The Evolution of Jazz: Bebop, Swing, and Cool Jazz

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Bebop is among the most artistic styles of jazz music that gradually developed in the 1940s. The style of music laid more focus on freedom of creativity instead of rhythmic aspects. Despite the short lifespan of Bebop, it played a fundamental influence on many styles of music that came after it (Messinger 4). Before the emergence of bebop as the most renowned form of jazz, swing was the style of jazz that was mostly played. During this period, the intention of the music industry was to have swing as the popular dance music that was palatable to the mainstream audience. Ideally, swing style was associated with dancing.

               Notably, it can be argued that bebop was evolutionary as its bebop musicians employed their knowledge and experience in jazz and swing to foster a new form of the genre. On the other hand, it was revolutionary because of social-political origins and shattered institutionalized limitations that characterized it. Ideally, bebop was the major revolution that led to the destabilization of swing leading to a psychological revolution. The African-American particularly felt this type of revolution thus the cultivation of new musical ideas founded on innovative uses of harmony, instrumentation, rhythm, and timbre (Scaruffi 11). A dramatic and sudden paradigm shift from jazz and swing also took place through less visible forms of revolution after the end of the Prohibition. Additionally, bebop was different from the ears of fans who used to listen to organized, bouncy and danceable tunes of Glenn Miller and Benny Goodman during the swing presenting a beautiful and exciting revolution in the art of jazz. Evidently, this analysis confirms that bebop was more of a revolution than an evolution from Swing.

My Favorite of the Jazz Sub-Styles to Emerge in the 1950s

Jazz musicians considered themselves as artistically and technically advanced than the “naïve” and “rough” artists that played other forms of music. Nevertheless, the late 1950s showed many artists who were driven by the musical changes of 1940s consider jazz as among the fine arts that embraced the principles of mandate change and progressive development in the music industry. The period of the 1950s showed an emergence of various jazz sub-styles, including hard bop and cool jazz (Murphy 2).  Other sub-styles included third stream jazz and modal jazz (Murphy 2). Cool jazz resulted from Miles Davis’ composition and a number of recordings that characterized the birth of the cool. On the other hand, hard bop outgrew from bebop and an attempt by Russell George to incorporate classical music with jazz led to the emergence of third stream jazz. Besides, modal jazz was an extension of different musical theories.

              My favorite of the jazz sub-styles during this period is the cool jazz, a sub-style that was mostly associated with West Coast. Cool jazz rejected many significant features of bebop and as a result, pursued varied aesthetic principles (Martin and Keith 142). The type of jazz is my favorite because its players concentrated on lighter tones and relaxed tempos. Besides, while cool jazz players did not embrace the term “cool jazz’ as it was believed that the term implied lack of emotional depth and lack of passion (Martin and Keith 142), it is my favorite because it employs more subdued approach and incorporates adequate elements of classical music. The players included members of Woody Herman’s Four Brothers, Charles Mingus, Gunther Schuller, George Russell and Miles Davis’s group among others.

Works Cited

Martin, Henry, and Keith Waters. Essential Jazz: The First 100 Years. Australia: Schirmer/Cengage Learning, 2014. Print.

Messinger, Colin M. "How Bebop Came to Be: The Early History of Modern Jazz." (2013).

Murphy, John. Miles Davis: The Road to Modal Jazz. Diss. Doctoral Dissertation, University of North Texas, 2007.

Scaruffi, Piero. A History of Jazz Music, 1900-2000. P. Scaruffi, 2007.

October 05, 2023


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