February 4, 2021

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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.