recording, it established new concepts that would revolutionize future generations of jazz players and composers and served as the central theoretical basis behind Davis’s next landmark 1959 release, Kind of Blue. Over time, this album sold more copies than any other Davis recording, totaling more than 5 million worldwide. “I wanted the music this new group would play to be freer, more modal, more African or Eastern and less Western,”7 he said. The modal concept was not new, but it was certainly new in terms of its applications to jazz in 1958. The theory of modality originated with the Greeks and medieval church music, where entire pieces were based on one or two scales, also called modes. There are seven modes that can easily be seen by relating them to the white notes of the keyboard—see Example 12.1.

C# D# F# G# A# C# (black keys)

D# F#




EXAMPLE 12.1 Piano with whole and chromatic half-steps indicated over two octaves, C to C

The modal eight-note scale that begins on C and ends on C (an octave higher or lower) is called the Ionian mode. It is also called the C major scale. If one begins on D and plays all the same white notes ascending to the next D, the Dorian mode is defined. If we began on E, then we would construct the Phrygian mode. The Lydian mode begins on F, and so on, with each new mode using the same pitches but defining a new mode. Each of these seven “church modes,” as they were called in ancient times, can begin on any of the 12 different notes (C, C sharp, D, D sharp, E, E sharp, and so on) on the keyboard—so that one could begin any of the seven modes on a black key or a white key by following the same pattern.

Traditional tunes are constructed of melodies derived from a progression of different chords. The progression of chords is created by the tendency of one chord to move to another. Each different chord dictates a different relative scale and has a somewhat different quality. Modal music, on the other hand, lacks these typical harmonic sequences and exists when melodies and harmonies are derived from pitches contained in a single scale that usually last for long periods (8 measures or more). Modal tunes center around one or two tones or key areas (D Dorian, for example), occasionally shifting from one key center, or mode, to another (D Dorian to E-flat Dorian, as is the case in Davis’s “So What”). Tunes of this nature establish a sense of tonality through long durations of one mode. The harmonies played as accompaniments to solos on modal tunes are all constructed exclusively from the notes found in the particular mode, even though there is an illusion of the pianist changing harmonies or chords. It is easier to grasp this concept and hear a modal tune when you focus on the bass, which is rather static.


(A) Visual conceptualization of a modal texture. There is a sameness about this visual texture, much like there is in a modal section of music, where all notes, whether used vertically as a chord or horizontally to form melodic lines, stem from the same essential set of pitches (color, in this example)

(B) Visual conceptualization of functional harmony: Each horizontal bar represents a changing chord in a progression. Some chords are related, whereas others serve a quite different role. The black represents the strong chords that supply more variety than the above example

EXAMPLE 12.2 By using different shades to represent sound, it is possible to differentiate between modal and functional harmony, as shown in the above illustrations.

By taking jazz in an entirely new modal direction, away from what had become dominated by increasingly complex chord progressions, Miles Davis and his sextet made a bold statement in the late 1950s that provided newfound freedom to the improvising soloist—a freedom that would resonate in and influence the next decades of jazz. Improvisations became freer and driven more by the importance of spinning out endless melodic lines through constant variation, rather than concern for adhering to ever-changing chords. No longer were soloists confined by chord progressions that presented harmonic signposts to help guide or map them in specific directions through a maze that represented the form of the piece. Without fixed, repetitive chord progressions, modal tunes presented more uncharted maps, lacking fixed repetitive chord progressions, and encouraging the soloists to go in any number of directions, forcing them to place more emphasis on melodic invention. One entire section of a modal tune might dwell on one mode for 16 measures, before changing to another mode or key. One structural similarity between more traditional and modal tunes exists, however, in that both are often based on the song-form architectural plan (AABA or ABA).


The classic song form, defined as AABA, was the model that Davis used for the first two modal jazz pieces—“Milestones” (1958) (listening guide included on the website) and “So What” (1959). Either tune serves as an excellent example of this new style, and “So What” is included in the online audio anthology as it offers other distinguishing features and presents some of the finest listening from this period. It is from the album Kind of Blue, one of the biggest-selling jazz recordings of all time. Each track is a gem, suggesting a new direction in jazz, away from earlier well-established pathways, yet building on the tradition. “So What” is unusual in featuring the bass playing the tune. Although it pioneers new ground in the possibilities offered by modal tunes, it also draws on the African tradition and roots of jazz by once again using the call–response format in presenting the tune. You will recall that this organizational practice dates back to the roots of jazz and is evident in nearly every style. Compare this tune with “Moanin’,” discussed in the previous chapter, to hear similarities in the use of the call–response form. See if you can keep track of the A and B sections and hear when the mode changes from D Dorian to E-flat Dorian, helping to identify these sections.

Coltrane and Adderley left Davis’s quartet after the recording of Kind of Blue to pursue their own careers as leaders. The competent tenor saxophonist Hank Mobley replaced Coltrane, who, along with other personnel rotated into the quintet’s lineup, served during this transitional phase that linked Davis to perhaps his greatest, most prolific years, with the second stable quintet. This quintet, as well as the significant careers of Davis’s sideman will be discussed later in this chapter.

John Coltrane, Cannonball Adderley, Miles Davis, and Bill Evans perform in the studio, New York, May 26, 1958

If necessary, review the sections about harmony and melody found on the website in Chapter 2— “The Elements of Jazz”—to further clarify your understanding of these concepts. There is an example to further clarify the difference between modal and functional harmony found in the section about harmony.



Miles Davis

“So What” (Miles Davis) 9:26

From Kind of Blue

Recorded 1959

Columbia CL 1355

Personnel: Miles Davis, trumpet; John Coltrane, tenor saxophone; Cannonball Adderley, alto saxophone; Bill Evans, piano; Paul Chambers, bass; Jimmy Cobb, drums

Form: 32-measure AABA song form. Tune derived from D-Dorian and E-flat-Dorian modes.

0:00–0:32 Rubato introduction by piano and bass

0:33–0:48 Solo bass enters in tempo with A theme based on ascending D-Dorian mode (the call or question) with piano 2-chord descending response

0:49–1:01 8-measure A section repeats; saxes added to piano response

1:02–1:15 B section features bass on same theme, moves up to new key of E-flat Dorian; sax and piano 2-chord response continues

1:16–1:30 Return to A section (D Dorian) to complete full chorus of tune

1:31–1:59 Second chorus—Miles Davis improvises on A sections in D Dorian

2:00–2:13 B section of first chorus; change up to E-flat Dorian

2:14–2:27 Final A section of first chorus; return down to D Dorian

2:28–3:24 Third chorus—trumpet improvisation continues for 32 measures on AABA form

3:25–4:19 Fourth chorus—Coltrane improvises on tenor sax for 32 measures on form (out of time “sheets” of sound can be heard at 3:29 on second A section, with long sustained piano accompaniment

4:20–5:14 Fifth chorus—tenor sax improvisation continues for 32 measures on form

5:15–6:09 Sixth chorus—Adderley begins alto sax improvisation on form

6:10–7:04 Seventh chorus—improvisation continues over 32 bar AABA form.

7:05–8:01 Eighth chorus—Evans improvises one chorus with horn background figure used during tune; first A features chord solo; Evans plays simple single note line in 2nd A section; B section and return to A feature dissonant 2-note intervals and closely grouped chord clusters

8:02–8:15 Ninth chorus—bass, piano, and drums, with bass improvising on first A section

8:16–8:29 Bass returns to A theme; piano and bass play 2-chord response

8:30–8:43 B section features bass on same theme transposed up half-step; piano and bass play 2-chord response

8:44 Final A theme; piano and bass play 2-chord response

8:45–end Ending: piano, bass, and drums fade away following repeat of A theme to end



Miles Davis had many interests, and, at times, he was involved simultaneously in more than one artistic direction.

