Jazz: The Minimalist Movement that Changed Music. A Brief History of Jazz, Its Modern Talent and How to Appreciate it. Part Two: 1950-2017

Let me first start by saying, If you haven't read Part One, it is critical that you do so in order to grasp the concepts from the last lesson.

I also must apologize, this is where we are going to look into the culture of this era a little bit to understand the fandomhood of this next school of jazz. At the time, during the mellow era, people had begun to dance to some of the songs, as they had the big band songs in white music. Beatniks, a new movement of city slickers, had begun to flock to Jazz proclaiming it as an intellectual movement, not a dance movement. Lester Young had a few pupils among the Count Basie orchestra, including the young Charlie Parker, a alto saxophone player from Kansas City who they had picked up while touring. During his first performance for them, he had missed chord change and screwed up the key of his improvisation. Feeling sympathy, Lester Young taught the young Charlie Parker to lean back and listen and follow the bassline. Charlie began to play a lot like Lester, taking cues from him along is career.

In 1948, the musicians union went on strike and as a result, The clubs in New York, LA, Chicago, and Paris closed until the end of the strike. With nowhere to play, Charlie began to run out of money in LA. He ran into a popular trumpet player named Miles Davis, and Charlie had begun practicing the song Cherokee faster and faster, wherein the chords would move at crazy rates, but he could keep up with the changes and improvise throughout the song New-Orleans style. Regard the crazy fills in the song and the speed at which it is played, as well as the chords that the piano is playing, all in different variations. Miles Davis really liked the structure that Parker was using and began to add his own spin on the style. Charlie and Miles began touring. With both of the instrumentalists using the techniques of their priors, the shift in tastes is dramatic. This new music style was called bebop, and it was the answer to the dancing at the clubs. This new style made it so much harder to dance at a jazz performance. It also often included the brand spanking new electric guitar which you will regard in Night in Tunisia. Guitarists prior were playing a style of jazzy french-pop known as Romani-Jazz on Spanish guitars, but the electric guitar gave them opportunities to expand the way they play their instruments.

Around the time of this new music style, Charlie Parker began to become obsessed with strings. He wanted to play in an orchestra setting, as other musicians like Frank Sinatra had gotten to. A few jazz musicians in the forties began to localize concert opportunities with small orchestras in the cities they were touring. Bebop was always a few musicians rotating solos around a bassline - keep that in mind, there was no big-band stuff. One of the most famous aspects of bebop was this opportunity to play with strings. It became so popular that numerous artists did the same thing, referring to the concerts as JATP: Jazz at the Philharmonic. This brought back the big-band feeling and the emotions of the era prior to jazz, from musicals like Porgy and Bess. Here is one of my favorite string-songs from this era:

We will revisit this era when we talk about freeform. Another saxophone player influenced by Lester Young was Stan Getz. During this era, new music styles like Island and Raggae were getting popular, and jazz had begun to fade off of the charts, as the Beatnik generation was replaced by the hippies, who less intellectual and more rhythm-based styles. In Ipanema, two men were sitting at a bar, when out the window, the most beautiful woman they had ever seen strode passed their view, with hips that swayed so gentle. One of the men took out a pen and began to write lyrics about her beauty. The song was called, "The Girl From Ipanema." Astrid Gilberto was contracted to sing the English Version with the Arrangement of Mr. Stan Getz. Regard in this clip , the revisit of the Mellow music scene with the swaying bassline, and the vocals of Mrs. Gilberto that swing into the next line. Also recognize how Stan uses a lot like the swelling motions of Lester Young in his playing, with an Island-sounding sway. This probably sounds quite familiar, because it is regarded as a pop classic. This new school was called Bossa Nova.

I'm going to step back to mellow music. Something was happening to these artists. Having almost been replaced by these new schools of jazz, they had separated and begun to play swing, like Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin had, for a brief spurt, while their music was still popular in Europe, especially Paris. But in one last endearing concert, the musical romance of Billy Holiday and Lester Young was reunited for a performance of blues and tradition. Regard the bassline of the music as it relates to mellow jazz, along with Billie's new raspy, bluesy vocals. See how Lester's playing is much ore forced and airy? This was three months before he passed away from alcohol poisoning. People had to help him stand up, and he could only play sitting down. Regardless, Fine and Mellow goes down as one of the greatest performances of their careers.

Another concept affecting the jazz movement was its being so derivative of the big band scene. One performer, known for her soulful voice decided that she was going to make spirituality and emotion the only breadth of the performance. Nina Simone's voice is haunting, riveting and beautiful. But is also an acquired taste. She was famous for her very interesting ways of completing phrases. It is incomparable to any other jazz form I have here, because it does not stem from a band-format. Her vocals are the most dynamic and important part of the song. In this particular song, she makes her voice outcast the band, which respond to her endearingly with the strong chorusline and sense of identity. This is not a dancing tune, and there is no improvisation. She leads them.

Okay - this part is going to be a bit painful at first, but you are all ready by now. We are going to revisit bebop, and the JATP movement, with Mr. Charles Mingus, who, like Count Basie was famous for his use of incredible performers, such as Booker Erwin. Mingus was a post-modern musician, and bass-player who was very energetic about performances. He wanted to take this new style of bebop, and stick it into a big-band setting, as Basie had done for New Orleans Jazz. So Mingus wrote tributes to his favorite players, including Lester, Miles Davis, and Charlie Parker. This is his most famous work. Regard the noodling of the Bebop era, the bluesy playing of the mellow era, the soloing of the big-band era and the call and response of New Orleans Jazz. It combines these aspects in a way that sets it apart musically from any other form of expression and is either loved, or hated. But here is a taste of one of the most popular hits of this school.

So, you have come to the end of my adventure through the schools of Jazz! I hope you learned to appreciate this exciting and groundbreaking style of music, the chord changes and the eccentric performers, even if you don't seem to like the style itself. With all of this new information, tell me what style you liked, and I will leave you now with three modern players, and you can guess what schools of Jazz they come from, or who you feel they were influenced by. Good Luck!


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