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Bebop 1945-1950: Charlie Parker's First Savoy Session

February 9, 2021- Today's Bebop Era Topic: Charlie Parker's First Savoy Session

During the summer of 1945 Dizzy Gillespie was ask to put together a big band for a southern tour call The Hepsations of 1945.  Charlie Parker stayed in New York and opened with his own Quintet at The Three Deuces.

After recording as a sideman with Sir Charles Thompson in September he was offered his first date as a leader for Savoy Records.

He assembled a Quintet for the date which included his young 19 year old protege on trumpet Miles Davis, plus Curley Russell on bass and Max Roach on drums.  Bud Powell was the original choice for piano but Bud had recently been arrested after defending Thelonious Monk in a fistfight with the police and no one was sure of his whereabouts.  

At the eleventh hour Bird enlisted pianist Argonne Thornton who was a regular on the 52nd street scene.  He also lived at the Dewey Square Hotel which is where Charlie Parker was living at the time.

The Savoy date was set for November 26, 1945.  

Dizzy was back in town after the Hepsations Tour had come to an end.  The tour was a disaster in many ways marred by Jim Crow attitudes in the south as well as audiences being unprepared for the new music.  The main complaint was that they couldn’t dance to it.

Dizzy showed up at Bird’s record date as an observer but was recruited into action by necessity.   

First, a union representative from Local 802 showed up and wouldn’t allow Thornton (later known as Sadik Hakim) to play since he didn’t have a New York union card.  Dizzy is deputized to play piano on the items recorded while the union rep was there.

To this day there is much confusion and controversy as to who plays on what.

In all, there were multiple takes of four tunes recorded that day.  Billie’s Bounce and Now’s the Time, both blues in F that Bird wrote that morning.   There are three takes of “Thrivin on a Riff” which became better known as Anthropology.  And finally Koko which is the classic excursion on the changes of Cherokee.  There are also a couple of warm-up pieces which eventually were issued as "Warmin Up a Riff" and "Meandering."

They started out with one of Bird’s blues which ended up with the title Billie’s Bounce.
 Bird was having trouble with his horn and left the studio to find a different one.  While he was gone, Miles slept on the studio floor and the others sent out for food.  When he got back he tried out the new horn and reed with Warming Up A Riff then did a couple more takes of Billie’s Bounce. On the final take Bird’s solo is brilliant and it ends up being the released master.

After solid takes of "Now’s the Time" and "Thrivin on A Riff," Bird decides to tackle "Cherokee."   The producer for Savoy Records was the infamous Teddy Reig who had no intention to pay any music licensing fees on his record dates.  On the first take the band goes into the recognizable melody of Cherokee when you hear Teddy Reig say “hold it hold it”.   On the next take they play the intricate introduction and launch right into Koko without the Cherokee melody.  The intro was so difficult that Dizzy had to play it on Miles trumpet using his own mouthpiece.  At 19 Miles wasn’t quite up to it.  It begins with the alto saxophone and trumpet playing in unison, followed by Parker and trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie trading eights then another quick unison bridge.  Max Roach drops a loud bomb while Dizzy rushes over to start playing the piano. After Max’s loud bang, Bird launches into one of the greatest improvised solos ever recorded.

In spite of all strange happenings, Bird’s first session as a leader was a masterpiece.   The records that were released as Charlie Parker and his Reboppers introduced Bird to a much wider audience than the New York Clubs where he had been playing.   His enormous influence on other musicians was the result and things would never be the same.

Bebop 1945-1950: The New Jazz Foundation

February 8, 2021- Today's Bebop Era Topic: The New Jazz Foundation

Monte Kay had been running jam sessions in Greenwich Village and on 52nd Street since the early 1940s.

In 1945 he teamed up with Broadway press agent Mal Braverman and formed The New Jazz Foundation which was an organization dedicated to promoting the young musicians who represented the new sound in jazz.