I met Gil Evans for the first time when he approached me about arranging “Donna Lee.” I told him he could do it if he got me a copy of Claude Thornhill’s arrangement of “Robbins’ Nest.” . . . I liked the way Gil wrote music and he liked the way I played.8

Miles was particularly fond of the lush orchestrations that Thornhill favored. Evans and Thornhill parted ways in 1948, and it was during this time that Evans and Davis began formulating a plan that led to the Birth of the Cool. “Gil and Gerry had decided what the instruments in the band would be before I really came into the discussions,” Miles said. “But the theory, the musical interpretation and what the band would play was my idea.”9 This collab - oration would not be the last, and, in 1957, while John Coltrane was off serving his 1-year informal apprentice - ship with Thelonious Monk, they collaborated again to produce the first of several critically acclaimed recordings. It is these recordings that established Evans as the new Svengali (anagram of Gil Evans and title of a later Evans recording) of the arranging world, a title he still holds, long after his death in 1988. The Davis–Evans partnership is perhaps the best known in jazz history and comparable with that of Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn. The 1957 project for the Columbia label was titled Miles Ahead and, like the Birth of the Cool sessions, featured an unusual combination of instruments and adventuresome arranging of an eclectic group of pieces. The orchestra included a full complement of brass, including French horns and tuba in the Thornhill tradition; but, in place of the traditional saxophone section, Evans substituted flutes, clarinets, bass clarinet, and oboe—all instruments more closely associated with a classical-music setting. This instrumentation created a tone palette that became the Evans trademark for years to come. Evans, much like Ellington, handcrafted each part with the knowledge that exceptionally gifted musicians would interpret them. In the case of the Evans–Davis collaborations, these musicians were the best studio musicians in New York, comfortable in classical and jazz idioms. Only such training would enable them to meet the challenges that Evans presented in his scores. Evans, once again like Ellington before, demonstrated a gift for mixing brass and woodwinds in unusual and previously untried combinations. The results were wonderful sonic pastels in which all of the individual sounds of the instruments lost their identity while contributing to the creation of an entirely new sound color. Evans’s biographer Stephanie Stein Crease stated that, “Evans [had the ability] to orchestrate a mood.” And Davis had an uncanny ability “to respond to the ambiance Gil created for him.”10 There was a special, symbiotic relationship between the black soloist and white arranger, which first bloomed with the Miles Ahead project. This recording was based on a carefully sequenced group of pieces that represented an integrated suite or musical panorama, as compared with the typical jazz recording that was often nothing more than a random collection of unrelated pieces. Evans had conducted extensive research in various Latin–Spanish forms, and his interest in Spanish flamenco and other Spanish and Latin American dance forms was apparent throughout this recording and many others that followed. Davis embraced such ethnic influences, surfacing periodically throughout his entire career following his collaborations with Evans. Although these Davis–Evans jazz hybrids were very different from Cubop, they illustrate the ease with which elements of jazz can mix with various world music styles to form something entirely new and fresh.

The episodic suite format in Miles Ahead became the foundation for two additional collaborations that followed—Porgy and Bess in 1958 and Sketches of Spain in 1959. Each project became more adventuresome. Porgy, George Gershwin’s seminal work that premiered in 1935, was in some ways a misfit, as it was neither an opera nor a Broadway musical. Porgy fit somewhere in the middle and could best be described as a purely American opera. Gershwin had already established himself as a somewhat controversial composer of symphonic jazz, who blended together elements of jazz, blues, and classical traditions such as “Rhapsody in Blue,” premiered by Paul Whiteman. Porgy was Gershwin’s most daring work, at least in terms of crossing boundaries. The Jewish-born Gershwin composed the pseudo opera Porgy and Bess, which was based on black themes and set in a ghetto


wharf known as “Catfish Row.” What could have been more controversial in 1935? Porgy did survive the controversy and enjoyed successful revivals in 1943, 1952, and again in 1959, when Hollywood made the film version, featuring Sidney Poitier, Dorothy Dandridge, Sammy Davis Jr., Pearl Bailey, and Diahann Carroll. “The film’s production and release (June 1959) coincided with the rapidly growing Civil Rights movement” that was gaining momentum, and, “once again, Porgy attracted criticism in the black community due to increasing sensitivity to racial stereotyping [and exploitation].”11 The Davis–Evans remake of Porgy could not have been better timed, and Davis’s brooding, plaintive, vocal-like trumpet sound was the perfect instrumental sound to substitute for the traditional vocals in the original opera. Porgy is a masterpiece in terms of arranging, orchestration, and melding of soloist to ensemble. Davis used a complete arsenal of instruments, including the trumpet, flugelhorn, and trumpet with a harmon mute—the sound that became his signature throughout his career. Some critics, though, openly objected to the lack of swing and presence of jazz tradition in Evans’s arrangements. They felt that it was too orchestral to be real jazz.

Both Miles Ahead and Porgy are also significant from a technological standpoint, as both made use of stereo recording and the overdub process, at this point still a new technique. Overdubbing allowed Davis to play his solo parts after a polished recording of all the underlying instrumental accompaniments was completed. This technique marked the beginning of a new era in recording. Porgy and Bess sold more copies immediately surrounding its release than any other Miles Davis recording until his Bitches Brew release in 1970. “Summertime” is no doubt the most famous track from the Porgy recording, and this Evans arrangement has been the source for many other imitations since. The lush orchestrations use combinations of instruments that, at times, lose their individual identity and, when mixed together, represent an entirely new tone color.

Miles Ahead, Porgy and Bess, and the 1959 release of Sketches of Spain established Miles as a crossover artist, attracting many non-jazz record buyers.

Trumpeter Miles Davis and producer/arranger Gil Evans record the album Quiet Nights in 1962


If necessary, reacquaint yourself with the sound of the harmon mute. This mute, along with examples of other brass-instrument mutes, can be found on the website in Chapter 3—“Listening to Jazz.” Excerpts of interviews with Evans and Davis, among others who discuss their collaborations, are also included on the companion website in the corresponding chapter.


Miles Davis/Gil Evans

“Summertime” (G. Gershwin, I. Gershwin, D. Heyward) 3:17

Recorded 8/18/1958, New York

Porgy and Bess, Columbia CL 1274, Reissued Columbia CK 40647

Personnel: Miles Davis, trumpet; Trumpets: Louis Mucci, Ernie Royal, John Coles, Bernie Glow; Trombones: Jimmy Cleveland, Joseph Bennett, Richard Hixon, Frank Rehak; Saxophones: Julian Adderley, Daniel Banks; French Horns: Willie Ruff, Julius Watkins, Gunther Schuller; Flutes: Philip Bodner, Romeo Penque; Tuba: Bill Barber; Bass: Paul Chambers; Drums: Philly Joe Jones

Arranged by Gil Evans

Form: Repeated 16-bar song choruses (AA’) with ending tag

0:00–0:35 First chorus—16 bars, theme played by muted trumpet, with repeated ascending French horn line, answering trombone, and woodwind descending lines, swinging rhythm section

0:35–1:10 Second chorus—16 bars, muted trumpet solo, with continuing repeated ascending French horn line (add flutes), answering trombone, and woodwind descending lines, swinging rhythm section

1:11–1:46 Third chorus—16 bars, muted trumpet solo continues, with repeated ascending line now played by flutes and muted brass, answering trombone, and woodwind descending lines, new closing ensemble melody (mm.15–16) based on ascending brass line, swinging rhythm section

1:46–2:21 Fourth chorus—16 bars, muted trumpet solo continues, with backgrounds similar to second chorus, closing ensemble melody (mm.15–16) similar to third chorus, swinging rhythm section

2:22–2:57 Fifth chorus—16 bars, muted trumpet solo continues, with repeated ascending-line woodwind, answered by new tuba figure, trombone and saxophone descending lines, swinging rhythm section

2:58–3:17 Tag—4 bars, bass tacet, trumpet closes on long note over first repeat of ascending line, with answering tuba; second repeat slows down to final ensemble chord


Just as was the case in the formation of Miles Davis’s first stable quintet, personnel for his second and most adventuresome group did not take shape immediately. His Seven Steps to Heaven recording from 1963 features two different pianists, two drummers, as well as a new saxophonist and bassist. Seven Steps is therefore a transitional recording and includes only two original compositions, yet serves to introduce his new trio that will become the nucleus of this revolutionary new quintet— Herbie Hancock on piano, Ron Carter on bass, and the amazing young drummer Tony Williams. Tenor saxophonist George Coleman rounds out the quintet that followed with two additional recordings before Davis makes one final personnel change. These two live recordings—My Funny Valentine and Four and More show enough of the new band to indicate that a significant change in performance practice is underway, but it is not until Davis replaces the less adventuresome


