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Bebop 1945-1950: The Earl Hines and Billy Eckstine Orchestras

February 4, 2021- Today's Bebop Era Topic: The Bebop Incubators- The Earl Hines and Billy Eckstine Orchestras

After Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie’s initial meeting in Kansas City in 1940 they each continued to pursue their innovative discoveries.  

Charlie Parker stayed in Kansas City and established himself in the reed section of Jay McShann’s band while Dizzy continued on the road with Cab Calloway. During this time, the two crossed paths occasionally at various jam sessions and they began to influence a group of other young musicians who wanted to follow in their footsteps.

In late 1942 Earl Hines was making some changes to his big band.  Like all bandleaders he was losing musicians to the draft.   His star vocalist Billy Eckstine and his music director Budd Johnson urged him to hire some of the young revolutionary musicians who were just coming onto the scene.

This included Little Benny Harris, Bennie Green, Shadow Wilson, Scoops Carey and most importantly Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie.  The only opening in the reed section was the second tenor chair so Bird ended up on tenor as opposed to alto.  Sarah Vaughan was added as vocalist and intermission pianist.

Now that Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie were on the same band together at the same time they became very close.  They were together all the time sharing ideas and working on their music.   While the band was on the road they would often jam together in hotel rooms.

The job with Hines lasted for several months until the fall of 1943.  At that point several musicians left including Bird, Dizzy and Billy Eckstine.

By the spring of 1944, Eckstine was in the process of forming his own big band and wanted it to be oriented towards the bebop style.  He was able to get both Bird and Dizzy as well as Lucky Thompson, Leo Parker, Tommy Potter and Buddy Anderson.  (The same Buddy Anderson who introduced Bird and Dizzy in 1940)

Once again Bird and Dizzy were together and able to continue sharing ideas which would lead to the creation of modern jazz.

Unfortunately, there are no recordings of either band when Bird and Dizzy were members. The recording ban was in effect so once again we are robbed of the chance to hear the new music as it was being developed. The only exception are some very historically valuable private recordings made by Bob Redcross during some of the hotel jam sessions while they were on the road with Earl Hines.

Redcross had a disc recorder and was responsible for one of the first known recordings of Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie together.


Bebop 1945-1950: The Bebop Incubators: Mintons and Monroes

February 3, 2021- Today's Bebop Era Topic: The Bebop Incubators- Minton's and Monroe's

Both Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie continued to follow their innovative paths and by the early nineteen forties began to be heard on a wider basis.  Dizzy with Cab Calloway and Bird with Jay McShann.

Calloway travelled extensively and recorded frequently and on the few occasions Dizzy got to solo, young musicians heard that he was doing something new and unique.

Charlie Parker’s solos on the first McShann recordings were ground-breaking to young musicians as well but it was McShann’s booking at Harlem’s Savoy Ballroom where word really started to spread.

Both Dizzy and Bird were fairly limited in how much they could stretch out with Calloway and McShann but they both frequented after hours jam sessions where the new ideas were on display.

The two most important after hours spots were both in Harlem and both played a major role in the development of modern jazz.

Minton’s Playhouse and Monroe’s Uptown House.

The after hours jam sessions that took place at Minton’s and Monroe’s have reached mythic proportions in the annals of jazz history and rightfully so.  Young musicians such as Thelonious Monk, Charlie Christian, Kenny Clarke, Dizzy Gillespie, Bud Powell, Max Roach and Charlie Parker shared the bandstand with swing era heavyweights like Don Byas, Hot Lips Page, Roy Eldridge and Ben Webster.   There was an on-going experimentation and exchanging of ideas that was vital to the music’s growth and development.

Minton’s Playhouse was located at 210 W. 118th St. between 7th Ave. and St. Nicholas Place inside the Cecil Hotel.

The club was opened in 1938 by Henry Minton who was the first African American delegate to the Musician’s Union Local 802.

Minton started a jam session policy early on and allowed guest musicians to eat and drink for free which ensured plenty of participants to the sessions. 

In 1940 Minton hired ex-bandleader Teddy Hill to manage the club.  The same Teddy Hill whose 1939 band had included Dizzy Gillespie and Kenny Clarke.  Hill had fired Dizzy for his unorthodox playing style and now ironically ends up managing one of the clubs where Dizzy’s style was at the forefront.

Hill decided to hire a regular house band that could be augmented with guest performers.    The first person he hired was his ex-drummer Kenny Clarke.  Clarke then assembled the house band.  His first choice was Dizzy Gillespie but Dizzy was on the road with Cab Calloway so he settled on Joe Guy who had actually replaced Dizzy in the Teddy Hill band.  Guy was another progressive minded young trumpet player and fit with what Clarke had in mind.  The rest of the rhythm section was filled out with Nick Fenton on bass and a young unknown pianist named Thelonious Monk.

Monk’s unusual harmonic ideas combined with Clarke’s innovative style of drumming provided the perfect setting for experimentation to take place.  Several modern jazz standards were born at Minton’s including both “Epistrophy” and “Rhythm-A-Ning”.

Monroe’s Uptown House was located a little further north than Minton’s at 198 W. 134th St.
It was opened in the mid 1930s by Clark Monroe and originally featured small group swing.

