In the mid-1930s, Americans became interested in the meaning and importance of jazz in their culture. Some critics condemned the breakaway of some swing musicians from original hot jazz and their inclination towards the westernized complicated manner of playing. Others argued that only being closer to contemporary classical music, jazz would reveal its true value. The bebop style appeared in the first half of the 20th century, more precisely, in the 1940s. This music genre is characterized by a fast tempo and complex improvisations based on chord progressions but not melody. Bebop brought about a revolution in jazz because bebop musicians gave new meaning to music. This musical style caused a significant shift in the development of jazz. Bebop was music for musicians, which was based on rhythm. Talented bebop musicians changed people’s opinions about music and made a huge contribution to the development of jazz.

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The Development of Bebop. Major Figures and Stylistic Peculiarities

Jazz originated from traditional black communities and soon became very popular. Musicians began to professionally play jazz on stage to entertain the audience. However, in the early 1940s, many talented musicians thought that the development of jazz stopped, which was connected with the appearance of a huge number of fashionable dance and jazz orchestras. Gradually, musicians began to experiment with music, creating a new style known as bebop, or bop. At that time, in the club Minton’s Playhouse, the community of relatively unknown musicians-experimenters, including Charlie Christian, Thelonious Monk, Kenny Clarke, Dizzy Gillespie, and Charlie Parker, was formed. During their jam sessions, they created a new style, bebop, strongly contrasting with swing music of the time. Swing big bands were substituted by small ensembles consisting of four or five people. These ensembles were called combos, and they usually included a rhythm section and two or three brass instruments. Moreover, instead of dance rhythms and bright melodies, bebop musicians played long improvisations at high speed, which were based on complicated harmonies. However, the early achievements of beboppers were not preserved, largely due to the strike organized by the American Federation of Musicians in 1942-1944 against some major U.S. record companies. The union of musicians began a strike because they wanted to get royalties from record sales. Another consequence of this strike, according to some researchers, was the extinction of big instrumental bands. The first recordings of bebop appeared only in 1944 when the style had already achieved some fame. Bebop attracted many fans, consisting mainly of white students, college graduates, and middle-class people who were impressed by the certain features of the lifestyle of beboppers – for example, the clothing style of Dizzy Gillespie or the heroin addiction of Charlie Parker. Bebop music is largely associated with the revolt of African Americans against the commercial exploitation of their unique culture, segregation, and even progressive political views. The desire of bebop musicians to ensure that their music was perceived as a serious art led to the birth of modern jazz.

Bebop was the first style of contemporary jazz, which broke with the traditions of popular music and gravitated towards pure art. Bebop musicians were greatly interested in academic music, which many of them had already performed independently in adulthood. Many bebop musicians played in the bands of Earl Hines and Billy Eckstine. They had to be masters of their instrument as bebop was based on fast tempos. Throughout its history, jazz constantly changed, becoming either “hot” or “cool.” Like jazz, the development of bebop was also divided into two stages: cool and hard bop.

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How Bebop Fragmented into the Styles of Cool and Hard Bop

In the end of the 1940s, a new style called cool bop appeared. In fact, cool bop only figuratively corresponded to the cooling of musical energy. The change in expressive means transformed this energy into new forms: it moved from a state of external effects to essential, underlying components. In the late 1940s, a new generation of musicians was interested in a different approach based on the unity of complex arrangements and possible collective improvisation based on them. The signs of cool bop can be detected in Miles Davis’s manner of playing when he was a member of Charlie Parker’s ensemble in 1945. His inability to imitate the nervous and virtuoso performance of Dizzy Gillespie led to the search of his own language. Young pianist John Lewis also developed his own manner of playing which was influenced by Dizzy Gillespie. Theoretical foundations of cool bop were developed by pianist Lennie Tristano, who arrived in New York in 1946 and organized there (in 1951) his own new school of music. Lennie Tristano liked the freedom of improvisation, being very inventive while constructing melodic lines.

In the early 1950s, young musicians continued the development of bebop, which played a significant role in the growth of self-consciousness of African Americans. They created a new style called hard bop. Young musicians did not like sweet and smooth swing music and protested against praising traditional jazz, which was perceived as a museum piece with no prospects for development. These musicians understood that the essence of jazz was much wider and emphasized the importance of improvisation. The attention of musicians was drawn to the preservation of African-American improvisational traditions. All the achievements of bebop were saved, including harmonies and rhythmic structures of cool bop. Hard bop musicians, as a rule, were educated in specialized institutions. Some famous musicians of that time were versatile, making their contribution to the development of hard bop. Among these musicians were trumpeters Miles Davis, Fats Navarro, Clifford Brown, Donald Byrd, pianists Thelonious Monk, Horace Silver, drummer Art Blakey, saxophonists Sonny Rollins, Hank Mobley, Cannonball Adderley, bassist Paul Chambers, and many others. The 1950s also witnessed a significant technological innovation – the appearance of long-playing records. It gave musicians an opportunity to record a long solo. For musicians, it became a temptation and challenge, as not everyone was able to loudly and clearly sing for a long time. Trumpeters were the first who recorded long solos and modified Dizzy Gillespie’s manner of playing, making it more quiet but deep. One of the most famous musicians of that time were Fats Navarro and Clifford Brown. The attention of these musicians was paid not to virtuoso fast passages in the upper register but to thoughtful and logical melodic lines.

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Innovations in music, which were introduced by the representatives of the African-American community, played a major role in changing musical tastes of people and forming new ones. Before bebop appeared, there had only been mainstream styles of music such as jazz and blues. However, when bebop was created, people heard new unusual music, which went beyond the usual boundaries of mainstream music. Bebop instilled a sense of the freedom of expression into them and facilitated the creation of new music genres, including hip-hop.


Bebop appeared in the 1940s due to the crisis in the development of jazz music. At first, the music of beboppers shocked listeners who strongly criticized it. Bebop broke with the traditions of swing music and developed in its own way. It was divided into two types: cool bop and hard bop. The most famous representatives of bebop are Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Bud Powell, Thelonious Monk, and Max Roach. Bebop also influenced the development of other music genres. The emergence of bebop became one of the most significant milestones in the history of jazz.


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