Coleman with Wayne Shorter that the quintet begins to soar in an entirely new direction. Davis recruited Shorter from Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers, where Shorter had earned the title of musical director, shaping much of the Blakey band’s repertoire. Pianist Hancock was also already a seasoned player, with a recording contract for Blue Note Records and a modern approach to harmony and melodic invention. His recordings with hard-bop trumpet ace Freddie Hubbard, another Blakey alumnus, have become legends on their own. Maiden Voyage, in particular, is a must for every serious jazz collector, as is his The Prisoner and Empyrean Isles, where he combined funky tunes with a very modern repertoire. All three new, youthful rhythm mates were not afraid to go out on a limb, and all were keenly aware of the importance of developing telepathic com - munication to attain the cohesive, yet seemingly loose, free sound they were searching for. They sought to go on an entirely new journey each time they performed a piece, and they took their listeners with them. This quintet revolutionized small-group improvisation and ensemble playing. Drummer Tony Williams, only 17 years old when Davis hired him, had developed an entirely new way of playing that relied on total independence of each limb, so that he could interject a constant barrage of polyrhythmic jabs, playing all around the fundamental beat but without interfering with the regularity of it. He didn’t just play time, as had been the tradition with all drummers before him; he played around the pulse without destroying it and could always rely on the steady bass lines played by Ron Carter to provide the necessary glue to keep things together. As a protagonist in the group, Williams instigated constant interplay and dialogue. Williams was the first contemporary drummer to utilize the sock cymbal (hi-hat) on all four beats, as had been done years earlier with the bass drum. By this time, most postmodern drummers had elected not to use the bass drum on every beat. Each member of this rhythm section became recognized as the next important player in the jazz developments of their instruments.

Miles Davis with Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter, and Wayne Shorter at the 1967 Newport Jazz Festival

The quintet’s initial repertoire in 1964 was based largely on blues, Gershwin’s “rhythm changes” model, and standards in the AABA song form. But this new quintet was destined to push the envelope much further, challenging the old traditions and breaking entirely new ground. The group recorded six albums together, focusing more and more on original compositions that broke away from predictable chord sequences, which for years had been appropriated from the Tin Pan Alley repertoire. Each band member contributed to the repertoire, creating tunes that destroyed old models and stereotypes by introducing unusual chord progressions which often seemed to have no beginning or ending. Shifting meters and changing tempos, as had been the case in much of Ornette Coleman’s music earlier in the decade, also made this new repertoire unique and challenging. These tunes were almost always abstract and cerebral, serving a higher goal of freer group interplay and improvisations, the length of which was less dictated by the form and guided largely by the soloist. Some labeled this new direction “progressive” jazz, but, whatever the label, the quintet was made up of explorers traveling new ground.

E.S.P., their first major release as a quintet, came in 1964, and the title track could be interpreted as their new group motto, or higher goal. The subtle, intense level of improvised group interaction, demonstrated on this and the five subsequent recordings up until 1969, was without equal at the time and marks the beginning of what most agree to be Davis’s most creative period. The quintet’s five additional recordings that followed E.S.P. were Miles Smiles, The Sorcerer, Nefertiti, Miles in the Sky, and Filles De Kilimanjaro. Each recording featured primarily new compo - sitions by band members, and yet the quintet continued to perform the old, time-tested repertoire in live concerts, and not the daring new repertoire being recorded. It is quite likely that Davis knew his recorded material was too demanding and esoteric for the general public and sought to make his live appearances more palatable.

“Orbits,” the Wayne Shorter recording included in the online audio anthology, appeared on the Miles Smiles recording and serves to exemplify this quintet’s revolutionary new style. “Orbits” demonstrates Shorter’s prowess as a composer who refined his craft with Davis’s second great quintet. Although, on the surface, this tune may appear to be quite simple, its true complexity nearly defies conventional analysis. The opening 9-bar introduction, divided into three, 3-bar phrases, is stated in a very free, loose tempo, almost rubato, that seems to imply a 3/4 meter rather than the more common 4/4 meter. Davis and Shorter then present the main thematic material in unison. This main theme, now in 4/4 meter, is repeated at the end of the record- ing, following improvised solos, and can be described as three related phrases, each comprising melodic fragments that rise and fall. The three primary phrases that comprise the main melody are constructed in unusual lengths of 6 measures (with 1 measure in 3/4 meter to further compli- cate matters at the end of the phrase), 4 measures, and 10 measures. Like Ornette Coleman’s music, which clearly serves as an inspiration, this tune is presented without any clearly defined harmonic structure. The melody implies chords, even though they are never played. Hancock is never heard until his single-line piano solo three-quarters of the way through the perform- ance. Instead of being bound to chords, each soloist relies on melodic gestures from the main tune for improvisational inspiration and guidance. In some ways, this theme and variation approach to improvisation harks back to the earliest days of jazz. Soloists use fragments of the tune to signal the end of their solos. Carter’s bass lines remain rock solid throughout the per - formance, which is no easy task, as the soloists and drummer Williams are constantly darting around rhythmic signposts, sometimes ignoring references to expected beat emphasis. Although in constant dialogue, the group members seem to do everything they can to play against the grain, rhythmically erasing any sense of regular meter or bar lines in favor of creating a free- flowing pulse, without regular accent. The title, like many progressive-jazz performances of the times, alludes to being “far out,” “spacey,” experimental, and of another world. Aspects of this performance that make it unique can be summarized as follows:



1. Drummer Tony Williams does not play a traditional swing pattern until Herbie Hancock’s piano solo, and even then it is not a clear swing pattern.

2. Williams seems to be playing a pattern that resembles a fast bossa nova beat. 3. No chords are played throughout the entire piece. 4. The improvised solos are short and concise. 5. The entire piece is based on the ongoing development of the initial melody. Melody exists

in this piece for its own sake, to inspire improvisation, and with no real reference to prescribed chord changes.

6. Pianist Hancock is completely silent until his solo, during which he never plays a chord— only single-note lines.

7. Each soloist makes significant use of, and references to, snatches of the original melody and always ends his improvisations with a reference to it. Such references seem to signal the end of the solos.

The outline that follows will help you to navigate through the performance of this challenging, somewhat abstract tune and performance.


Miles Davis Quintet

“Orbits” (Wayne Shorter) 4:38

Recorded 1966, New York City

Originally issued on Miles Smiles Columbia CS 9401

Personnel: Miles Davis, trumpet; Wayne Shorter, tenor saxophone; Herbie Hancock, piano; Ron Carter, bass; Tony Williams, drums

Form: Introduction followed by 20-measure three-part form, primarily in 4/4 meter, and with no clearly established key center

0:00–0:09 Introduction—trumpet and tenor sax play opening gestures without strict tempo or meter, drums and bass loosely accompany for about 9 measures

0:09–0:15 First phrase—trumpet and tenor sax play unison first phrase in clearer 4/4 meter, but with implied 3/4 meter in next-to-last measure of phrase; bass and drums drop out at close of phrase

0:15–0:18 Second phrase—trumpet and tenor sax play second short phrase of melody, bass walks implying more traditional 4/4 swinging time with drums

0:19–0:28 Last phrase—horns complete statement of melody with a 4-measure phrase repeated, followed by a repeated 2- bar tag

0:28–1:38 Trumpet solo—Davis improvises freely using fragments of the main melody; bass and drums accompany

1:38–2:41 Tenor sax solo—Shorter improvises freely using fragments of the main melody; bass and drums accompany

2:43–4:03 Piano solo—Hancock improvises freely using only his right hand to play single-line melodies, while bass and drums accompany

4:03–4:10 First phrase—trumpet and tenor sax return to first phrase of melody, played in unison, while bass and drums continue to play time

4:10–4:13 Second phrase—trumpet and tenor sax play second short phrase of melody, with bass and drums swinging

4:13–4:38 Last phrase—horns complete statement of melody with a 4-measure phrase repeated, followed by a 2-bar tag played two additional times, before bass and drums trail off to end

The second quintet represented a “celebration in individuality,”12 as Wayne Shorter put it, but without sacrificing the benefits of a collective product. The quintet completely shed bebop, the omnipresent influence throughout the 1950s and early 1960s. Forms of tunes changed from night to night, each time being stretched to suit the needs dictated by each soloist.