Just like Minton’s, Monroe’s established a house band in the early 1940s and hosted after hours sessions.   The house band was led by pianist Al Tinney and included trumpeters George Treadwell and Vic Coulsen, Ebenizer Paul on bass and various drummers including a young Max Roach.

Many of the same musicians that frequented Minton’s also frequented Monroe’s.   Minton’s was open from 10pm to 4am while Monroe’s stayed open until 7am.  It wasn’t unusual for musicians to start the night at Minton’s and end up at Monroe’s.

The young musicians were innovating on the bandstand and the transition from swing to bop was taking place but there were no live broadcasts or commercial recordings to document the happenings due to a strike between the musicians union and the record companies. This led to a "recording ban” which prohibited instrumental musicians from making records and lasted from 1942-1944. 

The two or three year period where the new music was crystallizing went completely unnoticed due to the absence of records and broadcasts.

Fortunately there are a handful of recordings made by Jerry Newman.

Newman was a 23 year old student at Columbia University who was a regular at both clubs. On several occasions, mostly during the spring and summer of 1941, he took his Wilcox-Gay disc cutter along and captured some of the music live. 

The results of Newman’s efforts give us a great deal of insight into a time and place that would otherwise be guesswork at best.   

Thanks to Newman, we get to hear the legend come to life.   We hear Monk in his very earliest days on the bandstand as well as the young modern players crossing paths with the established stars.

Bebop 1945-1950: Dizzy Meets Bird

February 2, 2021- Today's Bebop Era Topic: Dizzy Meets Bird

During the swing era several artists emerged who expanded the melodic, harmonic and rhythmic approaches to improvisation as soloists.  This included Lester Young, Coleman Hawkins, Jimmy Blanton, Charlie Christian, Roy Eldridge and Art Tatum.  Their collective innovations had a major impact on the next generation of jazz musicians.

Three of these young players absorbed those innovations and created an entirely new style of jazz.

Dizzy Gillespie, Kenny Clarke and Charlie Parker.

John Birks Gillespie, was born in South Carolina in 1917 and took up music at an early age.  By four he was playing the piano and eventually added the trombone and trumpet.  Hearing Roy Eldridge on the radio in 1930 convinced him to pursue a career in music.  In 1935 the family re-located to Philadelphia where he began working professionally with Frankie Fairfax.  In 1937 he  moved to New York and played with the band of Teddy Hill and a short stint with Edgar Hayes.  He returned to the Teddy Hill band and began working closely with the band’s drummer Kenny Clarke.

Both Gillespie and Clarke began experimenting with new ideas.  Dizzy was extremely interested in harmony and spent many hours working on the keyboard discovering different ways to voice chords.  He began applying those experiments to the trumpet much to the dismay of Teddy Hill. 

Dizzy played with a different rhythmic feel which Kenny Clarke picked up on and adapted to his own playing.  This led to his groundbreaking drum style which deviated greatly from his swing era forebears.  Teddy Hill and the other musicians didn’t like it accusing them of “breaking up the time”.   Dizzy was eventually fired and ended up joining Cab Calloway in 1939.

Dizzy wasn’t deterred and knew there was a different way to approach improvisation and he was determined to figure it out.

Meanwhile, in Kansas City the young alto saxophonist Charlie Parker was searching for a new approach as well.  They didn’t cross paths at that time but were working towards the same thing simultaneously. 

Charlie Parker was a product of the Kansas City nightlife scene where he grew up.  He was born in 1920 and was already trying to sit in on major jam sessions while still just learning to play.  His idol at the time was Lester Young who was playing with Count Basie at the Reno Club.   Lester’s unique time and phrasing, as well as his melodic approach was a major influence on the young Charlie Parker.  At one of the jam sessions, where he was in way over his head, he was laughed off the stage and humiliated.  He vowed to do whatever it took to come back and redeem himself.

During a summer job in the Missouri Ozarks he practiced endlessly and mastered the alto saxophone.  When he returned to Kansas City after that summer he was a completely different musician.  The things he had in his head that he couldn’t execute before were now executed with ease.  All of the local musicians were mystified as to how he could master things so quickly.
Now that the physical limitations of the horn were lifted the only thing left was to figure out the different harmonic ideas he could hear in his head.

At that point Buster Smith became his primary musical mentor.  Smith was a forward looking alto player and Charlie Parker followed him everywhere.  In 1938 Buster moved to New York and Parker followed.  During that period in New York he heard Art Tatum frequently.  Tatum’s virtuosity at the piano was another major influence to Parker’s developing sound and style.  In 1939 at a late night jam session it all came together for him.   He had the revelation of how to extend the harmony which was the final piece of the puzzle.  

In 1940, the Calloway band was playing a job in Kansas City.  Buddy Anderson, a forward looking trumpet player himself and a member of the Jay McShann Band heard what Dizzy was trying to do and suggested he should meet local alto saxophonist Charlie Parker.   Buddy brought the two together at the Musician’ Union building where Dizzy played piano while Parker played alto.

Dizzy realized that everything he had been searching for, Charlie Parker had already figured it out.    It was a monumental meeting of genius minds that would eventually change jazz forever.