 Kay and Braverman decided to introduce their new organization by putting on a concert at Town Hall.  Dizzy Gillespie’s Quintet with Charlie Parker was currently working at The Three Deuces on 52nd street and garnering a tremendous amount of attention.They decided to showcase that group and surround them with other all-star musicians.

The concert was scheduled for May 16 but advance ticket sales started out very slow. To rectify the problem they approached radio disc jockey Symphony Sid Torin who had a Midnight show on WHOM.  Sid had been playing a lot of rhythm and blues on his show but was drawn to the new sounds of Bebop when the first Manor’s, and Guilds hit the market.

He even added a special hour to his program on Fridays to feature the new music.  Kay and Braverman took him on as a partner and Sid started promoting the concert heavily on the radio.  Ticket sales picked up immediately and they ended up nearly filling the place with 1300 fans.

Town Hall had been a regular location for jazz for quite a while at that point but it was primarily Eddie Condon’s weekly Dixieland concerts that the venue was known for.  Condon was one of the most outspoken critics of the new music.  He was the one that famously exclaimed “they flat their fifths but we drink ours”.

The May concert was a success but got some bad press because most of the artists that were advertised didn’t materialize.  That didn’t deter them though as they planned another concert for June 22.

Once again they booked Dizzy’s Quintet with Bird plus Erroll Garner’s trio who was working opposite Bird and Dizzy at the Deuces. The program also included Don Byas, Big Sid Catlett, Buck Clayton, Tony Scott and Pearl Bailey.

Amazingly, recordings of the Dizzy Gillespie portion of the program was discovered a few years ago.  We are airing the entire Dizzy set at noon today so be sure and tune in. 

In July an article in Metronome Magazine had the headline “Foundation Seeks Support” and reported on the New Jazz Foundation.  It said they had plans to expand to a national audience and were starting a national membership drive to gather support. 

It never really took off the way they had envisioned but the Town Hall concerts were significant events at the dawn of the Bebop era. 

In addition to the two Town Hall concerts, they hosted some Sunday jam sessions at The Fraternal Clubhouse and were involved in the production of a session for Manor Records.

The label read Slam Stewart, Erroll Garner and Harold West, supervision by of New Jazz Foundation.

Bebop 1945-1950: Bop Comes to 52nd St.

February 5, 2021- Today's Bebop Era Topic: Bop Comes to 52nd St.

After the initial incubation period at Minton’s and Monroe’s, bebop came up from underground and into the mainstream when Dizzy Gillespie and Oscar Pettiford opened at the Onyx Club in November of 1943. The Onyx Club was one of the well known jazz clubs on New York’s famed 52nd St. which was the unofficial headquarters of the jazz world.

The arrival of modern jazz on 52nd St. sent shockwaves through the jazz press because most people were completely unaware of the radical developments that had taken place over the last couple of years.

The recording ban eliminated anything being recorded during the new music’s development so it was a major surprise when it popped up on the street seemingly out of nowhere.

After that initial engagement at the Onyx,  Dizzy spent a good part of 1944 traveling with Billy Eckstine’s Big Band which included Charlie Parker.  When that came to an end things really started happening.

Charlie Parker made his 52nd St. debut in late 1944 with a trio at The Downbeat Club and both he and Dizzy started recording for several small independent record companies.  Bird recorded as a sideman with Tiny Grimes for Savoy and with Clyde Hart for Continental.  In early 1945, Dizzy Gillespie recorded for the first time as a leader for both Manor Records and Guild. The first two sessions featured a cross section of young modernists mixed with established swing veterans.  Charlie Parker was not involved in those initial dates.  The first Guild date did help introduce Dexter Gordon though who joined Dizzy on the front line.

The “big bang” of modern jazz occurred in April of 1945 when Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie finally came together in Dizzy’s Quintet at The Three Deuces. With that engagement Bebop had arrived.

They recorded together for Guild which produced the first bop classics: Groovin High, Dizzy Atmosphere, Salt Peanuts, Shaw Nuff and Hot House. The controversial new music was now part of the mainstream for all to hear.

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.