With personnel changes to this stable quintet following the recording of Filles De Kilimanjaro in 1968, a predictable change in musical direction gradually became evident and was manifested by three tunes in particular—“81” from the quintet’s first recording E.S.P., “Freedom Jazz Dance,” a composition from Miles Smiles by an outsider, and “Tout de Suite” from the quintet’s last recording, Filles De Kilimanjaro. In each case, we begin to hear the following characteristics emerge:

• repetitive bass lines or pedal points, implying a modal approach more reflective of rock trends than jazz and harking back to Kind of Blue;

• use of electric bass and piano; • a more rock, less swing-style approach to 8th notes.

These tracks clearly indicate that Miles Davis was headed in yet another new direction, largely influenced by his earlier modal approach and the new popular music. This new style became more solidified with his next recording, In a Silent Way (1969), which boldly announced on the LP cover that Miles was once again charting new ground. The album cover included these words— “New Directions in Music.” It is important to note that he did not label this new music as “jazz.” Davis had now added an electric guitar, a dominant voice in popular rock ’n’ roll, and three electronic keyboards, played by Herbie Hancock, Joe Zawinul, and Chick Corea, who was to become his next regular bandmate. The music on this recording is atmospheric, pensive, at times funky, and filled with layered electronic textures, a by-product of three keyboard players all improvising simultaneously. This recording is considered pivotal and marks Davis’s transition from acoustic jazz, still influenced by traditional jazz roots, to his final stylist period.


“A lot of people started saying jazz was dead,” said Miles, in his autobiography, “and blaming the way-out free thing.”13 The way-out free thing wasn’t what most people wanted to hear, however, and suddenly rock ’n’ roll was in the forefront. According to Davis, “White rock ’n’ roll [was] stolen from black rhythm and blues people like Little Richard and Chuck Berry and the Motown sound.”14 Miles was interested in music coming from the pop side of black culture in the 1960s and was most intrigued by what musicians such as Sly Stone and Jimi Hendrix were doing. Both of these pop artists were exponents of the R & B tradition. As Miles told autobiography co-author Quincy Troup:

Nineteen-sixty-nine was the year rock and funk were selling like hot-cakes, and all this was put on display at Woodstock. There were over 400,000 people at the concert. It was the first time in a long time that I didn’t sell out crowds everywhere I played . . . we played a lot of half-empty clubs in 1969.15

Davis had lost his appeal to his own people. Columbia Records signed Blood, Sweat and Tears (BS&T) in 1968 and Chicago in 1969.

Each group fused a jazz-style horn section with the electric, rhythmic aspects of rock ’n’ roll and R & B styles. By this time, jazz had become more distanced from mainstream popular culture than ever before. Jazz musicians found themselves totally out of sync with the younger audience,


and the gap had never been quite so wide, except perhaps at the dawn of bebop. Rock ’n’ roll had not only captured white audiences’ attention, it had driven young black musicians away from their jazz heritage. In the past, Parker, Ellington, Gillespie, and Monk had been heroes and inspirations to young black musicians, but now they abandoned their interest in jazz, choosing to side with a pop style that was hot and would make money—Hendrix and the Motown sounds of The Four Tops and the Temptations, Marvin Gaye, Sly Stone, and other black pop artists.

Miles Davis and Columbia Records were primed to develop some new direction that would once again attract the attention of younger audiences and critics. The genesis of Davis’s jazz– rock fusion period dates back to his Filles de Kilimanjaro recording, where songs such as “Tout de Suite” and “Little Stuff” introduced electronic keyboards, repetitive ostinato bass lines, and rock-influenced straight 8th-note drum styles. “I wanted to change course, had to change course for me to continue to believe in and love what I was playing,”16 Miles said. Davis was a student of popular culture, and, during the late 1960s and early 1970s, he earned a grade of A+. He became the first in a long line of contemporary, postmodern jazz artists who found it necessary to periodically step back and re-evaluate their music and become recharged by new trends in popular culture. In every case, Davis’s sidemen have followed suit, in that many of them have worn different stylistic hats throughout their careers, unlike earlier generations of jazz artists, who largely specialized in one style. Davis commented that, “When I went into the studio in August 1969 [to record Bitches Brew], besides listening to rock music and funk, I had been listening to Joe Zawinul and Cannonball [Adderley] playing . . . ‘Country Joe and the Preacher.’”17

Miles Davis developed In a Silent Way (1968) and Bitches Brew (1969–1970) only from a concept and brief sketches. He involved the musicians in spontaneous creativity, or as he put it, a “living composition,”18 by taking his sketches and elaborating on them. He likened these sessions to the old-time jam sessions at Minton’s. He wanted a feeling of spontaneity—a looseness that could only be the result of a group process, not some preordained, prearranged, and com - posed exercise. “[The Bitches Brew] session was about improvisation, and that’s what makes jazz so fabulous,”19 he said. Once again, overdubbing allowed Miles and producer Teo Macero to go back and layer additional parts on top of what had already been recorded—in a sense to recompose. Silent Way and Bitches Brew were both heavily modal in quality and, although some motives, repetitive bass lines, and basic harmonies had been preconceived by Davis, the final composition and, in some cases, the final form of each composition on these recordings was left up to chance, spontaneous creativity, and editing on the part of the leader, his sidemen, and producer. It is clear that the free school’s ideas about collective improvisation and the need for increased freedom in jazz had not gone unnoticed by Davis. His return to dance-oriented tempos, rhythms, and strong melodic content in later albums catapulted him once again to widespread fame, playing to large crowds in huge pop-music venues, such as California’s Fillmore East and West. His band, now augmented by electronic keyboards, percussion, and a host of electronic effects, opened for such popular rock groups as the Grateful Dead. Bitches Brew sold more copies than any other Miles Davis recording. Following its release, Davis won the Down Beat magazine readers’ and critics’ polls for Record of the Year and Artist of the Year. That same year, his pianist Herbie Hancock won the piano category, and Wayne Shorter won the soprano saxophone category.

The following excerpt from Bitches Brew’s “Miles Runs the Voodoo Down” is a good illustration of the kind of music included on this landmark album, which many point to as marking the dawn of the fusion, jazz–rock movement. (Tony Williams’s own bombastic fusion trio with organist Larry Young is often overlooked in such discussions.) The original recording of “Miles Runs the Voodoo Down” is 14 minutes in its entirety and, at times, is analogous to a crowded room of people at a party, with many conversations providing the basic fabric, but with more prominent voices coming to the foreground. There is a similar ebb and flow to this music,



as each soloist reaches a climax before passing on to the next soloist. There were striking similarities to Ornette Coleman’s Free Jazz from nearly 10 years earlier. Both recordings (1) utilize two rhythm sections; (2) juxtapose one ensemble against another; and (3) feature pre-composed, brief motives as mere springboards to lengthy improvisations. The principal differences that separate these landmark albums are that the Davis recording: (1) makes use of electronic instruments; (2) features a straight 8th-note rock-influenced rhythmic pulse; (3) gravitates to a clear tonality; and (4) distinguishes the soloist from the crowd.

“Miles Runs the Voodoo Down” bears all the classic trademarks of music influenced by black pop music of the day, especially that produced by Sly Stone and James Brown. By incorporating funky bass and drum grooves and static modal vamps with guitar blues inflections, Davis was appealing to his people and the pop-music world in general. This track is a contemporary jam session, showing Davis in top form, screaming in the upper register while contrasting those blasts with middle- and low-register references to the simple theme. He dances around the rhythmic sections, inserting improvised jabs like a boxer. Although his music from this period did put him back in the public eye, with the free-form vamps and a high degree of improvisation from soloists and rhythm-section accompanists, the music on Bitches Brew offered little predictability for the pop crowds accustomed to vocal lyrics and a higher degree of predictability. This brief excerpt was prepared for a single release, but is long enough to clearly show that Davis was pursuing his own, original brand of free but tonal, experimental jazz.

