Jazz History

Written on September 17, 2016   By   in Articles

BEBOP (Bop, Rebop) was a re-invention of jazz.This revolution was brought on by the artistic and social forces of the mid-1940s post-World War II period. Young jazzmen strained to be freed from the restrtictions of the big bands. Costs also necessitated a return to smaller bands. Hence there was a lot of exploration.

In 1945, after much experimentation, Charlie Parker (saxphone player) and Dizzy Gillespie (trumpet) recorded a new music that was launched as the bebop style. That changed the course of jazz music history.

Wild, fast and free, bebop broke through the restrictions of the big bands. It conveys many emotions – sadness, humour and joy. Reflecting the bustle and noise of busy New York City, this new style produced a fresh crop of gifted jazz players.

OFF-SHOOTS OF BOP – During the 1950s, new variants of jazz were developed that incorporated certain features of bebop and other elements different from it. Hence there arose two off-shoots – cool jazz and hard bop.

COOL JAZZ emerged in California in the West Coast. Gentle and melodic, it was played primarily by white jazzers. It had features of both bebop and big band swing music . One key player was Miles Davis.

HARD BOP, however, surfaced in New York City. Played mainly by black musicians, it was bluesy and hard-driving . Art Blakey was one key player.

Over time, cross-fertilisation took place between the two variants while, elsewhere, furher experimentation with new sounds continued.

OTHER JAZZ FORMS (1960s to 1990s)

During the 1950s, the dominant forms were cool jazz and hard bop. But some players explored freer forms for more space to improvise and further ways to express their feelings in music. The resultant styles were avant garde and free jazz – emerging in the 1960s and flowing into the 1970s and 1980s. Chicago and New York were the centres for the new music.

AVANT GARDE is experimental and elaborately composed in advance, although it may sound chaotic at times . Noted players include Anthony Braxton and Paul Bley.

FUSION JAZZ is the other musical stream of the 1960s, the first stream being avant garde and free jazz. This fusion form is jazz blended with rock, funk and other musical styles. Miles Davis was the leading figure at this juncture in jazz history. He had played bebop and cool jazz in the 1940s and 1950s. Now in the 1960s, he introduced electric instruments in fusion jazz to produce the throbbing sounds of this exciting new music.


This is American jazz spiced up with the pulsating rhythms and sounds of Cuba, the Caribbean, Puerto Rico and South America.


Jazz history is over 100 years, and there is a gigantic legacy of great music and famous players. But room still exists for musical creativity and new sounds because jazz, unlike classical music, is largely based on improvisation.

ACID JAZZ is prominant as a fresh music. It combines jazz with soul, funk and hip-hop to give a groovy, danceable beat. It was first recorded in London in the 1970s.

NEO-TRADITIONAL JAZZ was played by a group of young jazzers in the 1980s. Known as the Young Lions, they continued developing the traditional acoustic styles whilst other musicians searched for new sounds. Wynton Marsilis (trumpet) was the leader of this group that included his brother Branford (saxophone) and Joshua Redman (saxophone). Heading the New York Lincoln Center, Marsalis is very influential in the modern jazz scene – and is truly jazz history in-the-making.

CONTEMPORARY JAZZ or SMOOTH JAZZ has been described as light instrumental pop music, not true jazz. It has its roots in the fusion jazz of the 1970s. Players include Grover Washington Jr and Kenny G. But, while not being genuine jazz, this music may perhaps entice and lead jazz fans to the real thing!

But then, what really is the real thing? We have to move back to the beginning and ask ………