Showing posts with label Bebop. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Bebop. Show all posts

Tuesday, April 10, 2018


English: Dizzy Gillespie in a Concert, 1988, E...
Dizzy Gillespie in a Concert, 1988,  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
There is not one person around who knows jazz music that did not hear the name Dizzy Gillespie. Dizzy Gillespie was a composer, singer, jazz trumpet player and bandleader. He along with Charlie Parker was the creator of modern jazz music and bebop. Dizzy also started Afro-Cuban jazz. He had the gift of making new harmonies that were layered and complex. At the time, it was not done in jazz before. He was most remembered for the trumpet he played that was bent. It was accidentally ruined when he was on a job in 1953. Surprisingly, Dizzy liked it  because of the way it changed the tone of the instrument.

Dizzy was born John Birks on October 21, 1917 in South Carolina. He was the youngest in the family of nine children. His father was a horrible man who beat his children all the time, and died when dizzy was 10 years old. He taught himself how to play trumpet when he was twelve years old. He won a scholarship to Laurinburg Institute but, dropped out of school and went to Philadelphia to pursue music full-time. He played with Frankie Fairfax and recorded for the very first time in 1937. He then was a part of Cab Calloway's band, but was criticized for his solos, calling them "Chinese music". He was thrown out because Cab said that he sent a spitball at him, and Dizzy, angrily stabbed him in the leg with a knife.

Dizzy was a part of Duke Ellington's, Woody Herman and many other bands. It was with Billy Eckstine's band where his unique playing fit better than anywhere else. He met again with Charlie Parker. Together they played famous clubs such as Monroe's Uptown House, and Minton's Playhouse. This is where jazz music progressed again and bebop was created. In the beginning a lot of people didn't like bebop. They were used to the old jazz music, and thought the new sound of bebop was a threat and were afraid of it. Dizzy's style had an effect on trumpeters and the younger musicians that he was able to mentor. Examples of bebop music are "Groovin' High", "Salt Peanuts" and "A Night In Tunisia". Musicians that he taught bebop to were Miles Davis and Max Roach.

Eventually, the band departed, as the audience grew wary of the new jazz music. Dizzy wanted to go big, and tried to create his own big band in 1945 but was not successful with it. He started other small groups and finally put a big band together that was a success. He soloed many times with Jazz at the Philharmonic.

Dizzy proved himself overseas in France when he began his third big band, and did several concerts and albums.
During the 1940's Dizzy was composing Afro-Cuban music. Afro-Cuban music is a combination of Latin and African music, pop and salsa. The work that is the most well known are "Tin Tin Deo" and "Manteca". Dizzy was responsible for finding musician Arturo Sandoval while he was on a tour in Cuba researching music.

Dizzy continued to reach people with his music even on television and film. He was on Sesame Street and The Cosby Show. He died in 1993 from Pancreatic Cancer, he was 75 years old. He had two funerals, one was for friends and family and the other funeral was for the public in Cathedral of St. John the Divine. Dizzy Gillespie was a special innovator in jazz and is continually remembered at the New York Bahai Center.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

THELONIUS MONK - One of the Pioneers of Bebop

From amongst all the jazz legends and pop legendary pianists, Thelonious Monk is most known for what can be called 'straight forward jazz'. Born Thelonious Sphere Monk on the 10th of October 1917, Monk began playing the piano at the tender age of nine. Most of what he knew on the piano was self taught in addition to the tricks he learned while slyly dropping in on his elder sister Marian's piano classes and a little formal training.

English: Thelonious Monk, Minton's Playhouse, ...
Thelonious Monk, Minton's Playhouse, New York, ca. September 1947.
(Photo credit: 

He dropped out of Stuyvesant High School where he was doing his schooling to start playing the piano professionally. He toured with an evangelist for whose meetings he played the church organ. In his later teens, he got gigs playing jazz piano. He was the house pianist at a club - Minton's Playhouse - in the early 40's. His influences at the time were most the stride pianists of the era - Duke Ellington, James P Johnson and the likes.

His trademark style of playing was something that he polished incessantly during the cutting competitions that took place at the club late at night featuring all the piano greats of the time. His stint at Minton's Playhouse brought him in touch with the other exponents of Bebop - Charlie Christian, Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis, Charlie Parker and Kenny Clarke. It is this period of time that the bebop style of playing was created . He influenced the the bebop style of playing so much that he has arguably been referred to as the founder of bebop.

Monk then moved on to playing for groups. His first ever studio recording was made featuring the Coleman Hawkins quartet in 1944. He became the leader of the Blue Note three years later. His recordings with Blue Note displayed his penchant for coming up with composing music with strong melodies. The same year saw his marriage to Nellie Smith, with whom he had two children. His son TS Monk was born in 1949. He is a jazz drummer, composer and band leader. His daughter Barbara was born in 1953.

In 1951, Monk ran into trouble with the police. A car in which he and fellow pianist Bud Powell was found to contain narcotics. During the trial against Bud Powell, he refused serve as witness testifying against Bud Powell. As a result, his New York City Cabaret Card was taken away by the police. Thus not being able to play in New York where there was liquor being served. He continued to play in other places though.

He continued recording, touring and composing. After his contract with Blue Note Records lapsed, he moves to prestige records. At Prestige, he recorded some not-so-successful but critically acclaimed albums with Sonny Rollins on saxophone and Art Blakey on drums. It was around this time that the famous Christmas Eve sessions were recorded which were released in the form of the two albums - The Modern Jazz Giants and Bags Groove and Miles Davis - both of these by Miles Davis.

He visited Europe in 1954. He went to Paris to record and perform. He met jazz patron and member of the Rothschild family, Baroness Pannonica de Koenigswarter, with whom he struck a friendship that lasted his life long.

Though Monk was well recognized in jazz circles by his contemporaries and the jazz audience , his records didn't sell as well. He shifted from Prestige Records to Riverside Records, who bought out his contract. In an effort to get the masses in tune with his style of music (which was thought to be too difficult at the time for the average listener), Riverside asked him to record an album two album of his own versions of the jazz standards of the time.

Thus Thelonious Monk Plays Duke Ellington was released with the intention of increasing Monk's market. The album has Duke Wellington's tunes redone by Monk for which he had to study Duke Ellington's pieces from scratch. On his next release, Brilliant Corners, he got a chance to actually record his own tunes. Expectedly the title track of the album was so difficult that it had to be put together from a total of three takes. Sony Rollins accompanied him on the album.