Fewer and fewer black musicians were playing jazz and I could see why, because jazz was becoming the music of the museum. . . . They were only playing the same musical licks that we played way back with Bird, over and over again, along with some of the things Coltrane introduced, and maybe Ornette [Coleman].20


Miles Davis

“Miles Runs the Voodoo Down” (Miles Davis) 2:53

From Bitches Brew

Recorded 4/19/1970


Personnel: Miles Davis, trumpet; Wayne Shorter, soprano saxophone; Benny Maupin, bass clarinet; Chick Corea, electric piano (right channel); Joe Zawinul, electric piano (left channel); John McLaughlin, electric guitar; Dave Holland, bass (left channel); Harvey Brooks, electric bass (center); Jack DeJohnnette, drums (center); Don Alias, drums and conga (left); Jim “Jumma Santos” Riley, shaker and percussion (left)

Form: Free form

0:00–0:15 Drums and bass with simple 3-note figure set tempo and funky groove

0:16 Guitarist McLaughlin enters with solo fills in rock style

0:25 Bass clarinet enters with improvised fills

0:34 Miles Davis enters on trumpet playing simple 4-note theme in lower register

1:25 Electric pianos become more visible in thickening accompaniment texture

1:30–end Rhythm section continues modal rock vamp, improvising accompaniments to trumpet solo

The jazz scene as seen through Davis’s eyes had become stagnant and was certainly not engaging black audiences, because it no longer was a mirror of popular culture as it had been during its most successful years. Davis recorded another powerful, rock-influenced album in 1970 that could be considered the precursor of “heavy metal.” The music for Jack Johnson was designed as a soundtrack for a film about the first black prizefighter to rise to supremacy, despite threats from the Ku Klux Klan. Not unlike Miles, who was an amateur boxer, Johnson loved fancy clothes, flashy cars, and fast women. This recording, perhaps even more than Bitches Brew, marks the dawn of a new era for the jazz guitarist, for, in this recording, the instrument is elevated to new heights. John McLaughlin’s screaming and distorted electric guitar wails its way through the entire recording, leaving space for cameo appearances by Davis. McLaughlin’s dominant voice on this recording paves the way for his significant work, yet to come in the 1970s.

By 1972, when Davis recorded On the Corner, his dress and his music mimicked the latest street culture—platform shoes, flashy colors, tight leather pants, headbands, vests, and so forth. Not only was he musically playing to the people, but, in his own creative way, he was visually playing to them as well. His concerts, like those by popular rock bands of the day, were as much happenings as they were concerts. He made use of tape loops, various electronic devices, and driving “minimalist” rhythm grooves, long before the style and word were made popular in the world of 20th-century classical music.

What I was playing on On the Corner had no label. It was actually a combination of some of the concepts of Paul Buckmaster, Sly Stone, James Brown and Stockhausen, some of the concepts I had absorbed from Ornette’s music, as well as my own. The music was about spacing, about free association of musical ideas to a core kind of rhythm and vamps of the bass line.21

Davis and his other soloists then layered their improvisations on top of what was an often rather simplistic, dance-oriented rhythm-section accompaniment. However, focal points and the depth of field in his musical paintings were constantly changing (curiously, like Ellington, Miles was a painter in his spare time). Borrowing the most innovative aspects of rock ’n’ roll (rhythm, bass ostinatos, vamps, and new electronic instruments and effects) and fusing these ingredients with free-form improvisation, Davis single-handedly created the next stylistic wave in jazz that had a significant impact on its future.

Miles Davis summarized his own views on jazz musicians and the question of popularity by saying that:

As a musician and as an artist, I have always wanted to reach as many people as I could through my music. And I have never been ashamed of that. I always thought I should reach as many people as I could, like so-called popular music, and why not? . . . Jazz was never meant to reach just a small group of people, or become a museum thing locked under glass like all other dead things that were once considered artistic.22

In 1970, Davis fulfilled this aspiration when his band performed at the Isle of Wight Festival, with crowds exceeding those at Woodstock, and sharing the bill with rock and pop artists Jimi Hendrix, Chicago, the Doors, the Who, Joan Baez, Joni Mitchell, Sly and the Family Stone, and others. He was the only jazz artist to perform at this record-setting event.

By 1974, numerous health problems forced Davis into retirement, but he resurrected his career in 1981 with the release of The Man With the Horn. However, it was his second effort during this final period, We Want Miles, released in 1982, that showed he still had what it took. This live recording featured a catchy nursery-rhyme tune entitled “Jean Pierre” that took the


jazz world by storm. “Hip,” informed soloists in small jazz groups around the nation were quoting from this simple tune. “Jean Pierre” became the rage and was evidence of Davis’s continued ability to be musically charismatic.

During his final years, Miles performed a mixed repertoire that even included an arrangement of pop-artist Cyndi Lauper’s “Time After Time.” His most successful performances during these final years were the result of collaborations with guitarists Mike Stern and John Scofield, along with bassist/composer/producer Marcus Miller. Often sophisticated, this modern repertoire still showed roots in the jazz tradition. For instance, Scofield’s title track from You’re Under Arrest (perhaps referring back to Davis’s illegal bust in front of Birdland in the 1940s) was based essentially on the time-tested Gershwin, AABA “I’ve Got Rhythm” model. Davis’s Tutu, produced in collaboration with Marcus Miller, is reminiscent of the highly orchestrated, textural style of Gil Evans, only not achieved in this case by acoustic instruments, but with layers of orchestrated electronic sounds.

Davis’s final 1992 studio recording, Doo Bop, once again proved that he had his ear to the street. This collaboration with rapper Easy Moe Bee bears all the signs of street music, with infectious, machine-like, throbbing bass and drum grooves providing the landscape for Davis’s improvisation. Dance grooves permeate the recording, along with a few more seductive tempos. Although Davis was in good form, the repetitive vamps and sampled drums that surround him are a bit tiresome and lack the spontaneity that lies at the heart of good jazz and earlier work by Davis.


Miles Davis performing in Copenhagen, 1973, wearing hip clothes of the day


No other instrumentalist in the history of jazz had such a presence and lasting impact on this music. Davis ranks with a select few, including Armstrong, Ellington, and Parker, as a true innovator. But, unlike any of these icons who had preceded him, Davis was a chameleon, always changing his course and updating his approach. Davis was always on the move, never so deeply rooted in one particular tradition that he was not able, willing, and eager to change. In many ways, this one man’s career represents the essence of what jazz was and should be—music in constant transition and evolution, borrowing from the past, but not stuck in it.

Figure 12.1, summarizing Miles Davis’s unique style that defined his artistry and his contributions to jazz, will be helpful in further clarifying his importance to the history of jazz.

Was active in seven different styles – bebop, cool, third stream, modal, hard bop, progressive or post-hard bop, and fusion. Preferred the middle and low register rather than the extreme high register, though at times spikes and flares into the high register were used as an element of surprise and tension. Employed an economy of style where space was often favored over long, notey passages. Often used the harmon mute. Developed a unique and identifiable sound and attack. His sound could change like the weather and varied from dramatic to passionate, cold and militant. As a melodic improviser was less concerned about harmony and often played phrases of unusual length. Avoided bebop clichés, though vocal-like blues influences can be found in his playing. Had a lyrical tone that frequently lacked noticeable vibrato. Preferred a linear, scalar approach instead of the vertical, arpeggiated style. Demonstrated an element of angularity and preference for chromatic, more dissonant passages as his style matured. Was ever evolving, never resting on prior accomplishments – the most significant innovator in the post-modern jazz era.



3. 4. 5.



8. 9.



Miles Davis Innovations

FIGURE 12.1 Miles Davis’s innovations


One should not underestimate the contributions Miles Davis’s sidemen made in reshaping jazz, during and after their apprenticeships with the great master. The following chapter will look more closely at these and other Davis sidemen, who continued to exercise a significant influence on shaping the future of jazz.


JOHN COLTRANE (1926–1967)

Tenor saxophonist John Coltrane was as important to the development of jazz in the postmodern period as Parker was to the moderns. Every player who followed Coltrane, or “Trane” as he was nicknamed, has been significantly influenced by the repertoire he created and his new approaches to the instrument. Like Parker, he was equally comfortable with blues, ballads, standards, and up-tempo repertoire. He added to this older canon a new repertoire that included complex, fast-paced tunes, harmonically fresh ballads, free-form atonal pieces, modal music (after Miles), and cross-culturally influenced works that moved jazz in several new directions.

Coltrane was born in North Carolina, but began to mature as a saxophonist while playing in the Philadelphia area with blues and dance bands. Although his roots were in blues and hard bop, he was destined to be a major voice in the later developments of modal and free jazz. Coltrane rose to prominence as a member of Miles Davis’s first great quintet. At this point in his development, he was considered a disciple of bop saxophonists Dexter Gordon and Sonny Stitt, but with more technique and a tendency towards more jagged phrases. He left the Davis quintet in 1957 to take up with pianist Thelonious Monk, for a period that proved to be one of the most rewarding experiences in his training. Monk taught him more about harmony and melodic development. “Working with Monk,” Coltrane said, “brought me close to a musical architect of the highest order. Monk was one of the first to show me how to make two or three notes at the same time [multiphonics].”23 Their live recordings together are significant in the documented evolution of both careers.

