To Bebop or not to Bebop? That is the question…

Inspired by http://www.opus28.co.uk/bebopperp.pdf

While surfing the internet this morning, I stumbled upon this piece and I remembered how and why I fell in love with Bebop.

Bebop is so much more than just a small movement from the 40’s, with a meagre following of die-hard supporters. According to the article above, it is “pretty much the “grammar” of modern jazz, and bebop “licks” are not so much clichés as essential elements of speech within the jazz language”.

I got hooked into Bebop from the moment I heard it in my favourite Coffee Shop. It was Charlie Parker I believe…

The first 30 seconds or so of the track started off and to a practical jazz virgin sounded pretty generic, jazz standard. Then… the bomb dropped! The next 3 minutes would change the course of my taste in music (yet again).

I remember sitting there mesmerised by the skill of the players, the way that they seemingly conjured up this melody from a collection of random notes. With ever member of the band saying their piece, with their own style and rhythm, in their own musical accent. As I have mentioned before, I love when I can feel the energy of the band, playing off each other, competing to try to out-do each other. It was as if I was sitting in the room with them, listening in on a jam session. I felt like I could almost reach out and touch them.

My favourite tracks from Jazz, to this day, still have the feel and the ambience of the Bebop movement.

Although it sometimes sounds random, or un-arranged, there are logical rules to this genre which were experimental and complex for the day. These were real musicians, who truly pushed the boundaries of what was possible with music.

Many of the musicians that came up through the “Bebop era”, like Thelonious Monk, Charlie Parker, Charlie Christian and Sonny Stitt,  took the Bebop blueprints and evolved them into a myriad of different types of Jazz. The free-form style of Miles Davis, was a logical evolutionary step from the equally rebellious Beboppers all those years before.

Whether you like it or not, I believe, it was the Bebop generation that made Jazz as we know it.

For those of you who are new readers of my blog, don’t miss the Hank Jones Interview from last month, or take a glance at more Jazz articles

 

Response to Music Philosophy Debate #1

Michelle – hmm I have asked quite a few people how they can tell the difference between minor and major chords, and they usually raise their eyebrows if I say “sad” or “happy” so I feel like it’s a Westernized convention, but as blissinger said before, some cultures have extensive dissonance and like it very much.. and don’t find minor to be depressing at all.. I think it all depends on how you are exposed to music in the different contexts.. Western composers will always use minor keys for sad things like elegies and funeral marches, so I suppose people link sad feelings with them in time :P when I listen to Gregorian chants and other things in rather dissonant keys like Mixolydian and Dorian, it all sounds rather depressing to me but people back then found it very passionate and very.. ‘happy’ and ‘inspiring’ in an uplifting way.

Michelle

Note to Readers

Just a little news…

I have installed a new Jukebox tab on my main menu.

This was as a response to suggestions from some readers who asked for a Jukebox feature. In the absence of my own personal Jukebox, I have put links to JazzRadio.com, I hope this will suffice.

I should add, that I am in no way an affiliate of JazzRadio.com. I just use it myself and find it to be the best of the jazz radio stations.

No junk, no soul?

I was reading an article on the link between music and drugs, and this question occurred to me……

What would the music scene be like if drugs were never invented?

Is it too hard to imagine a world where, people just go to a venue to listen to music and appreciate it with a clear head? Or, where musicians aren’t known  for their habits before their talent? Or where a genre of music isn’t defined by a drug that goes with it?

Just imagine if the creativity of the musicians of the past had come from their own brains, and not aided by LSD, Heroin or Cocaine etc.

As the article reminded me, the Jazz world in particular got taken to another level by drugs. Would jazz have moved and transformed itself into the art form that is today, if it weren’t for smoking of dope and taking of heroin, leading to the advent of Bebop and the more free Jazz elements? Would the style have moved on from the Jazz of the 40’s, which sometimes come across (to me) as a bit formulaic in structure?

Look at these old Jazz and Blues players who survived the excesses of the 60s and 70s, and I think about the friends they have lost to drugs and alcohol. Just imagine a world full of old jazz guys who didn’t get hooked on heroin or over-dose in a hotel room somewhere. The world would be overflowing with cool old guys (and women of course).

Without LSD and Marijuana, the Hippie generation would never have existed?  What would the disillusioned youth of the 60’s and 70’s have grabbed on to…. Going into the Army? Embracing religion? Alcoholism? Rioting?

There would have been no Jimi Hendrix as we know him, the man widely regarded one of the most influential guitarists of all time might never have picked up a guitar and a wah-wah pedal.

There would have been no Bob Marley…..No Rastas even.

Maybe, coffee shops would be the place to hear live music and get your fix of caffeine and other legal drugs.

If the world had of changed tack back in the sixties, there is no way of telling what music would have become today.

Personally, I like to think that the people who made the biggest musical contributions to the world would have done it with or without drugs. I believe that some people are born with such gifts, and have been since the beginnings of mankind.

Even without the psychedelic 70s, couldn’t you see a version of Jimi Hendrix with a guitar in hand, and still re-writing history in a different genre of music. Maybe Flamenco or Blues guitar….

Take a good look at the losses that have been made to the world of music, as a direct result of drug abuse.

Was it worth it?

Philosophy 101

According to philosophy, each individual interacts with their own individual world. That is to say that, a person with colour-blindness sees a red ball as green. But in a room full of colour blind people, the ball is actually green.

