Test Your Knowledge

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By jwblackwell



9 Questions

What is bebop?

What features characterize bebop?

What was the role of rhythm sections in bebop?

Which instruments were typically part of classic bebop groups?

What was the typical structure of a bebop composition?

Who were some of the most influential bebop artists?

What was the influence of bebop on jazz styles that followed?

What was the sociological impact of bebop?

What was the influence of bebop on hip-hop?


Bebop: An Overview

  • Bebop is a subgenre of jazz music that developed in the United States in the mid-1940s.

  • Bebop features fast tempos, complex chord progressions, instrumental virtuosity, and improvisation based on harmonic structure, scales, and occasional references to the melody.

  • Bebop was not intended for dancing and demanded close listening, enabling musicians to play at faster tempos. It explored advanced harmonies, complex syncopation, altered chords, and intricate melodies.

  • Bebop groups used rhythm sections in a way that expanded their role, and classic bebop groups consisted of saxophone, trumpet, piano, guitar, double bass, and drums.

  • Bebop musicians typically played the melody of a composition with the accompaniment of the rhythm section, followed by a section in which each performer improvised a solo, then returned to the melody at the end of the composition.

  • Some of the most influential bebop artists were Charlie Parker, Dexter Gordon, Sonny Rollins, James Moody, Buddy DeFranco, Fats Navarro, Clifford Brown, Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, Bud Powell, Thelonious Monk, Charlie Christian, Kenny Clarke, Max Roach, and Art Blakey.

  • The term "bebop" is derived from nonsense syllables (vocables) used in scat singing.

  • Bebop musicians eliminated Western-style functional harmony in their music while retaining the strong central tonality of the blues as a basis for drawing upon various African matrices.

  • Bebop chord progressions were often taken directly from popular swing-era compositions and reused with a new and more complex melody, forming new compositions.

  • Bebop musicians employed several harmonic devices not typical of previous jazz, including complicated harmonic substitutions emphasizing certain dissonant intervals such as the flat ninth, sharp ninth, or the sharp eleventh/tritone.

  • Bebop grew out of the culmination of trends that had been occurring within swing music since the mid-1930s, including less explicit timekeeping by the drummer, a changing role for the piano, less ornate horn section arrangements, more emphasis on freedom for soloists, and increasing harmonic sophistication in arrangements used by some bands.

  • Bebop musicians found one another in New York City and explored the harmonic and melodic limits of their music, including Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Christian, Bud Powell, and Thelonious Monk. Drummers such as Kenny Clarke and Max Roach were extending the path set by Jo Jones, adding the ride cymbal to the high hat cymbal as a primary timekeeper and reserving the bass drum for accents.The Development and Influence of Bebop Jazz

  • Bebop jazz originated in the 1940s in New York City as a reaction to the commercialism of swing jazz.

  • Bebop was characterized by complex harmonies, syncopation, and improvisation.

  • The new style required a bassist in every small ensemble, which increased the importance of the string bass.

  • Minton's Playhouse and Monroe's Uptown House were key venues where bebop was developed and played by musicians including Thelonious Monk, Max Roach, and Charlie Parker.

  • Bebop was recorded informally at first, with some sessions at Minton's in 1941 being recorded, and the first formal recording of bebop being Coleman Hawkins' "Woody'n You" in 1944.

  • Major record labels did not initially show interest in bebop, but small specialty labels recorded bebop sessions.

  • Dizzy Gillespie's "Rebop Six" was the first bebop recording for a major label, with RCA Bluebird recording the band in 1946.

  • Bebop musicians, including Gillespie, Clifford Brown, and Sonny Stitt, began smoothing out the rhythmic eccentricities of early bebop in the 1950s.

  • Bebop influenced the development of progressive jazz, cool jazz, and hard bop styles.

  • The musical devices developed in bebop, including complex harmonies and improvisation, were influential beyond the bebop movement itself.

  • Musicians who followed the stylistic doors opened by bebop formed the core of the cool jazz and "west coast jazz" movements.

  • Bebop was a sociological movement as well as a musical one, with its intellectual subculture confronting the racial divide by lampooning it.The Legacy of Bebop

  • George Russell's music theory influenced the post-bop movement that incorporated modal jazz into its musical language.

  • Hard bop, a simplified derivative of bebop, became a major influence in the mid-1950s until the late 1960s when free jazz and fusion jazz gained ascendancy.

  • The neo-bop movement of the 1980s and 1990s revived the influence of bebop, post-bop, and hard bop styles.

  • Bebop style influenced the Beat Generation, whose spoken-word style drew on African-American "jive" dialog and jazz rhythms.

  • The bebop subculture, defined as a non-conformist group expressing its values through musical communion, would echo in the attitude of the psychedelia-era hippies of the 1960s.

  • Bebop gained cult status in France and Japan.

  • Hip-hop artists, such as A Tribe Called Quest and Guru, have cited bebop as an influence on their rapping and rhythmic style.

  • Shawn Brown rapped the phrase "Rebop, bebop, Scooby-Doo" in the hit "Rappin' Duke" in 1983.

  • Bassist Ron Carter collaborated with A Tribe Called Quest on 1991's The Low End Theory, and vibraphonist Roy Ayers and trumpeter Donald Byrd were featured on Guru's Jazzmatazz, Vol. 1 in 1993.

  • Bebop samples, especially bass lines, ride cymbal swing clips, and horn and piano riffs are found throughout the hip-hop compendium.

  • Bebop musicians included Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Thelonious Monk, and Bud Powell.


Think you know all about Bebop jazz? Test your knowledge with our quiz! From its origins in the 1940s to its influence on modern music, this quiz will cover everything from the key players to the legacy of this iconic genre. Impress your friends with your knowledge of complex harmonies, syncopation, and improvisation, and discover the sociological movement that was also an intellectual subculture. Take the quiz and see if you're a true Bebop expert!

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