Early Jazz The earliest easily available jazz recordings are from the 1920's and early 1930's. Trumpet player and vocalist Louis Armstrong ('Pops', 'Satchmo') was by far the most important figure of this period. He played with groups called the Hot Five and the Hot Seven; any recordings you can find of these groups are recommended. The style of these groups, and many others of the period, is often referred to as New Orleans jazz or Dixieland. It is characterized by collective improvisation, in which all performers simultaneously play improvised melodic lines within the harmonic structure of the tune. Louis, as a singer, is credited with the invention of scat, in which the vocalist makes up nonsense syllables to sing improvised lines.
Other notable performers of New Orleans or Dixieland jazz include clarinetist Johnny Dodds, soprano saxophone player Sidney Be chet, trumpeter King Oliver, and trombonist Kid Ory. Other styles popular during this period were various forms of piano jazz, including ragtime, Harlem stride, and boogie-woo gie. These styles are actually quite distinct, but all three are characterized by rhythmic, percussive left hand lines and fast, full right hand lines. Scott Joplin and Jelly Roll Morton were early ragtime pioneers. Fats Waller, Willie 'The Lion's with and James P. Johnson popularized the stride left hand pattern (bass note, chord, bass note, chord); Albert Ammons and Meade Lux Lewis developed this into the faster moving left hand patterns of boogie-woo gie.
Earl 'Fatha' Hines was a pianist who was especially known for his right hand, in which he did not often play full chords or arpeggios, playing instead 'horn-like' melodic lines. This has become commonplace since then. Art Tatum is considered by many to be the greatest jazz pianist ever; he was certainly one of the most technically gifted, and his harmonic insights paved the way for many who came after him. He is sometimes considered a precursor of bebop. Big Band Jazz and Swing Although the big bands are normally associated with a slightly later era, there were several large bands playing during the 1920's and early 1930's, including that of Fletcher Henderson. Bix Beiderbecke was a cornet soloist who played with several bands and was considered a legend in his time.
The mid 1930's brought on the swing era and the emergence of the big bands as the popular music of the day. Glenn Miller, Benny Goodman, Tommy Dorsey, Artie Shaw, Duke Ellington, and Count Basie led some of the more popular bands. There were also some important small group swing recordings during the 1930's and 1940's. These differed from earlier small groups in that these featured very little collective improvisation. This music emphasized the individual soloist. Goodman, Ellington, and Basie recorded often in these small group settings.
Major saxophonists of the era include Johnny Hodges, Paul Gonsalves, Lester Young, Coleman Hawkins, and Ben Webster. Trumpet players include Roy Eldridge, Harry 'Sweets' Edison, Cootie Williams, and Charlie Shavers. Pianists include Ellington, Basie, Teddy Wilson, Enroll Garner, and Oscar Peterson; guitarists include Charlie Christian, Herb Ellis, Barney Kessel l, and Django Reinhardt; vibraphonists include Lionel Hampton; bassists include Jimmy Blanton, Walter Page, and Slam Stewart; drummers include Jo Jones and Sam Woodward. Billie Holiday, Dinah Washington, and Ella Fitzgerald were important singers in this era.
Most of these musicians recorded in small groups as well as with big bands. The styles of these musicians can best be summarized by saying they concentrated primarily on playing melodically, on the swing feel, and on the development of an individual sound. The blues was, as in many other styles, an important element of this music. Bebop The birth of bebop in the 1940's is often considered to mark the beginning of modern jazz. This style grew directly out of the small swing groups, but placed a much higher emphasis on technique and on more complex harmonies rather than on singable melodies. Much of the theory to be discussed later stems directly from innovations in this style.
