Bebop: The Evolution of Jazz
The development of bebop in the 1940s is crucial to understanding jazz. Bebop created many social and creative freedoms for African Americans. Musicians such as Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis, and Charlie Parker were among the most popular beboppers during this time. There was much racial tension surrounding bebop, which led to bebop being a rebellious genre of music that fought racism and brought down racial barriers.
Bebop marked the rise of the “small combo” as the basic performing unit of jazz with its production and reception transforming the meanings associated with jazz and its place in American society. Dizzy Gillespie thought that he, Charlie Parker, and other beboppers were on the "vanguard of social change." Gillespie had a will to artistic excellence and a sense of African-American pride joined with a refusal of social, creative, and even national boundaries. From the late '40s until his death in '91, Miles Davis tore through the musical landscape like a tornado. He was at the forefront of bebop, cool jazz, hard bop, modal jazz, & fusion. Dizzy's years with saxophonist Charlie Parker turned the world of jazz upside down. The bop they created, which sounded so extreme at first, has moved into the jazz mainstream. Dizzy became a blue-chip jazz act playing all over the world, but never losing his smile. As Gene Lees writes in his book “You Can’t Steal a Gift”, “No white person can even begin to understand the black experience in the United States. All jazz makers mentioned are men who had every reason to embrace bitterness—and didn’t.”
These musicians expressed a great sense of African-American identity while calling into question racial categories and embracing a positive outlook on life. Their art reflected an emergent consciousness.