Coltrane first encountered the modal style upon his return to the Miles Davis band in 1958 and subsequently participated in both recordings that served to introduce the style to the world—Milestones and Kind of Blue. Perhaps it was these encounters with modal music that led him to develop a new technical approach to improvising on a harmony. Ira Gitler, writing for Down Beat magazine, was the first to describe this technique as “sheets of sound.”24

Coltrane played such rapid bursts of notes (usually ascending) that each individual note was indistinguishable, and the by-product was as close to the sound of a chord as a saxophone was capable of producing. Chords can be played on a keyboard instrument, guitar, or vibes, but wind instruments are nearly incapable of producing more than one note at a time (aside from multiphonic techniques). Coltrane’s “sheets” of notes, always played as a rapid gesture, are as close as one can come to sounding a complete harmony on the instrument. The effect is akin to running your thumb up the strings of a harp or piano keyboard. Another striking aspect of these gestures is that they did not swing, because the notes were played so fast, and this was a very new concept to jazz, as previously it was thought that everything one played should swing and fit within the context of the rhythm section’s steady pulse. One could say that he played against the time or pulse, or simply ignored it. These techniques became part of Trane’s musical signature—his style. His “sheets of sound” led to explorations of other new devices, many of which were adopted by serious, contemporary classical saxophonists and composers. Later in his career, for example, Coltrane began utilizing both harmonic fingerings and multiphonics. Harmonic fingerings enabled him to produce an unusual timbre (tone quality) on certain notes by using unorthodox fingerings to produce them. The principle relates to simple laws of physics that govern the vibration of a string. When a string is set in vibration and then divided at certain points, different, higher pitches above the fundamental pitch established by the string length will result. These pitches above the fundamental note are called harmonics. All musical instruments make use of this basic principle. Multiphonics are produced by special fingerings that enable the instrument to sound more than one note at a time. It was a logical progression for Coltrane to move from his “sheets of sound” effect to multiphonics.

Even before he left Davis’s group, Coltrane had secured the interest of major record labels. In Miles’s own words: “The group I had with Coltrane made me and him a legend.”25 Coltrane recorded two landmark recordings under his own name while still performing with Miles—Blue Train (Blue Note, 1957) and Giant Steps (Atlantic, 1959). Ironically, both of these recordings are the antithesis of the modal style he had been introduced to by Davis at this same time. These recordings mark the culmination of Coltrane’s involvement in the post-hard-bop style and are considered to be the penultimate conclusion of his immersion in tunes that presented complex harmonic


progressions. In both recordings, most notably Giant Steps, he explores complex chord changes derived by substituting new chord sequences for more typical, expected ones. He was clearly concerned, at this time, with developing total control of his instrument, practicing obsessively to develop a virtuosic technique that allowed him to address any challenge, harmonic or technical. Both the title track from Giant Steps and “Countdown” from the same recording are excellent examples of this advanced period in Coltrane’s development. Although neither tune is a beautiful work of art, as both served as technical exercises for Coltrane, both tunes continue to be important yardsticks in measuring saxophonists’ progress, prowess, and level of achievement. The ability to improvise on “Giant Steps” and “Countdown” has become a necessary rite of passage for all saxophonists.

In stark contrast to this complex harmonic style on this album, Coltrane includes “Naima,” which is far more static and modal in conception, featuring a pedal-point bass line with slow-moving harmonies. Down Beat magazine awarded five stars to this recording, and a retrospective review pointed out that: it was his first recording to include completely original tunes; on “Naima,” he introduced the pedal point (repetitive bass tone with changing harmonies above) as an effective compositional device in jazz; and he reached a new plateau of virtuosic control that has taken nearly 30 years to equal and surpass.26 With these two recordings at the close of the 1950s (Blue Train and Giant Steps), Coltrane took hard bop to the brink in terms of harmonic complexity and sheer virtuosity.

“Lazy Bird,” a Coltrane composition included in the online audio anthology, is a fine example of this complexity and the ease with which Coltrane negotiated challenging chord progressions at brisk tempos. The sidemen on this record are in good form, representing some of the finest hard-bop soloists of the day, and two-thirds of the rhythm section (Chambers and Jones) had worked with Coltrane as members of Miles Davis’s quintets, so there was good chemistry. Trombonist Curtis Fuller clearly descends from the earlier J.J. Johnson bebop trombone style.

John Coltrane performing on soprano saxophone with his quartet in West Germany, 1959



John Coltrane—Blue Train

“Lazy Bird” excerpt (Coltrane) 4:31

Recorded 9/15/1957 in New York

Blue Note Records reissued on CDP 7243 8 53428 0 6

Personnel: John Coltrane, tenor sax; Lee Morgan, trumpet; Curtis Fuller, trombone; Kenny Drew, piano; Paul Chambers, bass; Philly Joe Jones, drums

Form: repeated 32-bar-song form (AABA = chorus)

0:00–0:07 Introduction—8 measures featuring piano

0:08–0:15 First chorus—A section theme played by trumpeter Lee Morgan

0:16–0:23 Trumpet repeats A theme

0:24–0:31 Bridge or B theme played by trumpet with tenor sax/trombone counter line in call–response style with trumpet

0:32–0:38 Trumpet ends first chorus with repeat of A theme

0:39–1:08 Second chorus—improvised trumpet solo on entire AABA form, with rhythm-section accompaniment

1:09–1:39 Third chorus—trumpet solo continues on form with rhythm section

1:40–2:10 Fourth chorus—trombone solo featuring Curtis Fuller, with rhythm-section accompaniment

2:11–2:40 Fifth chorus—trombone solo continues

2:41–3:11 Sixth chorus—Coltrane enters with first of several choruses

3:12–3:42 Seventh chorus—tenor sax continues solo

3:43–4:14 Eighth chorus—Coltrane plays final solo chorus

4:15–end Excerpt ends with beginning of piano solo


John Coltrane—Live at Birdland

“Afro Blue” (Mongo Santamaria) 6 (excerpt)

Recorded 10/8/1963 live at Birdland, New York

Impulse Records IMPD-198

Personnel: John Coltrane, soprano sax; McCoy Tyner, piano; Jimmy Garrison, bass; Elvin Jones, drums

Form: Two contrasting phrases, each 8 measures (AB improvised interlude A1B)

0:00–0:28 Pianist McCoy Tyner builds the end of his solo to a climax

0:29 Coltrane enters in the extreme high register of the soprano sax

3:08 Coltrane returns to the first section of the original melody

3:22 Coltrane begins improvising again

4:19–4:34 Coltrane plays the second portion of the main theme

4:35 Quartet begins to wind down dynamically

5:46 Group states last phrase of tune in dramatic rubato style


Coltrane eventually left Davis to strike out on his own, abandoning the dense, complex harmonic web in which he had become entangled and immersing his new quartet in a steady diet of modal music. He pursued this new style as if it were a religion, seeking more and more freedom to express new emotions. With pianist McCoy Tyner, drummer Elvin Jones, and bassist Jimmy Garrison, he popularized modal jazz to an extent that undoubtedly surprised even the record label executives. My Favorite Things, the quartet’s first, highly acclaimed 1960 recording, featured Coltrane on soprano saxophone as well as tenor. Previously, Sidney Bechet had been the only other jazz instrumentalist to use the soprano with any regularity or success. The soprano had become little more than a footnote, until this recording revived interest in the instrument. Improvements in its design made it more acceptable, and, since the 1960s, the instrument has become standard in the saxophonist’s arsenal. Coltrane’s sound on this instrument was as unique and personal as it was on tenor. He evoked an eastern or North African flavor on the soprano, at times producing a sound similar to the nasal quality of Indian reed instruments or the oboe, developed centuries earlier in Europe to perform classical music.

The intensity of this quartet, with Coltrane on soprano sax and tenor and Tyner and Jones in the rhythm section, is remarkable—spellbinding in its intensity and without comparison at the time, at least for a small group. “My Favorite Things,” included in the online audio anthology, is no exception, comparing favorably with his other modal work at the time. He seemed to prefer up-tempo 3/4 meters for the lengthy soprano sax excursions, and this recording, along with “Inch Worm” and “Afro Blue,” all share this quality. Drummer Elvin Jones is explosive, constantly prodding pianist Tyner and Coltrane, dropping salvos with bass drum and cymbals, while injecting machine gun-like chatter with his other hand. The excerpt begins at the close of Tyner’s solo, propelled by the trio to a fevered pitch that requires Coltrane to begin his solo at this precipice and build from there. As the excerpt begins mid-track, you may want to first listen to the return of the tune from 3:08 to 4:34, before listening to the entire track.