Alto saxophonist Charlie 'Bird' Parker was the father of this movement, and trumpet player Dizzy Gillespie ('Diz') was his primary accomplice. Dizzy also led a big band, and helped introduce Afro-Cuban music, including rhythms such as the mambo, to American audiences, through his work with Cuban percussionists. But it was the quintet and other small group recordings featuring Diz and Bird that formed the foundation of bebop and most modern jazz. While, as with previous styles, much use was made of the blues and popular songs of the day, including songs by George Gershwin and Cole Porter, the original compositions of the bebop players began to diverge from popular music for the first time, and in particular, bebop was not intended to be dance music. The compositions usually featured fast tempos and difficult eighth note runs. Many of the bebop standards are based on the chord progressions of other popular songs, such as 'I Got Rhythm', 'Cherokee', or 'How High The Moon'.
The improvisations were based on scales implied by those chords, and the scales used included alterations such as the flatted fifth. The development of bebop led to new approaches to accompanying as well as soloing. Drummers began to rely less on the bass drum and more on the ride cymbal and hi-hat. Bass players became responsible for keeping the pulse by playing almost exclusively a walking bass line consisting mostly of quarter notes while outlining the chord progression. Pianists were able to use a lighter touch, and in particular their left hands were no longer forced to define the beat or to play roots of chords. In addition, the modern jazz standard form became universal.
Performers would play the melody to a piece (the head), often in unison, then take turns playing solos based on the chord progression of the piece, and finally play the head again. The technique of trading fours, in which soloists exchange four bar phrases with each other or with the drummer, also became commonplace. The standard quartet and quintet formats (piano, bass, drums; saxophone and / or trumpet) used in bebop have changed very little since the 1940's. Many of the players from the previous generation helped pave the way for bebop. These musicians included Lester Young, Coleman Hawkins, Roy Eldridge, Charlie Christian, Jimmy Blanton, and Jo Jones. Young and Hawkins in particular are often considered two of the most important musicians in this effort.
Other bebop notables include saxophonists Sonny Stitt and Lucky Thompson, trumpeters Fats Navarro, Kenny Durham, and Miles Davis, pianists Bud Powell, Duke Jordan, Al Haig, and Thelonious Monk, vibraphonist Milt Jackson, bassists Oscar Pettiford, Tommy Potter, and Charles Mingus, and drummers Max Roach, Kenny Clarke, and Roy Haynes. Miles, Monk, and Mingus went on to further advances in the post-bebop eras, and their music will be discussed later. Cool Jazz Although Miles Davis first appeared on bebop recordings of Charlie Parker, his first important session as a leader was called The Birth Of The Cool. An album containing all the recordings of this group is available. The cool jazz style has been described as a reaction against the fast tempos and the complex melodic, harmonic, and rhythmic ideas of bebop. These ideas were picked up by many west coast musicians, and this style is thus also called West Coast jazz.
This music is generally more relaxed than bebop. Other musicians in the cool style include saxophonists Stan Getz and Gerry Mulligan, and trumpet player Chet Baker. Stan Getz is also credited with the popularization of Brazilian styles such as the boss a nova and samba. These and a few other Latin American styles are sometimes collectively known as Latin jazz. Many groups in the cool style do not use a piano, and instead rely on counterpoint and harmonization among the horns, usually saxophone and trumpet, to outline chord progressions. Pianist-led groups that developed from this school include those of Dave Brubeck (with Paul Desmond on saxophone), Lennie Trista no (with Lee Koni tz and Warne Marsh on saxophones), and the Modern Jazz Quartet or MJ (featuring John Lewis on piano and Milt Jackson on vibraphone), which also infuses elements of classical music.
The incorporation of classical music into jazz is often called the third stream. Hard Bop In what has been described as either an extension of bebop or a backlash against cool, a style of music known as hard bop developed in the 1950's. This style also downplayed the technically demanding melodies of bebop, but did so without compromising intensity. It did this by maintaining the rhythmic drive of bebop while including a healthier dose of the blues and gospel music. Art Blakey And The Jazz Messengers were, for decades, the most well-known exponent of this style. Many musicians came up through the so-called 'University Of Blakey'.
Blakey's early groups included pianist Horace Silver, trumpet player Clifford Brown, and saxophonist Lou Donaldson. Clifford Brown also co-led a group with Max Roach that is considered one of the great working quintets in history. Several albums from these groups are available today and all are recommended. Miles Davis also recorded several album.