Bebop 1945-1950: What is Bebop?

February 1, 2021- Today's Bebop Era Topic: What is Bebop?

Bebop, also referred to as “modern jazz” was a musical development that burst upon the jazz scene in the mid nineteen forties. It was a musical revolution that created a new vocabulary for jazz. All three elements of music; melody, harmony and rhythm changed dramatically with the advent of bebop.  The approach to improvisation changed dramatically as well.

As for melody, bebop musicians didn’t use a lot of pre-existing melodies.   They created new, often complex and angular melodic lines over the harmonic structure of a variety of popular songs.  This included songs like How High the Moon, I Got Rhythm, Cherokee and the 12 bar blues among others.

Harmony changed dramatically as well.  Even though the utilization of familiar harmonic structures were the basis of most bebop songs, those harmonies were altered and extended in ways that had never been done before.  This gave the jazz soloists a whole new universe of creative possibilities.

Rhythm changed drastically compared to their swing era predecessors.  During the swing era drummers kept a steady swing feel with the snare, bass drum and hi-hat cymbal.   Bebop drummers invented a new style that kept the primary time on the ride cymbal and used the snare and bass drum for accents.  This rhythmic feel created a looser more complex asymmetrical approach with heavy accents known as “dropping bombs.”

Improvisation adapted to this new vocabulary with jagged melodic lines, unusual intervals between notes and unprecedented displays of instrumental virtuosity.
The pioneer bebop musicians gained a total mastery of their instrument along with a strong understanding of harmony and rhythm.

KSDS Celebrates Black History Month 2021

Blog Name:Home Page News

Blog Author:San Diego's Jazz 88.3

Posted on:January 29, 2021

February is Black History Month and KSDS-FM is celebrating by shining a light on The Bebop Era, 1945 to 1950. Join us every weekday to hear special audio vignettes that focuses on Bebop's notable legends and venues. If you contribute $100 or more at any point in February you will receive a special KSDS custom CD- "Live from the Royal Roost" sometimes referred to as The Metropolitan BOPera house. It features those aforementioned artists in rare broadcasts from 1948 and 1949. You can CLICK HERE TO MAKE YOUR DONATION.

San Diego Theatre- 2020

Blog Name:Home Page News

Blog Author:San Diego's Jazz 88.3

Posted on:December 30, 2020

A Big Band New Years Eve Celebration-2020!

Blog Name:Home Page News

Blog Author:San Diego's Jazz 88.3

Posted on:December 28, 2020

KSDS/Jazz88.3 is kissing 2020 good-bye and ringing in the new year with the sounds of swingin' Big Bands! It's happening right now- "Big Bands Coast to Coast and Around the World!" It will be approximately 30 hours of classic Big Band music from greats like Dizzy, Basie and Ellington. You will also hear from Rob McConnell, Terry Gibbs, Gil Evans and so many more. While you are listening we hope you can make that last tax-deductible donation(s) to KSDS and make it count for 2020! DONATE NOW and become a first-time member, renew your membership, make an additional gift or make a donation in memory of a loved one. Many Thanks and Happy New Year!

Looking Forward to 2021 and Beyond!

Blog Name:Home Page News

Blog Author:San Diego's Jazz 88.3

Posted on:December 19, 2020

All the staff and hosts at KSDS want to thank so much for sticking with us this year. Your e-mails, phone messages and, of course, support has really lifted us up during these crazy times.We hope to see you in the new year and get back to some normalcy. We can't wait till we start having Jazz Live concerts again. We will let you know when that is possible. Speaking of which, if you have been a faithful attendee of our Jaz Live concert series or if you have never been we encourage you to look at these terrific JAZZ LIVE PHOTOS, taken by Larry Redman. He volunteers his talent and time and has become a true friend of the station. Thank you Larry and again, thank you for your support! Cheers to a better, and safer, New Year. Happy Holidays!

A Big Band New Years Eve Celebration-2021!

Blog Name:Home Page News

Blog Author:San Diego's Jazz 88.3

Posted on:December 10, 2020

KSDS/Jazz88.3 is kissing 2021 good-bye and ringing in the new year with the sounds of swingin' Big Bands! It's happening right now- "Big Bands Coast to Coast and Around the World!" It will be approximately 30 hours of classic Big Band music from greats like Dizzy, Basie and Ellington. You will also hear from Rob McConnell, Terry Gibbs, Gil Evans and so many more. While you are listening we hope you can make that last tax-deductible donation(s) to KSDS and make it count for 2021! DONATE NOW and become a first-time member, renew your membership, make an additional gift or make a donation in memory of a loved one. Many Thanks and Happy New Year!

Sounds of the Season-2020!

Blog Name:Home Page News

Blog Author:San Diego's Jazz 88.3

Posted on:November 29, 2020

Happy Holidays! KSDS is now airing its annual 'Sounds of the Season' programming. This 36-hour block of holiday music (ending at Midnight on Christmas Day) is brought to you by KSDS and our good friends at California Coast Credit Union. Special thanks to Ken Borgers and David Grudt. CLICK HERE FOR THE PLAYLIST!