Coltrane’s modal repertoire and recordings, including the highly touted A Love Supreme, demonstrated a growing spirituality. Many of the pieces on these recordings, including the originally released version of “Impressions,” were long incantations—lengthy improvisations that kept building in hypnotic intensity, much like “My Favorite Things.” Critics and listeners were captivated, awarding him Jazzman of the Year, Record of the Year, and first place in the tenor saxophone category, and electing him to the Down Beat Hall of Fame, all following the release of A Love Supreme in 1965. This recording was one of his most compelling and lasting works, selling a million copies by the close of the 1970s, 20 years after it was recorded.27 Supplemental listening guides to “Acknowledgement” from A Love Supreme, “Impressions,” and “Afro Blue” are provided in the corresponding chapter on the website.

Following an all-too-familiar bout with drug and alcohol addiction, Coltrane had turned towards religion and philosophy to seek inner peace and to help him on his personal and musical journey. He is the first jazzman to overtly present his music as a religious offering, as was the case with A Love Supreme. The music on this recording, and others that followed, borders on meditations or prayers, such as “Alabama,” his elegy for four small girls who lost their lives in the 1963 Birmingham church bombing. “Alabama” is a riveting testament to the mood of the times, when the eyes of the nation were riveted on individuals such as Governor Faubus, who sent National Guard troops to keep young black school children from attending school. This situation, and many others like it, was reflected in the music of many black artists during this time. His search for spirituality led him to the study of Indian music, and he also showed an interest in Latin, Arabic, and African music. Hence, Coltrane is often considered the first jazz musician to seriously pursue world-music styles and consciously weave them into his new brand of American jazz. These influences are most evident in Africa Brass, Olé Coltrane, and “India,” among others. One gets the impression, after hearing Coltrane’s performances from this modal period and beyond, that he is searching, at times desperately reaching and crying out with his distinctive vocal-like wails, for something that was unattainable. With its folk-like quality, there is a sense of both deep passion and inner torment in his music. His tone was unique, often lacking vibrato, projecting a steely quality and a vocal-like, primordial cry, as if he were in pain. The metal mouthpiece he used instead of the hard rubber or plastic variety no doubt contributed to his ability to deliver his


unique and identifiable tone. His sound has been described as hard-edged, metallic, and brittle. As Wayne Shorter once said, “he had a sense of urgency like he couldn’t get everything he wanted out [of the horn].”28 At other times, as shown on his Ballads recording, he could be more caressing, rarely straying far from merely interpreting the beautiful melodies of these tunes.

Coltrane’s quartet continued to push the boundaries in the early 1960s, and, in 1961, he added multi-reed player Eric Dolphy to the quartet. Although Dolphy played flute and alto saxophone, he is most remembered for unleashing the potential of the bass clarinet, an instrument that had rarely been explored for its potential as a jazz solo instrument. Now a quintet, their performances became more and more abstract, featuring relentless, long solos. One tune could last an entire set in a live performance, or occupy the entire side of a recording. Some labeled the group’s new direction, and that of other black experimentalists, as the “new thing” or “outside” jazz. Coltrane defended their long solos: “they’re long because all the soloists try to explore all the avenues that the tune offers. They try to use all their resources.”29 However, many audiences became alienated and turned off by what they perceived as a self-indulgent attitude. After attending a live club date, a Down Beat correspondent wrote:

I heard a good rhythm section . . . go to waste behind the nihilistic exercises of the two horns . . . Coltrane and Dolphy seem intent on deliberately destroying swing. They seem bent on pursuing an anarchistic course in their music that can be termed anti-jazz.30

Dolphy expanded his possibilities with the flute, sometimes deriving his inspiration from birdcalls and the 1⁄4-tone whistles that they sometimes sing. Both instrumentalists seemed to want to begin with a blank easel that could be totally open and responsive to their feelings and surroundings. Their music was about finding new ways to communicate with their instruments, in an effort to convey their innermost feelings to the listener. “The main thing a musician would like to do is to give a picture to the listener of the many wonderful things he knows of and senses,”31 Coltrane said. The “new thing” put off some critics and listeners, and some were openly critical, accusing the artists of abandoning the tradition, including “swing.” “It’s kind of alarming to the musician,” Dolphy said, “when someone has written something bad about what the musician plays but never asks the musician anything about it.”32

Coltrane continued to push the boundaries of jazz, and, by 1965, it seemed that he had exhausted the possibilities that modal jazz presented, just as he had several years before with harmonically complex hard bop. The only logical alternative for Coltrane was to venture into completely unknown and unpredictable territory, as Ornette Coleman had done several years earlier. “In the early 60s he was studying with me,” Coleman said. “He was interested in non-chord playing, and I had cut my teeth on that stuff.”33 The work Coltrane had done with Coleman and the new breed of black musicians experimenting with the “new thing” no doubt all had a major impact on Coltrane, moving him toward his final phase of exploration—free jazz. Perhaps it was the sense of chaos that everyone who lived through the 1960s felt that also motivated Coltrane to move further outside of tradition, motivating him to assemble one of the most important recordings in this history of jazz—Ascension. In this recording, Coltrane abandoned predictability, as Coleman had done with his Free Jazz. The roles of meter, pulse, melody, harmony, and form were redefined, as they were nearly non-existent. Ironically, it was released the same year that he was awarded Jazzman of the Year for his work on the Love Supreme recording, but Ascension was far less accessible to the average listener. Listeners often have more difficulty appreciating recorded free jazz, regardless of the artist, compared with the energy of the live experience. Ascension featured four saxophonists, two trumpets, two bassists, one drummer, and a pianist. Nothing was pre-composed, aside from the opening five-note melody introduced by Coltrane. What follows is 38 minutes of unstructured improvisation, an orgiastic free-for-all that portrays the contrast between group chaos and free-form solos by the individual instrumentalists. The solos, like that of saxophonist Pharaoh Sanders, were at times streams of shrieks, squawks, screams, squeaks, shouts, hollers, cries, moans, yells, wails, and occasional blues-infected melodies. The soloists were not bound by any prescribed


or accepted syntax, making them free of melodic, rhythmic, harmonic, and structural conventions. It was this blatant attack on accepted standards and the very tradition itself that enraged many. The non-musical effects served to turn off many listeners and incited their “anti-jazz” allegations. The release of this recording was the most controversial event in jazz since Coleman’s Free Jazz, eliciting such criticism as “unattractive” and the result of Coltrane “going off the deep end.”34 But the jazz community was polarized, as others felt Ascension, and the other free-jazz works that followed, were inspirational and challenging, elevating jazz to a new plateau of art music. Down Beat magazine, in 1966, came out in favor of the recording, describing it as “possibly the most powerful human sound ever recorded.”35

Figure 12.2 offers a summary of the stylistic innovations that made Coltrane the most important saxophonist in modern jazz at this point.

John Coltrane lived a relatively brief life considering his impressive achievements, passing away as the result of liver cancer in 1967. His death shook the jazz world much as the loss of Parker had. His candle had burned quickly, and perhaps that is why he had been so compulsive and obsessive about accomplishing so much in such a short time. His influence has been pervasive in much of the jazz produced after 1960, and he exerted a significant influence on contemporary saxophonists such as Branford Marsalis, Michael Brecker, James Carter, Kenny Garrett, Joshua Redman, Joe Lovano, and Chris Potter, among others.

Was active in three different phases of jazz–hard bop, modal and free. Had a penchant for lengthy improvisations. Produced a highly original tone quality that often lacked vibrato, projecting a plaintive quality. Reintroduced and popularized use of the soprano saxophone Favored developing smaller motives or melodic cells rather than improvising long unrelated lines. Was one of the first jazz musicians to overtly incorporate music of other cultures, Western and non-Western. Played music that was deeply inspired and informed by the blues tradition. Developed new saxophone performance techniques including “sheets of sound,” multiphonics, and harmonic fingerings in addition to extending the range of the instrument. Sometimes played purposefully dissonant lines that were outside the given key (chord). This practice is often referred to as “side-stepping” or playing “outside.” Significantly raised the bar for all future performers through his sheer virtuosity and challenging compositions. Established a new approach to freer, open modal playing. Openly used music to express his religious and social beliefs. Was the most important post-modern tenor saxophonist.

