(1902-1947). The latter led a highly disciplined and showmanship-oriented
band which nevertheless spotlighted brilliant jazz soloists, among them
saxophonists Willie Smith and Joe Thomas and trombonist Trummy Young
(1912-1984). The man who set the band's style, trumpeter-arranger Sy
Oliver (1910-1988), later went with Tommy Dorsey.
A newcomer on the national scene was Count Basie'screw from Kansas
City, with key soloists Lester Young and Herschel Evans (1909-1939) on
tenors, Buck Clayton (1912-1992) and Harry Edison (b.1915) on
trumpets, and Jimmy Rushing and Billie Holiday (later Helen Humes) on
But important as these were (Lester in particular created a whole new style
for his instrument), it was the rhythm section of Basie that gave the band
its unique, smooth and rock-steady drive--the incarnation of swing,
Freddie Green (1911-1987) on guitar, Walter Page (1900-1957) on bass,
and Jo Jones (1911-1985) on drums and the Count on piano made the
rhythm section what it was. Basie, of course, continued to lead excellent
bands, but the greatest years were 1936-42.
EXIT THE BIG BANDS
The war years took a heavy toll of big bands. Restrictions made travel
more difficult and the best talent was being siphoned off by the draft. But
more importantly, public tastes were changing.
Ironically, the bands were in the end devoured by a monster they had
given birth to: the singers. Typified by Tommy Dorsey's Frank Sinatra,
the vocalist, made popular by a band affiliation, went out on his own; and
the public seemed to want romantic ballads more than swinging dance
The big bands that survived the war soon found another form of
competition cutting into their following--television. The tube kept people
home more and more, and inevitably many ballrooms shut their doors for
good in the years between 1947 and 1955. By then it had also become too
expensive a proposition to keep 16 men traveling on the road in the big
bands' itinerant tradition. The leaders who didn't give up (Ellington, Basie,
Woody Herman, Harry James) had something special in the way of talent
and dedication that gave them durability in spite of changing tastes and
The only new bands to come along in the post-war decades and make it
were those of pianist-composer Stan Kenton (1912-1979), who started his
band in 1940 but didn't hit until `45; drummer Buddy Rich (1917-1987), a
veteran of many famous swing era bands and one of jazzdom's most
phenomenal musicians, and co-leaders Thad Jones (1923-1990), and Mel
Lewis (1929-1990), a drummer once with Kenton. Another Kenton
alumnus, high-note trumpeter Maynard Ferguson (b. 1928), has led
successful big bands on and off.
THE BEBOP REVOLUTION
In any case, a new style, not necessarily inimical to the big bands yet very
different in spirit form earlier Jazz modes, had sprung up during the war.
Bebop, as it came to be called, was initially a musician's music, born in the
experimentation of informal jam sessions.
Characterized by harmonic sophistication, rhythmic complexity, and few
concessions to public taste, bop was spearheaded by Charlie Parker
(1920-1955), an alto saxophonist born and reared in Kansas City.
After apprenticeship with big bands (including Earl Hines'), Parker settled
in New York. From 1944 on, he began to attract attention on Manhattan's
52nd Street, a midtown block known as "Swing Street" which featured a
concentration of Jazz clubs and Jazz talent not equaled before or since.
Bird, as Parker was called by his fans, was a fantastic improviser whose
imagination was matched by his technique. His way of playing (though
influenced by Lester Young and guitarist Charlie Christian (1916-1942), a
remarkable musician who was featured with Benny Goodman's sextet
between 1939-41), was something new in the world of Jazz. His influence
on musicians can be compared in scope only to that of Louis Armstrong.
Parker's principal early companions were Dizzy Gillespie, a trumpeter of
abilities that almost matched Bird's, and drummer Kenny Clarke
(1914-1985). Dizzy and Bird worked together in Hines' band and then in
the one formed by Hines vocalist Billy Eckstine (1914-1993), the key
developer of bop talent. Among those who passed through the Eckstine
ranks were trumpeters Miles Davis (1927-1991), Fats Navarro
(1923-1950), and Kenny Dorham (1924-1972); saxophonists Sonny Stitt
(1924-1982), Dexter Gordon (1923-1990), and Gene Ammons
(1925-1974); and pianist-arranger-bandleader Tadd Dameron (1917-1965).
Bop, of course, was basically small-group music, meant for listening, not
dancing. Still, there were big bands featuring bop--among them those led
by Dizzy Gillespie, who had several good crews in the late `40s and early
to mid-50's; and Woody Herman's so-called Second Herd, which included
the cream of white bop--trumpeter Red Rodney (b. 1927), and
saxophonists Stan Getz (1927-1993), Al Cohn (1925-1988) and Zoot Sims
(1925-1985), and Serge Chaloff (1923-1957).
BOP VS. NEW ORLEANS
Ironically, the coming of bop coincided with a revival of interest in New
Orleans and other traditional Jazz. This served to polarize audiences and
musicians and point up differences rather than common ground. The
needless harm done by partisan journalists and critics on both sides
lingered on for years.
Parker's greatest disciples were not alto saxophonists, except for Sonny
Stitt. Parker dominated on that instrument. Pianist Bud Powell
(1924-1966) translated Bird's mode to the keyboard; drummers Max
Roach and Art Blakey (1919-1990) adapted it to the percussion
instruments. A unique figure was pianist-composer Thelonious Monk,
(1917-1982). With roots in the stride piano tradition, Monk was a
forerunner of bop--in it but not of it.
In the wake of Miles Davis' successful experiments, rock had an
increasing impact on Jazz. The notable Davis alumni Herbie
Hancock (b. 1940) and Chick Corea (b.1941) explored what soon
became known as fusion style in various ways, though neither cut
himself off from the jazz tradition. Thus Hancock's V.S.O.P., made
up of `60s Davis alumni plus trumpeter Freddie Hubbard, pursued
Miles' pre-electronic style, while Corea continued to play acoustic
jazz in various settings. Keith Jarrett(b. 1945), who also briefly
played with Davis, never adopted the electronic keyboards but flirted
with rock rhythms before embarking on lengthy, spontaneously