February 18, 2021

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Bebop 1945-1950: Tadd Dameron

February 18, 2021- Today's Bebop Era Topic: Tadd Dameron

Tadd Dameron was a brilliant composer and arranger and one of the first to show that bebop could be orchestrated for larger ensembles. Many of his compositions such as "Hot House," "Good Bait," "If You Could See Me Now" and "Our Delight" became jazz standards.

He was born in Cleveland in 1917 and came onto the jazz scene in the late nineteen thirties without much formal musical education.  He first drew attention writing for Harlan Leonard and His Rockets in Kansas City.

In the early nineteen forties he moved to New York and soon embraced the new music that was happening in Harlem.  He had crossed paths with Charlie Parker in Kansas City so he already had some idea of where things were headed.

When Billy Eckstine formed his bop oriented big band in 1944, Dameron added several things to the book including Our Delight and Cool Breeze.

In 1945 Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker recorded Hot House which was his original line based on "What is this Thing Called Love."  

When Dizzy Gillespie formed his big band in 1946 he used several of the arrangements that Dameron had written for Eckstine and also commissioned Dameron to write new works as well.

In addition to writing for others, Dameron led his own band during the late nineteen forties and became somewhat of a house band at the Royal Roost in New York. His quintet included Fats Navarro and Allen Eager and they often accompanied guest musicians such as Dexter Gordon, Wardell Gray and Milt Jackson. He also debuted his forward looking “Big Ten” at the Roost in 1949.

Dameron’s writing style was personal and unique and was influenced by a number of sources including Duke Ellington and the french impressionists Debussy and Ravel. His music was extremely lyrical and displayed a depth of emotional expression.

In a Metronome Magazine interview in 1947 he said “There’s enough ugliness in the world, I’m interested in beauty.”

Dameron was an integral part of the bop vocal movement working with pioneer singer Babs Gonzales in his Three Bips and a Bop group.  

You can learn more about Tadd Dameron by reading Paul Combs outstanding biography titled Dameronia published by the University of Michigan Press.