1. 2. 3.

4. 5.


7. 8.



11. 12. 13.

Coltrane Innovations

FIGURE 12.2 John Coltrane’s innovations


Wayne Shorter (1933–)

Born in Camden, New Jersey, Wayne Shorter pursued and completed a BA degree in music education at New York University before joining the armed forces. By the time Shorter made his first appearance with Miles Davis in 1964, he had already established himself as an important voice, working with Horace Silver, Art Blakey, and Maynard Ferguson. Like so many saxophonists in the early 1960s, Shorter was profoundly influenced by Coltrane, but he also bore similarities to both Lester Young and the more contemporary Sonny Rollins in terms of his gift for melodic development. In comparison with Coltrane, his tone was softer and lighter, more in the Young tradition, and somewhat broader. Shorter, like Coltrane, used vibrato only sparingly, which made it that much more poignant when he did. The most unique aspect of Shorter’s style was his sense of rhythm. Although he could lock into the groove of a rhythm section and swing with the best of them, he often chose not to, floating over the top of the regular pulse and upsetting the listener’s equilibrium. His preference for long tones and space over blinding bursts of notes often gives one the impression that he is playing “slower than the rhythm sections that accompanied [him].”36

Shorter rarely quoted anyone except himself, and his improvisations are barren of any clichés. Much like Miles Davis, Shorter tended to spin melodies that were grouped in odd numbers of measures, and his choice of notes also contributes to his unique, original approach. He was a guiding force as a saxophonist and composer in the famous Davis quintet of the mid 1960s, just as he had been with Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers in prior years. “Wayne was the idea person, the conceptualizer of a whole lot of musical ideas we did,”37 Miles said.

Wayne has always been someone who experimented with form instead of someone who did it without form [referring no doubt to the free jazz movement]. That’s why I thought he was perfect for where I wanted to see the music I played go. He understood that freedom in music was the ability to know the rules in order to bend them to your own satisfaction and taste. That’s why I say he was the intellectual musical catalyst for the band.38

His compositions often broke rules when compared with previous jazz repertoire. Unusual forms and chord progressions, dictated more by melody and improvisation than functional harmony, are his trademarks. His tunes often do not adhere to simple and predictable architectures (4-, 8-, 16-, 24-, or 32-measure units), but take the shape of 14, 18, and 20 measures. He sees composition and improvisation as closely intermingled, and, consequently it is not unusual when a Shorter composition flows freely and seamlessly between written and improvised material, blurring the lines between composition and improvisation. “Paraphernalia” (Miles in the Sky), “Dolores” (Miles Smiles), and “Masqualero” (Sorcerer), and of course “Orbits,” the featured track in this chapter, serve as excellent examples of this approach. An intellectual artist, Shorter’s compositions are often motivated by non-musical occurrences. For example, his 1964 Speak No Evil recording was inspired by folklore, black magic, and legends. Shorter says,

I was thinking of misty landscapes with wild flowers and strange, dimly seen shapes—the kind of places where folklore and legends are born. I’m getting stimuli from things outside of myself. Before I was concerned with . . . my ethnic roots, but now I’m trying to fan out, to concern myself with the universe instead of just my own corner of it.39

His improvisations are as thoughtful as his compositions and are always perfectly conceived in terms of their reference to the original tune. In contrast to Coltrane, who played obsessively long, self-indulgent solos, Shorter was the master of the understatement, often producing short compositions and even more abbreviated solos, with no unnecessary excess.


Shorter left Davis’s quintet at the close of the decade to enable a more focused pursuit of his own career. When we examine his impact throughout the 1970s, discussed in more detail in the following chapter, you will see why Wayne Shorter is considered one of the most influential jazz musicians of the late 20th century.

Herbie Hancock (1940–)

Herbie Hancock was the most important jazz pianist to hit the scene, following Wynton Kelly and Bill Evans. The bond between all three was not only stylistic, as Hancock borrowed from both artists who preceded him, but also because each performed with Miles Davis. His stylistic diversity, another characteristic he shares with many of the Davis sidemen, has earned him fans from the pop, jazz, and, to some degree, classical worlds, because, as a child prodigy, he performed with the Chicago Symphony. Since then, Hancock has somehow managed to maintain multiple careers, freely moving between solo piano performances, producing and recording in the pop and jazz worlds, film scoring, experimenting with the latest electronic technology, and performing with cutting-edge jazz groups, both mainstream and avant-garde.

Hancock was already an established musician when he signed with the Miles Davis Quintet. While working with Davis, he continued to maintain a profile as a leader on records and as a highly sought after sideman. It would be difficult to find a pianist who has participated on more recordings and in more diverse settings than Hancock, who lists numerous collaborations on his vast discography.

His pianistic style is derived from two distinct genealogy lines—the harmonically rich style associated with Bill Evans, and the right-hand technical approach fostered by a long line of pianists, beginning with Bud Powell. Hancock’s comping style is also highly personal and identifiable for its crispness and rhythmic agility. Hancock’s solos are often contrasting in terms of dynamics, density, and texture, juxtaposing dense harmonic passages with single-note lines. One can often sense his classical training, which gives him the facility to perform the most difficult passages with ease.

Hancock’s first recording as a leader in 1962 featured the funky, gospel-tinged “Watermelon Man,” one of the most widely performed pieces from his repertoire, along with the modal “Maiden Voyage” from his 1965 recording by the same name. “Watermelon Man” and “Cantaloupe Island,” from his 1964 release entitled Empyrean Isles, were revived and became part of the foundation of the acid-jazz movement of the later 1990s. Other compositions by Hancock that were penned in the 1960s and have since become part of the jazz canon include “Dolphin Dance,” featured on his Maiden Voyage album, and “Speak Like a Child,” the title track from his 1968 release. Hancock was a major force in shaping jazz over the next several decades, particularly the 1970s, during which time his Jekyll and Hyde musical personality was difficult to track.


Chronicle of Historic Events

The timeline that follows will put the developments of jazz discussed in this chapter into a larger historical context, providing you with a better sense of how landmark musical events may relate to others that match your personal areas of interest.

1957 • John F. Kennedy is awarded a Pulitzer Prize for Profiles in Courage.

• The nuclear arms race heats up.

• The Count Basie band becomes the first black band to perform at New York’s Waldorf–Astoria Hotel.

• Vocalist Pat Boone enjoys popularity.

• President Eisenhower sends federal troops to assist the racial integration of Little Rock, Arkansas, schools.

• The US races with Russia in space exploration.

• Leonard Bernstein enjoys a hit with his musical West Side Story.

• John Coltrane records “Lazy Bird.”

1958 • NASA is created to bolster the U.S. position in the space race.

• The Kingston Trio, Everly Brothers, Little Richard, Rick Nelson, and Chuck Berry are pop-music successes.

• Miles Davis’s Sextet records the modal composition “Milestones.”

• Miles Davis collaborates with Gil Evans to create Porgy and Bess, featuring the popular “Summertime.”

1959 • Coast-to-coast flight becomes a reality, along with passenger flights to Europe.

• Richie Valens, Texan Buddy Holly, and the “Big Bopper” die in a plane crash.

• Jazz singer Billie Holiday dies at age 44.

• The Miles Davis Quintet records “So What” on Kind of Blue.

• Integrated schools open in Little Rock, Arkansas.

• Alaska and Hawaii become the 49th and 50th states.

• Some Like It Hot and Ben Hur are popular films.

• Barbie Doll is released, inspiring the comic strip Kathy.

1960 • Protests, sit-ins, and other forms of non-violent protest against segregation and discrimination take place.

• Martin Luther King becomes a prominent civil rights leader.

• The Fantastics is a hit on Broadway.

• The birth-control pill is approved.

• Cold war tensions escalate following the U2 spy-plane incident. Tension mounts in Cuba.

• JFK defeats Nixon for the presidency by a narrow margin.

• Camelot opens on Broadway.

1961 • Rock ’n’ roll is a hit with teenagers. The American Bandstand TV show and Chubby Checker’s “The Twist” are hot with teens.



• People fear Armageddon as the missile race and