Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The Bebop Era in CBS Jazz Masterpieces series


   The era of deep political and economic crisis was also the crucial moment in the history of 20th century music. Many historians see this movement as an effect of 2nd world war, but its range shows it could have been a reaction for wider cultural processes including rise of totalitarian regimes and social crisis changing traditional social preferences. In fact, late 30’s and early 40’s marked the dark period of European history, were even dance music was in shade of marching bands. On the other hand, those were the years of great changes in American culture. Participation in war, economic boom and redefinition of world politics were the background of various social movements marking the general change of American and global culture. It was also the turning moment of great change between traditional and modern jazz – first bebop, than hard bop and cool jazz, the outburst of new tendencies rapidly reshaped great part of musical culture.
   The bebop style became recognized as a new style in early 1940’s, although some elements of this trend were presented earlier in Kansas City school and in some swing big bands during 1930’s. Many big bands especially from Kansas City metropolitan area were evolving new style and played music including elements of the new style. Unlike swing and earlier styles being offshoot from popular dance music, in bebop era jazz became genre of artistic. In place of dance structures with improvised choruses typical for swing music, bebop introduced more free style of improvisations based on harmonies and some variations loosely connected to the theme. Fast tempos and virtuosity didn’t left too much place for doubts – main purpose of this music was just to create listener’s impression. Such attitude makes bebop closer to idea of concert music than traditional Dixieland hot style.

Jazz – The Bebop Era (1987)

   The compilation of bebop masterpieces remastered from original analog tapes is a try to comprise the vast spectrum of most creative jazz recordings from 1942-1951. The long list of few dozens of albums in CBS Jazz Masterpieces series presents best albums published as re-editions of complete remastered recordings. Some compilations were made to show best of CBS artists, like Louis Armstrong, Count Basie or Billie Holiday, some are dedicated to one type of recordings, vocalists, combos or big bands. One of such editions is compilation showing most representative bebop era recordings. It’s needless to say, with just one LP is just impossible to fulfill such promise. But still this selection of 14 tracks can be both informative and nice to listen.
   One can find here selected recordings of artists forming foundations of new style and late masterworks like classical live performance of Ornithology by Charlie Parker Quintet with Fats Navarro, Bud Powell, Curly Russell and Art Blakey in Birdland, June 30th, 1950 or 'Round Midnight played by Charlie Parker & The All-Stars with Gillespie, Powell, Tommy Potter and Roy Haynes in Birdland, March 31st, 1951. The perfect example of full-blown bebop style is Double Date recorded by legendary band Metronome All-Stars (band traditionally assembled of winners in annual Metronome magazine readers poll) with solos by Billy Bauer (g), Lennie Tristano (p), Serge Chaloff (bs), Lee Konitz (as), Buddy DeFranco (cl), Kai Winding (tb), Stan Getz (ts), Dizzy Gillespie (tr), Eddie Safranski (b) and Max Roach (dr). In fact whole of this short piece is a series of virtuoso solos connected by few bridges. Arranged by Pete Rugolo this was small musical jewel joining jazz with elements of contemporary classical music. The same artists besides Dizzy Gillespie were played in No Figs. The harmonic progression of this tune is based on the same sequence as Donna Lee. Choruses here are longer and slower tempo gives a chance to react on fellow musicians solos. Both tracks were recorded January 10th 1950. Great stuff in every phrase!

Metronome All-Stars – Double Date / No Figs (1950)

   Every track of this collection is worth of noteworthy. With hard to find recordings of orchestras led by Cootie Williams, Woody Herman, Gene Krupa, Claude Thornhill, Chubby Jackson and Elliot Lawrence, with Dizzy Gillespie’s All-Stars and Metronome All-Stars album brings whole league of unforgettable artists. Bud Powell, Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Kenny Clarke, Lennie Tristano, Miles Davis, Stan Getz, Zoot Sims, Tadd Dameron, Woody Herman and arrangers Gerry Mulligan and Gil Evans are most recognizable but there are many others. Great solo of Miles Davis in Don’t Blame Me played with Tadd Dameron Quintet at the International Jazz Festival May 8th, 1949 in Paris. Great musicians are merged with perfectly bebop themes starting and ending with two Thelonious Monk’s themes Epistrophy recorded by Cootie Williams & His Orchestra, and 'Round Midnight recorded by Charlie Parker & The All-Stars. Four stars for good taste, quality of remastering and edition deciding every position in CBS Jazz Masterpieces series has its place in good collection.

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