This is the secret of the music industry and why they control what is perceived as “good music”.

I understand that the music industry survives on selling its music. I also understand that they are selling a package, the “artists” are a commodity and they have to make them appealing to as many people as possible. But, I believe that the general public need to hear good music. Original songs, with lyrics that make sense and Rhythm, Melody and Harmony.

People like Jamie Cullum and to a lesser extent Michael Buble have gone a long way toward changing the public psyche with regards to what is good, popular music, but they will never have the same kind of backing as the more edgy, dangerous and very unhealthy people they tend to highlight.Which is a shame, because they do use genuine musicians, they can perform  live and they have spent time learning their craft.

Don’t get me wrong, I have noticed a vast increase of new bands in other genres who are genuine musicians and who I am not including in this commentary. I am focusing on more on the Pop Genre.

At the end of the day, the music companies tell the public what is good music and what is not….. So if the people in music companies genuinely love music, why not steer them toward real artists who can at least play an instrument or sing the right note.

Try my quiz…

Think you are a JazzMan?

Why not try your luck at my Quiz?

70% is a pass.

Good luck.

If this proves popular, I will rustle up another.

What is music to me?

Music means different things to different people. I want to explain to you, the reader, what it means to me. I would welcome input from you with regards to your personal relationship with music. I would be happy to place any comments left on this subject, onto the main post.

The relationship I have with music has been a very intimate thing. It has always been as though music speaks to me in a way that words cannot. In a way that explains all that it needs to, without having to clarify or repeat itself.

Whereas people often confuse me, music never has. People make me angry, anxious, afraid, stressed and irritated, but I know that when i put on some of my favourite music, all that will not matter. It is like the best friend that knows that you want to get something off your chest and gives you a cup of tea and a hug.

Different types of music affect me in different ways. As a young(ish) man I seemed to have developed an allergy to young people’s music quite early on in life. The sound of sickly sweet Pop music, or X Factor drop-outs new singles, or some good-looking 18 yr old guy with a six-pack singing about how he “wants to get wit’ ya” or something equally as deep, either makes me walk out of shops, puts me in a bad mood, makes me angry, or just makes me feel sad for the kids – this is what they are going to have as their song one day, (seriously, go to a young persons wedding, it’s hilarious!).

I appreciate that I sound like a 60 yr old, who doesn’t like “those pesky kids”, but I can assure you that I am not. I just happen to have a taste in music that probably averages out at about 1960, or thereabout.

As you may have read before , I really got into music via Motown and the Blues. And since then,  have branched off into Folk, Soul, Funk, Jazz, Flamenco, World Music and more. And my tastes are constantly changing……I have recently found an elegant beauty in Classical Music which I used to be snub as elitist nonsense.

But, I have come to realise, since learning how to play, and how it works, that music is all inter-related.

All these different, styles of music that all have their mystic roots and traditions, all conform to a universal rule of music. The more instruments you can learn, the better a musician you will become. If you play guitar, you should learn the basics on Piano and vice versa. A percussion instrument may well help you develop a more natural playing style. All these little nick knack instruments that you see in music shops will all help you to become a rounded musician.

The way I see it is, that if you speak one language, you can understand people who speak that language, if you learn another language, one more group of people you can talk to. The more languages that you learn, the more people you can speak to. But, If you can work out how languages work, the inner workings of linguistics, you can potentially communicate with everyone.

It is the same with Music, I don’t remember how many musicians I have jammed  with, without even having to speak the same language.

Music is universal, make sure that you are as universal as it is…..

The Blues is the roots, everything else is the fruits…

I knew that I loved Jazz and Blues when I realised that all the TV shows I loved when I looked back on my childhood had been Jazzy or Bluesy. Sesame Street for example…..Who knew that was a Jazz Blues structure? But the more that I looked at it, the more I found that ALL the cartoons from my childhood, favourite TV shows, favourite Movies and favourite records were either jazz, blues or based upon the standard forms but made more child friendly.

I don’t know if I developed a taste for Jazz through my favourite shows or that I got attracted to shows that had these great theme tunes that I loved.

I grew up in the UK in the late 70s and early 80s, and as you may or may not know, us Brits cottoned on to the Blues pretty late. But,  thanks to young white bands like the Rolling Stones brought them to a new audience on the other side of the Atlantic. Young British people from all over were hooked on the classic Blues guys that had not been popular in the states for a fair few years. Muddy Waters himself commented on his british performances during the 1970s, “I play in places now don’t have no black faces in there but our black faces.”.We didn’t have the roots or the history of the Blues running through our veins in the same way as the US had at the time. But we embraced it as if it were our own.

It was literally all over the place…..Our rock was modified from the old school blues structures. Kids shows coupled psychadelic imagery with blues based Rock or Jazz. Anything that came from New York seemed to have a Jazz theme.

Looking back on my youth I was astounded at how we embraced this type of music so whole heartedly. Even today in the centre of London, England, you will be able to find more legitimate Blues and Jazz bands every night of the week than in most cities in the world.

As I mentioned, it is quite interesting to me that I seemed to be attracted to Jazz and Blues from  an early age. To this day, it has remained the basis of all my favourite music. Be it Blues, Jazz, Soul, Motown, Reggae or Rock…..

“The Blues is the roots, everything else is the fruits” – Willie Dixon

To be continued…..